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Hack Amateur Vs. Seasoned Pro

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Tracy PetersonHack Amateur Vs. Seasoned Pro
by on Feb 20, 2009 at 10:44:19 pm

So a question that I'm starting to wonder about is:

What constitutes hobbyist vs. pro?

I've had very different experiences between "seasoned pros" with some being the most unprofessional people I've gotten to meet and others being a league of their own. I hear a lot of people griping about "amateurs" and I don't think it's fair. You are either good at what you do and can make money doing it or you cannot.

A guy with a camera and editing gear is just that. There's craftsmanship that goes into it, but you can only tell by the finished work and recommendations anyway, so what exactly denotes an amateur?

I read some of these comments as sour grapes, by people who aren't making the money they thought they would be and are willing to blame it on someone else's presence in the market, but that can't be it, can it?

Is it schooling? Certifications? Broadcast work compared to web only?

In my estimation:

If you make money doing this, you are a professional and should act accordingly and the gear you are toting does not make a difference. You can shoot a pile of crap with the most expensive camera as easily as you can a cheap camera. Effort in improving your craft is the mark of a professional and will become profitable as time goes by and your craft improves.

I think as PROFESSIONALS, we need to stop discouraging the people wanting to get into this business and help them learn how to get along in it.

Tracy Peterson

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Stephen SmithRe: Hack Amateur Vs. Seasoned Pro
by on Feb 20, 2009 at 11:58:55 pm

[Tracy] I think as PROFESSIONALS, we need to stop discouraging the people wanting to get into this business and help them learn how to get along in it.

What sparked this? I think that is what make the COW such a great resource. You can get your questions answered by seasoned pros, read article written by top professionals in the trenches and watch a ton of free tutorials to help improve your craft. In the majority of cases these people are not getting payed but doing it to help others out. Maybe I missed the point, but that is why I love the COW.

Stephen Smith
Salt Lake Video

Check out my DVD Money Making Graphics & Effects for Final Cut Studio 2

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John Grote, Jr.Re: Hack Amateur Vs. Seasoned Pro
by on Feb 21, 2009 at 3:26:37 am

Tracy, I agree with you 100%, with a but of course, and that but is that the new blood have an idea of what it takes to be a professional.

As a professional, I have a lot to offer as a teacher, mentor and in some instances a boss, but for the love of god, just because these newbies graduated college 6 months ago, doesn't make them Steven Spielberg. There is a process to becoming a professional. Some of the things I learned weren't even about editing, it was a lot about client interaction. How to talk to a client, how to treat a client and most of all, know that the are the ones paying the bill. This means that no matter how awesome an idea or effect you may have, if they don't like it they don't like it. Deal with it, don't pout, don't tell the client that their idea is stupid (even though, it may be the dumbest thing you have ever heard) be professional and offer suggestions and give input when asked.

Hell, I went through the career ladder and I learned a lot from the people who where professionals before me, and when my day came to take the next step and I did. But, and I do mean but, I earned it!!!

There is a hell of a lot of great new, young talent out there that I want to succeed, they are the future of our industry and we should nurture them. In return they need to take it one step at a time and learn as much as they can from the people around them.

And in the end, there will always be hacks, and bless them, because the are a big reason I charge what I charge to come in and clean up their mess.

J. Grote, Jr.

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Roy SchneiderRe: Hack Amateur Vs. Seasoned Pro
by on Feb 21, 2009 at 4:38:04 pm

Maybe some of the gripes you hear are more about economics than anything else. This industry has changed so much in the last 20 years. It took us a lot longer to get established, but we learned a lot along the way. In this day and age though some, coming right out of school are putting their shingle out, and calling themselves professionals. They shoot for $150 a day, edit for $10.00 and hour and live in their parents basement. This drives the market prices down. Eventually they are going to want to earn a professional salary, but the market will not sustain that.

This is one of the gripes, I hear the most. It is not about talent or ability. There will always be talent and always be hacks.

Roy Schneider
Long Live Da Cow!

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Craig SeemanRe: Hack Amateur Vs. Seasoned Pro
by on Feb 21, 2009 at 7:59:31 pm

One can run a fast food joint or a gourmet restaurant. Both reach a target market and both can be profitable.

The problems are:
when someone charges fast food prices for gourmet food
when someone charges gourmet prices for fast food results
when the fast food joint can't even make a decent burger

The problem is when people don't know how to set up a viable business model and it takes everyone down with them. Unfortunately the damage they do to the business is quite real and they do not go away en mass as there's always a new set of people replacing them. This promotes the bottom feeder corporate clients. I've seen FAR TOO MANY of them. The KNOW how to look for gourmet food at fast food prices.

Recently I saw a Law Firm looking for an UNPAID "Intern" WITH EXPERIENCE to shoot Video Depositions. I doubt the Law Firm would take risks with Video Depositions. Mistakes can be costly if not fatal to a case. They were looking for the one skilled trainable person who'd be DUMB enough to work in that field for FREE. Video Deposition is NOT something EVER given to newbies . . . but it can be done by someone who is skilled but has no clue how to value their work.

I've seen MANY other corporate "clients" doing similar things such as offering "contests" (you do the work and we cherry pick and offer a prize well below the value of the work).

I don't judge "professional" based on "talent" because there's certainly room for fast food joints and they can be VERY PROFITABLE. Even that takes SKILL though. I think a viable business model separate the Pros from the Amateurs.

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Tim KolbRe: Hack Amateur Vs. Seasoned Pro
by on Feb 22, 2009 at 5:56:09 am

In the day when a BetaSP camcorder could run you as much as $60K, and then another $100K bought you an Avid Media Composer (back when it was hardware), there was far less crossover between seasoned pros and entry level folks...unless you had a rich relative, there was simply not much possibility of getting into professional gear without some background in the industry.

These days of course, equipment that can be used to make a high quality product isn't cost-prohibitive to many of us. So...we now have a wide variety of expertise levels in the field.

However, I think that sometimes the new guys create their own status...

I think that there are times when some of the freshest faces in our little corner of the world let the fact that there are new tools fool them into thinking that there's no need for traditional wisdom.

The right place to make the cut is the same whether the two shots are in a Smoke, or iMovie or a flatbed. A well lit shot has the same attributes no matter if it's shot on a palmcorder or an ARRI D20, or a film camera.

On the other hand, there are definitely days when somebody asks an honest question and to someone else the answer seems obvious, so a less than useful answer is provided. It shouldn't happen.

Director, Consultant
Kolb Productions,

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Peter RalphLearning out loud
by on Feb 22, 2009 at 3:44:32 pm

Corporate video is in vortex - no-one knows what's going to be left standing 2-3 years from now. Where did Gary Vaynerchuck come from?

When hack amateurs are making high six figures and seasoned pros are being laid off by the's not about teaching it's about learning out loud.

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Bill DavisRe: Hack Amateur Vs. Seasoned Pro
by on Feb 28, 2009 at 11:22:07 pm

For my 2 cents it comes down to a single word.


No matter how naturally talented you are when you're young, your judgement isn't fully formed. Because judgement is formed by trial and error.

Now sometimes you don't need a lot of judgement. If you're hired to videotape spring break for a company run by a 25 year old - hours of ill-lit T&A might make your client giddy with delight.

OTOH, if you're hired to videotape a corporate CEO talking about this quarter's mediocre company performance, not having powder on set to deal with her perspiration might well be video malpractice.


The pro looks at what is, assesses what's needed, figures out whether what's needed can be afforded, and understands that even tho the professional ballplayer has been on video a hundred times - THIS time he's pissed that his agent called with bad news and that even tho you busted your ASS getting the jib down to the field and rigged so you could do some nice camera moves - it's time to LOCK OFF the damn shot and get it done in the next five minutes because he's gonna melt down in 10.


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Ben HallRe: Hack Amateur Vs. Seasoned Pro
by on Mar 9, 2009 at 4:26:57 pm

Well said Bill. Judgement is key.

There are many professionals that are simply intemidated by the "amateur". It might be the younglings raw talent - simply their pre-burnedbyahorrificclient passion. For some reason many seasoned guys attack the new players. I was told once by an old school Gaffer, that to truly be the best - you must be willing to teach. Not just part. Not just half, but everything you know. This had a profound effect on me. I have no issue showing every trick, tool, process if someone is willing to learn - at the same time - I am constantly "re-inspired" by their uncurdled passion.

What any of us hate - is the guy who undercuts the market. It was mentioned earlier - about fast food prices for gourmet food. I see tons of "What should my rate be" asked on forums. I applaud the question - but how do we answer that? A seasoned guy who has excellent long formed skills can get away with $15,000 - as he's been in the business to sell himself at that level. His confidence is up - how can we work to sell this idea to everyone? Charge what you think is fair. It is the only way. Sure a seasoned guy might lose a job to a green team, but everyone of us started at 0 and earned our way up.

Mal: If anyone gets nosy, just, you know... shoot 'em.

Zoe: Shoot 'em?

Mal: Politely

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Tracy PetersonRe: Hack Amateur Vs. Seasoned Pro
by on Mar 17, 2009 at 4:51:32 am

Thanks all for the responses to this, there's a lot of different emotions when it comes to the "newbies" and I count myself among them since I have less than ten years in the industry, I take it a bit too much to heart when someone I respect professionally decries the group as a whole. I'm taking in from the responses that, yes indeed, there are qualities that cannot be learned quickly and things that should be forgotten after they occur (getting burned badly)in order to keep passion a fundamental driver.

All the best.

Tracy Peterson

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Bruce FrankelRe: Hack Amateur Vs. Seasoned Pro
by on Mar 17, 2009 at 10:58:43 pm

A professional is an amateur who is paid for their work. Since there are no licensing bodies or qualifying tests to become a Pro in this biz, Pro status is only based on who you can get to pay you for doing the work. I hate to sound harsh, but that is a fact.

I was going to join the DGA, Director's Guild. I had a meeting with the local chapter and went through issues like insurance, benefits and pension plans. I asked them if they wanted to see my reel. They said no! I asked how I could become a member of the DGA without showing them my directing work. They said "if someone wants to hire you, who are we to say you are or are not ready or qualified?" Wow, I was taken aback by their position, but they were right. If you want to be a First or Second Assistant Director, you need two years of on set apprenticeship. Those are considered technical positions. For the main Director, no such time on set is required, it is considered a subjective, artistic position and it is why you hire the 1st assistant director to help you through the shoot!

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