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Matt Giancarlo
Need help...
on Feb 2, 2008 at 9:59:25 pm

Hi, I need some basic help here. I am 19 and I run of a freelance video service. This year I have only filmed about 4 weddings, and for only a couple hundred dollars each, through Craig's List. I film on a JVC HD100 and edit as well, so $300 is obviously not a fair price on my part. There have been other small gigs as well here and there, but after a whole year, I did not make as much money as I hoped to. Not nearly enough for me to live on my own and pay bills. It is getting me wondering if I will be able to support myself by doing this. Of course it can happen, but I don't know where to look for more filming opportunites. I need to find something where I can have a steady schedule where I film frequently. I don't expect to make that much right now, but in a few years I will need a steady full time income. I am very interested in filming weddings every other weekend. Or every single weekend which would be even better. I also am very interested in filming local commercials for businesses or schools, and eventually would like to move up with TV commercial and film for car companies, chain businesses, etc. I just do not know where to get a job at, and how to look and apply. I see a lot of poor quality commercials and other video productions all of the time, and know I can make something much better and have much better video and audio equipment, I just don't know how to reach out to these people in need of video production.
I was wondering if you would be able to tell me how to get some of these jobs, and/or how to get a busier schedule. Also, are there any companies that I can look for to apply for a camera operator job at? Such as an agency that films on a constant basis for TV commercials, or something on those lines?

Thanks.


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John Davidson
Re: Need help...
on Feb 3, 2008 at 12:33:47 am

I suggest you make fake/spec car commercials yourself and develop a reel that you can send out. You may also want to look into a college or some sort of training program that can provide you with an educational base that you can refer to, both for your clients and yourself.

We don't know where you are located so specific advice differs as the market in Los Angeles is drastically different from say, Minnesota or south Georgia. My advice to folks your age, go to school. Getting a pro-level job at 19 is really hard, regardless of your capabilities. You might as well spend that time getting a degree, chasing girls, and using school equipment to learn everything you can (I was a lab assistant at my school's studio-very educational). While there, try to do internships with big companies set up through your school (mine was at CNN which turned into my first post-college job). Get a job at a local radio or tv station, even if it's just helping out for free. Eventually, you'll impress someone enough to get that big break and let you work your way up the ranks.

Or, you could write/produce/direct and incredible youtube film/series that gets you national acclaim and fat Hollywood development contract. Keep in mind, that course of action is kinda like playing the lottery professionally, which is why I say go to school and party, study, and chase chicks for a few years.

John Davidson____ writer | producer | director____http://www.magicfeather.tv


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Mark Suszko
Re: Need help...
on Feb 3, 2008 at 4:11:30 am

At 19, he's reached the age of majority and might even already be living out on his own, away from home and any support from parent or family. That would put a very different complexion on the matter.

While guys that young can live very cheaply and can survive almost indefinitely on Ramen, Mountain Dew, Halo 3 and not much else, I find it doubtful he can make it completely on a video career at that age as a raw beginner without some extraordinary niche skills. Which he may even have, we just don't know enough to tell at this point.

Working for oneself, one has to charge more because they are also in charge of their own medical care, insurance, pension plan, etc. To forgo those expenses happens a lot, but is very foolish and risky to do. This means it is even MORE tough at his age because he can be undercut by his school buddy working out of Mom's basement, free food and rent, with an academic discount version of FCP or PPro. So we need to be a little circumspect in what to suggest until we know more about his life situation.

Shooting ENG for local TV stations does not pay very well any more, about the same as burger-flipping wages, but he should visit those stations and see about a staff or freelance gig there. Usually if they need anybody at all, they need extra help covering fringe stuff... local school sports, seasonal work, or staking-out 4-hour-long city council meetings in the hopes a fistfight breaks out. Also nobody likes having to work weekends or the early-morning shifts, so he could try for those dog-watch slots as a way to build up credits, getting late-night fires and car crashes, that sort of thing. The smaller the market, the less fussy they are about hiring, and the less they pay, but small markets are usually also cheaper to live in than large ones. And the station may provide the gear or an allowance for using his own.

One of the better gigs for a single man of that age I think would be to get with a mobile production truck, particularly sports trucks or concert production trucks where he'd do IMAG camerawork and production scutwork. The plusses to that life are making a lot of contacts in a short time and lots of OJT skill-building. The downside is daily travel and crummy motel rooms or sleeping in your car sometimes. Like I said, it's a young man's game, not for somebody with a lot of roots or ties.

Another way to go that keeps you in one place would be to work for a local hotel as their on-call Av tech. Taping meetings, helping set up projectors and PA systems, etc. gets you an "in" with their in-house events coordinator for things like video of wedding receptions or other parties. This kind of job leaves room for a second job doing something that's got flexible hours like food service or maintenance/cleanup crew work. The gigs combined would make someone enough to live on and put a little bit away for the future. If you can get a loan to buy some Presidential styled speech prompters, you might be able to make some very good money working thru the hotels catering to business speakers.

Same with renting out a piece of gear to others in your production community: if there are a lot of indie moviemaker types locally, don't compete with the gold rush prospectors, make a buck selling them their pans... maybe rent out a nice dolly and jib arm, or a van full of grip gear, lights, etc. Become the local source for that one oddball, seldom-needed piece of gear it makes no sense for any single person to own.

Another great way to make money these days is to own an HD deck or two: of all the components of an editing suite, the DECKS are now the most expensive and hard to get. If you have a digibeta deck and etc. available, you can keep it booked around the clock serving all the indie types who only need it for output to stations and festivals. One guy made a fabulous living doing nothing but hooking up editors to deck owners like a matchmaker. Or realtor:-) Of course, you're going to have to invest money to make money in such a scheme. You'll need a solid business plan and probably co-signers and insurance coverage.

I made a modest living in my college and early post-college years shooting depositions and things for law firms, I got referrals thru a stills photographer I'd worked for who specialized in forensic work. These days I think you could still do that work, but the stakes have changed since the wilder early days when I did it in the eighties. Nowadays you'll have more competition and most of them have a certification from some national group like LEVA, WEVA or similar. Once you get past that part, though, it is kind of cool to sit there babysitting a locked-down camera and just changing tapes every two hours for fifty or a hundred an hour or whatever the rate is today. These days that job also requires more gear to do it competently.

Are you at all religious? You could offer your services to your local Church or Synagogue or I guess, Mosque. Even doing that work for free may not be so bad a thing, as it gets you a lot of contacts in the faith community, so you're naturally the first person they think of when they want to shoot a wedding, for example. In that way a non-paying gig you do for the karma leads to paying gigs. And some big churches DO pay for weekly staff positions.

I think trying to make and sell commercials locally is the least likely to work for the kid, unless he's already working for the local cable company's production department. The local cableco's give away production services when you make the time buy, so no local business is really going to give an unproven 19-year-old kid a lot of business when, even if they DO let HIM make the spot, they still have to go to the sales department of the cableco to get it aired. He'd actually do better working in the cable co's sales office selling airtime and then helping along with the "creative" as he goes, working his way into the job he really wants while making a living being close to it.

In the wedding biz, the common path is to apprentice oneself to an established bigger operator first, getting paid training and building skills and contacts. One-man-band startups are common, but have an uphill battle competing on price against the folks with a history of good product already behind them. When I did weddings, I went for a niche market and I did $250 weddings, single-camera, no editing except edit-in-camera by careful shot composition. The top end of my local area was already over-served on the high-end packages, no way I was able to compete with them. My market was young folks just starting out who could not afford bigger, more elaborate shoots, but wanted a step above Uncle Lester's home movies. I had a sweet deal on camera rentals and so almost all that $250 was pure profit to me, for about 4 hours' time, and was good enough as a source of "pin money" for my hobbies while my Monday-Friday job went to family expenses. But you have to understand I knew $200 was not a rate that anybody could make a living on, I wasn't TRYING to make a living on it, just beer and model airplane money:-) As I got older and kids came along, more and more of that money went into the family expenses or for taking my hard-working wife out to dinners or whatnot. But at that low rate, I eventually gave it up because I valued the free time on my weekends being a husband and father more than the extra cash. I'm sure that was the right choice for me at my age. I used the last of my wedding video profits to set up a teleprompter rental service and it did very well, and it was easy: all my clients were locals I knew well, the gear was simple enough I never had to accompany it out: just show up to my door, give me a check, take this box, see you Monday. Thing more than paid for itself, also paid for this computer I'm writing on:-) And I still get my weekends free.

One piece of non-business-specific advice I'll give to anybody under 21: backseat lovin' is overrated and until you get to about 25, a car is not your key to real freedom, it is an anchor that enslaves you, a gaping maw that must be fed by all your meager income, leaving you little to save for your future or spend on your present. If at 16 you can avoid buying a car until you're 25, and instead put the equivalent gas and loans and insurance money for the car into any kind of investment portfolio or a bank savings C.D. -you will learn at 25 what REAL freedom is.

Thus endeth the lesson.








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Mick Haensler
Re: Need help...
on Feb 4, 2008 at 2:12:50 pm

[Mark Suszko] "Another way to go that keeps you in one place would be to work for a local hotel as their on-call Av tech."

With respect Mark, this is not a job you can just jump right into. I just left a director level position at a high end conference and wedding center. I wouldn't even consider hiring someone without a few years experience in the industry or a 2 year degree from a trade school or college. To suggest he can just waltz right in to a place and get a position like this is very unrealistic. Most hotels and conference centers have either a highly skilled tech crew or contract out to a national company like Swank AV. More realistically, he might check out these company's web sites for ENTRY LEVEL opportunities. The pay and hours suck, but they will hire just about anybody for entry level, as long as you have a high school diploma.

Mick Haensler
Higher Ground Media





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Mark Suszko
Re: Need help...
on Feb 4, 2008 at 3:45:58 pm

Mick, I thought it was pretty clear were WERE talking about entry-level opportunities, there was no intention to say what you do is so easy a 19-year-old can walk in and do it all...

OTOH, I don't know what market the kid is in, but while you are absolutely correct on big hotels in big markets, in smaller towns its a complete grab-bag as to how AV services are handled. I've seen many a hotel across my state in 20 years. Outside of the major markets, the service is quite spotty and standards are low. If you know what end on an XLR cable is what, and how to change a projector bulb, you're in. If the hotel actually ahs PA systems installed on premises, almost no one knows how they work or if they work, and tapping into them is an adventure.

I have always wondered why hotel management does not aspire to better service to guests in these support areas. In big hotels in major cities, they handle this better, using the sources you mention. In small markets, you are usually on your own as a presenter, and the best the hotel will do is give you the number of a local rental outfit.

"Oh, you wanted to RECORD that?"


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Mick Haensler
Re: Need help...
on Feb 4, 2008 at 6:33:08 pm

[Mark Suszko] "Outside of the major markets, the service is quite spotty and standards are low. If you know what end on an XLR cable is what, and how to change a projector bulb, you're in."


Well ya got me there. A sad but true scenario. And although my old job was in a mid market facility, the owner had the foresight to put an emphasis on technology. Sadly the facility has not been able to fill my position due to below industry standard pay. I fear the department I built will crumble without a high caliber tech and will deteriorate to the scenario you describe above.

Mick Haensler
Higher Ground Media




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Steve Wargo
Re: Need help...
on Feb 3, 2008 at 4:41:17 am

[Matt Giancarlo] "$300 is obviously not a fair price on my part."

Trippple your rates. You could do 1/3 the number of jobs and still make the same money. I don't know of anyone who would expect a nice job at a $300 rate. $995 would be a fair starter price. A friend of mine just had a booth at a wedding expo and told me that every company there, except for him, was shooting in some type of HD(V) and the prices were ranging from 3-5 thousand dollars. Pick up every demo disc that you can get your hands on and steal all of the great ideas. I think that still photo people get a few grand for what they do and their equipment costs run 10 to 15 thousand bucks but last a long time.

If there is a wedding expo in your area, you might go get as mush info as possible and see what others are charging for their packages. He also said that most video companies are connected to a still photographer because the brides have to do less shopping and can deal with only one person and write one check.

Good luck and learn, learn, learn and say goodby to weekends.

By the way, the guy putting on the expos was in a video group with us 20 years ago and when he said that he was going to give up video work and put on the expos, we chuckled at him. He runs two shows a years and grosses over a million bucks on each show.



Steve Wargo
Tempe, Arizona
It's a dry heat!

Sony HDCAM F-900 & HDW-2000/1 deck
5 Final Cut (not quite PRO) systems
Sony HVR-M25 HDV deck
2-Sony EX-1.


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Bruce Bennett
Re: Need help...
on Feb 3, 2008 at 3:53:59 pm

Matt,

Lots of good advice from seasoned pros here. Here’s my 2-cents:

1) This is just a pet peeve of mine: Start using correct terminology. Unless you’re shooting on film, you don’t FILM anything – you are videotaping/taping weddings. To me, using the term “film” for “video” represents the lack of professionalism.

2) Get to know your colleagues who are shooting/lighting/gripping on pro business/broadcast shoots. When I attend our local MCA-I chapter meetings I get lots of newbies and students asking me if they can work for free on one of my shoots. When I do give such opportunities, the good ones tend to get hired by my pro crews for other clients/shoots.

3) As far as creating spec or “fake” examples of work/spots, that’s a big turn off for me. I personally have never done this, and I don’t do business with those who do. To me, it is very disrespectful. I have given my life blood, sweat and tears to EARN the opportunity to represent my clients on my reels.

4) Time and time again, I see demo reels from newbies that make me scratch my head and ask, “How does this work relate to real world applications?” My all-time suggestion to those wanting to break into B2B production is create a documentary using your family photo album, 8mm films, documents (wedding/birth certificates, etc.) video tape and whatever you can think of. Create a true broadcast quality documentary about the Giancarlo family. THAT would impress me. Here is my best pro example that illustrates what I’m talking about: http://www.bmmp.com/resources/ACUM+EditedClip.wmv

Lastly, I will share my 3 Basic Rules to running my company:

1) Never underbid.
2) Tax everything.
3) Life is too short to work with assholes.

Keep on truckin’!
Bruce

Bruce Bennett,
Bennett Marketing & Media Production, LLC
http://www.bmmp.com


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John Davidson
Re: Need help...
on Feb 3, 2008 at 7:57:24 pm

For the record Bruce, there are no spec spots on my reel. When I was in college though, I made lots of "fake" spots for companies that didn't exist (e.g. "Uncle Chucky's Bar, Grill, and Petting Zoo" for example).

I agree, making spots for companies that you didn't actually get hired by is not the best way to sell yourself, but if you're 19 and just starting out at the very least it will teach you a little bit about how to get the job done. Perhaps we should make an addendum - go out and make commercials for FAKE companies from scratch - and have FUN doing it.

None of this is worth it if ya don't have a good time.

ps. Bruce, I live by those same three rules :-).
j

John Davidson____ writer | producer | director____http://www.magicfeather.tv


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Mike Cohen
Re: Need help...
on Feb 3, 2008 at 8:13:08 pm

Are you already living on your own, needing to support yourself, for whatever reason?

If so, you need to find a way to put some money in the bank, and to take some college level classes.
Perhaps take a business writing or marketing class at your local community college.
While you may think you have killer video skills, the unpaid internships suggested by others are normally what people your age do to learn just what they actually need to know to make it in the "biz.".

If going to school full time, or even a semester at a time is not an option, then maybe you should get a job to support yourself. Living gig to gig when you are not an established name in your area sounds a bit dicey.

Craigslist is a good place for the occasional gig, but one should not rely upon that for steady work (video work anyway!)

Mike





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Christopher Wright
Re: Need help...
on Feb 3, 2008 at 8:51:07 pm

I have to disagree with Bruce on the "Filming versus Videotaping" comment. I work on features quite often now and am shooting exclusively on HDCAM, Varicam, Genesis, RED etc. All cameras which ARE NOT film cameras. I would call what I am doing "filming" and not "Videotaping." Also while the "Ken Burns" type treatment you offered our young charge showed great editing and compositing chops (more motion graphics skills), it doesn't have a single moving camera shot in it. If I saw this young man's reel, I would want to see how well he can shoot as well as edit. I think being a good freelance shooter is a better place to start getting an income stream than advanced motion graphics for him, especially at the tender age of 19!

Dual 2.5 G5, IO, Kona LH, IO, Medea Raid, UL4D, NVidia 6800, 4Gig RAM
Octocore 8 GB Ram, Radeon card, MBP, MXO
Windows XP Adobe Studio CS3, Vegas 8.0, Lightwave 9.2, Sound Forge 9, Acid Pro 6, Continuum 5, Boris Red 4, Combustion 2008, Sapphire Effects


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Bruce Bennett
Re: Need help...
on Feb 3, 2008 at 9:31:30 pm

Chris,

Great constructive comments.

To me, film is exactly what it is: film. Anything other than film is not film.

My point in posting my documentary link was to illustrate the cool things can be done with “real life” materials. Agreed, it’s probably not a great example for a person who wants to shoot versus edit. There are so many small businesses and non-profits that could benefit from “free” production services. I wish more students and beginners would use their talents to help them out versus making up projects.

BTW: The edited clip does have a moving camera shot of FDR as a composited layer. Which was 16mm film transferred to videotape ;)

Cheers,
Bruce

Bruce Bennett,
Bennett Marketing & Media Production, LLC
http://www.bmmp.com


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Steve Wargo
Re: Need help...
on Feb 3, 2008 at 9:46:18 pm

I'm with Bruce on this one.

Filming is filming.

taping is taping.

recording is recording.

I prefer to call it "shooting" and never refer to myself as a "videographer". The word "video" has grown to refer to indicate VHS, as in "...available now on video and dvd".

When I ask to see a shooter's reel, I ask them to bring raw footage. Not something where they picked the best shot out of forty tries. Actually, the first thing we do is hand them a camera and ask them to power it up and shoot something at our office. The reasons are obvious.

Steve Wargo
Tempe, Arizona
It's a dry heat!

Sony HDCAM F-900 & HDW-2000/1 deck
5 Final Cut (not quite PRO) systems
Sony HVR-M25 HDV deck
2-Sony EX-1.


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Randall Raymond
Re: Need help...
on Feb 4, 2008 at 6:06:32 am

[Steve Wargo] "Actually, the first thing we do is hand them a camera and ask them to power it up and shoot something at our office. The reasons are obvious."

There you go. Steve's litmus test. I like it.

Here's another. 'Write a paragraph about your encounter with me. You got 15 minutes, communicator."




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Ryan Mast
Re: Need help...
on Feb 4, 2008 at 6:42:00 am

Hi Matt,

I'm in the same boat here, 20ish and trying to run a business while doing the college thing...

Whenever you take a gig, make sure that it has value to you in some way. For me, it's one or a combination of the following:

1) It's good money. It could be the most boring job, but it pays well enough that I just don't care.

2) It's a new, exciting, and braggable opportunity. I'm doing something that I haven't done before, and it's going to turn out amazingly, even if I go without sleep for a little while.

3) The people are great to work with, or they're people that I care about. These are people I love to hang out with anyway -- and if we can do a project together in process, cool.

If you've got a lot in one of the three values and none in the other two (like, lots of money but the people suck, or it's a one-in-a-lifetime opportunity but you're losing money), that's totally okay, but that can get old pretty fast unless you have a life outside of work. Generally try to make sure you've got 2 of the 3 values in a project (like, boring job but it's good money and you like the people, or great opportunity and fun people but no money, or great opportunity and great money but the people drive you insane).

If you're just doing boring, irritating, and low-paying gigs just to keep yourself busy, stop. Be a little pickier. If you're going to do something, make sure it has value to you monetarily or personally.

One of the hardest things for me about working on my own is finding -- or making -- free time. Seriously, just plan for time that you WILL NOT be near your computer or video camera. Not gonna touch it, not gonna think about it. Go out for dinner with some friends, play Halo, whatever. Just because you CAN work all the time, doesn't mean you should. Life can get pretty dismal and uninspiring if you sacrifice relationships for the sake of work. There's a balance.

On the other hand... we're young! We can work and learn more right now because we don't have as many financial and relational responsibilities... Carpe diem! Try something new!

Good luck, man. Hope to see you around more on the COW!



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Christopher Wright
Re: Need help...
on Feb 4, 2008 at 9:14:42 am

"One of the hardest things for me about working on my own is finding -- or making -- free time. Seriously, just plan for time that you WILL NOT be near your computer or video camera. Not gonna touch it, not gonna think about it."

It's been 25 years, and I'm still working on this one!!

Dual 2.5 G5, IO, Kona LH, IO, Medea Raid, UL4D, NVidia 6800, 4Gig RAM
Octocore 8 GB Ram, Radeon card, MBP, MXO
Windows XP Adobe Studio CS3, Vegas 8.0, Lightwave 9.2, Sound Forge 9, Acid Pro 6, Continuum 5, Boris Red 4, Combustion 2008, Sapphire Effects


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John Cuevas
Re: Need help...
on Feb 6, 2008 at 8:17:29 pm

Years ago interviewing for an editing job, after about 10 minutes of chit-chat they brought me into the back, through a tape in and said "all right, just set the bars correctly". Felt sort of bad for them that they actually had to see that done...must of been some really bad previous applicants.

Johnny Cuevas, Editor
http://www.ckandco.net


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Mark Stuart
Re: Need help...
on Apr 5, 2008 at 9:56:03 pm

Bruce,

May I ask, what was that video made in? How long did it take?

To the original poster: I wouldn't even hit the record button for $300! Good luck...



http://www.mediaartsolutions.net


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Randall Raymond
Re: Need help...
on Feb 7, 2008 at 2:40:58 am

[Matt Giancarlo] "I was wondering if you would be able to tell me how to get some of these jobs, and/or how to get a busier schedule."

OK - here you go, you wanna get busy, frightfully busy? Forget the brides and concentrate on the banquet halls in your area - all of them. Offer to do a drop-dead perfect video (free) for each if they send you brides. Just do one - the rest fall like dominoes. If you're good, stop charging 300 for a wedding, that's embarrassing. Get with it.



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