The "20-Something" Perspective
I've read many threads in the Business & Marketing pasture.
A recurring theme I am seeing is an apparent disdain for the "20-something with DSLR undercutting the seasoned veteran." The unfortunate thing about it, is while I'm not technically in business and/or undercutting anyone, I AM a 23 year old college student with a DSLR (recently purchased and purchased because of a lack of funds, not taste). A point & shoot camera wasn't cutting it, and a $2500 camcorder was out of the question (would love a Panasonic AG-AC130, for example).
Hearing some of you say things about young kids with lower end cameras makes me wonder if any of you believe there are kids who are honestly passionate about the pre/post/production discipline and process. Of course, I'm not instigating or implying anything with that previous comment.
For me, I get quite a great feeling from doing this sort of work and learning. I love seeing other people's work and wondering what went into it. It would be an amazing experience to just be in the presence of some of you folks: business owners, freelancers, etc. and just shut up and learn.
Is there any room for the 20-something who wants to actually work hard and learn as much as possible instead of being a stupid 18 year old kid who has his mom's PowerShot and an old copy of Windows Movie Maker charging 50 dollars for local music videos?
I firmly believe that there's room for anyone with talent, and that the market is wide open. Granted, I'm one of the "old timers" who occasionally grouses about the cub scouts hanging out their shingles and calling themselves "cinematographers", and "film makers". It's not that they're competing with me that bothers me, it's that they're appropriating terminology which is earned and bestowed upon those who have mastered their craft, not just a name they appropriate.
There are so many more learning opportunities now with the web, that what once was a closed system, almost a guild, with apprenticeships at facilities, has now become a free for all. And that's a good thing for those who really want to learn, and perfect their craft. Put your nose to the digital grindstone, learn all you can about the many disciplines (lighting, shooting, composition, lensing, color correction, editing, the list goes on...), and you'll find your niche.
I second Mr. Bourke's comments.
I don't care at all how old somebody is. I care about two things. First, attitude. If you show up where you said you would, when you said you would, work hard, stay alert, look for places where you can help, and pay attention so that you're out of the way when things are rolling - then I'll do what I can to help any young person learn more - whether they're working on my project or their own.
The second thing is about arrogance. A certain amount of arrogance in the young might be natural - but If you come in acting like you know a lot - then you'd better damn well actually know a lot. If OTOH, you act reasonably humble because you know you DON'T know a lot - but are willing to listen and learn - then I'm totally fine with that.
It's mostly comes down to attitude and effort.
Then again, it's always been that way, hasn't it?
Are there "overly entitled" youngsters out there who think the camera is supposed to make the videos for them and that their cheeky if crappy video will make them stars? Sure.
And when you sift them out there are the kids who are every bit as good as kids have ever been.
So just decide who you want to be. And be that.
Know someone who teaches video editing in elementary school, high school or college? Tell them to check out http://www.StartEditingNow.com - video editing curriculum complete with licensed practice content.
I'd agree with a lot of Joseph and Bill's comments.
There are lots of really good people joining the industry.
To my mind, a lot of the complaint is not so much about youth but about deprofessionalization - the idea, attractive to many and in the commerial interests of some suppliers, that anybody can pick up the appropriate tools and produce great - or even professional - work, without aptitude, effort and skill at least, and probably some training and experience wouldn't go amiss. Npbody, I guess, imagines that buying Logic or Cubase turns you into a musician or Final Draft makes you a writer ... but in video, well ....
So, I hope you enjoy the industry and find and enjoy great projects.
On top of the excellent advice you already got, Patrick, I would only add that if you are the enthusiast you describe yourself to be, there should be nothing to stop you from eventually reaching your goals.
At your age, your key weapons are your ego, optimism, and a ridiculous over-confidence in yourself, the boundless energy to keep going at something past the endurance of your elders, and the experimentalist, questioning mind of a young scholar. Balance that with the willingness to learn and be taught, to accept wise advice, to work in a team and accept direction, and you can progress quickly.
I always say, owning a camera doesn't make anybody a film-maker.
MAKING FILMS makes you a film maker.
I don't care what equipment you have access to, what matters is putting it to continuous use while learning to tell a story in pictures and sound. Make stuff, every week. Then re-visit it, re-work it, perfect it. Learn how it works, what makes it work.
Because this is a collaborative process, you have to learn how to work with others to achieve your singular vision, and how to help someone else achieve theirs. You need to learn how to sell people on your idea, and then lead them to accomplish it, even as they help make your own work better.
To add to Mark's comments, I would add an anecdote that I was told when I was in music school (my education is in music, not communications - I consider the two very close). My composition professor told us to write some music every day, without fail. One of the students asked him why, he said "To get the sh*t out of your system.".
I've always remembered that comment. The same applies no matter which creative discipline you're in. Even if it's just test footage to get your head around DOF and ISO settings, or shooting in a location you may want to use later, it pays off.
Age doesn't matter. Sometimes.
Two quick examples...
My friend Jeff is literally the best cinematographer that I personally know (I said that I know... I don't know Roger Deakins). Jeff is unbelievably good, his images are so pretty they'll make you want to cry. He has enough film festival awards to build a house. He lives in L.A. and has a bigshot Hollywood agent. He's spending the summer in Austin TX shooting a feature film (and already has several features under his belt).
Jeff is, I think, 26. Hate him.
We had a kid named Will as college intern a couple of summers ago. Today Will, armed with just his Canon DSLR, is already a fantastic director, a great eye, excellent storyteller, and so much enthusiasm that it makes me tired just talking to him. I'd hire Will in a heartbeat... and only don't because he went to college on an ROTC scholarship and has to give Uncle Sam a few years first.
Now I will say those are the exceptions, not the rule. Like most people in this forum probably do, I get demo DVDs across my desk every week without fail... mostly from young people. I do watch them all (maybe not immediately, but I do eventually pop them in). I cannot even recall the last one that I saw that was even remotely good. It's been years. I don't know if it's an education thing, an entitlement thing, or a talent thing... but most of them range from horrible to bad.
Cheap technology has put the ability to do what we do (or to try to do what we do) in the hands of anyone who wants it. $600 today will buy you a camera that shoots better than one 25 years ago that cost most than my first house. But what I think I'm seeing is that while that accessibility puts the tools in the hands of many more talented people than before, it also puts it in the hands of many many more untalented people than before... and seeing so much of that bad work now floating around makes us sometimes rush to judgment about the "young'uns."
So, it comes down to talent. As Tim Kolb once told me "Talent comes before Technology in the dictionary" and it should in our daily work, too.
So for me it's not at all an age thing... it's a talent thing. And while talent is, I believe, largely an inborn thing... talent is developed by experience, among other things. And sometimes that simply comes with age.
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.
Hi Todd -
For years, in the software arena, I've said that every creative software package should have a warning on the side that says "Talent Not Included".
I guess that should extend to the hardware side as well...
I'll contribute to the conversation by re-posting something I wrote here almost 3 years ago:
I think I'm done
Aug 19, 2010
I have now officially become disgusted with twenty-somethings and think I'm done giving them any consideration ever again.
1) Very talented art director wannabee whose work I was introduced to while judging a student design competition sponsored by one of my clients. Wow! I'll bet this kid would jump at the chance to do real work and with summer vacation coming who wouldn't want to earn about 12 times per hour what McDonalds pays. Not even through the first project and he'd rather fight about suggestions than accept them. AND he was being paid the whole time! And the work he was doing made me wonder if he'd actually submitted someone else's stuff in the competition because it was MUCH better than what he was showing me.
2) In looking for someone to grip for a two day shoot I gave a twenty-something kid, who said he was very anxious to learn and a real "go-getter", a chance rather than going with any of the older pros who also responded to my post. Despite detailed instructions on time and place -- and phone confirmation before the shoot -- a NO SHOW. Wouldn't even answer his cell phone.
3) A "working professional" who posted here bemoaning his current work situation and how he was being taken advantage of by his first employer out of college. (Scroll down, you'll find it.) Told him that we could use someone with his motivation and skill set but that I like to get to know people with a freelance project or two first. Called cell a few days later with job ready to go. No answer, no returned call. Called the next day with same result. Sent an email asking "WTF?" No response.
I'm done. Sorry Gen Y. I'd blame it on your age, but I (and almost everyone I know) was NOTHING like that at your age. We wanted to work, wanted to get started and would even work for free to do stuff with people doing what we wanted to do for a living. Guess things have changed.
What a pity that at least one of the three examples above didn't have the attitude that Patrick describes having. But, the fact of the matter is, as has been discussed here many times, as employers we may have to interview 10, 20 or more of the twenty-something job candidates to find the one who is capable, talented and has a decent attitude and work ethic. So, Patrick, perhaps this will work out well for you because you'll be a stand-out among your peers.
Here's a guy almost as old as me and he is truly undercutting my market...and he's in my market! But he called to book the studio, so an actual studio is good even for a company like this.
Tilt Media Inc.
Video Production, Post, Studio Sound Stage
I did not read all the posts here, so I apologize if I am repeating what has been already stated.
Of course there are young people that are fantastic, and many can outperform most of the "old fogies" that appear on these forums. In the same way that many of us may have been perceived as "shining stars" in the past when we were getting started, I see plenty of 24 year olds that seem to know "everything". It amazes me. But with that said, I see TONS of completely useless young human beings that have the sense of entitlement. That's where the prejudice comes from.
Perhaps in the past (in the old days, you know, the 70's and the 80's) the young people that didn't ultimately make it in our business simply didn't have access to DSLR cameras, and Media Composers for $995, and Adobe CS6 suites for 50 bucks a month. They had nothing, but their job, working on expensive equipment that they didn't own. They were not cut out for our business, and eventually left, and went to work for Home Depot, or UPS, or McDonnalds. So those people (which of course were a majority of the 24 year olds in the 70's and 80's) didn't say "I'm a cinematographer" or "I'm a compositor", or "I'm opening up a video facility". Today, opening up a video facility means that you and 3 of your friends brought your MacBook Pro's and your hacked CS6 license to a $800 a month rental office, and now you are a facility. And if you (God forbid) have a Canon 5D, well now you are a full production company. And you go out and charge $300 to do a complete production for the local car dealership. Or maybe a free video for your friends band, which you post to YouTube, link to Cow, and try to sell yourself as a professional production company ("hey, check out our new music video that we just produced"). That's what we hate.
There is no question in my mind that jealousy (mine) is tied to this. Most of us had to work hard to get the opportunities to even touch most of this equipment, and now all of it costs 1/4 the price of one years' tuition that your parents paid for you. And of course, you all have cars at 16, CEL phones at 14, etc. etc. So we (I) am just jealous, because we (I) didn't have it like that. And when we hear that you are fresh out of school, and can't find a job, so you are starting your own production company, or graphics house - well, that's just incomprehensible. And if you (not you - the generic you for your generation) gets a job, you don't want to do anything to learn your skills, because you are already a top cinematographer, or you are already a top graphics artist (just look at the free music video that you just posted on YouTube, that all your friends say is SO AWESOME !). That's where all the smart ass comments come from.
We will get old and get out of the business. And perhaps people like you will come in, pick up the leads, and have a successful business. But you (even if you are very qualified) will be plagued by COUNTLESS kids your age, with the same equipment, that do terrible work, and will compete with you for the same jobs, offering their services for almost zero money (because mom bought them a RED Scarlet for graduation). And let me assure you, they will tell your clients that THEY are wonderful, and they can do the job, even though all they have is the cheap equipment that has become available to them due to the nature of our crazy business today.
Rescue 1, Inc.
Well Bob you have taken the words right out of my mouth.
Could not of explained it better myself.
You're completely wrong! If you are a kid who has a 5D, your are now a Cinematographer!
Absolutely phenomenal responses and thoughts, all of you. I love this forum more and more because you guys are so reliable and helpful when all I'm used to (with the people around me) are broken promises and "YEAH MAN WE SHOULD TOTALLY DO THAT" (then three months later nothing happens and you can't get a hold of them).
Nick, I could not FATHOM no-showing a job like that. It would be a death sentence for reliability and reputation. And not even manning up and having the courtesy to return your calls after he blew off a project? Wow, talk about a complete lack of class and integrity.
Bob, as I near-instantaneously learned when I first encountered your replies on my original thread, your comments are deeply insightful and helpful.
All great thoughts and touch on all my ideas. At 60, I can tell you one thing that someone your age forgets, or doesn't know yet, Patrick. We all were your age once. We all had your kind of passion for shooting movies on film back then, or the beginnings of video. We had energy and nothing to lose, everything to gain. Now, that's not true for a variety of reasons. Some of us just don't care to work that hard, though are still passionate, some of us can't work that hard, some can't afford to. But hell, I'd love to have an assistant with your ability to know when to help, and when to just stand back and learn.
The problems for the established businesses that have risen lately are built on the changes from a business where someone your age was unlikely to be able to afford the gear, and *had* to apprentice themselves to the older folks (like I did), to today, where the cost of entry is essentially zero. Now, it's all about your vision, your professionalism, and whether you can survive on the unlikely pay that you will get for doing great work, which often is zero, or close to it. And anyone can buy a camera and swagger around pretending to be a "filmmaker", (young or old!).
But there are young filmmakers *kicking butt* right now. Eric Becker in Seattle. Fabulous. And my Vimeo account has over 190 "likes", most of them your age or close to it. Check out Cascada for an example. . Brilliant filmmaking. You won't catch me down there in the jungles of Mexico doing this! Chase Jarvis, now in his 30s, is also a kick ass film maker, who also knows how to market himself in this new world.
I actually got back *into* the business because of all this. It's the best time to be telling stories with movies. The best. But there are still basics that you can learn from those of us doing it for decades. Shortcuts, how to tell a story, business management issues that they don't teach you in film school, like how to actually succeed in running a business, getting loans, lease vs. buy, etc. A lot of what I didn't know at 23 was how to tell a story in a filmic manner. I had lots of ability, but no history.
You can buy all the gear you want, but it won't help you succeed in the *business* of production. It's all about trust, completing on time and under budget, getting out and marketing yourself, and letting the gear come in secondary to the storytelling. My clients could care less what camera I use. They care that I can tell their story. My main client continually has told me, since the first day we started a few years ago, "I hope we can make champagne on a beer budget". So far, so good. And the comment above about "your friends telling you, that you are awesome", will not pay the rent. Believe me, been there, done that!
Please don't think we hate you because you're young. It's a bit of jealousy, and yes, some people are losing their livelihoods to the fact that the price of production has fallen through the floor. The problem for those that you have read that are complaining, is that, after the best of intentions and work, they are being priced out of the market, for no fault of their own. It's also happening in the music business. We are in a time of massive destruction of industries and have been for a few decades now, because of the Internet. There *will* be winners and losers, as always. Where it will lead is anyone's guess.
Best of luck, and if you ever are near Seattle, give a shout.