Turning a film crew position into great opportunity.

– Posted in: Producing Film / Video Productions

Do you ever get depressed thinking everybody else is getting all the great gigs?

If you’re like me every once and a while you get into a slump, your victim personality takes over and you become engulfed by scarcity and negativity.  It happens to all of us, but the important thing is not staying stuck in that mind set. I truly believe we create our own realities if we are willing to work hard and set ourselves up for success.

This post is about turning everyday jobs into career building opportunities.

I live in a small town in upstate NY. This is not the easiest place to find high end video work, so I travel, work as a freelancer and from time to time I get a cool TV advertising  gig with a reasonable budget.

My real love is working on quality independent film projects.
Yup, they don’t pay nearly as well as corporate or advertising but they can a lot of fun and very rewarding.

Disclaimer – I work hard to make sure the indie projects I accept are well planned and have a solid foundation of key people attached.

So, when a producer I’d worked for years ago said he was coming up from Manhattan and looking for a place to shoot an interactive “Halloween Christmas Card” I was very interested.

He explained;

They were using the latest social media and web technology to make the experience interactive.

Binaural sound would be exploited to make the viewer part of the experience.

They were making this to impress high level creative directors.

He was very excited and it was contagious. These guy’s do serious high-end work.

I can’t reveal the agencies name until the project is live, but I can tell you they work for Samsung, Penera Bread and Adobe to name just a few.

Update – the project has just launched. I included a link to the first chapter below. This experience is best with headphones. The binaural sound will blow you away!

This is the big league and I wanted in, but I wanted to shoot it. I’m not promoting myself as a gaffer anymore so I’m not looking for a crew position, granted I would get a rental for my lights and a location fee so there was enough money to make me consider it, but having this piece on my director of photography reel would open new doors and that was in my business plan.

The producer knew me as a Albany based director not as a DP so selling him might be a bit of a challenge.

I quickly sent him some images of the my bunkhouse location and let him know I had enough lighting equipment to light a medium size set. I asked him what he had for a budget and how he planned to allocate the funds.

The figure he gave made me realize he was working on an indie budget,he wasn’t offering full industry rates and that meant I had leverage.

I told him I loved the project and would be interested in helping in anyway I could,but what I was really interested in was the “Director of Photography” title.

This caught him off guard.

I told him I’d send him samples of my DP work and that I would put together a “sweet package” within his budget. The package would include my self, the equipment, lighting and camera crew for a three day shoot. I explained that I’d supply the crew for up to three days, but that I was “All In”.

“All In” meant the bunkhouse location and I would be available for additioanal days for prep, camera tests and additional pick up shots. In return I wanted ProRes footage of the finished video project and permission to blog about and promote my role in the project.

I felt certain the producer in him wanted to say “hell yeah”, but I knew he could not say yes because his partner was the creative director. The creative director didn’t know me and would likely have reservations about working with a small town Director / DP. I was right, the producer told me that while he felt I was a talented director he would need to be sold on my DP skills and he’d then need to sell his partner.

This was a sweet deal I was making him, it made financial sense, but I know creative directors put creative before budget. I also knew didn’t have big budget, so he couldn’t pay for a high end DP. I had some good stuff on my reel, but it wasn’t this kind of stuff or at this level. I needed a win-win strategy.

So my plan was to prove I had a good eye, my ability to create stylized lighting designs and competency for control exposure.

I knew I would not be their first choice for DP, so I needed to create value and simultaneously set myself and the project up for success and to do that I needed to:

1. Assess my skills from their point of view.

2. Assess where their strengths were and where they needed help.

3. Create a an offering that packaged and traded the skills and assets I had into an value plus offering that minimized risk on their end.

What would you do? Would you work for free? Sometimes working for free is a good idea,sometimes it’s a very bad idea.

If you’d like to learn more about this project and about leveraging value, check back because I’ll be putting together some more details on that how we created a pretty cool lighting design and shooting plan for this project.

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Have thoughts, agree or disagree – it’s all good – just leave a comment or email me via the contact tab.

Here’s the link to Chapter 1 – Don’t forget to put some headphones on. Enjoy!  http://silencetheshadows.com/

Good luck on creating your own win-win strategies!

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