September 20, 2015 at 1:21PM

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Finding Legitimate DP Work

Hey all,

So I just recently graduated from film school and have been doing some freelance DP work over the summer and have been submitting my resume and reel to tons of job postings on sites like Mandy and filmmaker groups on Facebook. While I have been offered quite a few jobs and shot 3 short films this past August, I find more often than not that most of these productions are never really legitimate. Most of the time the crew will usually just be me and the director, no producer or other crew on board. Very rarely will they let me have at least an AC, but usually won't want to pay them. Other times, people try to take advantage of me, like the most recent project I've been working on, the director wanted to lower my day rate, even after lowering it once, settled it, and are two weeks into preproduction. I'm not even sure if I'm even on this project anymore because the director hasn't responded to my last email in the past couple of days. Is this how it is for most DPs? Am I just looking for work in the wrong places? How does everybody else find real work? Maybe I'm just being impatient, I don't know haha. What is everybody else's thoughts on this?

9 Comments

Hey Andrew, I would assume that it's just a matter of time until the legit projects start coming your way. Which film school did you go to? I personally am attending NYFA - Los Angeles this October.

September 20, 2015 at 1:29PM

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Jacob Souza
Director of Photography
81

Hopefully, haha. I did a four year program at the School of Visual Arts in New York City.

September 20, 2015 at 1:34PM

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Andrew Abballe
Director of Photography
155

I feel you Andrew - In my experience - very rarely does "legitimate work" come through those job posting sites. Most work comes from referrals. The good jobs - the jobs you actually want to shoot are gonna be pretty much referral only. Its all about who knows you - not actually who you know (because you can "know" alot of people, but if no one knows your name, you aint getting jack swat in terms of jobs)

I feel that comes from time. Its an endurance race - the longer you last, the more people you get to know, and the more likely one of them will like you enough to throw good paid work your way. So just keep shooting, put your ALL into every project , dont be lazy on projects you feel are not important - treat each one with the same care, excitement and work ethic as you would on your first 1 million dollar feature, and you will do fine.

Also - knowing good producers is key. Yes knowing good directors is also good, but a producer who trusts you will hire you. The producer will hire the director, and if the director doesn't have a "go to dp" which alot of them dont, especially first time directors - the producer will hire you to shoot for him. And producers also typically have more projects going on than a director.

lastly, have integrity - if there is a project or a story that you dont want to tell or be apart of, or goes against your core values and beliefs, say no - even if it is good pay. People will respect you, and ultimately your body of work will consist of stellar film after stellar film - instead of terribly made films with gross scripts. And the good producers with good films will hire you over the guy who only has terrible films on his resume. A job isn't worth selling out your integrity.

Blessing man, hope it helps - keep going and your lucky to be in NYC, its alot harder to find "legitimate work" outside of places like LA(where I am based) NYC,Austin,Chicago or Atlanta. Keep going. Fight the good fight. Finish the race and don't give up hope! :)

September 21, 2015 at 11:28PM

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Oh and hey man, checked out your reel - you seriously have a killer eye - I mean it. So yeah just keep shooting, and be an absolute joy to work with and you will do fine. Having great work is good - but honestly, people hire you and producers trust you because your a nice guy and they want to have you on set.(I have seen so many people with 20+ experience get passed over for jobs by guys with less than 5 just because the dude was great to work with.) So as long as someone doesnt completely suck - if they are nice to be around, they have a pretty good shot at getting hired.

Your work is for sure good enough for professional commercial work and/or features for sure- If I was DPing something Id hire you as an operator! and anything you dont know technically, a great 1st AC, Gaffer and Key Grip will help you out with. So just be a pleasure to have on set, focus on telling stories visually and the art form of cinematography and I bet you in a year your life will look completely different than it does now.

September 21, 2015 at 11:49PM

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Great reel man. Makes me realize why someone like me, as a director, would need someone focused on the image. When I get on to bigger projects and can start paying people I'll definitely hit you up.

September 22, 2015 at 6:09AM

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Torsten Pearson
Writer-Director-Editor
429

Yeah this definitely sounds pretty normal. It takes a while to build up to "legit" clients that keep coming back. Starting out is hard (as I'm also still currently learning). A lot of things fall through, flake, etc. Just have to keep on keepin' on!

September 22, 2015 at 2:51PM

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Ben Meredith
Cinematographer/Filmmaker
1613

Thanks for the advice and comments, guys. Means a lot to me :).

September 23, 2015 at 5:05AM

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Andrew Abballe
Director of Photography
155

I wouldn't listen to the praise, if you're in NYC then your reel isn't that good. You are in the deep middle of the fold, theres literally hundreds of DPs in NY with the same level of work. If you're in low demand people will always exploit you. When I look at the work, I don't see samples of trending commercial or narrative styles, take out all the park shots, you shouldn't have anything that looks like test footage, only your best stylized work. Mediums from dialogue don't really matter that much for a DP reel, anyone can light a medium, show action, transitions, wides, that are jaw dropping, show that YOU enhanced the performance. Show compositions that tell the story. Also you need more variety, I see a high con saturated look for a lot of your stuff, that won't work with commercial clients not with the smaller sources you use in most of your work.

You have to swing for the fences, create a real style for each project, that is only way you'll get solid paying gigs.

September 23, 2015 at 7:56AM

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Indie Guy
752

Thanks for the comments. As I start doing more work, I'll develop my reel more over time with your advice in mind.

September 23, 2015 at 6:17PM

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Andrew Abballe
Director of Photography
155

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