Home of Professional Cinematography since 1996

Apprenticeship and Our Craft

Published : 4th June 2012

Does anyone know of a good link or source or book for anything about the approach to apprenticeship, or learning our craft (camera department) as an apprentice ?

I’m talking about a something I can give to a new kid who is apprenticing in my camera department. He’s been working with me as a camera PA and he is having problems understanding the whole concept of being focused as an apprentice.

Down here in Mississippi, I don’t have a lot of choices on who I might train. This kid works hard, but has yet to get it.

Jim Dollarhide
Director/Cinematographer


>>This kid works hard, but has yet to get it

This seems to be a fairly common issue these days. I get PA's who claim they want to get into camera, but even when given the chance to prove themselves ... don't.

I'm always surprised how many of my AC colleagues have no real interest in photography ...

Of course our fore fathers who worked Camera in Coat and Tie probably would have a few things to say about us. But they didn't have the multitude of gear that we have, plus for a period, they had the grips helping out carrying heads, etc.

My father-in-law, RIP, a looong time Camera Operator, thought I was flat out lying when I told him that his daughter/my 2nd AC and I were embarking on a five week around the world commercial with 63 cases of camera gear. He said they rarely had more then five cases: one lens case, body case, and three mags. The grips had the sticks and head.

I would love to hear what others have to say about motivating youngsters to go beyond that basics of delivering the gear to the set.

Mako, Makofoto, S. Pas, CA


Mako said:


>> I would love to hear what others have to say about motivating youngsters to go beyond that basics of

>> delivering the gear to the set.

My first IA mentor, the late Jim Lucas, told me in 1972, while we were having a discussion about art vs craft, I was an eager kid at the time . . .

Don't think about art until you have mastered the craft . . .

Then he said wryly under his breath . . . and mastering the craft takes a lifetime . . .

I still quote it today. Sort of sums up what my earlier post today was about . . .

Jim Dollarhide
Director/Cinematographer
601-853-4252

http://www.dollarhide.net


>> I would love to hear what others have to say about motivating youngsters to go beyond that basics of

>> delivering the gear to the set.

In my experience, the trick with employees of any kind is to get them to take responsibility for their tasks so that they become self-motivated and require less supervision, and challenge them to become the best there is at what they're doing. That and be sure not to hire any actors or musicians. While they're perfectly nice people, generally speaking they see everything else as just a day job that they couldn't care less about. Also, be scrupulous about promoting from within, give people raises when they deserve it, not just when they ask for it, and if they need to be disciplined, give them more responsibility afterwards, not less.

When you're growing employees that other companies are trying to poach, or when unscrupulous rejected clients are scheming to get them to take side jobs, you know you've succeeded.

Tim Sassoon
SFD
Santa Monica, CA


Mako Koiwai writes:

>> I'm always surprised how many of my AC colleagues have no real interest in photography ...

These days it seems as if a lot of wannabe Dee-Pees have no such interest, either.

Currently I'm mentoring some perfectly nice and well meaning newbies who are about to hear the term "pictorial composition" for the first time. I'm not making this up.

Dan Drasin
Producer/DP
Marin County, CA



>> Currently I'm mentoring some perfectly nice and well meaning newbies who are about to hear the term

>> "pictorial composition" for the first time. I'm not making this up.

Wow. How did this happen? The only thing I can think of that's significantly different between now and when I grew up is that it is ridiculously easy to capture and record a moving image. I had a regular 8mm camera as a teenager, shooting reversal, and I had to practice to make pretty pictures. And when I wasn't shooting I was studying motion picture imagery to try to figure out why I liked what I did and how I could reproduce it.

Maybe I studied harder because it was harder to make an image back then: it cost money and it took skill, even at the amateur level. Now any human can pick up a camera, throw it on auto, and get instantly create "usable" pictures without any studying at all. And since it's so easy they don't ever crave knowledge of craft, because they think they've instantly mastered the craft.

Also, amateur "styles" have become acceptable and occasionally desirable so the artistic bar is a lot lower than it used to be.

I remember watching "The Prisoner" at the age of 12 and noticing that it was very not like any of the American "master/medium closeup/medium closeup" TV shows I regularly watched. The blocking, camera movement and compositions were much more appealing than anything I saw on "Columbo," for example, and I wanted to understand why. That got me started on a long-time study of composition. What are kids today seeing that might similarly stimulate them? A lot of TV shows are shot handheld, as are movies. I don't see anything on TV regularly that really blows me away compositionally. I see a lot of very competent stuff but nothing that makes me sit up and say "THAT'S BRILLIANT!"

I think I became passionate about my craft because I desperately wanted to do it well at an early age and I set the bar quite high for myself. I was driven to create the kind of images that I liked watching so much. What you guys are describing are kids who want to be in the film industry just because it's the film industry, and not because they are driven to do a particular thing that happens only in the film industry.

It's so weird: I used to be the youngest person on the set, and now I'm an old-timer. Finally I can say "Kids these days..." and shake my head ruefully.

As a side note, I'd like to point out that I tried to watch the AMC remake of The Prisoner and shut it off after about 20 minutes. It showed none of the cinematic craft of the original. None. It was painful. Randomness and variety have replaced planned meaningful compositions.

-----------------------

Art Adams | Director of Photography
4 1 5 . 7 6 0 . 5 1 6 7
San Francisco Bay Area

showreel -> www.artadams.net
trade writing -> art.provideocoalition.com

ICG, SOC, NWU


Art Adams wrote:

>> I remember watching "The Prisoner" at the age of 12 and noticing that it was very not like any of the

>> American "master/medium closeup/medium closeup" TV shows I regularly watched.

We could discuss "The Prisoner" for hours. Possibly days or weeks. Quite possibly the most brilliant television show in history on every level that it's possible to display such brilliance.

But we won't.

Michael Most
Colorist/Technologist
Next Element by Deluxe
Burbank, CA.

"Postworld" blog at http://mikemost.com


I wrote:

>> Currently I'm mentoring some perfectly nice and well meaning newbies who are about to hear the term

>> "pictorial composition" for the first time. I'm not making this up.

Art Adams writes:

>> Wow. How did this happen?

Actually, these folks aren't twentysomething adolescents, but a very fine recently-retired couple who decided they wanted to travel and make videos about "sacred sites" around the world. They started with the Basilica of St Francis in Assisi (where they did a piece on an American singer who lives there), then went to Delphi (where they interviewed a local poet), and so forth. Their first efforts are actually quite charming, and they recently contacted me because, wonder of wonders, they wanted to improve their technique and their understanding of the medium. We've hit it off nicely and look forward to an enjoyable professional relationship.

One of the first things I'm recommending is not to shoot absolutely everything from a Steadicam Merlin. They're beginning to see why that might be helpful.

>> The only thing I can think of that's significantly different between now and when I grew up is that it is

>> ridiculously easy to capture and record a moving image.

Don't forget cheap hardware and the increasingly low cost per minute of footage, not to mention passable sync sound and the ease and economy with which sophisticated editing and effects can be done. These are things we could only have dreamt of in our 8mm days.

I can't tell you how excited I was the first time I held a Sony portapak camera in my hands.... or how frustrated I was that this tape couldn't be edited. First thing I did was to create a scale that could be taped onto videotape reels so you could tell exactly how many turns you needed to hand-backspace the tape to give you precisely 10 seconds of preroll... so you could do flying punch-in tape-to-tape edits. I edited an entire doc for WGBH-TV that way, from half-inch to one-inch.

...and on the seventh day I rested.

While I'm rambling I should mention that In the early '70s I worked with a NYC nonprofit called Open Channel, which produced programs for community groups that would run on the newly established public-access cable channel. I put together an ambitious three-camera (switched) field rig using Sony 1/2" B&W equipment (even built an intercom/IFB system for it) and volunteer crews would do the shoots. The most interesting part of this was that the director worked in live TV and was accustomed to barking orders at the shooters. But the shooters were all docco guys who had never had orders barked at them and were used to (and skilled at) covering events with one camera. At first it was all mayhem and mutiny, but eventually the two crafts learned to trust each other and the result was unbelievable. Sometimes the director would just say "OK. Camera two, take it" and nothing would be switched for five minutes. We shot a black church service in Harlem like this, which turned out to be one
of the most amazing pieces of event-video I've ever seen. Alas, the tapes are surely long gone...

None of this would have been possible even two years earlier.

Dan Drasin
Producer/DP
Marin County, CA


>> One of the first things I'm recommending is not to shoot absolutely everything from a Steadicam Merlin.

They're beginning to see why that might be helpful.

That's a completely different syndrome. It's the "I'm accomplished at something else in life, and I've watched a lot of TV, and shooting video is simple, therefore I am an expert cinematographer" syndrome.

Not quite the same as "I play a lot of videogames and spend hours on Youtube so I'm entitled to be a highly paid cinematographer when I'm not texting someone" syndrome.

I've officially become a curmudgeon.

-----------------------

Art Adams | Director of Photography
4 1 5 . 7 6 0 . 5 1 6 7
San Francisco Bay Area


I am a young cinematographer living in LA and I have been looking all over for ways to apprentice DP's. It has been difficult to gain access. Although forums like CML do help shed some light on things. Even if its just hearing different opinions on one subject that can be very helpful.

On the other hand I feel that there is no other way to learn besides practicing and learning from others. If any one knows of someone looking to mentor I am open to suggestions.

Scott Uhlfelder
Los Angeles


First off I want to say what an invaluable resource this is and I appreciate your discusions whole heartedly.
This is my first post here and am glad that i feel my input may be of some use to someone. Having graduated from film school last year and doing what I can do be of assistance on set ( mostly in the camera department ) please do not generalize that all young kids are of the same YouTube/texting/assume I can do yourjob as good as you "breed". While there are some who feel entitled to fame and glory with out the blood and sweat invested, please know that there are exceptions to the rule. There are those of us dying for the chance to prove that we are worthy to carry cases and fill out your paperwork for the opportunity to learn. I've found myself in engaging conversations with many of my friends about why certain dp's chose the compositions/camera moves and lighting schemes they did for any parts of film or commercials. That we find ourselves pouring over the photo section in barns and noble or boarders looking for inspiration and to help find our visual preference. Whether it be a D
oyle, Richardson, Hall or Toll film, we study and work hoping to refine our style.
So please don't be discouraged by the ones that are easy to point out but be encouraged by the thought that there are some gems in the rough waiting to be polished.

hope this doesn't come off as arrogant, but I felt my perspective couldn't hurt too much

best regards,

Rick (trying not to step on toes) Sharf
www.ricksharf.com


> Quite possibly the most brilliant television show in history

And of course the most brilliant analyses of it was


http://pro.imdb.com/title/tt0469592/

Hmm, the cinematographers name looks familiar.....

The running time mentioned in the review is wrong, it was a TV hour.

Cheers

Geoff Boyle FBKS
Cinematographer
EU Based
Skype geoff.boyle
mobile: +44 (0)7831 562877
www.gboyle.co.uk


Hey Rick:

One thing that was brought to my attention when I was a Camera Trainee was that EVERYTHING one does reflects on your capabilities, including hand writing (making up slates before label makers!) and SPELLING. It either's a plus or minus indicator of ones attention to detail. So important in Camera.

Some things have changed. I realized that I was wrong when I told a Camera PA that he needed to watch his attire, after realizing that our successful Dp was also dressed rather extra "casual." When I was starting off I was told that Camera always wears collared shirts, ie. no t-shirts. Of course many years ago, Camera use to wear coat and ties at work!

Times have changed but I do like to see Attention to Detail. Good luck ...

Mako, Makofoto, Anal where it counts, S. Pasadena, CA


Tim:


Thank you for your wisdom, you must be a parent!


We have lost so much.

"Lux et veritas"
VIRGIL MIRANO
Topanga, CA 90290
USA


>> hope this doesn't come off as arrogant, but I felt my perspective coulnt hurt too much

Not at all. You come across as someone who is going to succeed and do well, which pleases me immensely.

We'll need some new old-timers when the current round dies off...

-----------------------

Art Adams | Director of Photography
4 1 5 . 7 6 0 . 5 1 6 7
San Francisco Bay Area


>> On the other hand I feel that there is no other way to learn besides practicing and learning from others. If >> any one knows of someone looking to mentor I am open to suggestions.

I think you'll have a better time working as a camera assistant in order to be close to DPs. I used to try to mentor with DPs and it never worked out, but I learned a tremendous amount working with DPs.

Speaking for myself, I'm much more likely to share my knowledge with a colleague who has proven themselves competent and a good learner than I am with some random person off the street who wants to shadow me because they want to know how I do my job. It's a subtle difference but an important one.

I've been mentoring a film student for the past year who found me through a film school that tries to set up students with mentors. (The school called me out of the blue and asked if I was interested in a mentee.) He found me at a good time, when I've been doing lots of spec work and needed an extra set of hands. Hopefully he's getting something out of working with me on all sorts of different projects. This is the first time I've ever been involved in simply mentoring someone that I wasn't already working with.

As a camera assistant I was always by the DP's side, watching what filters went in the matte box and what lenses went on the camera. When the DP read his/her spot meter I'd note the reading, note what stop he/she gave me and occasionally ask him/her what they were looking at. I went to dailies and saw how the film looked compared to how the set looked. It was a great education. In a way I'm sorry I had to give it up so early. There's a lot more I could have learned that I've had to teach myself.

But just asking a DP if you can shadow them is probably not going to work very well. We're so busy that having to educate someone while also shooting just isn't something most of us are interested in, unless that person is already working with us and shows promise. Then I can occasionally lean over to them and say "See that? That's lighting that, and I'm exposing it so it'll look like this. Cool, eh?"

-----------------------

Art Adams | Director of Photography
4 1 5 . 7 6 0 . 5 1 6 7
San Francisco Bay Area


Hi Jim Dollarhide

>> Does anyone know of a good link or source or book for anything about the approach to apprenticeship, or >> learning our craft (camera department) as an apprentice ?

My guru, my ideal asked me to read this book "Hands on-manual for cinematographers" by David Samuelson

its a BIBLE for me....

Ankur raina
freelance dp/1st ac
mumbai
india
+91 90046 55566


Ankur raina wrote:

>My guru, my ideal asked me to read this book "Hands on-manual for cinematographers" by David Samuelson

One of my proudest achievements, getting an Acknowledgement in the 2nd Edition.

It was also very cool having dinner at David's place in London, with his incredible collection of film memorabilia and books, and sitting in the seat "that last week Freddie Young was sitting in."

Mako, Makofoto, Santa Barbara, CA


I think that mentoring and shadowing are great ways to learn Cinematography.


When I was a Camera Assistant I was too busy being a Camera Assistant to be watching what the DOP was doing re camera and lighting....any down time was spent tidying boxes, re-arranging kit, making cups of tea etc. I was very fortunate to have the experience of being mentored by Henry Braham BSC through Women in Film and Televisions "Technical Change Scheme." The placement lasted for a year whilst Henry was DOPing The Golden Compass. Not only did he take the time to show me what he was doing on-set (including pre-production and post-production) but he would set me unrelated "homework assignments" which included drawing, filming on S16mm, learning about art history etc etc... another great learning experience for me was when I Camera Operated for Sue Gibson BSC on a feature film and she also helped educate me in lighting. We would come into a set and she'd ask "How would you light this Anna?" and I'd tell her. She'd then tell me how she would
light it and why....it really opened up my eyes and I have much to thank both of these fantastic Cinematographers for. I think that structured mentoring like the Technical Change Scheme is a really good way to educate Cinematographers and I hope that there are other examples like this in the UK and abroad in the future.

Anna Carrington
Cinematographer
London
UK


>> "One of my proudest achievements, getting an Acknowledgement in the 2nd Edition.


Mr mako makofoto, you are lucky for the work you have done, it must be nice to read the 2nd edition before the release, its pretty difficult to get an honour like that, here in india, ya but i got to attend a session with
Michael Goi at cinematographer's combine in mumbai...it was very good.

ankur raina
mumbai
90046 55566


>>it must be nice to read the 2nd edition before the release

... the 2nd Edition, red plastic cover, came out in 1998 !

Mako, Makofoto, VER, Burbank, CA


Anna Carrington wrote:

>> I was very fortunate to have the experience of being mentored by Henry Braham BSC through Women in >> Film and Televisions "Technical Change Scheme."

I've been a longtime believer that we (as an industry/society) have lost something very valuable when we collectively decided in favor of formal academic training over apprenticeships. I'm not quite sure how
this happened, but somewhere along the way, we decided that the best way to learn was "to go to school". If one wants to learn the art of baking bread or to become a chef, you enroll in a culinary institute. If you want to learn construction or become a mechanic, you enroll in a technical institute. If you want to learn filmmaking, you go to film school.

The obvious problem with all of those scenarios is that, yes, you will receive a base level of knowledge from the academic world, but you still won't have the skills to immediately make a living in the wild; especially when it comes to working on a set where tensions can run high and the (oftentimes) charged atmosphere makes for a situation where the more important skill is knowing when not to speak rather than any other technical knowledge. Such skills can only be learned from experience, and I believe that formal apprentices not only are
exposed to the material, but they are equipped with the ancillary knowledge that an academic institution won't ever be able to match.

Now some would say "that's what internships are for" and I would argue against that point wholeheartedly. I interned at five different organizations and learned very little. Most of the time it was because those organizations figured out that I wasn't helpless and kept giving me responsibilities until I was basically functioning as an unpaid employee. This was obviously a beneficial relationship for the internship provider but since I wasn't being paid with money (but was in school credit...which was pretty worthless after that first
internship) I found that there wasn't much value in internships for me.

Contrast that with the part time job I had at the TV station in high- school where I was a regular employee. I was trained as a camera operator, audio operator, chyron operator and tape op over my time spent there. Because I was being paid, I felt a responsibility for the material in a way that was much different than any of my academic endeavors. While at college, I paid around $2400 per class and yet I wasn't learning in the same way. Somehow, when someone was paying me to learn, I actually learned the material; when I paid someone else to
teach me, the retention rate dropped dramatically.

There's another argument that says the Master/Apprentice structure can be practiced when the Master hires an Assistant. I don't think this is a great way to work, because the assistant position generally is another job completely. I came up as an assistant editor and even though I was able to ask questions of the editor and watch him or her work, I was often consumed by the responsibilities of the assistant editor. Working for five years as an assistant didn't make me a better editor; it made me a great assistant editor.

This brings up the issue of practice. Malcom Gladwell wrote in his book "Outliers" that in order for one to develop mastery of the skills in any given occupation, a minimum level of 10,000 hours of practice must be put in. He basically says that the rough conversion from hours to years is 10 years. If this is true, then working as an assistant doesn't automatically give one the skills to become a DP because the practice hasn't taken place. This issue of practice is what separates the men from the boys. It used to be that one cut his/her teeth on
music videos and other paid projects. Nowadays, every project is "important" and the trial and error / risk taking that is all important to any art form isn't available. Without the ability to practice or take risks, how can we expect anyone to get better? All too often, the rich kid who can afford the gear or can spend money on personal projects to gain the practice wins the position. I tend to take issue with that (probably because I don't have the cash on hand to be able to compete in a heads up manner).

We switched from a Master/Apprentice style of learning to the University style, which means our industry has basically chosen to outsource the training of a new generation. The benefits to the industry are that the burden of the costs associated with training (both tangible and intangible) are shouldered by bodies outside the
industry. The result is a more efficient workplace, in an environment where efficiency is demanded due to shrinking budgets and schedules. This view of education as a commodity needs to change.

I would argue that our industry as a whole needs to take a responsibility for the future generation of image makers in order to combat the "good enough" mentality that is so rampant these days. I would love to see an apprenticeship program put into place that takes those who genuinely wish to learn the craft in order to create the art.

Aaron Owen
a 27 year old with 12 years professional experience in various
aspects of image creation (I guess I still qualify as a youngin')
San Francisco based freelancer without a solid job description/title


I think there can be a reticence to teach by the older generation, driven by too much competition. That " Apprentice " would too soon be asked to DP the next job, at a cut rate, and with the amount of freely available info out there, and a good monitor, might actually make a reasonable fist of it.

Even I , at the tender age of 34, have started to realise that sharing tech skill and knowledge ( especially with producers! ) is often not a smart move in the current environment. If I was in my forties or fifties at the moment, trying to charge and keep up good rates, I would feel a bit nervous about being shadowed by an apprentice!

There is always room at the top of course, but the intense competition and number of people plying the various photographic trades must be undermining the open teaching of skills, not to mention rates...

Thanks,

Guy Quartermain
Lighting Cameraman and Photographer
Keyframe Pictures
Auckland NZ


Aaron wrote:

>> I've been a longtime believer that we (as an industry/society) have lost something very valuable when we

>> collectively decided in favor of formal academic training over apprenticeships. I'm not quite sure how

I'd suggest Anya Kamenetz's "DIY U" for anyone interested in a (ratherdense) history and explanation of that shift. I'm only partway into it now -- it's as much a research paper as a book -- but it makes the case rather convincingly that we're spending more money on education and getting less in return, both as individuals and as a society. (I haven't yet gotten to the part of the book where she recommendssolutions.)

And it's not nearly as 'punk' as the cover art suggests, FYI.

Ryan Damm
DP, San Francisco
self-taught at virtually everything I know that's worthwhile
(formally educated in literature)


How many of the current crop of youngsters would put up with a true apprentice system where the Master's word is law? I'd gladly take on an apprentice provided they understood that I may not always be right, but I'm
one heck of a lot righter than they are 95% of the time.

Hal Smith
Engineer and Somewhat DP
Edmond, OK


>> How many of the current crop of youngsters would put up with a true apprentice system where the

>> Master's word is law

I would if my mentor was willing to explain to me why something was done a certain way. This way I'm learning and not just mimicking. My issue is that I haven't been able to find anyone even willing to take on an apprentice.

~Maque DeWinter
AC
New York


>> How many of the current crop of youngsters would put up with a true apprentice system where the

>> Master's word is law?

---But that's the point Hal.


How many do you need?


Just ONE would be ideal, then the only hard part is culling the herd. Surely there must be a crack method of doing that. Admiral Hyman Rickover comes to mind, especially his famous "make me mad" story.

Jeffery Haas
camera-edit
Mansfield TX


>> I think there can be a reticence to teach by the older generation, driven by too much competition. That "

>> Apprentice " would too soon be asked to DP the next job, at a cut rate

And there it is. The practical answer as to why apprenticeship has all but died out in the industry. Thank you.

I used to do training for free, then found myself in direct competition with people who attended a single four hour session, then went forth and said they were trained by Bob Kertesz, and wanted 30-40% less as a daily rate than I did.

Mark Weingartner, who has done a fantastic job as head of training for Local 600, has repeatedly asked me: "Where are the next generation of good DITs and VCs going to come from, if the current generation of good DITs and VCs refuses to help their brothers and sisters?" And as I've told him in person, sorry that's just not my problem right now. My problem is that despite the mindless public cheerleading, the economy is at least as much in the tank as it was a year ago, if not more, and I believe far worse is yet to come.

Don't mistake me - hired for real money to do training, or with a staff job where training was part of the job description, I'd be happy to do it, and do a damn fine job of it, as I have in the past.

But those who want to be in direct competition with me for jobs need to get their free education somewhere else.

Bob Kertesz
BlueScreen LLC
Hollywood, California


>> I think there can be a reticence to teach by the older generation, driven by too much competition. That "

>> Apprentice " would too soon be asked to DP the next job, at a cut rate

I know the feeling. I've had a number of crew members in the past use their work experience with me as a calling card. Now that I'm teaching Cinematography at AFI, I have no problem sharing my information with the Fellows. In fact I rather enjoy it. I don't look at them as competition, but as emerging artists. I was fortunate
to have wonderful mentors, some of whom are well known. When I asked Ron Dexter how could I thank him for all the help he gave me. He never hesitated in his response. "Help someone else. Pass on the craft." Now i do.

Mark Woods
Director of Photography
Pasadena, California
www.markwoods.com


Maybe one just treats it like when you get the supposed recipe for Mrs Fields Cookies: just leave out one ingredient.

Bryan Donnell
cinematographer
LA, CA
213.321.3909 c


Ad far as the competition factor my feeling is that if your going to be a mentor two thins would prevent your apprenticed from becoming competition. The first is you should more than enough experience (and probably 20 years) to be stable in your career. Second it should be someone who is trying to work their way up. Take a loader or 2nd AC if your a DP not an operator with 15 years experience. Unless your apprentice is a wunderkind even if or when they use you as a reference it should only get them those jobs on the next level up or DPing some ultra low budget indie that you would have never taken anyway. Maybe they'll catch up in 10 years but by then it shouldn't matter. That's just my thoughts. And I've been trying to find someone to mentor me for a few years now.

Sincerely,


Marque DeWinter
NY


I think this is one of the most fascinating threads on CML in recent memory. There have been great opinions from both working professionals and aspiring students. Here is my experience and opinion in case it is of benefit to anyone...

I suppose I have been both the apprentice and the "master" over the last 15 years. I attended film school (undergrad and grad) where I learned that the "masters" could only offer me so much information... the rest I would need to learn on my own, from my own experimentations, from my own trial and error process and from my own continued research. Anyone who ever considered me their apprentice never seemed too concerned with my future competition because, I suppose, if you consider cinematography an art, no two artists are alike. Apprentice to more than one DP and you might find the way they light a scene/select a lens/frame a shot, differs as radically as Caravaggio compared to Vermeer. But that's in the context of art... craft I think is another matter. Concrete skills which seem much more the part and parcel of the technical positions, like the 1st AC position, do seem to result in a much more, and understandably, guarded behavior... and economics is certainly a real conside
ration. Apprentices should not expect to get their information for free... work very hard, pay your dues to the mentors and you might earn some valuable information in return from your teachers. As an apprentice, I never thought I was owed the information; I had to earn it in order to become a peer, not a competitor.

There are fine resources out there for the aspiring artists before they ever approach a master for tutelage... American Cinematographer magazine, The ASC Manual, The Professional Cameraman's Handbook, these very CML lists, etc. I read everything I could get my hands on before I ever went on a set because I wanted to be prepared to help as best I could; books are relatively cheap resources all things considered and the internet is virtually free. I worked on as many sets as I could, in any position I could, because there is as much to be said for learning your craft as appreciating everyone else's effort. If I worked on a job and had "spare" income, I'd buy short ends of film and experiment. Today, I'm a bit jealous of the current generation of aspiring artists as digital video cameras and DSLRs are relatively inexpensive and produce some wonderful results that we could not have hoped for when I was learning... such a great opportunity.

I try to remember that everyone starts somewhere... so I hope I've been as open and helpful as my mentors were. I taught at a non-profit film/video organization for several years and I've written instructional documents, whitepapers and "performed" in tutorial videos. If someone emails me, I do my best to provide helpful information or direct them to someone who might have better information than I do. Luckily, as a product manager, I find myself in a position where offering information is part of the job description... and usually happens on a daily basis.

Jon Thorn
Product Manager
AJA Video Systems, Inc.
California
"Wanted to be a cinematographer... but learned to be happy helping make tools for artists"


>> I've been a longtime believer that we (as an industry/society) have lost something very valuable when we

>> collectively decided in favor of formal academic training over apprenticeships.

A college degree opens a lot of doors, not necessarily in the film industry but elsewhere. As a result, it's often somewhat important to have that under your belt in case you end up doing something in the corporate world, where a college degree is a measure of... something.

Also, I hate to say it but most film industry "trade schools" are a crap shoot: some are great, most not so much.

>> I would love to see an apprenticeship program put into place that takes those who genuinely wish to learn >> the craft in order to create the art.

As long as they didn't steal my jobs, great. Long ago there was an IA training program for loaders, and it was a great way to get into the Local and start working your way up. And you couldn't get in unless you were really well connected. Didn't have anything to do with competency or trainability. Those who got through it really learned a craft.

I didn't get in, but fortunately I was trained by a couple of people who did.

>> (I guess I still qualify as a youngin')

You do. That's okay, I used to be the youngest person on the crew. Enjoy it while it lasts. There are tradeoffs. The best part is that most people become smarter and wiser over time. Usually that makes up for the other things that happen.

-----------------------

Art Adams | Director of Photography
4 1 5 . 7 6 0 . 5 1 6 7
San Francisco Bay Area


>> As long as they didn't steal my jobs, great. Long ago there was an IA training program for loaders, and it >> was a great way to get into the Local and start working your way up.

The old proverb runs,


"Old age and treachery will overcome youth and skill"

but I question whether old age and skill will triumph over youth, with or without skill, treachery or nepotism...

One of the elephants in the room is that directors and producers frequently prefer working with people not too much older, wiser, or more experienced....and whereas we used to be left to make the magic, many younger directors and producers are tech-obsessed and want to talk about bits and bytes and compression and colorspace instead of directing their actors. I don't look too much like an old fart yet... but that time approaches - I have to find clients who appreciate my experience, or who have too much at stake to trust the job to untested people...

Bob brings up another elephant in the room - many pachyderms here - regarding the training of ones lower-priced replacement....

Nowadays, with so many avenues into the business (not making a value judgement here, just an observation) there are many levels of production for someone to gain some credits with or without experience ... when I was coming up, the ante to get into the film world for anything shooting sound was an aaton or an arri SR... there were some people shooting sync work with Eclairs or CP 16s but not that many...Those cameras were pretty pricey.

The ante to get into the Broadcast quality world was a $40k camera such as an HL79 and at least a BVU 100 or BVU110 for 3/4".... and for high end work, another $45k worth of BVH 500 - the "portable" 1" C format tape machine. (It was portable - it had a handle - it was not ideal for documentaries unless you stuck it on a backpack and strapped it to a PA who ran behind the cameraman and in front of the tape operator... it used its weight in batteries per day... at least.)

So - for broadcast video without a decent monitor - $100k (when the average car cost around $7k) With a decent monitor - more like $150k... and if you wanted lighting and a decent tripod... probably more.

There were lots of owner operators, but they were not competing with five thousand dollar camera packages... even a sound recordist had to spend $5k just to get a nagra... and a lot more to add microphones etc.

The IATSE locals were, for the most part, pretty tough to get in to.

In short, the likelihood of being able to make a living once you DID find some level of production to work in might have been a bit better when there was not such a relentless pressure of people into the industry who have made a ten thousand dollar investment in a camera, FCP on a mac, and a website.

Mind you, there were a lot fewer outlets for our work in a world where Music Videos were only just starting, cable was much less developed than it is now, and the web didn't really exist as we know it now...

Part of the problem is that the segment of the market that has grown massively is the segment that pays poorly - it was bad enough when music video DPs wanted a $200k look on a $7k budget and expected the
crew to bust ass for cheap in order to build a reel...but now everyone wants to do spec spots so it has gotten even worse.

The democratization of the marketplace, aided by low-cost production tools and enabled by an aesthetic bar that has been lowered by the worst of the reality crap to make it to air, has resulted in a situation where people don't even have to learn on the job... they can often keep getting hired without having built up much of a skillset... and the premium that used to be available to those people in the industry with finely honed skills has been undercut by the sheer mass of available bodies out there...

I am not advocating a return to the protectionist ways of the trade unions back in the day, nor am I suggesting that we should act differently than we do now...

I was so fortunate to have mentors and collaborators who gave me a chance to learn and raised my game - I feel an obligation to help
others improve theirs - hence my long-time involvement with CML and shorter involvement with the training program for the International Cinematographers Guild. Some of you know some of those mentors - Ned
Hallick, Tony & Kay at Flying Tigers back in the day, Burleigh Wartes, Richard Yuricich and Dave Stewart, to name some prominent ones. They took time to teach me and to challenge me to perform at levels I was not yet qualified to reach for.

In the case of the Guild, however, part of my motivation is political - I actually believe that trade unions, flawed as they may be, provide a better work situation than we would have absent trade unions - and I do make a choice when I spend my time helping to improve the skills of my union brothers and sisters in that I feel that part of the Guild's relevance is maintained by its dedication to raising the game of its members through training.

If we as a trade union cannot differentiate our skill level from the overall labor force, we lose what little leverage we have in the industry. Yes, I know, there are myriads brilliant craftspeople out there who are working in the industry in the united states and who are not in the various unions that serve our industry - but having
worked in union and non-union situations, while a union card is no guarantee of quality, it is generally an indication of a certain level of experience.

I think the field is crowded with "don't know what they don't know" people out there... and having been one once upon a time, I have sympathy.... but as a freelance, I also have cashflow to worry about.

I started with a proverb... I can end with a tag-line.... when it comes to securing clients, my world is one , as Sy Syms used to say in his ads, "where an educated consumer is our best customer."

There are plenty of educated customers for our services, but I wonder what percentage of those who hire us these days knows their craft as well as we know ours - compared to thirty years ago???

Mark H. Weingartner
LA-based VFX DP/Supervisor
available to shoot YOUR second unit or vfx...or corporate industrial if the product or location is way cool....

2D, 3D, 4D - whatever it tak

http://schneiderentertainment.com/dirphoto.htm


Marque DeWinter writes:

>> I would if my mentor was willing to explain to me why something was done a certain way. This way I'm

>> learning and not just mimicking. My issue is that I haven't been able to find anyone even willing to take on >> an apprentice.

Apart from the competition issue (which others have addressed), one of the issues for the "master" would be whether the apprentice already has sufficient grounding to understand the basic principles and terminology.

It's one thing to explain to an apprentice why one has chosen to employ a certain exposure or DOF in a particular situation, and quite another to have to stop everything and explain the principles of exposure and DOF from scratch.

Film schools and courses may have their limitations, but one has to start somewhere. In a field as complex as media production one simply MUST have the dogshit-basics down. Basic photography. Basic cinematography. Basic lighting (hey, three-point is better than complete ignorance). Basic audio. That includes at least a little hands-on-the-hardware experience. Then one can move up to a meaningful apprenticeship, where one actually has something to offer the "master" in return for his or her tutelage and time (not to say patience).

A broader initial exposure to the subdisciplines should also be helpful in the process of choosing one's eventual niche in the biz. Otherwise one can fall victim to the "first-guru effect," where one equates the whole of the field with the particular approach, focus and idiosyncrasies of one's first teacher.

Dan Drasin
Producer/DP
Marin County, CA


>> I think this is one of the most fascinating threads on CML in recent memory.

 

---It has also been one of the most depressing.


There was always a bit of insularity and isolationism in the craft, with people who were somewhat reluctant to give a bump to an eager soul with the right attitude and some chops, but there was always a couple of generous and confident souls who allowed you to learn at the knee of the master. But apparently they're an endangered species now.

So here's what I learned, thank God I didn't need to learn it but here it is anyway:

1) You might as well get in any way you can.Use family, use bribes, use nepotism, use blackmail.

2) Poach whatever you can from whoever you work with, because you're not going to get a bump. Anyone you work with is going to view you as a threat if you're training for the same job. So poach theirs because that's the only way you will ever get anything.

3) You can't sit in. You cannot go and jam with Miles, you cannot go and DRAW WITH MATISSE. They don't want you, they don't like you, and the're going to put down their axe and say nothing as soon as you walk in the door. They might even sabotage you, teach you the wrong notes, glue your paint brushes to the palette.

Is that what it's come to? If so, we might as well just go ahead and let the Futures Commission allow betting on the box office after all. Why the Hell not, everyone's betting on failure, let the big boys on Wall Street get a taste.

I'll probably never get rich doing this but I've secured my situation such that I'll also never be poor. I can retire today and feel I've done something, and I've been lucky to have one of the best and most rewarding jobs on the planet to boot. And I won't starve. I can guaran-goddam-tee you I will always share what meager bits I've picked up along the way if I encounter a person who deserves it.

I thought hard about catching a ration for posting this but I'm going to anyway.

Jeffery Haas
camera-edit
Mansfield TX


Art Adams wrote:

>> IA training program for loaders

The only IA training program that I know of is the one that I graduated from. It was hosted by Local 659 (before it became Local 600) and I believe the Producers Guild, and administered by Contract Services.

It was held I believe four times, with a year off in between each 40 week program. I was in the 2nd group which graduated in 1978.

In order to qualify, you took a something like 6 hour general aptitude test (at USC when I took it) with between 1,000 and 1,200 others. People traveled from all over the US to take the test. A few weeks later 100 people received an invitation for interviews. The only interviewers that I recall were the heads of the various studio camera departments that existed at that time. I would imagine there were also reps from the local in attendance. There was also a Psychologist on the panel who supposedly compared the results from the psycho part of the earlier test with ones verbal results. (The only thing from the written part of the psycho test that I recall were the questions about furry little animals and later, do you like to squeeze little animals!?)

Out of the 100 interviewee's 10 were selected for the program. There were an additional couple of Canadians and another half dozen Special Effects trainees. I was still a student at Brooks Institute of Photography and wanted to graduate. I had just taken the written test as a practice if I wanted to take it "for real" after I graduated. When my instructors heard that I got into the Training Program, they advised me, forget Brooks ... once you're in the local, you're set for life!?

Supposedly the trainees were simply the folks that would make the best 2nd AC's (not loaders). After our 40 weeks we got to join the local as Group 1 2nd AC's. This upset the good folks that had worked their way up the Group system before becoming Group 1. My ex was one of the AC's that worked her way up from Group 3 to 2 before becoming a Group 1. Group 1's worked before the Group 2's etc. A month after she finally became a Group 1, the local did away with the Group system.

The hosts of the Training Program insisted that the trainees were simply the best that could be selected, but it was NO Coincident IMO that each group of 10 always consisted of about 3 Women, a couple of Blacks, a Latino and an Asian ... my slot for that group. Before the Training Programs the union was pretty much fathers and sons. It's believed that the government told the local to open up it's doors to diversity, and the training program solved that issue.

The four Training Program produced a number of decent AC's but only a few went on to become successful Dp's. Our stand outs are probably Ken Zunder, ASC and Geary Mcleod. There was at least one other from the first group whose name I can't recall. Dan Gold became one of our top camera operators. I was surprised that not all of the folks that got into the program did what it took to really take advantage of the opportunity to at least become successful AC's.

For the first month we rotated between the various studio camera departments, Fox, Paramount, Universal, CBS and Warner Brothers ... where we learned about loading and camera department procedures. We had weekly seminars with the top AC's of the day. After this initial stage we were farmed out to camera crews to help out as camera trainees. We typically spent four to five weeks with each crew. We were paid minimum wage for an 8 hour day. Of course we stayed for the entire day so we actually ended up working for less then minimum wage.

It was obvious to me that the people one trained with were going to be the crews that were going to give one work calls, if one impressed them. I wanted to work in Features so I made sure that I got on feature crews! I worked on "1941" (Bill Fraker), "Last Married Couple in America" (Ralph Woolsey), "Melvin and Howard" (Tak Fujimoto), "Star Trek" (Dick Kline), and "Frisco Kid" (Bobby Hauser). Out of the training program I turned down a TV Series to stay available for features, which quickly followed. "How To Beat the High Cost of Living" (Jimmy Crabe) and then right into "The Blues Brothers" (Steven Katz).

I realized it WAS the opportunity of a life time so I worked hard to make it work. I had never been a Team Player ... doing Tennis instead of Football, still photography rather then more social school clubs ... but I quickly changed my tune!

Mako, Makofoto, Trainee for Life, S. Pasadena, CA


Jeffery Haas wrote:

>> There was always a bit of insularity and isolationism in the craft, with people who were somewhat reluctant >> to give a bump to an eager soul with the right attitude and some chops, but there was always a couple of >> generous and confident souls who allowed you to learn at the knee of the master. But apparently they're >> an endangered species now.

They are endangered species because they have been done to death. I know I have. Now I simply suggest they sign up for CML -- Thank you again, Geoff Boyle  and the team @ CML ...

I think things may be a little different in Mansfield, than they are in LA or NY, where people will eat their own young to get ahead.

It really has to be witnessed to be believed.

Brian Heller
IA 600 DP


Mark H. Weingartner wrote:


>> There are plenty of educated customers for our services, but I wonder what percentage of those who hire

>> us these days knows their craft as well as we know ours - compared to thirty years ago??

An excellent post. I would add this: many of those educated customers are also on the endangered list,
if not already among the MIAs.

Many, many have been laid off and replaced with -- let's just say less experienced and lower cost --
lesser lights, and sometimes they're not even replaced, with the production company taking up the slack.

Brian Heller
IA 600 DP


>> I think things may be a little different in Mansfield, than they are in LA or NY where people will eat their

>> own young to get ahead.

Here in the Lone Star State some of them may very well indeed eat their young to get ahead, but perhaps it's genetic. On the contrary, I sensed that most of the posts on the subject of eating one's young came out of Hollywood and New York, and what we're witnessing here is learned behavior, just as the kind and generous mentoring of the past also was once upon a time.

And I spent eighteen years, the formative ones, in Hollywood. I got some blessings and opportunities, passed up some others, and sometimes find myself simultaneously going through the rituals of being grateful for the former and kicking myself for the latter. But to quote Coppola, "I'm sure I have missed a whole bunch of opportunities and I am going to miss others, but I caught a lot of them too. In the end it's about how many I catch, not how many I lose."

But the blessings and opportunities were possible in part because there was a code, an honor and a camaraderie. Someone thought I could do a decent job and gave me a chance. The latter can only be termed the result of stupid choices I made my own damn self.

With regard to the former I can only trot out that old saw about us all hanging together or else we shall surely hang separately. If anything Geoff deserves double thanks for providing a forum which could easily supply the better part of a film school education, thanks to the participation of its members, and perhaps a better quality education than a great many schools to boot. But he also deserves thanks for bucking the very trend you speak of.

If it's that much the kiss of death to mentor someone, then this forum is guilty of aiding and abetting the enemy. Shut it down now, fer Chrissakes, before some uppity mugwump busker uses what he learns here to shower more erosion on the frail remains of the weakened tinkers and buggywhip makers.

But I don't believe that nor do I sympathize with anyone who is an apologist for closing ranks and circling the wagons. Been done to death? Everything's being done to death, and everyone, too. It's no different in the world of the straight jobs, where most get  outsourced and replaced by "McJobs" or replaced by a big fat nothing at all.

Honestly, for anyone paying attention, it's obvious that we're neither unique or alone in this fate. But without the honor and integrity, the camaraderie and without the small scrap of remaining humanity, whatever's left might well deserve to be replaced by automation, software, a microchip, monkeys or Coppola's favorite, that "eight year old girl from Dayton with her very first handycam". In the closing minutes of "Hearts of Darkness" he sees her winning an Oscar.

And she might be from NBC.

Jeffery Haas
camera-edit
Mansfield, TX (but not originally from here)


Art Adams wrote:


>> A college degree opens a lot of doors, not necessarily in the film industry but elsewhere.

My next-door neighbour, a provincial supreme court judge, has law, engineering, and business degrees. I keep telling him that he has much more useful qualifications for the movie business than me. But his hours are much more civilized, not to mention the pension plan.

Greg Lowry
Scopica Inc. | Scopica 3D
Vancouver


Deep Freeze Films wrote :


>> How many do you need? Just ONE would be ideal, then the only hard part is culling the herd. Surely there >> must be a crack method of doing that.

The crack method = finding those not on crack, literally or figuratively.

Greg Lowry
Scopica Inc. | Scopica 3
Vancouver


Guy quartermain wrote:

>> Even I , at the tender age of 34, have started to realise that sharing tech skill and knowledge ( especially

>> with producers! ) is often not a smart move in the current environment.

Depending on the producer there may be little or no need to share much at all of a technical nature, as long as you assure them you'll comply with delivery specs.

As far as fellow camera operators go, there's a lot to be said for field experience and having someone around who knows how you work and can communicate with you succinctly. Forming relationships like that can be beneficial for both parties down the line.

Most of my experience has been ENG stuff, but I feel like I learned more shooting (frequently repetitive) ENG coverage than I learned in film school, at least as far as the nature of shooting in a variety of conditions. The pressure of it being a job changes the experience. I shot a lot of little 8mm and Super-8 "projects" as a kid, but something changes when you have to deliver a usable product. And the best and most lasting lessons I've learned over the decades have almost all come from failures that I'll never repeat. Having the opportunity to fail and then being forced to overcome that failure is hard to teach in college. All IMO.

Besides, if camera nerds can't share knowledge with other camera nerds there's something really wrong with the world.

Robert Jackson
Bradenton, FL


When I was writing my book (on shelves now!) "What I Really Want to Do: On Set in Hollywood," mostly I received positive feedback. But there was some questioning of it, as in "What?! You want MORE people to compete for our jobs?"

I looked at the situation this way. People will always want to be in this industry. There's no changing that. Some of us are here because something "inside" us wanted this life. Others are here because they wanted a well-paying job and they knew someone who could give them that. Whatever the reason, it doesn't matter. More come, either for the pay or because they truly want to be in the movie business.

So, I wrote my book this way: It would be an accurate portrayal of what life is really like in the industry so that newcomers (and those who THINK they want to enter the industry) would know what they are getting into BEFORE they jump in. This would result in two results: A) those who read the book would read about what they THINK they want to do and decide to NOT do it... OR... B) they'd read it and be more educated about the REALITIES of the business, therefore they'd be more valuable (and BETTER!) when they did get into the industry.

We'll never stop new people coming into the industry... and we shouldn't stop them. None of us will live forever. What we SHOULD do is ENCOURAGE the BEST people to enter the industry so that the overall quality of our work is reflected. The only way to do that is to educate the newcomers to the realities of the business. This will filter out those who have a passing interest and will let the truly passionate in.

Beyond that, we also need to participate on a political level to DISCOURAGE the Reagan-esque/Milton Friedman/Conservative/Republican agenda of Globalization that has taken place. What this economic ideology has done is to drive production AWAY from the primary production centers toward any city/state/nation that offers the largest bribe ("tax incentive"). These are Corporations that don't need subsidies/bribes, but take advantage of tax-payers/governments in order to drive manufacturing costs down (read: lower wages, less Corporate tax) while taking in unprecedented profits year after year.

There IS enough money out there for everyone to share, but the Reagan/Bush-Conservatives want to keep it all for themselves at the expense of labor. The fear of being a mentor to newcomers is the fear of having someone take your job. But that wouldn't be an issue if the Conservative Fascist Agenda of "I got mine, you get yours, and if you can't, then F YOU!" goes away.

Take away the Milton Friedman ideology of "unfettered Free Markets" and we'll see the overall economy of the world stabilize. That would mean that "income" wouldn't be coalescing in the top 1%. Stop the Conservative Fascist Agenda and we'll see a new economy that is more evenly distributed and then this idea that newcomers are a threat will dissipate.

Older civilizations encouraged teaching their young and passing on knowledge. It's just this "unfettered Free Market" ideology (of Milton Friedman and Reagan and Bushx2) that encourages selfishness and the ideal of "I got mine, you get yours, and if you can't, then F YOU!" that's at the heart of the overall global problem. The Reagan/Conservative/Regressive/Selfish/Milton Friedman ideology is a proven failure. That this question of apprenticeship is even a question at all is proof of that.

When will our world throw off this insane ideology of selfishness that is embraced by Conservatives? When will we return to the more rational ideals of long-term thinking and rationality that is the hallmark of Progressive thought that drove the American Patriots who wrote our US Constitution?

We SHOULD be teaching our young and it shouldn't be considered a threat to do so.

Brian Dzyak
Cameraman/Author
IATSE Local 600, SOC
www.dzyak.com
www.realfilmcareer.com


I own one (and read it a few times!).

But I wonder: is there someting like this book, but more focused on the video cameraman craft?

Thanks,

Marco Fadiga
Director, DP
Caju Filmes
Rio de Janeiro, Brasil


That's one of the important points of apprenticeship: they can do cut rate jobs. Me, I don't.

Marco Fadiga
Director/DP
Caju Filmes
Rio de Janeiro, Brasil


When I started i stills the photographers were very protective of their craft, they tried not to share information. There were a few exceptions.

When I moved to film I found that people were more willing to share but that there were horrible "class" divisions. Features people looked down on everyone, other film people looked down on TV and that there were so many sub-divisions that my mind exploded.

I really believe in sharing information, as I often say on set "no I'm not worried about showing you how to light this, it took me 40 years to learn how to do this and if I have to light this tomorrow I'll do it totally differently but you'll only know one way"

Now, are there producers skilled enough at their job to recognise that difference? Certainly nowhere near as many as when I started.

I don't think you get on by blocking people, be open, be helpful, you wouldn't believe how much work I get from people who were runners on one of my sets in the past. I don't remember them but they remember me, the guy who didn't treat them like shit and who talked to them. They're now producers/directors and they give me work. A good investment.

Are there shits out there who will steal and not put anything back? Of course there are, a lot of them are here on CML, I could even list some of them.

The big problem that I see, and it's why I rarely take students on as trainees anymore, is that people don't think they have anything to learn and that I don't know anything about modern techniques and technology without realising that the whatever they think is great was tested and developed by someone like me, that we may well know far more about new kit than they do.

They also lack the will to learn, why should they? They already know it all.

Or they have no time keeping abilities, they don't understand a hierarchy on a set and won't learn after all their opinion is as good as anyone else's.

It's just not worth the hassle of arranging insurance with the production company to not have a student turn up again or to turn up and drop turds all over the place.

I'll talk to anyone about anything as anyone who has met me will know, it's hard to shut me up!

HOWEVER it has to be at the right time and the right place.

I believe strongly in the apprentice journeyman master approach but nobody is willing to spend the time, I learned the most when operating on commercials for Dougie Slocombe, David Watkin, Peter Bizou and on and on.

I kept my mouth shut and my eyes open.

I was lucky, it was only 17 years in the business until I lit my first commercial, it was another 20 years until I lit my first feature.

I'm still not in a rush, I'm still learning the job.

3D has been an interesting change, producers seem to want older more experienced people, I wonder why...

Cheers

Geoff Boyle FBKS
Cinematographer
EU Based
Skype geoff.boyle
mobile: +44 (0)7831 562877
US +1 818 574 6134
www.gboyle.co.uk


I think the CML has functioned as a mentor of sorts for me. I wouldn't be anywhere near where I am today if I weren't able to participate in the discussions and ask questions.

I'm still kind of surprised (and very, very grateful) Geoff didn't throw me off the list when he found out I was a film student.

Jessica Gallant
Los Angeles based Director of Photography
West Coast Administrator, CML
http://www.cinematography.net
cell: 818-645-2787


A coupla things:

1. A distinction needs to be made between apprenticing, mentoring, and sharing information.

As Geoff Boyle wrote:

>> I believe strongly in the apprentice journeyman master approach but nobody is willing to spend the time, I >> learned the most when operating on commercials for Dougie Slocombe, David Watkin, Peter Bizou and on >> and on.

Exactly right.

So waxing rhapsodical for the "good old days" is not going to bring them back -- if they were ever here.

Mentoring is another matter entirely, and I suspect that nearly everyone on these lists over the age of 30
has done plenty of that.

Sharing information? Isn't that exactly what we are doing?

2. Complaining about people not sharing information on a forum dedicated to sharing information strikes me as perverse.

Brian Heller
IA 600 DP


>> I really believe in sharing information, as I often say on set "no I'm not worried about showing you how to >> light this, it took me 40 years to learn how to do this and if I have to light this tomorrow I'll do it totally

>> differently but you'll only know one way"

Of course. And that is one of the big benefits to being in a position where creativity is the main criteria. A DP may light the same set differently tomorrow, a copywriter may write the spot to emphasize something else, a
director may block the shot differently, have the actors do something else. Someone can steal what they do today without understanding what they are doing, but the mimicry soon becomes useless.

Those positions come more naturally to mentoring because they involve a much different mindset than "You can't run a 375 foot cable to the monitor because the digital signal falls off a cliff and you'll get breakup or nothing at all. If you need to go that far, insert a reclocking DA into the line somewhere in the middle and it'll work fine"

>> Now, are there producers skilled enough at their job to recognise that difference? Certainly nowhere near >> as many as when I started.

Exactly. And if hiring criteria were based on skill set and experience, I would have no problem mentoring. In fact, when it WAS mostly based on skill set and experience, I mentored quite a few people in the last several decades.

But it's no longer based on that at all. Many of the "non-creative" positions are hired based strictly on rate, because those people are interchangeable and expendable, according to those doing the hiring. Once things changed to the "lowest bidder gets the job regardless of qualifications" model for "non-creative" crew, I stopped mentoring anyone.

It's called show BUSINESS, and as I have a lot more concern for the well being of me and my family than I do the industry, especially these days, it was a logical business decision, that's all.

Bob Kertesz
BlueScreen LLC
Hollywood, California


Brian Heller wrote:

>> 2. Complaining about people not sharing information on a forum dedicated to sharing information strikes >> me as perverse.

Hardly. We're sharing information on the uninformative. Someone's gotta do it!

Jeff Kreines
Coosada, Alabama


Brian Heller wrote:

>> 2. Complaining about people not sharing information on a forum dedicated to sharing information strikes >> me as perverse.

One has to be careful, as I've learned the hard way, when I discovered that a person I'd trained up from PA/roto to a supervisory position secretly sold our (now way old) 3D production pipeline to a competitor, who then tried
to patent it as his own. Imagine being encumbered from using one's own IP without an expensive challenge. You can only read people up to a point.

Tim Sassoon
SFD
Santa Monica, CA


>> "One has to be careful, as I've learned the hard way, when I discovered that a person I'd trained up from >> PA/roto to a supervisory position secretly sold our (now way old) 3D production pipeline to a competitor, >> who then tried to patent it as his own. Imagine being encumbered from using one's own IP without an

>> expensive challenge. You can only read people up to a point"

Tim I understand your point, yet sometimes cml makes me feel weird, especially the 3d branch.
A few days ago I asked what are people doing to transport the mirror of a mirror rig (so that it gets good protection). This is not rocket science, nor is it something one would ever consider patenting. Just wrapping.

Well, believe it or not no one answered. Unless if my question was no naive that one thought it was worth answering. Could be.

Cheers

Argyris Theos
DoP
Athens Greece
+30 6944725315
skype: Argyris.Theos


>> "But those who want to be in direct competition with me for jobs need to get their free education

>> somewhere else."

Thank you Bob. Spot on. Apprenticeship and mentoring are now just weasel words for intellectual property and income theft. Unfortunately the "craft" will soldier on albeit with less and less competence because of the growing intensity and hunger of the newbies for our jobs. And wouldn't it be nice if our union "brothers"and officials weren't so implicit in the theft. I stopped the free brain picking by almost all two years ago. Maybe that's why tigers allegedly eat their young.

GEORGE C. PALMER
In hiding behind a big tree waiting for the arrows to land


Argyris Theos wrote:

>> ...I asked what are people doing to transport the mirror of a mirror rig (so that it gets good protection).... >> Well,believe it or not no one answered.

Hi argyris - I thought I answered the mirror tranport question... not sure if my post made it to the list though - I am not good with technical things like computers.

Will try to find the post - i thought about it more then than I have time to think about it now

Mark H. Weingartner
LA-based VFX DP/Supervisor


Tim Sassoon wrote:

>> One has to be careful, as I've learned the hard way, when I discovered that a person I'd trained up from

>> PA/roto to a supervisory position secretly sold our (now way old) 3D production pipeline to a competitor, >> who then tried to patent it as his own. Imagine being encumbered from using one's own IP without an

>> expensive challenge. You can only read people up to a point.

That's rather extreme -- even by Hollywood standar

Brian Heller
IA 600 DP


>> "have started to realise that sharing tech skill and knowledge ( especially with producers! ) is often not a

>> smart move in the current environment."


as a DP that is probably going to need an "iPhone reel" soon, I concur...when I first started shooting commercials in the very late 80s (after shooting many docs,music videos and low budget features) many people doing the hiring would only look at DPs with heavy experience;they might have taken a chance on a hip, young director, but they were not taking any chances on the DP...it is obviously no longer like that!

My regular focus puller (who has been an AC for about 30 years) told her father about a particularly incompetent trainee mandated upon her by the union; her father responded by saying:

"you mean to tell me that they make you work with these people that you don't even know, and you train them to do your job?!!" ... "Yes", she replied....

Douglas Koch cscDPToronto


I ran into a couple at the weekend - who sadly turned out to be from my old college (Ravensbourne in Bromley).

It really made me shudder to think I was probably like that.

Michael Sanders: DP/Cameraman & Editor


Seconded! And when finances allow I will make a heck of a donation as its the least I can do.

Michael Sanders: DP/Cameraman & Editor

online reel: www.mjsanders.co.uk
M: 07976 269818
Diary: 020 8426 2200


> That's rather extreme -- even by Hollywood standards

Sad to say, that was only the half of it. The rest of the story was much worse, really. And like most similar Hollywood tales, crime did pay and the perpetrator's career took off like a rocket afterwards.

But, I'm still hiring and training new people. Last payroll I had 43 total.
Whether I'm mentoring them or not, I couldn't say.

Tim Sassoon
SFD
Santa Monica, CA


I did stop the free brain picking by almost all two years ago, having been involved with HD/Digital issues and technology introduction from the very early 1990's; well before our industry could spell HD or was "democratized". During the HD/Digital Cinema technology explosion I had a strong affiliation with Philips/Thomson in addition to my freelance, and Santa Fe HD workshop and IA regional digital camera workshop instructing. I can only presume that because of my manufacturer relationship and the (entirely free) workshop instructing I performed everyone assumed I worked for free. That was apparent in the hundreds and hundreds of hours spent, reflected in my phone bills and (void of) billable hours, at my own expense"consulting" with Producers, Directors, DPs, DITs (experienced and newbies), VCs, Operators, CAs, Utilities..........Mostly in the pursuit of solving problems that their already hired team could not solve before and after production had started. Nonetheless I too assumed that the willingness to help others might be an entree to the kind of collateral future quid-pro-quo work discussed elsewhere. My balance sheet reflected little of that; one exception, a fine gentleman of a DP in particular comes to mind and you know who you are Michael. But mostly definitely not and fortunately I happily and gratefully now have other, different more economically sound and more life rewarding pursuits. My hat's off to those for whom that worked though.

I too experience all of the "pre-democratized" "old boy" systems, union and non-union, that limited my access to both the TV and the Film industries; father and son, quotas, Group to Group promotions, "you're and outsider" discrimination. And I do would never want to go back there. But democratization is one of those quasi weasel words (at term lovingly introduced to me by a legendary techo marketer) that can tend to mask the real political intentions of the purveyor. Especially in our industry that purports to be a caring group that loves all loving human causes, but in reality inwardly reflects a much different orgainzational ethic, deeply entrenched in politics, control, and greed. In the face of all the seemingly acceptable discussion of politics on CML I would even respectfully point out that some of those who champion perhaps naively the notion that democracy within, and democratization of our industry is their goal, rarely seem aware that their sometimes self-contra
dicting socialist, populist rhetorical opposition to that "nasty, selfish" capitalist element must indeed coexist in a real democracy. But cannot do so in socialistic or fascist regimes. So back to my point the old boy systems were socialist, fascist, dictatorships and deserved to die. At the end of the day, however any proposed replacement must not introduce a new veiled form of the same newly defined and repackaged versions of those same social cancers in more progressive terms such as globalist or populist.

So to be clear I do believe I did "share" unselfishly with many more than my share of folks (and for free) who wanted to know what I knew. However I know what I know not because I was mentored in NY or L.A. I showed up in both places with enough experience, gained in less critical small "markets" to do lower level professional jobs first in NY, then progress to higher level jobs through work experience there; then moved to L.A. That solution for "breaking in" to our or any industry was another old fashioned but decidedly more democratic path that required working at any job at any pay (or no pay) that would put you near a camera (any camera), even sweeping the floor of a small production house in some small town or city. Then even in the absence of a formal apprenticeship just keep your ears open and your mouth shut and work your tail off in the job you are paid (or unpaid) for. Don't expect to go to L.A. and get to work at any professional level in any position until you
have some life and professional experience gained in small "markets". Now that is both democratic and capitalist. That is what many of us did and why we are naturally somewhat offended at this current "self-entitlement" centered generation that accuses us of being selfish for not sharing our life's intellectual and experiential capital with them so that they may have accelerated entree into a craft that many of us swept the floors to gain entry. Even those of us who have put all that aside and chosen to share anyway. A colleague once suggested that I had a Biblical obligation to share my knowledge with my "brothers and sisters", but selectively cherry-picked even the Biblical quotation to make his point by ignoring the first "argument contradicting" part of the text in favor of the last "point making part" in support of his argument. Context is everything.


GEORGE C. PALMER
Still behind the tree in Palmyra, NY


>>"you mean to tell me that they make you work with these people that you don't even know, and you train >>them to do your job?!!"

I'd like to point out that this is now standard operating procedure in much of corporate America.

Mid level managers are being forced to train their off-shore replacements, and threatened with firings (instead of "layoffs") and bad references if they refuse.

Bob Kertesz
BlueScreen LLC
Hollywood, California


Mark Weingartner wrote:


>> ....The democratization of the marketplace...has resulted in a
>> situation where people don't even have to learn on the job... ................. that part of the Guild's relevance >> is maintained by its dedication to raising the game of its members through training.....

One thing that has disturbed me recently in regards to this is the difference between the Hollywood camera local and the rest of the 600local. We have a work roster that you need to be approved for by actual work experience- a minimum number of proven days on productions, union or not, to qualify. I now realize that the other parts of our local (NY maybe the exception) don't have this requirement. Therefore  ANYONE can go to the union with the required amount of money and become an  IATSE ICG Local 600 DP! Anyone with $12 grand!
I don't believe that the other system is always right, but this is an odd way of allowing the wealthy to be validated with no qualifications necessary. If you are poor you can't get in. If you happen to be a  rich 20 year old you can suddenly be a DP with union cred and sell  yourself in the marketplace that way. Of course it doesn't mean that  after a few jobs they won't be discovered for the inexperienced  newbies that they might be. Of course there are those who truly have the talent and knowledge to  perform the job. But it is a strange way to get your education. This holds true for all job classifications, not just DP.

I'm a believer in educating and helping those that seek it out and show promise. I don't believe in buying your way in with no real knowledge or experience. It's better to work your way to the "top", and put impatience and ADD aside.I will try to continue to help with the union and university education programs as well as those outside of the USA when I can. I don't want to go back to the old days of the unions where you couldn't join unless you had at least 3 blood relatives as members. But there needs to be more control over who can be representing themselves as IATSE Local 600 crew members.


For the sake of the union's cred and it's members.

Roberto Schaefer, asc
Venice Beach, Ca./ New Orleans, La./ Detroit, Mi.
www.ganzoltd.com


>>But there needs to be more control over who can be representing themselves as IATSE Local 600 crew

>> members.

My stagehand contacts in the IA tell me that national is the problem.


National doesn't seem to care what goes on in the locals as long as they get their cut. I know of some really awful stories about national that I don't feel free to repeat since I'm not an IA member but trust me; they're pretty bad.

Hal (Whose Dad was a UAW local President) Smith
Engineer and Somewhat DP
Edmond, OK


>> National doesn't seem to care what goes on in the locals as long as they get their cut.

That seems to be true. I know that it's very different for me to work under the auspices of the stagehand locals in San Francisco, Oakland and San Jose. Completely different rules and ways of doing things.

Oakland and San Jose tend to be pretty straightforward. San Francisco... oy. There's a reason producers hate shooting there, and it's not the view or the food.

As for who can represent themselves as Local 600 members... I'm pretty sure that's limited to Local 600 members.

-----------------------

Art Adams | Director of Photography
San Francisco Bay Area


Roberto Schaefer writes:

>> If you are poor you can't get in. If you happen to be a rich 20 year old you can suddenly be a DP with union >> cred and sell yourself in the marketplace that way.

"Money doesn't talk, it swears." -Bob Dylan

Dan Drasin
Producer/DP
Marin County, CA


>> If you are poor you can't get in. If you happen to be a rich 20 year old you can suddenly be a DP with union >> cred and sell yourself in the marketplace that way.

Aren't there some DP's whose work is generally respected who kinda bought their way in? I'm dubious whether it's ever a free ride. Most of the people I know who grew up well aware of their family's money spent most of their adolescence choking on their silver spoons. Beating the crap out of the Boxer 512 that Daddy gave them, hosing down every scrap of powder from here to Canarsie, being sexually prolific. The usual stuff.

The other thing I know about the rich is, paradoxically, they're che

Tim Sassoon
SFD
Santa Monica, CA


Art Adams wrote:


>> As for who can represent themselves as Local 600 members... I'm pretty sure that's limited to Local 600

>> members.

That is true. What I was referring to was that anyone can become a local 600 member outside of Hollywood (NY?) by just showing up at the office, filing out some forms and paying the initiation fee. No proof of abilities or knowledge of the craft.


Roberto Schaefer, asc
Venice Beach, Ca./ New Orleans, La./ Detroit, Mi.


>> anyone can become a local 600 member outside of Hollywood (NY?)

Oh, got it. Actually you can go down to 600's swanky offices in Hollywood any time you want and sign up. You just won't be on the roster, and that keeps you off features and episodic TV shows. If you've got the cash it's very easy to buy a useless card.

-----------------------

Art Adams | Director of Photography
San Francisco Bay Area


Art Adams wrote :


>> Oh, got it. Actually you can go down to 600's swanky offices in Hollywood any time you want and sign up. >>You just won't be on the roster, and that keeps you off features and episodic TV shows. If you've got the >>cash it's very easy to buy a useless card.

But, you can't get on the roster without a card.

Brian Heller
IA 600 DP


>> But, you can't get on the roster without a card.

Actually you can. If you are a specialist you can get permission to work without having a union card, and if you work 30 IA days in a year you end up on the roster. Our local Technocrane owner/operator is the only Technocrane game in town, and he's on the roster but not in the IA. He works all the big features that come to town without a union card.

-----------------------

Art Adams | Director of Photography
San Francisco Bay Area


Art Adams wrote :


>> Actually you can. If you are a specialist you can get permission to work without having a union card, and if >> you work 30 IA days in a year you end up on the roster.

Weren't we talking about Local 600 and DPs

Brian Heller
IA 600 DP


>> Weren't we talking about Local 600 and DPs

In theory it could happen in any classification. The guy I spoke of is an un-rostered operator, but I suspect that if there was a project that required a DP with special skills and one couldn't be found on the roster or in the IA then there'd be no problem hiring them. Probably less like to happen with a DP, but theoretically it could happen.

A union should control working conditions and wages. It shouldn't be in the business of preventing people from working. 659 was in that business for a long time, and I don't see a reason why 600 should do that any more than it does already. If producers want to hire unqualified people, great. That's up to them, and as long as it works for their business model then more power to them.

-----------------------

Art Adams | Director of Photography
San Francisco Bay Area


Art Adams wrote:


>> In theory it could happen in any classification ... happen.
>
>>If it were a Union picture, the Union could ...

>> A union should control working conditions and wages. It shouldn't be in the business of preventing people >> from working. 659 was in that business for a long time ....

If a producer has a contract with a union, the producer should be made to honor the contract. It's not about preventing people from working. It's about organizing the work force so that the erosion that it
becoming commonplace can be reversed.


>> If producers want to hire unqualified people, great. That's up to them, and as long as it works for their

>> business model then more power to them.

I hope you're not serious. The ultimate business model for producers is
currently reality TV, where people participate for free. The next
model will be to have these people pay to participate.

Brian "Oganized labor -- the people who brought you the week-end." Heller
IA 600 DP


>> If it were a Union picture, the Union could -- and IMHO -- should require said individual to join the Union.

>> That used to be standard practice.

Something happened somewhere... like I said, I know we have one guy locally who's on the roster but, for some reason, never had to join the Local.

As for why some union practices don't happen anymore... anyone who looks over CML-Trade Union will see that there's no end of stuff that's been given away.

>> It's not about preventing people from working. It's about organizing the work force so that the erosion

>> that it becoming commonplace can be reversed.

To some extent it is about preventing people from working. I got dropped from the roster after the last contract go-round, due to another give back, so that means (in theory) I can't work on features and episodic TV in the western 13 states. The Local won't help me.

The usual response to that statement is "The Local doesn't control the roster, the producers do" except that the Locals control the criteria for being placed on the roster.

Before I got into the Local in '89 it was almost completely closed (or rather the roster was completely closed) to new entrants, unless you lucked out and either worked on a big show that started out non-union and was organized or your father was a successful DP. There were plenty of qualified people who couldn't get in, which is why TV movies, video sitcoms and eventually episodic shows started going non-union. The non-union crews were good enough and couldn't get the work otherwise, so they were happy to take it when it was offered.

>> I hope you're not serious. The ultimate business model for producers is currently reality TV, where people >>participate for free. The next model will be to have these people pay to participate.

The crew doesn't participate for free; they get paid. I don't care what the "talent" makes.

The IA should be in the business of training members to be the best they can in their craft. But if the producers want to hire a union member who doesn't know what they're doing, who are we to stop them (unless that person is working outside of their category and violates internal rules)? And how do you stop them, without creating a new entity within the Local that dictates who is qualified to take a job?

-----------------------

Art Adams | Director of Photography
San Francisco Bay Area



Brian Heller wrote:

>>"The ultimate business model for producers is currently reality TV, where people participate for free. The >>next model will be to have these people pay to participate."

Reality TV covers so many different bastardized forms (ranging from the competitions like Survivor) to shows like The Hills, that are essentially real people playing characters like themselves in situations that are dreamt up by producers and writers -- though that is hidden from the viewer. On some of these shows (like The Hills) the "participants" are paid very well indeed -- some over $100K US per episode.

These shows are pretty scary, especially to someone who grew up in the purist cinema-verite world. Who knew that all you had to do was pay people for access?

Long long ago (mid 1970s) my partner said that she thought cinema verite soap operas would work on TV... who knew how right she was?

Jeff "well, she's always right, of course" Kreines


>> A union should control working conditions and wages. It shouldn't be in the business of preventing people >> from working. 659 was in that business for a long time, and I don't see a reason why 600 should do that >>any more than it does already. If producers want to hire unqualified people, great. That's up to them, and >> as long as it works for their business model then more power to them.

As anyone who has seen my posts can plainly attest, I am no union flag waver. However, I believe you may have this backwards.

The roster was NOT the IA's idea. It was something thought up by the producers. They initiated it, they set the rules for it, they determine who is and is not on it, not the IA.

The IA is in the unfortunate position of passing the bad news along to its members who are dropped from it. That is the extent of their participation.

That's how it was explained to me.

Bob Kertesz
BlueScreen LLC
Hollywood, California


>> The IA is in the unfortunate position of passing the bad news along to its members who are dropped from >>it. That is the extent of their participation.

When the roster was opened I was told that this was because the Locals set the standards for admittance, and some of the Locals realized it was time to change. This is why Local 600, which wanted to round up as many non union camera people as possible, instituted the 100 days in two or three years rule (I don't remember it exactly). Show up with your proof of experience, get on the roster, pay your money, done. Otherwise you have to work 30 days in a year on IA projects, which means everyone else in town is working or you have amazing talents that no one else has.

I don't know how many other locals have the 100 day rule... I'm pretty sure it's not many.

The new rule that resulted in so many people like myself being dropped resulted from Contract Services not keeping track of who on the camera roster was retired or no longer working in the industry. When they sent information out about the Safety Passport program they discovered they were wasting money sending info to people who didn't care. At the next contract they instituted the "work five IA days in three years or get dropped" rule, which screwed a lot of us out-of-towners.

-----------------------

Art Adams | Director of Photography
San Francisco Bay Area