4 years ago I quit my job as a waitress determined to be a freelance cinematographer. What ensued was two years of freelancing and getting as much experience as possible and building a network around me. Welcome to the world of volunteering… which sadly did not pay the bills. So I took the plunge and got a regular day job to help me out while I figured out how to steer my career back into the direction I wanted.
Today I find myself thinking about what direction to take next.
On one hand I can juggle a part time job and fit freelance work around it until it builds to the point where I can afford to quit.
The other is to embrace being a full time freelancer and just make it happen. It seems fairly obvious to me which sounds like the smart option in getting on track with my career.
I want to be a cinematographer. So lets just go ahead and do that.
Now how to do that…. properly.
Here is a list of things I have found helpful in the past and some new things that I plan to do to further my career.
Perhaps this can be some inspiration for you if you’ve ever found yourself wondering when it’s going to happen for you.
Get back to the blog
I have long known the importance that blogging has played in my career. People can get to know me, join me in learning about new gear and I can also showcase what I have been working on. I left this blog 2 YEARS AGO (I’m so embarrassed). So many things have happened in that time that I could probably write two pretty gripping features about it!
Instead I thought I would return to my blog.
If you yourself are just starting out or wanting to share your experiences, you could try creating a blog too. WordPress is just one place you can start, but there are so many.
Create a Website
I plan on creating a website by the end of the year. A simple site to view my showreel, contact information and options to view recent work and link back to my blog.
A website is so important in showcasing yourself, it’s just crazy I haven’t done it yet. Keep your eyes peeled. IT WILL HAPPEN!
If you are thinking about creating one there are a lot of templates that you can use such as wix.
Cut a New Showreel
As a DOP it is your job to work with directors creating their vision. So naturally it’s a good idea to have a reel showing off some of your amazing shots. My reel is very old. Bad Ehran. So, this is a 2015 goal.
I also realised recently that it is a good Idea to have a few reels, one with creative shots, one showcasing scenes and even a corporate TVC reel. Something to think about…
If you are cutting your first reel it’s good to have a look at other cinematographers and see what they do (and also learn what not to do do).
Do More Networking
In the film industry it is career suicide if you don’t network. Who will give you a job if they don’t know you and your abilities?
I have definitely not done as much networking recently and need to give myself a big kick to get back on the bandwagon.
Here are some areas I am starting with.
I recently became a member of The Australian Cinematographers Society (ACS) as they have monthly meetings to network as well as quarterly magazines (which I’ve even had an article in) to keep myself informed on what’s happening in the industry.
Friday On My Mind at AFTRS is also a great FREE chance to learn and also meet people in your field.
There are a lot of groups and event opportunities. You just need to seek them out and motivate yourself to go. In an older post I have written more suggestions that you can check out.
It would be silly of me not to branch out across the internet. Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are obviously key places to get people following you but here are a few others.
LinkedIn is a professional network so if you are wanting make new connections in the industry it is a great place to start.
Also having a profile on creative sites such as Loop. Loop is great as you can apply for industry roles directly from the site and employers can see your profile.
My goal would be to have a strong internet presence without relying on Facebook. Be warned though, social media can become a full time job.
Get more PAID work
I shoot all the time. Usually corporate videos, weddings and short films. Short films are a great opportunity for me to be creative, to practice, learn and spread my wings as a cinematographer. They are often ‘indie’ projects though and therefore unpaid. So the question here is how do I get paid to be creative? In Australia this means getting into the professional league.
So I joined AusCrew, a booking agency for film crew. This way my details are available online for people to find but I also hear about more opportunities in the professional world.
Not all cinematographers write. I however quite enjoy telling stories and it has the added benefit of being an opportunity you create for yourself to make another movie. I did this with my film Beehive. So if you have some cool shots you want to try or some gear you want to test out, write a little script and make a short film. Why not?!
So I am currently buzzing with ideas. Somehow I naturally leaned towards one idea and so now I am in the process of writing my first feature. I’m so excited.
Keep in the Loop With Gear
New cameras and gear are announced all the time and it seems completely overwhelming to learn it all. Where to start?
The answer is easy. Just start with one. Then move to the next.
If you get the chance to try gear out at rental houses or trade shows then go for it!
Otherwise I found that watching tutorials and reading reviews, though not as good as hands on experience, was still very helpful.
I have found relaying my learnings through a blog was a great way to get my head around things too. So this is my way of saying I will be doing more tutorials and gear reviews soon.
Build and Exercise Your Skills
I recently read an article about Jerry Seinfeld. In it he talked about why he does stand up even though he is a highly successful and skilled comedian. He said the following:
“I read an article a few years ago that said when you practice a sport a lot, you literally become a broadband: the nerve pathway in your brain contains a lot more information. As soon as you stop practicing, the pathway begins shrinking back down. Reading that changed my life.”
Though I have been working for years I can feel when I haven’t used a camera or had to light a certain scenario in a while that I am rusty. So it’s important to try and find ways to exercise your skills so you have the confidence and ability to perform on set.
So I am starting by doing a short course for camera assistants at AFTRS which will brush up my skills but also be a chance to meet other assistants.
So as you can see, I have a lot to do. So, stay tuned and I’ll keep you posted on my progress.
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“With my head in the stars, a twinkle in my eye and a love for cinema and nostalgia, filmmaking is a fun, creative way to express myself.”