Thursday, July 1, 2010

Everybody on the Bus

I would have posted this in my previous entry, but I felt it deserved its own.

No matter how difficult it is finding crew work, extra work is always a sure thing for getting on a set. The other day I was one of 20 folks gathered for a local bus commercial (promoting the new 2nd gen Zero Emission buses the county had ordered from Belgium). First off - $75 to sit on a bus all day plus free lunch at Togo's? It's a no-brainer. This wasn't some big feature crew out of Hollywood - they were wonderful, local, down-to-earth folks. As we sat on the bus grinning like idiots (we had to act happy!) they filmed us by van along side the bus, from a helicopter as we crossed the Oakland Bay Bridge into San Francisco, and with a camera crew using Canon 5Ds inside the bus with us. Since they weren't shooting for sound, we were all free to chat and converse. Even the crew was talking with us. I didn't even initiate the conversation: The associate producer just sits down on the seat next to me and asks me my story. I start to talk about how I just graduated with a degree in film production and I enjoy crew gigs when I'm not doing extra work. She immediately starts jotting down my information! Holy fuck, someone is actually taking a moment and giving a crap about me, a lowly extra! At that point, I whip out my resume (I've taken to keeping resumes on me at all times) and hand it to her. It would be nice if next time I work with this awesome crew I could be on the other side of the camera. I don't even care actually. It's been several days and I'm still elated that for once a crew member approached me and asked about me and took an interest in me... Usually in these situations A) It's me trying to talk to a crew member, and B) they look at me like I'm something unpleasant they stepped in.

The camera crew was also great. They were taking both still photos (the other extras and I were laughing at the notion of seeing our faces on a brochure or on the side of a bus one day) and video. I was telling them about how I just bought the Canon T2i (about 3 steps down from the EOS 5Ds they were using). I guess that was enough to gain their trust because no less than three times they asked me to hold their equipment for a moment while they tended to other matters. (*Sidenote: These Canon HD-DSLRs rule. They are the new low budget sensation. The amazing 5d is about $2500. With dedicated video cameras, you're often in the $6000 range before you get features like interchangeable lenses. Which I think is a basic need for anyone playing with cinematography. I mean, one of the first things you read about in introductory film classes is the different looks you can achieve with a wide angle or telephoto lens...and then they hand you a camcorder with no ability to achieve either look. I would love to get the distorted, fisheye, music video look, or the extreme telephoto, slow motion, walking-along-the-blacktop-with-heatwaves-rippling Michael Bay look. You can spend exorbitant amounts of cash on a new video camera and not be able to do that out of the box. Sure there are adapters, and then you need to buy the lens, but the bills pile higher and higher. You could get a 5d plus 2 or 3 lenses and still spend less than, say, a new HVX without any adapters, and just go to town.)

Then we did a small photoshoot in an Alameda park - they took stills and video of every passenger - grinning, average Joes and Janes, thrilled to be riding public transit. Got an email earlier today saying they would try to send everyone who participated their respective photos. Awesome! Free head shots!

Film, film, film, film, film

So it's been a while since I actually blogged about anything related to, well, what this blog was created for. You know, a detailed account of trying to bust into the local film industry and all that bullshit.

I scour the gigs section on Craigslist about once an hour these days for crew jobs. But considering I have no car and no real experience beyond that of setting up a C-stand and basically serving as a pack mule - hell, I even royally pissed off a gaffer the other week when I couldn't wind his cables worth a damn...embarrassing, let me tell you - not to mention the lack of my own equipment to bring to the table on these primarily volunteer-only shoots....there's not a lot of options left for me.

Now I realize the previous paragraph makes me out to look like an incompetent douche, but before you say, WTF man, I thought you were a film school graduate! lemme explain. Film school, no. 2 separate underfunded state universities with lame excuses for film departments, hell yes. There's a difference between learning how to make a film and learning how films are made in the modern industry of today. I could go on and make excuses for myself, but I'm not going to do that. Suffice it to say, what I learned in school barely seems to scratch the surface of what I need to know in order to make it. Which is why I take these gigs. I'm like a sponge, soaking up every bit of information and experience. I may have annoyed that gaffer, but the experience that day on set was invaluable. I learn best by experience, and once again, hanging out with a really professional crew was more informative than a thousand classroom lectures.

Back to finding work: I decided to take the initiative and last week I spent every last penny I have on the Canon Rebel T2i - the lowest priced HD-DSLR on the market. I figure I get this thing and some paid opportunities will open up. I just need a decent HD camera and some accessories so I can start to take paid crew work. There's always work for someone with their own camera to shoot B-roll footage for a quick 100 bucks or so.

Also I need the camera for myself. I've never had a video camera in my life, and I've always regretted it. As an aspiring filmmaker this should have been at the top of my list. Instead I always whined about how the cameras I wanted to use were too far out of my price range. Making up these lame excuses. I don't know what my deal was. Only now have I wrapped my head around the fact that there is always going to be a bigger, better camera out there. There's no sense in wasting time and moaning that I can't make films until I can afford a Sony EX3 or the RED One. I just desperately need a halfway decent camera, so I can just go out and....shoot. It's like that law of filmmaking that's as old as the universe itself says: You're only gonna get better by shooting stuff. Took me five years but I finally stumbled on this revelation. I've read/watched a thousand and one tuturials, behind-the-scenes, and making-ofs. But I never got to try any of it out. Gotta lotta catching up to do.