Greetings all. Sorry for the long hiatus, but the last few months have been the busiest I can remember. Mostly good stuff though, and lots of lessons learned. The following isn't all strictly tech stuff, but then again, I'm not strictly a tech guy. Anyway, here are a few random thoughts that may be of interest to you.
1) Working with good people is probably the smartest thing you can ever do-
It not only makes the process easier, but it also serves the project more effectively. I experienced this first hand this summer with some for-hire work I did with Ken Hendricks (you can see some of that, scheduled to air on ESPN next year here
) On that shoot there were about 5 or so camera teams, so it required a lot of planning and professionalism. It also made a world of difference while shooting Patrick Sheridan's Jimmy Said
. The talent and skill (don't confuse the two)
exhibited both in front of and behind the camera created something greater than the sum of its parts. Don't be afraid to work with people who stretch and challenge you. That's how you get better and that's how the projects get better. What we do is, at its very core, a collaboration. Collaborating with skilled professionals forces you to raise your game. So even if it makes you nervous, do it anyway. In fact, if what you are doing doesn't
make you nervous, you probably aren't taking a big enough risk, or challenging yourself enough....but that's another rant.
2) Get Agreements in Writing-
I am currently having some challenges with a client that I did some work for months ago in another state. I still have not been paid. No matter what you are doing, or who you are working with, take the time to write it all down. I can guarantee that during that process you will find that you are at least interpreting things differently than some of the other people involved. You are doing them and yourself a disservice if you don't write it down. It is essential not only for legal reasons, but it can save relationships as well. It doesn't have to be a legal 'contract', but if you are taking the time to write it down it gives you the opportunity to expose potential misunderstandings early on so that they can be addressed. It will also allow you to clarify expectations, responsibilities and other things that seems vague, but can kill a project. An once of prevention goes a long way here. Don't assume. Ever.
3) You Cannot Be Too Prepared-
I'm pretty sure that I've preached this one before, but it has been underscored to me again this summer on more than one project. The shoot is the fun part. It is the point in the process that everyone sees and thinks is cool. And it is pretty cool. There are few things that I find more enjoyable than being on a film set, commercial shoot, or other creative media project with competent, prepared people. But it is the work done before the cameras roll that determines how rewarding and effective that process is. Expect at least 80-90% of your time on any project to be spent on pre and post production. Anything worth doing is worth preparing for. And, contrary to a popular myth, preparation, rehearsal, story-boards and meetings do NOT
kill spontaneity. They enhance and invite it. How can you have time to be spontaneous when you don't even know if you have what you need? I can guarantee you that the time Patrick Sheridan invested with the actors for Jimmy Said paid off in spades. Not only did they give stellar performances because they understood their characters, but I can probably count on one hand the amount of times we had to do a re-take because an actor flubbed a line. That saved us a ton of time.
4) Remember, This is Supposed to be Fun-
None of us pick this line of work because we want to work long, stressful hours, often getting paid with pizza, only to see our name misspelled in the credits of a poorly edited film. In fact, most of us didn't really "pick" this line of work at all. We do it because we can't NOT do it.
. There's a passion and reward in that. Part of that reward is that we are doing something that we love, every single day. Like Ken Hendricks is often heard to say, "A Bad Day in Television is Better than a Good Day in a Cubicle" Don't lose sight of that, and the fact that in this particular area, we often get to work with people we like, who share our passion and are willing to work to elevate all of our skills and projects to new levels.
5) Clean your Lens-
This can be a metaphor for your own clarity of vision, but I thought I would throw the literal advice in to keep things a bit tech. Really, keep your lens clean. Get a lens cloth and keep it in your camera bag. Nothing kills a shot like a dirty lens. I ruined some shots I got last month up in Granby (it was very dusty up there), because I wasn't paying attention.
6) Sometimes Things are Worth the Extra Money-
This is a judgment call for you, but the example I will give you is Arri lights. I've worked for years with home-made, modified and cheap lights. But after nagging and ridicule by my colleagues, as well as a number of opportunities to use Arri's over the last year, I decided to invest in some. Big difference in set-up, changing lamps, adjusting output and dependability. I don't regret the path I took, because I did the best I could with what I had. But sometimes things really are worth more money.
Okay, that's what I got. What have you learned in Summer School?