Friday, September 14, 2007

What's Your Twenty? - Volume 2

What’s Your Twenty?
Volume 2

LP - TwoCents Columnist

So, a little about me…

I’ve been working in film and television for about 3 years. It all started with a 6 week intensive film course at NYU to get a feeling for the entire process of filmmaking. Until I took that class, I had no film experience whatsoever. The only thing I had done was watch a lot of movies, which continues to surprise me as being very very useful. But that’s for another day.

In the class, students were broken up into groups of four and each student in the class had to write, direct, and edit five short films by the end of the six weeks.

We actually shot on film, as opposed to video, and we edited the film by physically cutting it with a film cutter [1] and taping it together to create our movies.

After completing that class, I felt ready to see what the real world held, so I started volunteering for whatever I could find.

My goal is to become a feature film director, but my secondary goal is, and always has been, to work as many different positions on set as possible because I feel that the more I know about the filmmaking process, the better off I’m going to be. When you are a director, you aren’t just directing actors, you are also directing your crew, and in my opinion, it can only help to know a little bit about everything that goes into your movie.

So, to that end, I’ve held different positions on various film and TV sets: PA, electric [2], utility [3], production manager [4], producer [5], editor [6] and illustrious writer and director of my own projects. It may seem like a lot, but people who have been working in this business have decades of experience, and my 3 years of work does not ‘wow’ any of them.

I was nervous when I started. I had my experience from the class I took, but I didn’t have any experience working with people who were experts in their fields. It’s intimidating and there is a lot of equipment and a lot of terminology to learn. Not to mention the fact that some people take pride in looking down on ‘film school brats’, which, like any other all-encompassing opinion, doesn’t really help anyone. So what have I learned?

Here’s my first Tidbit: Two things I have found that impress people the most when getting started in the film/television business are reliability and responsibility. Believe it or not, it is very hard to find people who always show up on time and who take pride in their job and make sure it’s done right.

You will learn as you go. What you lack in experience, you can make up for by being reliable and responsible. When people get to know you, and respect you, they will teach you.

Every job is a chance to prove yourself, and that chance should be taken seriously every day because people are watching.

Today’s Terms:

[1] Film Cutter – a small device with a razor blade attached to a spring loaded hinged arm and a bed to rest your film on. You line up your film underneath the blade where you want to make a cut, then press the hinged arm down to make the cut.

[2] Electric – A member of the Electric Department.

[3] Utility – In my experience on small television shoots, a utility is a sort of combination Production Assistant, Grip, and Electric

Grip – A member of the Grip Department.

[4] Production Manager – The production manager is responsible for all of the day to day happenings on a film set, making sure that everything goes smoothly with the crew. Production managers are usually also responsible for the budget.

[5] Producer – It’s become a cliché to say that this is the most misunderstood position on a film set, and that is because it’s a tough position to define. In my experience, the producer oversees the entire project, making sure that everything is going smoothly and that clients and/or the executive producer are happy with the progress.

Executive Producer – The Executive Producer either invests money in a project, or secures the money from other sources to invest in a project.

[6] Editor –The editor arranges a film’s images and audio into the story the audience sees.

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