DJ Haza discusses the trials and tribulations of breaking into the movie industry with more 'Frustrated Ramblings Of An Aspiring Filmmaker"...
I’m sick to the back teeth of my day job. It bores me. It’s absolutely no challenge for me and does not inspire me in any shape, way or form. I want to make it in the film industry. I don’t have to be Martin Scorsese, but regular work and a decent pay cheque would suffice. However, the issue is that in an industry as poor as British cinema how can anyone make a living?
As an aspiring filmmaker with only a few credits to my name I’m finding it difficult to get paid work as a first assistant director. I’ve worked several times this summer as a 1st AD, but I’ve offered my services for free in order to gain some credits and put a bit more meat on my curriculum vitae. And that’s the problem. When do you stop working for free and start requiring a wage?
If you work for free you work more often and build your CV quicker. You meet more people and build more relationships. You have more chances to work with someone special who is going to make it and take you with them. Free doesn’t pay the bills though. If you work for free you also need to keep down a part time job in order to keep that roof over your head. Without a paying job on the side you’re screwed. However, the more shifts you do in the day job the less time you have for filmmaking. If you begin to charge for your services you may be able to earn a small living from filmmaking, but if someone else will do the same job for free the chances are you’re not going to get the job. Either road leads to poverty and a penniless existence.
What I need is a part time job that I can do from 12 til 1 with an hour for lunch and get paid for a full day. The chances of that are slim to none at best. Maybe I need a rich Uncle to pass away and leave me his fortune. To my knowledge none of my Uncles are that well off. And even if they were I’d still have to fight my cousins for the fortune. Neither way looks any more likely than a lottery win. Maybe I should buy a ticket?
I often wonder if I can increase my employability by moving to the big smoke. With a lot more films in production at every end of the scale surely there is more chance of getting a job. The problem is because there are more jobs there are also more filmmakers. With the living costs being so much higher than those in South Wales I’d need to work more in London than I would here. Again poverty prevails. However, you don’t have to live in London to work in London. It is possible to get work and find somewhere to stay during filming.
I’ve seen loads of work advertised for features in London, but they are all for free or expenses only. The problem is that expenses only means that if you live in London they will pay your tube fare, but not bed and board for four weeks solid. So what you need is a family member in London who is willing to put you up. Hang on, I’ve got an Aunty who lives in West London. I shall have to give her a call. But then, I’d need to travel up there by plane, train or automobile, pay for at least one meal a day at extortionate London prices and I wouldn’t be able to frequent the day job to prop up my penny jars. Maybe it isn’t such a good idea.
The problem is that everyone wants to make a film and no one wants to spend anymore than they have too. Directors, producers and director’s of photography are happy to splash a bit of cash on a fancy piece of camera equipment for their seminal shot of the film or a named actor who they think will bring some notoriety. Possibly even a top-notch location that will give their film character or a key prop that will look shit hot in the background of their main location. Splashing money on a 1st AD is much, much, much further down the list.
Being a 1st AD is a thankless task at the best of times. You’re the person who does the dirty work, thinks quickly to solve the major logistical and time consuming problems, you have to make the team work late if required, you are the one cracking the whip, kicking arses, shouting and making sure the show runs to plan and schedule. Personally I take a more relaxed stance of firsting. I make sure that I keep the show running on time and that every member of the team is giving their all, but I prefer to keep a cool head. Calm. A relaxing influence on those around me. My view is that if I can keep my head and control what I can then it allows those in more artistic roles to flourish. And I’ve been told that I’m good at what I do. But, a pat on the back doesn’t pay my phone bill. And when the film reaches the masses my name will be shunted down the list passed the point where an audience will be taking note of the names before them. Passed the point of acclaim. Credit. Praise.
As I said earlier - I’ve worked several times this summer for no pay so I can build the old curriculum vitae and build some working relationships, but I’m now on the bare bones of my arse. I’ve decided that when I’ve finished my next 1st AD job I’m going to have to charge. Not loads, but I need to earn a living away from the day job. If not, you may just see the headline of the South Wales Argus read ‘Mobile Phone Salesman Beats Customer To Death With His Own Phone’.
First Assistant Director for hire. Great rates. Hard worker. Talented and driven young man committed to building a career in filmmaking. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
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