Welcome to College Confidential!

The leading college-bound community on the web

Sign Up For Free

Join for FREE, and start talking with other members, weighing in on community discussions, and more.

Also, by registering and logging in you'll see fewer ads and pesky welcome messages (like this one!)

As a CC member, you can:

  • Reply to threads, and start your own.
  • Post reviews of your campus visits.
  • Find hundreds of pages of informative articles.
  • Search from over 3 million scholarships.
Introducing a New Expert Content Section: Careers!

Practical Realities: Jobs on every Hollywood Set

135

Replies to: Practical Realities: Jobs on every Hollywood Set

  • DougBetsyDougBetsy Registered User Posts: 5,830 Senior Member
    Brian,
    My husband and I own a production company. It's small (my husband is the only salaried employee), but financially successful and "award winning." I have to agree that you've given excellent advice. I'd like to offer a few thoughts from our perspective:

    If you're trying to break-in to the business, ask a potential employer for an informational interview. My husband will give an informational interview to almost anyone. He doesn't mind if a new grad asks for tips or a review of his demo reel. He's always looking for fresh help and needs to know who's available. It usually turns out to be mutually beneficial. A "connection" for the newbie, and possible (yes, cheap) crew for H.

    Husband prefers someone with a post high-school certificate or college degree. RTVF is great, but it's not essential. Good crew and editors can be self-taught or get their skills from OJT. But, if that's the case, sometimes there are bad habits to undo. So you'll have to be open to changing. For example, there are VERY strict standards for logging tape or digital files.

    Have a demo, or at least a resume. Your own website is nice, but it's even OK to put your work on Youtube. Something to show helps get that interview. Even a class project or church volunteer work is something.

    Freelance is key. Full-time staff positions at studios are rare. Look for jobs on a day-at-a-time basis. In the beginning market yourself as a "production assistant." That's code lingo for "gofer on the set." (This is a viable option for those of us who don't have that film degree or prior experience.) As a P.A. you won't touch a camera or a light. But maybe you get to photocopy the script or fetch a few apple boxes. In any case, you'll be making $100/day and be gaining experience.

    Projects come and go. In between your blockbusters you'll probably have to work on a couple schlock car commercials. That's OK. Most days you can't afford to be picky. As long as you're working, it's a good sign. (My husband missed his award at Sundance because he was home shooting a plumber's spot. :( You gotta take the work when it comes.)

    Some of the production jobs that often go forgotten are audio and construction. Almost every shoot needs a sound guy. But it's not a very "sexy" job so novices aren't drawn to it. But give it a try. Even the most basic skills could get that producer to call you next time. And if you know how to use a hammer, a saw, and measure some 2x4's, tell everybody! Ramps, flats, and primitive tables are just a few of the things that keep carpenters busy and can get you on a set.

    Equipment is heavy. Many (most?) shoots are "on location." So expect to do a lot of lifting and moving. It's not just work "for the little guy." Even when you're the director, if YOU own the jib (the lights, the camera, dolly, whatever), then YOU help load. (Unless it's a huge TV or movie job with lots of help.) Unfortunately, that's the one part of the job that H doesnt' like. At the age of 45 he says he too old to pack the truck. But he does it anyway because it's his gear going on his truck and that's what it takes to stay in business.

    Production work is exhausting but rewarding. It's one of those jobs where you have a tangible product to show at the end of your 10-hour day. (yes, 10 hours is standard) It really is great. You'll never forget the first time you see your work on TV. Or your name in the credits.
  • DaliLambDaliLamb Registered User Posts: 4 New Member
    My health teacher's son was actually a biology major in college and was on the brink of flunking out. In order to boost his GPA and distance himself from academic probation, he took an English class. Funnily enough, he wrote a story that was so good his professor entered it into a national screenwriter's contest and he placed 3rd, but despite not winning he still met with people from Lionsgate, Miramax, and Warner Bros. - all of these major prodcution companies. So....he dropped out of college and currently lives in Los Angelos and is making boatloads of cash. He even paid off the college loans he accumulated studying his now useless (and what I consider useless in all respects) major.
  • dapplesmyapplesdapplesmyapples Registered User Posts: 24 New Member
    What if I am applying as an animation major? Would that kind of a degree be any more helpful than a film degree?
  • bjdzyakbjdzyak - Posts: 41 Junior Member
    << -- dapplesmyapples --

    What if I am applying as an animation major? Would that kind of a degree be any more helpful than a film degree?>>

    Helpful? It depends on what it is you want to do!

    A lot of animation is done today with specialty software and different studios/companies will have some proprietary programs that you'll have to learn. BUT, the key is learning the systems that you have available to you and building a reel that illustrates that you have at least a basic knowledge and skill to create.

    Of course the major companies right now are PIXAR and Disney, but don't overlook Visual Effects houses. You can find extensive lists of both at LA411.com. Find a few, call them, let them know what your interests are and ask them what kinds of work and software you need to learn if you wanted a chance to work for them. Don't be shy. You might get a couple of negative calls, but most people are more than willing to talk and help out.

    Again, the "degree" isn't what counts in any of this. It's all about what you can do and who you know. You need a basic foundation of information and skill and then you just have to jump into the pool and start swimming. Make calls, meet people, work for free, be an assistant until you get the chance to move up to what you want to do. Those are the things that you need to do to get there. Filmschool may help train you and you might meet some people who can help, but the degree itself isn't necessarily going to be a ticket anywhere.

    Brian Dzyak
    Cameraman, IATSE Local 600/Society of Operating Cameramen
    Author, What I Really Want to Do: On Set in Hollywood
  • 43212344321234 Registered User Posts: 926 Member
    bjdzyak,
    how can you tell if someone is in it because they like it, or because of the glam? are there interviews of people just talking about the crafts, rather than focusing so much on the fortune? i read that one should only be an actor if one can't imagine themselves doing anything else. i grew up wanting to be an actor, but i could imagine myself writing. after being an "extra" in a few productions, i decided it isn't really for me... i felt like i was wasting my time hanging around the set.. like i had better things to do. guess that wasn't for me. however, i do love writing, researching, characters, and think of ways i can be a better writer. i'm convinced though, that playwriting can help one into screenwriting? it also seems like it's more frequent where an actor who studies another subject becomes successful as an actor rather than someone who has actually studied it in college. guess it's the theory that's hard to get rid of. it's kind of scary when you only have one thing you want to do but aren't succeeding in it. =/ i guess the only thing aspiring screenwriters can do is write.. but i have to add that as a writer, it's super helpful when you know a lot of other things and are informed. however, that can also sound very vague and difficult to pinpoint.

    your posts have been very informative! thanks!
  • bjdzyakbjdzyak - Posts: 41 Junior Member
    << -- 4321234 --

    bjdzyak,
    how can you tell if someone is in it because they like it, or because of the glam? are there interviews of people just talking about the crafts, rather than focusing so much on the fortune? i read that one should only be an actor if one can't imagine themselves doing anything else. i grew up wanting to be an actor, but i could imagine myself writing. after being an "extra" in a few productions, i decided it isn't really for me... i felt like i was wasting my time hanging around the set.. like i had better things to do. guess that wasn't for me. however, i do love writing, researching, characters, and think of ways i can be a better writer. i'm convinced though, that playwriting can help one into screenwriting? it also seems like it's more frequent where an actor who studies another subject becomes successful as an actor rather than someone who has actually studied it in college. guess it's the theory that's hard to get rid of. it's kind of scary when you only have one thing you want to do but aren't succeeding in it. =/ i guess the only thing aspiring screenwriters can do is write.. but i have to add that as a writer, it's super helpful when you know a lot of other things and are informed. however, that can also sound very vague and difficult to pinpoint.

    your posts have been very informative! thanks! >>

    This business is just far too difficult to A) break into and B) maintain a viable career for someone who only has eyes on it for the fame & fortune potential.

    First, only a very very small percentage of people who actively work in the business are very wealthy and even fewer are famous. The vast majority of those who make a living doing something in the business are middle-class, at best, or struggling to get by like many others out there in different industries. I'm sure there are a few examples of people who got into this to get rich and/or famous and did achieve those goals. BUT, I'm sure that there are more people with those goals who did NOT achieve that level. It can take a lot of time, a lot of energy, a lot of rejection, and years of scraping by all in the hope that you can at least make a living at it, much less get rich and famous. Those "overnight" success stories generally only seem like it after that person has already put in years of hard work with little attention and little money. Of course the media/tabloids like to concentrate on the elite, because that's far sexier to talk about than the normal people who put in fourteen-hour days for an hourly wage. But if you're looking to work in the business, the odds are far better if you aim for a below-the-line job than one at the top. There's only one Director on the callsheet but hundreds of crew. The math is easy on that one.

    Next, there is nothing wrong with being an Actor AND a Screenwriter. Many actually do that. And some act, write, AND get the chance to direct too. In fact, for some reason, Actors get more opportunities to get projects going that they've written or just thought about than anyone else in the business. Deserved or not, being a mid to top-tier Actor brings with it a level of creative credibility that most others in the business aren't given. Some of that is because an Actor's "bankability" can be enough for a financier to say "yes" to a project whereas, nobody goes to see a movie because of who wrote it or who the crew is. There are top-tier Directors and a few Producers who also have high "bankability" ratings that give financiers the confidence to fund a movie, but again, with the exception of just a couple very well-known names, nobody sees a movie because of who produced and directed it. It's all about the Actors. And if you are an Actor who can guarantee box-office returns, then those with the keys to the safe will bend over backwards to listen to your ideas and read your scripts.

    As far as the question of education goes, you do hit on it correctly. Most film programs concentrate on studying other films and the process of making a movie. These things are important to know, BUT having a film-centric education does not give anyone an "edge" over someone else who doesn't have the film degree. A Screenwriter of course has to know how to write in the proper format and understand the "language" of film, but the Writer needs something to write ABOUT. So it is likely better to spend more time studying History, or Literature, or Political Science, or Sociology...taking film classes is great for access to people and teachers and feedback, but getting a "masters" in any of that truly isn't necessary.

    To learn acting? Well, I'm not an expert on that, but my understanding is that it's all about going out and doing it. Being comfortable "pretending" in front of other people and for a camera is essentially the "skill" you need to learn. Once you figure out how to do that, then you'll have an easier time "becoming" the character you're supposed to play. Performing in a theater is one way to do it, but acting for film is different as you're likely shooting out of sequence and will have to learn how to maintain continuity. A single one-page scene can easily encompass an entire day's work as it is shot from a variety of angles, often beginning with wide masters and gradually moving into the closeups. So those key moments, when it is all about the closeup on your face may come at the end of the day when you and the rest of the crew are tired and more than ready to go home. It can be a very demanding strain on your skills and lifestyle.

    So, don't be afraid to multi-task. In my second week in LA, I had a meeting with a studio executive and his advice to me was to keep many irons in the fire. Some people do work all the time, but most don't. There is inevitable downtime in between projects so if you aren't making millions of dollars a movie, then you'll have to have income of some kind coming in. That's why many cast and crew have side projects going on of some kind. Internet businesses, real estate investments (like house and apartment rentals), film industry equipment rentals, writing.... any number of things that aren't terribly time consuming so that they can work on set when the opportunities arise. Most people absolutely do NOT get wealthy in this business. In fact, right now, times are very tough because of the Screen Actor's Guild contract issues and the studios continually shooting in less-expensive locations overseas.

    Again, the point to all of this is to just be aware of what you're getting into and what it takes to get there and maintain a career that pays the bills. Anyone who gets into this for fame & fortune is just asking for disappointment because the odds are not in their favor. Can it happen? Yes. Will it? Maybe, but probably not. But, we all have just one life to live, so if that is what you want to do, don't let anyone stop you from trying.
  • CoffeeAddict9716CoffeeAddict9716 Registered User Posts: 876 Member
    Jobs on the Hollywood Set aren't as glamorous as you might think...

    You might just run into trouble like this guy: (anyone else remember the Christian Bale drama?)

    Bale Went Ballistic - TMZ.com
  • 43212344321234 Registered User Posts: 926 Member
    oh gah... so dramatic. sounds like he's acting for a scene.

    i recommend watching the movie "the players" if anyone is interested in seeing how Hollywood "works". I wouldn't know personally, but I have heard good reviews about the movie being true about Hollywood.
  • bjdzyakbjdzyak - Posts: 41 Junior Member
    There are actually a few movies that manage to hit the mark on how it really can be:

    Living in Oblivion (1995) - a great example of what it's like on the "student film" level

    And God Spoke (1994) - somewhat accurate portrayal of what a low-budget independent film production can be like

    The Big Picture (1989) - reportedly a spoof on AFI (the American Film Institute) and how its graduates come out believing that they are superior but find that they are in the same situation as everyone else

    The Player (1992) - a look at the studio level of filmmaking

    Swimming With Sharks (1995) - a look at the agent side of filmmaking

    For anyone who has worked in the industry, they'll see many of the in-jokes that likely will go past others. But, if you're looking to get in, these are humorous and semi-accurate portrayals of what can happen.
  • bjdzyakbjdzyak - Posts: 41 Junior Member
    << -- CoffeeAddict9716 --

    Jobs on the Hollywood Set aren't as glamorous as you might think...

    You might just run into trouble like this guy: (anyone else remember the Christian Bale drama?) >>

    Jobs on set aren't glamorous in any way. Days can begin at 6am and generally go 12 hours minimum and more likely 13 to 14 hours. "In town" movies will work five day weeks. "On location" work will be six day weeks. A Monday morning call will be early and because of the long days and minimum "turn arounds" (the minimum amount of time that cast and crew are off work before the next day), the call on Friday may be at 4 in the afternoon.... add 14 hours to that and now you're getting home on early SATURDAY morning which means that you're sleeping while your friends and family enjoy the weekend. You get Saturday night to yourself and then Sunday. Then Monday begins at 7am to start it all over again.

    Usually a movie will begin on location..which means maybe six to eight weeks (all variable) traveling to a variety of places and quite possibly a long distance from home so you're staying in hotels. When production returns home, you're working those long hours described above...some days and some nights... so you don't see anyone or do anything else anyway.

    You can easily earn $40,000 + in as little as three months, however that may be the only big job you have that year, so you fill in the other part of the year "dayplaying" on other projects when they need extra people for larger scenes.

    The "glamour" you see on TV is the video and stills taken at premieres and award shows....which are essentially just "parties" designed to make it SEEM like it's all glamorous so that people will want to see the movie.

    Life on set is far from glamorous. It can be dirty, exhausting, frustrating. It can also be fun, exciting, and no two days are ever alike. It is an environment for people who don't need the safety net of a 9-5 existence and the security of knowing that they'll have a paycheck every week. If we weren't doing this, we'd all be in the circus!

    And by the way, the DP who Mr. Bale is upset with is a very nice person and he didn't walk "onto" the set despite some of the scuttlebutt out there. Because of the working conditions, sometimes a set can get tense so tempers can grow short. Making a movie IS hard work and with so many people all trying to do their own job in collaboration with everyone else, on occasion, some things might not go as smoothly as everyone would like. While Mr. Bale may or may not have been justified in becoming "upset," that type of outburst is very atypical of how professionals choose to deal with conflict.
  • 43212344321234 Registered User Posts: 926 Member
    there are so many stereotypes about Hollywood, that I don't even know which is true or not. for example, i have always been scared about directors b/c i hear that all they do is yell at you. but i actually think they're quite reasonable. it just seems like any other business, trying to find the best way to make money... but they choose entertainment as their business. in every job, one should be respectful, but is there also a lot of sucking up in Hollywood? another common stereotype: females sleeping w/ the director for parts.. hopefully this isn't as common anymore. i'm just wondering how Hollywood compares to wall street (not asking you this Q directly). what are ways for someone who enjoy this stuff but wants to avoid the corruption of greed and prima-donnaness? opening their own theater? this does not sound that bad actually.

    how do you think youtube, the rise of success for indie films, and internet videos will affect hollywood in the future btw?
  • bjdzyakbjdzyak - Posts: 41 Junior Member
    << -- 4321234 --

    there are so many stereotypes about Hollywood, that I don't even know which is true or not. for example, i have always been scared about directors b/c i hear that all they do is yell at you. but i actually think they're quite reasonable. it just seems like any other business, trying to find the best way to make money... but they choose entertainment as their business. in every job, one should be respectful, but is there also a lot of sucking up in Hollywood? another common stereotype: females sleeping w/ the director for parts.. hopefully this isn't as common anymore. i'm just wondering how Hollywood compares to wall street (not asking you this Q directly). what are ways for someone who enjoy this stuff but wants to avoid the corruption of greed and prima-donnaness? opening their own theater? this does not sound that bad actually.

    how do you think youtube, the rise of success for indie films, and internet videos will affect hollywood in the future btw? >>

    Re: Stereotypes in Hollywood - No, most Directors don't yell. A few have deserved reputations as "screamers" and a few are very demanding despite the sweet personae they portray for the public, but for the most part, movie/television/commercial sets run fairly smoothly. The business is so specialized that it really would be possible to take 100 cast & crew who have never met and they would all come together to complete the work with little to no difficulty. Typically, those who are "screamers" are those who doubt their own abilities and lash out at others in order to (try to) hide their own failings. The most confident and qualified cast and crew who are comfortable with their own skills and abilities quietly do their work, inspire confidence in others, and help create and maintain a calm and professional working environment.

    Yes, some people are somewhere in the business just to make money, but a lot of people really are here to create "art" AND make money. In the old days, studios were owned and run by people who were mostly interested in making movies. Today, most studios are owned by international corporations as part of their overall corporate structure where quarterly profits take precedence over quality and entertainment.

    Sucking up: Well, the business does run on relationships so getting to know others and having others know you and what you can do is vital to maintaining a career. The level that some people feel they need to take that is amusing at times. The true professionals can sniff out "suck ups" a mile away. What they are truly looking for are quality people and quality material that has great potential for creativity and profit. Certainly some people and projects work their way through the cracks due to someone's schmoozing capabilities, but for the most part, the serious professionals have too much riding on their decisions so caving into hiring someone or buying their product (buying a script, making a movie, hiring an Actor/crew) because they want to have sex or something else out of it isn't that prevalent.

    I imagine that there is "corruption" and "greed" anywhere you look and the movie BUSINESS isn't a stranger to that. Naturally, "employers" are looking to get a product made while paying as little as possible for it, so it is not out of the question for Producers/studios to go out of their way to whittle down a contract or short paychecks. It is also not rare for others to take credit for someone else's work in order to prop up their own sense of accomplishment in order to get ahead. I haven't seen it myself, but there are stories of Writer's finding copies of their scripts in offices... but with someone else's name on them. I've also been specifically hired as a Producer, but only later on, that credit is given to someone else who didn't do the work. You can't really avoid this as you can't control how others choose to conduct themselves in business and life. But you can help mitigate the affects of this by proceeding carefully and getting EVERYTHING in writing. Maintaining a career SHOULD BE about the work... but unfortunately too often, politics and financial aspects are the rule so the ability to network and "schmooze" if necessary can be the difference between having a career and sitting at home wondering what went wrong.

    Your question about "new media" (internet mostly) is one that is on the minds of everyone today. The WGA (Writers Guild) fought for future rights to profits on technology that is only beginning to gain real ground. They lost their fight. The DGA (Director's Guild) basically didn't fight at all and signed a contract that doesn't provide any real provisions to address new media. BUT SAG (Screen Actors Guild) has been in a contract dispute since June of 2008 over this very question. And it has severely impacted everyone in "Hollywood" as projects have been put on hold lest they be held up because of a strike. The problem is that nobody knows how new media will impact any of this. The music industry has been in a tailspin since Napster and they failed to adapt quickly enough to embrace the new business model being forced upon them. The movie business is doing what it can to predict it's own changes and the unions (SAG, WGA) are doing what they can to protect their members for now and the future.

    Keep in mind that movies are just a product like any other that the manufacturer makes and has to market and sell. An enormous amount of money is invested for the product itself and then another large amount is spent to market it, distribute it, and exhibit it. So they need to earn that money back PLUS the interest on the loans it took to do those things PLUS hopefully more money to placate the investors who sunk their money in so they can earn a profit. So the manufacturers (Producers, studios, etc) want to spend as little as possible while enjoying greater returns. That means cutting labor costs by destroying union contracts here in the US and by taking production work over borders (to Canada and Mexico) and overseas (to the UK, Prague, South Africa, Budapest, and Australia). They don't just go to these places for pretty exteriors. Labor is MUCH cheaper there AND a lot of countries (and some US states) offer tax "incentives" that can save a production up to 40% or more from what they'd pay if they kept the work in the US and the traditional production areas (Los Angeles, NY, Chicago). So, studios save money simply by taking the show on the road via tax breaks and cheaper labor costs AND profits continue to grow due to large box office returns and DVD sales.

    So, when you ask how those things will "affect Hollywood," the question is "which part of Hollywood are you asking about"? Those at the top are doing and will continue to do just fine. Those in the middle and bottom will find that their wages are being cut (or eliminated) which makes continuing to work in this business increasingly difficult if not impossible. The "global economy" is wreaking havoc on many industries and the movie business is not immune. So the rich will get richer and the workers will struggle more and more until the US government (and other governments) find a way to "encourage" corporations to keep wages at a level that can support a living where people can raise families and have "normal" lives. That's a big philosophical/political discussion for another time and place, but I say all of this so that any aspiring "filmmakers" out there will understand that it isn't just all about making "art." Filmschools do a fine job of telling kids all about the art and potential glamour, but there is a bigger picture to take into consideration when making choices about what it is someone should do for a living and how to go about it.

    Nobody knows what the future holds. The best anyone can do is to go out and do his/her best, keep a handle on finances to weather slow times, and keep going being mindful that success can be elusive...entirely possible... but there are no guarantees.
  • shades_childrenshades_children Registered User Posts: 2,206 Senior Member
    Brian:

    Thanks for starting up this thread. I'm not interested in film myself, but it's been incredibly interesting to follow along with the postings here.

    Any advice for a college junior who's interested in practical effects and animatronics? He's an art major focusing on sculpture, but his skill base is pretty broad. He's great with sculpting, modeling, materials, and paint, and he's not bad in the shop with wood or metal, either. His previous projects for school have included a mechanical metal cockroach, an installation featuring a trashcan with giant parasites and a soundtrack he mixed himself, and a series of bird-nest-like sculptures woven from painted paper. What sort of entry-level work should he be looking at? He's currently thinking about attending a special effects school after he graduates. Is this necessary or important, career-wise?
  • bjdzyakbjdzyak - Posts: 41 Junior Member
    << --shades_children --

    Brian:

    Thanks for starting up this thread. I'm not interested in film myself, but it's been incredibly interesting to follow along with the postings here.

    Any advice for a college junior who's interested in practical effects and animatronics? He's an art major focusing on sculpture, but his skill base is pretty broad. He's great with sculpting, modeling, materials, and paint, and he's not bad in the shop with wood or metal, either. His previous projects for school have included a mechanical metal cockroach, an installation featuring a trashcan with giant parasites and a soundtrack he mixed himself, and a series of bird-nest-like sculptures woven from painted paper. What sort of entry-level work should he be looking at? He's currently thinking about attending a special effects school after he graduates. Is this necessary or important, career-wise?>>

    From what you describe, your friend can pursue one of two different routes. One is as you suggest, in Special Effects, which is different from VISUAL Effects. Special Effects is the department working ON SET to create practical effects ranging from exciting things like large explosions to run-of-the-mill things like running water on a kitchen set. Visual Effects is the department OFF SET that handles computer generated effects in post-production.

    The other route he could go would be in a Make-up Effects house. A well-known example of what these people do is the Crypt Keeper from the television series. A character like that requires the skills of many artists and technicians to bring to life.

    I am only aware of one Special Effects school (specialfx101.com) that is in Florida. The curriculum may or may not be necessary for your friend, and as for everyone else working on set, it still boils down to who he knows. The road to being a professional Special Effects Technician on large "Hollywood" movies is slightly complicated and involves both the IATSE union, the Federal Department of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and a permit from the state of California if you want to handle pyrotechnics on a movie set. There is a bit too much to describe here, so I will recommend the reading below for the whole story of what working in the professional field of Special Effects is really like.

    The best way to start a career in Effects Makeup is to start creating things on your own. Find books and magazines that talk about the various products and processes for creating prosthetics and full scale masks and costumes. Take care to learn about the safety procedures to be followed when handling the various products. Most of them are highly toxic. Once you feel confident in your base of knowledge, start creating some sculptures on your own. Eventually, the sculpture will deteriorate so you’ll want to make molds to preserve your creation as a mask or resin material. Also, take pictures of everything you do. The pictures and the resin products will be your portfolio which you will use to get a foot in the door.

    Unless you are a child prodigy in art, sculpture, and creature design, your first step in the professional world of effects makeup will probably be as a RUNNER at a special effects shop. While this seems like a menial position, and can be at times, it is valuable in that you are learning how a real shop runs in the context of a real business environment. You learn firsthand where to get the various materials needed, what they cost, and how they are eventually used by the seasoned professionals.

    Once you’ve shown that you’re enthusiastic and reliable, you may be pulled from your running duties to become a full time LAB TECHNICIAN. Here, you are responsible for all sorts of things like “running” foam, brushing latex, making armatures, casting silicone, assisting with life-casting or even just assembling work tables.

    Those two positions are sort of the “support” jobs for the artists in the shop. Of course the glory jobs are in SCULPTING and PAINTING. Your portfolio coupled with the “who you know” factor will land you work in those areas…maybe. But almost equally important to the process (not that any of the steps are unimportant) is the MOLD MAKER. The clay used to create a sculpture will eventually break down and fall apart. Not that an Actor can wear a block of clay anyhow, so a mold has to be constructed from which the final product can be produced. Using a variety of techniques and materials, the Mold Maker takes a sculpture and makes a negative of it so that it can be reproduced precisely as a latex or resin (or other finishing material) piece.

    A very specialized position in the field is the MECHANIC. This is a person who is well schooled in creating internalized armatures and motors for models, miniatures, or creature effects such as eye movement and muscle control. If the film calls for such an elaborate creation, the Mechanic will be called in to collaborate with the Sculptor early on in the process to ensure that enough physical space is left for the necessary equipment to be added later. Eventually, when the product is completed, the Mechanic may also be asked to go to the set to work as the PUPPETEER. Now, the job is taking on a whole new dimension as the technician is required to “act” via the mechanical device for camera.

    The important thing for you to consider while pursuing this career is that while specializing in one area can be rewarding, it might not pay all the bills. Being a jack of all trades makes you far more valuable to a production, as they can count on you to do the jobs that might otherwise be assigned to several different people. For instance, a Sculptor may only need five days to finish a mask. Then what? If that’s all he is capable of doing, then he is now out of work. But if he also knows how to make molds, then he just picked up another few days of employment. If he is a highly skilled Painter as well, then he may get the privilege of seeing his creation from start to finish and get paid for it. Not only will you keep the checks keep coming in, but, as an added bonus, you will experience a sense of creative accomplishment.
  • luckygirl1791luckygirl1791 Registered User Posts: 79 Junior Member
    Wow. So I've read a lot of this thread, and while some of what you've said is very frank, it doesn't much surprise me. And, of course, I have a few questions of my own.

    I'm an aspiring filmmaker. Okay, just kidding. I love writing and honestly could not imagine myself doing much else in life--so I want to be a screenwriter. I'm a senior in high school, awaiting college letters and such, so everything's pretty much in the air. But I applied to a few film schools, some of which I suppose are considered the best--USC and NYU. Would it be totally useless for me to go and major in screenwriting at either of these schools? I did know before getting into the whole application process that the degree would not matter if I actually got into the business somehow--that talent and luck would make a career and all that. But other than writing, I know basically nothing about the technical work that goes on in the movie-making process, and I thought that film school would be a great way to learn how it all goes about, especially in Los Angeles, where I could perhaps intern at television studios and such. I would feel a bit guilty about spending thousands of my parents' money on school if the degree would be so useless...would it be helpful to double-major in something else "practical"? I don't know, I just think of college as a place to learn about things I'm actually interested in--film, philosophy, theology. I know none of those degrees lead to any sort of job stability, which I'm okay with. Maybe impractical, but worth the risk for me. I don't know--what do you think?
This discussion has been closed.