Technician's toolkit: Surviving the film and TV industry
What does it take to work behind the scenes in the film and TV industry? We asked some of our key technician members for their advice for people just starting out in the industry. From DoPs to hair and makeup designers, what are some of the qualities needed for a successful career in the film and TV industry, and what to expect.
Andrew Conder, director of photography
My advice to young people is firstly - Join the union! The most important thing is to make sure you are passionate about this industry, it is not an easy business to be in and there will be a lot of slow times as well as a lot of long hard hours, sometimes you are struggling to find a dollar, the next week you could be making thousands. You have to be passionate and dedicated to your craft (and I mean REALLY dedicated). Also, keep researching the latest ideas and equipment so you are ready when you have to step up.
Aga Hayder, second assistant director
Be stubborn. And hardworking. People will eventually notice you’ve got it if you’re willing to put in the effort, even if you feel like you’re not getting anywhere for ages. And get to know the right people - which is the tricky bit.
Simon Duggan, director of photography
My advice to a someone starting out in the camera department is to try get on film productions as an attachment to gain work experience and familiarity with the workings of a film production and crew. Joining one the the film schools such as AFTRS or joining the Australian Camera Society as a student member is also great way to get introductions into the industry.
Adam Grace, props
There’s nothing like showing examples of your work that you’ve done on your own. When I started, it was because I had done model-making as a hobby and I was able to show the stuff i’d done myself. I was able to show that I was able to use my hands and materials. I was able to show my knowledge about measurement and scale, neatness and finish. Being able to show photos or physical examples of anything that you’ve made or having a recognised skill like metal work, engineering, drafting or design. Its another tool to showcase your skill.
Jennifer Lamphee, hair and makeup designer
To keep persisting and to get out and do work experience as much as you can with a really great attitude. Someone will snap you up as an assistant.
Jake Iesu, Steadicam operator
Sometimes it can be a difficult road, early mornings, late nights, long days. Get a good taste for the business in an entry level role before you devote your life to it. Speak to your family, especially your significant other. Are you sure you're both on board with the demands of the job? If you are, just go at it with your teeth bared! Be positive. Don’t complain. Work hard, but most importantly, work smart. In the camera department especially, everything is about having systems: systems for getting your marks; systems for setting up the equipment; and systems for getting paid on time. The more time and focus you put into your systems, the smoother and better everything will work for you.
Finally a very good focus puller friend gave me this advice when I got married which I feel is equally relevant to our business. "Two ears one mouth, listen twice as much as you speak.”
Chris Webb, assistant director
Don't be afraid of getting your hands dirty or to ask questions. Listen and watch. Go for it!
Geoff Tarr, art department
These positions I believe, are 90% on the job training and this needs to be considered carefully because you need to initially be willing to spend many hours/weeks/months of learning and working hard with a good 'not precious’ attitude. A good position will be offered and when you get it, tenaciously hold it with pride and apply yourself with passion just like any other job in life and expect to be paid fairly for your hard work.
Robertto Karas, gaffer
My advice to people wanting to get into the industry is to work hard and find someone to mentor you.
Simon Lucas, unit manager
Have enthusiasm. Anyone who comes into the industry needs to be aware that it’s a lot of hard work and a lot of long hours. The rewards are there if you put the time and effort in. I would recommend an open mind. Some people come into our department and then move into other creative departments. Unit is a great stepping stone for the industry. You get to see the whole set, see what it’s like, make the contacts and see where would be the best fit for you.