Wednesday, August 8, 2012

You Down With OPP: Other People's Projects

I've said it time and time again, waiting to get your movie made is something that requires patience, a lot of waiting, and creative ways to stay motivated.  This is not something you learn in film school; it takes a skill of a whole other kind.  And I'm not talking about waiting a few months, a year, or even a couple years.  I'm talking about waiting five, even ten years and beyond.  How do you pass the time, survive, and still stay fulfilled?

You ready?  Here it comes... OTHER PEOPLE'S PROJECTS!  That's right, if you can't be creative doing your own project or having a key role in another's, then it's time to take on Other People's Projects.  You down with O.P.P.?  Yeah, you know me!

So many of us artists start off this way, continue this way, and even end this way.  Yes, of course many people are in a good enough position to at least to pick Other People's Projects that they'd like to work on, but there's even more people who just work on projects.  Whether they feel any kind of passion towards it is never a given, and we all have to work.

People do all sorts of things to make some steady (or not-so-steady) cash and still be in the industry.  That way we are still in the industry we love and can work on networking or just making some friends.  These people tend to have a lot in common with us, unlike those other people who actually dress up for work.  Imagine that!  But really, this is a great way to pass the time while waiting for your big break.  It may even contribute to it.  You can work on sets specializing in a skill you picked up along the way.  Many directors love camera work.  Do something in the camera department for now, you know... while you're waiting.  Maybe audio is a skill you picked up when the boom operator was out sick on set one day.  Maybe you want to be a producer and you want to work in a production office or in on-set production.  Maybe you want to be a grip or gaffer, learning about and using all the lighting and electrical equipment.  Maybe this all horrifies you.  Maybe you're more like me and love the writing and editing of Other People's Projects.  This might not be the dream job you've been hoping for, but it's actually really fun.  You'll learn about other parts of the process and make you that much more equipped in something when you are in the director's chair.  You may learn about a medium other than narrative film, such as commercials, trailers, documentaries, webisodes... whatever!  I know I'd pick these jobs over a lot of others, and it all may benefit you later when it's time to shine.

The one catch with a lot of these jobs is most are not full time, and even less are regular 9-5 hours.  Those who know what I'm talking about are snickering and shaking their head, probably bitterly and in agreement.  Those of you who are just out of college, that'll be you one day: snickering bitterly.  Hey, something to look forward to!  The real world is nuts, but you're young, right?  Freelancing is tough too, especially in production.  You wait for that next call, hoping the last person who hired you will hire you again.  Finding your first job out of school could prove to be even worse.  Maybe if you're lucky, you'll get paid.  But take those unpaid jobs... they do turn into paid ones down the road.  Then it's time to cancel your plans for the next month or however long the job is.  Can you make plans for the weekends?  Not always.  If you're lucky enough to grab full time work... alas!  You must be in post-production.  I eventually went to post myself since writing work is very, very difficult to find and editing is the other something I love to do.

The truth is only a handful of us actually get to do our own projects.  It's obtainable, no question, but it's always good to plan for otherwise, just in case the rest of the world has gone crazy.  Here's what to expect in your backup/survival career: In production you can go from Production Assistant to a number of things.  If you like producing, you can go from up the Assistant Director ladder to 1st A.D. or Production Manager.  You can also end up in the Grip and Electric/Camera Department as a film loader, assistant cameraman, to camera operator, or from grip or gaffer to Director of Photography.  I'm not 100% sure about this road, but I think I've heard the G & E track is easier than the Camera Department on the road to D.P.  You can also go into audio as a Boom Operator or Sound Mixer.  In post you can start in shipping, advance to the dub room, work as an assistant editor, and eventually become an editor, video or audio.  You can also work as a Colorist or Animator, which also starts in shipping and continues into assistant roles, and so on.  It all really depends on what aspect of filmmaking pertains to your skill set and interests best.

So waiting for your own project can take an obscene amount of time.  Trust me, I know.   So don't just sit there... make some money and build your backup career in the meantime.  The best way to do this is to work for those lucky people who have made it already or who are in the midst of making it.  You also may help your original goal by meeting other professionals on the way.  This all can be done on Other People's Projects.  So, you tell me: You down with O.P.P.?

Yeah, you know me!