How to Break Into the Entertainment Biz

Art Adams
By Art Adams 02.14.08

Hi all! Thanks to my friend Adam Wilt and the graciousness of the PVC gang I now have a soapbox to slip off of. I'll do my best to fall regularly and spectacularly.

My first post is an essay I wrote a few years ago in response to a seemingly endless number of queries asking how to break into the film business. It's not the "film" business anymore, but if you're trying to make it onto a camera crew in Hollywood, or any other major production center, here's my advice as to how to do it.

Whip up a latte or a cafe creme, sit back, and enjoy. "How to Break Into the Entertainment Biz" starts below the fold.

Why I Wrote This Article

I get a lot of e-mail from film and video students asking how they can break into the film or television industries. I can't afford the luxury of answering everyone's questions individually so I decided to put my advice in writing. I hope it's helpful.

If you are an aspiring cinematographer, the best path is to write a blockbuster script, sell it to a studio, and attach yourself as cinematographer.

The second best path is to start off as a second camera assistant or film loader. The second camera assistant loads and unloads the film magazines (if there is no film loader), handles the slate, keeps the camera reports and film inventories, keeps all the camera equipment not attached to the camera organized and nearby, and makes cappuccinos for the rest of the camera crew. He or she drags all the equipment around and is the emotional whipping post for the first camera assistant. This is a huge responsibility.

There's a lot of gear and film to drag around and keep track of, and on top of that you have to learn to steam a mean mocha. You're usually first to arrive on set and the last to leave. It's very hard work.

The first camera assistant deals with everything attached to the camera. He or she is responsible for configuring the camera in whatever configuration is required; loading and unloading the camera; setting the stop on the lens according to the DP's instructions; following focus and zooming when required; physically moving the camera unless it is on a dolly; making sure it is working the way it should at any given time; and whipping the second camera assistant when something goes wrong. This, also, is a very tough job.

Second camera assistants work very closely with first camera assistants, and usually form a team that will travel from one picture or project to another. The key to getting hired is to create hot coffee-based drinks that appeal to all the senses. Secondarily, it helps to be enthusiastic and able to adapt your working style to your first assistant's style. He or she will get you hired, so make their job as easy as possible by taking care of everything that's not directly attached to the camera, ie. filters, lenses, coffee mugs.

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