Through My Eyes

Timing was everything.

They Don’t Teach You What It Means To Freelance in School

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Since returning from my travels in July, I’ve been shooting various video assignments all over the bay area. Granted, I picked up the 5D in February and hadn’t anticipated this to be my primary role leaving grad school – in all honesty – it’s been the most challenging and eye-opening experience thus far, mainly because I’m doing it solo, whereas for the last two years, I’ve worked with crews of shooters, grips, gaffers, PAs, sound guys, etc. Doing this on your own (and being a petite female) is a whole ‘nother story. And one that I could probably write a book about…someday.

Here, I’m just going to drop some knowledge (or evidence of past ignorance/naivete) so that anyone who’s reading is or has been in a similar situation can at least learn what to or what not to do. I’ll call it:

Lessons I’ve Learned Since Finishing Grad School and Being Hurled Out Into The “Real World” (if San Francisco can even be considered that…)

1) You’re going to come across eccentric (good & bad) and even downright unpleasant clients – clients who patronize you, who undervalue what you do, who have no idea what they want nor what is required of them before a first meeting/shoot, clients who don’t consider nor care that you’re parked in a garage across the street and paying a pretty penny to spend 8 hours there, but continue to divulge irrelevant details about their personal lives to you after you’ve wrapped. Some clients can be assholes. Some clients can be really amazing, fun, and inspiring to work with. Be prepared to encounter both, and if you’re lucky, everything in between.

2) You’re going to make mistakes. Realize that. Expect that. And accept it. You will only get better as you make mistakes and learn from each and every single one of them. You’re going to kick yourself when you hit record, realize you really should’ve remembered to ask someone to move those bins that are now showing at the top right corner of your frame every time you pull out for a wide shot, and can’t move to re-frame because it’s a one camera shoot.  You barely have enough room to stand there with your giant ass Manfrotto among a sea of guests, and everything the speaker is saying needs to be captured. Whoops.

3) Audio. Audio. Audio. Know what circumstances you’re dealing with before you even arrive to the location of the shoot. If you’re using new or rented gear you’ve never used before, show up an hour or two earlier and test all your gear at the location. If you know there’s going to be a handheld mic (being passed from speaker to speaker with no buffer time nor intermissions) and a mixer, bring all your cables, adapters, and accessories. Don’t just rely on one source of audio be it a wireless lav or a shotgun mic. Bring it all with you just in case. And don’t be afraid to ask the A/V guy for help. He can be your best friend during event shoots. I can’t stress that enough.

4) Tell your client what they need to bring or expect the day of the shoot. Clarify how and when you want to transfer the footage, how long you’ll hold onto the raw footage (before transcoding/compressing), and how you prefer to be paid prior to the first day of shooting. It’s communicating these things that will lessen the stress on both you and your client because logistics will be laid out preventing miscommunication, frustration, confusion…all that good stuff.

5) Do your research. Before you go and shoot for a client for the first time, read up on their bios, their work, their organization, who to look out for if it’s an event, and what questions to ask on the day of the shoot. Even if it’s a one-time gig, prepare yourself so that you feel invested on the day of, and your client will usually appreciate the fact that you feel connected to your subject(s). It makes a huge difference, trust me. Plus, it makes it less boring for you behind the camera.

6) It’s okay to splurge on fancy gear if you can afford it and it makes sense. Read the customer reviews, forums, blogs on any piece of gear you want to own. Keeps your ears perked and eyes open for gear you commonly see being used among your peers and people who produce work you are inspired by. It usually pays for itself with the production value it adds to your work. I may be going broke with everything I’ve invested in, but I also feel that I’m learning more and more about the technicality of shooting than I would be without all of these purchases. It’s worth it if you want to get better and know what you’re doing.

I feel like I could go on and on, but it’s late. I’ll end with God Speed and Good Shooting…


Written by winniewongsf

October 30, 2012 at 2:28 am

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