Daniel Haggett

London based Lighting Cameraman / DoP 

Since I wrote a blog post about "how to become a cameraman" it has become one of the more popular articles on the site, so the next question is "how do I find work as a cameraman?".   The short answer is that it isn't easy when you start out and a freelance career can take a good while, at least a year, to build.  The problem is, everyone is looking for the most experienced cameraman they can find, so how do you get that experience when starting out?  There are a few different options you can try when looking for work.

 

1) On line.  There are plenty of website that advertise jobs for the film and TV industry as well as Facebook groups etc some of these are free to join, others not.  Many of these sites work better for APs PDs etc than for camera crew.  The main reason for this is that most of those jobs will last several months, whereas a cameraman may only be needed for a week or even just a day, so companies a tend not to go to all the effort of advertising for such short job.  Having said that, longer jobs, such as working on long running reality shows, are occasionally advertised on line.  Full time work at production companies, facilities houses and broadcasters are also advertised in this way.  

 

2) Diary Agencies.  Diary services offer to look after your bookings, take phone calls for you if you are busy shooting and can arrange your diary.  They can also put you forward for jobs when offers come in from production companies.   When joining an agency it is worth having a look at the other cameramen on their books, if they are all much more experienced than you, then you know those people are likely to be picked for work over you.  The key is to join an agency that has people with a similar level of experience to you.  Some agencies might specialise in documentaries, films, dramas and so on, so it is worth looking at lots of agencies to get the right match for your skill set.  The main issue with diary services is the expense, most companies charge 100 - 200 GBP per month in the UK, and there is no guarantee they will be able to get you any work. However, if you think your experience is similar to others that are well represented by an agency, it might be worth taking a punt, you could spend over a grand for a years fees, but just one good job offer could take care of that cost.

 

3) Word of mouth.  By far the best way to get jobs is words of mouth.  The TV industry is built around trust, if a director is about to go to Alsaska with a cameraman, he or she needs someone who shoots great pictures, is reliable and that will be easy to get along with.  This last point is massively important, who wants to spend every waking minute with someone they can't stand?  Things like personality can't be judged from a CV, resume or profile on an online service.  In this situation a personal recommendation is going to carry much more weight than a CV from a stranger or even a recommendation from an agency.  So how to be that person who is recommended?  Firstly, on every job you do, do it well, be helpful and pro active, try to work above and beyond your actual remit as a cameraman.  Remember job recommendations could come from pretty much any of the crew, not just the PM or Director. Secondly, try to nurture any of those relationships you build on a shoot.  Keep in touch with those people either face to face, or through social media, whether that is Twitter, Facebook Linked in, or just though email.  The important thing is to keep these relationships going, you don't need to be hounding these people sending them CVs or Resumes, but you do need to keep in their thoughts so they don't forget you.  Drop Productions Managers, Co ordinatiors, Directors etc an occasional mail to stay in touch and who knows, at some point they'll be looking for someone and your name might be in their mind.

 

4) Give jobs away.  If someone offers you a job, but you are already booked, recommend another person you know.  Chances are they will return the favour.  You will also have made a Production Managers job a bit easier, and they will be grateful to you.

 

5) Persevere.  Work in the TV and film industry is oversubscribed, lots of people want these jobs.  No one just effortlessly works into a freelance career, it takes time to build skills, experience and relationships, however, in the end if you put the time and effort in, there is a good career there.