Archive for the ‘ReelScenes’ Category


Work is like buses…

August 29, 2011

Well, freelance work is anyway.

I made the choice to look for freelance work while I was studying at uni. Unlike many of my classmates who were looking for the holy grail of a video salary job (about as fruitful a venture as looking for a Page 3 calendar in Vatican City), I had all my own albeit low-end kit and I was quite the multi-skiller. I started out with music videos and low-end corporate work and eventually moved into fiction as my skills improved and I focused in on what I wanted to do.

At no point have I earnt a living doing this though. The type of industry pool I’m fishing in is full of budget-conscious and, dare I say it, tight marine life. They want everything to be shit-hot, done yesterday and cost fuck-all. They don’t want professional rates- £500 a day? More like £500 for the whole project, pre-prod and editing included! And of course, you don’t want to take it- you’ll be working your bollocks off for a pittance and they’ll probably balk at paying on time- but if you don’t take it, someone else will. There are always plenty of wannabees with a DSLR willing to whore themselves out as filmmakers and although they might not be in your league, they are your competitors. Just be sure to let the client know what you will and won’t do for that money…

I went off at a tangent there (I’ll save the rates rant for another time). Where I was heading with all that was that last year I decided that if I was going to suffer low income for video work, I was going to do so on my own terms. So I set up my own business making showreel scenes for actors. Without pimping the business too much ( – there, pimp over!), I write, plan, shoot, direct and edit complete drama scenes for actors’ showreels and I’ve found it to be moderately successful since I started doing it this time last year. I’m averaging one shoot every six weeks at the moment, which fits in quite well with the day job I had to take to pay the rent.

Recently, however, I had two shoots in one week. One was a rom-com scene which had been on the cards for a while- we were waiting for one actor to become available and for everyone’s schedules to align. That diary equinox happened on Tuesday and we managed to scramble together a location and shoot the scene in a few hours. The other scene was a contemporary drama with a distinctly northern feel. The only time everyone was free was Thursday night and the only suitable location we could get at short notice was a small gym in north London. It took a good few hours, but the scene turned out a lot better than I expected.

The point of all this though is that between all of these shoot days, I was still showing up at my day job. In fact, I’d been working on Thursday during the day, finished at 8, got in the car with my Boom Op and drove to Muswell Hill, shot from 9.30 till about 2.30 and got back to Reading about half 3 in the morning. I then had a full day at my day job to look forward to and a 7am wake up call to get me there. At several points I wondered if this was a good idea, if I should postpone the shoot- after all, I’m 30 and not able to do all this dual-ended-candle-burning as I once was. But I’m glad I did- the shoots worked out great- and I’ve earnt a few brownie points with my day job as well.

The fact is, in this industry, freelance work is very much like the metaphorical buses. You’ll have busy periods and dead periods. Downtime and running-around-like-a-mad-bastard-time. And you have to be able to cope with that- not just in terms of the irregularity with which your bank account moves between red and black, but also with the idea that you may not get much sleep between jobs, might be spending days and nights travelling and the fact that you might be doing your body extensive damage with all the energy drinks you’re having to consume. If you have a family, you may also have to make some awkward decisions- missing school plays and anniversaries or turning down jobs that take you away from them for too long.

It’s not quite as simple as turning up to the same place every day, doing the minimum required of you and then leaving at the same time like clockwork so you can go home and fall asleep in front of the TV.

And, if I’m honest, I wouldn’t have it any other way…