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Getting a Gig: Joel Sacramento talks Networking and Craigslist

August 12, 2011 | By | Add a Comment

Jay Nolan

Where, oh where will that next project come from?

Knowing the right folks is the best way to find continuing work. But when they have all hands on deck and don’t need any more help, where do you turn to find the next gig?

Craigslist.com, the sometimes-dubious, always-hard-to-navigate, and scam-filled collaborative web-service is a resource that is often hit or miss. But when it is a hit, ho-boy is it a hit! Take the story of Joel Sacramento, a long time Chicago based filmmaker.

Sacramento started his production company 5-Minute Meter Productions in 1999, after working as Producer and Cinematographer for Midwest Outdoors Television for three years and having “framed/cut everything from broadcast news and professional sports to commercials and independent films.” Although Meter Productions put him in the position of Producer/Creative Director, Sacramento is still shooting and editing; “The best projects are the ones which I have my hands on from conception to delivery.  I enjoy the production process and contributing to all aspects of it.” Meter Productions does everything a solid production company should, from working with a variety of media for a variety of clients, to live event work, to feature films. “The company is involved in all shades of production from motion graphics and animation to educational videos and filmmaking,” says Sacramento.

With so much experience and a busy roster of production services, it may surprise some that Sacramento even bothers actively looking for more work. “I think that craigslist is a great platform for networking.  I scan craigslist postings every now and then, looking less for paid work and more for like-minded individuals who are interested in collaborating on creative projects.”

“The key for me is recognizing which posts are worth responding to.  Anything that says ‘Sundance Bound!’ or brags about IMDB is a red flag because those people are focusing on the wrong goals and setting themselves up for disappointment.”

This led him to respond to an ad for a documentary film being shot at the time: “The posting… said that the people behind King of Kong were working on a new doc and seeking experienced cinematographers.  I had no idea what the project was or if there was even pay involved.  But after an initial correspondence it was clear to me that the folks I was talking to knew what they were doing and that the new project was at the very least professionally produced (which means everything).”

Professional indeed! The post was for cinematography assistance on Make Believe.

Make Believe hit theaters a couple weeks ago and has been garnering amazing reviews and film festival awards ever since, including the Jury Prize for Best Documentary Feature at LA Film Festival and Audience Award at Austin Film Festival. It is about young magicians around the world preparing for and competing in the Teen Magician World Championship (Ala Wordplay and Spellbound).

Sacramento: “The Make Believe team had already spent time with this kid but they wanted some additional footage with him.  So, he and I spent the day together.  The producers showed me footage they had already shot with other magicians so that I could match the style.  One of the things I was asked to do was to film the magician in silhouette during sunset (this is something they did with all the other magicians in other parts of the world).  We went to the Art Institute bridge and I filmed him performing his tricks as the sun went down behind him.  I sent the producers my footage and they were very pleased with it.  A short time later I learned about the success of the film.”

From the success with Make Believe, Sacramento has begun working with the directors again on their next project, Stage Matters. “So yes, networking pays off.”

If you don’t have any contacts yet, now is the time to get them. Tis’ the season in this industry, after all. Here is a great way to get an ‘in’:

#1 Do Your Research

Look up production companies, or find out who is working on films in your area. Check them out, see what they offer. I got in touch with a company because I noticed that they used a CamMate crane, a crane I had operated the summer before. Make sure you know what kind of work they do and how you can help them. Know who is working there and who you will want to talk to about getting work.

#2 Get In There

Call up those companies or people and express your interest in their company (wow them with what you know from your research). Don’t ask them for a job – if there is not one available – then the call is done. Ask instead for a tour of their studio and to be shown what they are working on and with.

#3 Sell Yourself

It might seem counter-intuitive, but simply offer your services for cheap/free at their next gig. If you can grip, camera-assist, or do general PA duties; get in there and impress the heck out of them. Payment isn’t important; making a show of what an indispensable worker you are is. I did this on a music video a few weeks ago, and have already gotten a request to show up for the next 2 shoots for a serious pay raise!

#4 Closing Remarks from Joel Sacramento, a Man Who Has Been There and Knows:

“It’s crucial that you know your gear inside and out, so exercise your shooting skills as much as possible.  Also, you shouldn’t buy gear if you can’t financially justify owning it.  A big advantage that videographers have these days is the ability to rent gear cheaply or even borrow it.” And never, never “underestimate the need for a professional, fluid-head tripod.”


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