Will you work for free?
The answer to that is "Yes", however I won't just team up with anyone. I've made that mistake in the past and it turned into a 3 year nightmare from which there was no being rescued. That's a story for another time.
For me to guarantee and commit my time to any kind of "passion project", I need to know the chemistry between myself and the cast and crew. Not all creative minds can get along or see the same vision, or respect the vision of the leader on the project.
Beyond great chemistry, there needs to be professionalism and quality from every aspect of the film. The story, script, acting, directing, editing, sound, video and lighting quality, and overall strength of the production must be solid and enjoyable.
I don't care about the budget on passion projects. Amazing things have been achieved with virtually nothing but ambition and commitment. What I care about is being part of something real, surrounded by people who made it real. I won't work with "weekend wannabes". These are people who sparsely commit with limited involvement or bail when times are tough. I see these people as ones who care more about fame or fortune than great storytelling. They're the ones most likely to ruin the production or stab you in the back for the price of a Happy Meal.
When someone makes an Indie Film, they need commitment and dedication from everyone from beginning to end, otherwise the production and everyones reputation suffers.
I also expect professionalism from everyone, and for everyone to respect the roles each individual plays in the project, whether as talent or crew. Every part is significant and demands skill and experience. "One Man Bands" are often (not always) a red flag for me. These are productions where one person is the writer, director, actor, producer, editor, and all around know it all with their own personal agenda. Their qualifications are simply "they love movies and always wanted to be in them". Just because you love movies and wanna be an actor... doesn't make you a great actor or filmmaker.
It's important we know our limitations. For example... I absolutely LOVE to sing... however, I'm cursed with the voice of a dying seagull. I accept this. Not being able to sing makes me appreciate those who can even more. I know my strengths, and I know my weaknesses. This makes me a strong link in the chain as I won't tackle any projects I'm not qualified for.
If the cast and crew are committed to project, and hired because of their experience and skill, not because they had the weekend off, that's a huge deal for me. I won't give up my time and use of tens of thousands of dollars of equipment for those who don't take filmmaking seriously.
The final recipe is knowing this passion project actually has "passion"! I want to know why this story is so important to the person or team. I want to be as excited about it as the creators, cast, and crew, otherwise what's the point? Filmmaking is hard work and it can consume ones life and exhaust them of ever ounce of energy they have... yet through it all, they're having fun and loving every minute of it from beginning to end.
Will you loan out your equipment?
That would be a loud and resounding "No". I won't even consider renting it out, let alone someone just using my equipment. My equipment is my lifeline, and it's taken me years and years to acquire. I began my film career with literally nothing, and made movies and short films and music videos with the most limited of equipment and budget, and yet we made some great productions. Now, I own around $30K worth of cameras, lenses, lights, microphones, filters, diffusers, stands, tripods, jibs, sliders, and more.
I'm more than happy to add my equipment to the production as long as I'm actively on set and in control of who touches a camera or lens, microphone, light, or sandbag. Insurance must be provided in case of theft, damage, or loss to my equipment as well. If at anytime I feel someone is no longer qualified or trustworthy to properly handle the equipment, I will have the final say in that matter.
The is a strict code of conduct on professional film productions and I follow it even on Indie Films.
What roles in filmmaking are your favorite?
First and foremost, I love being the Director of Photography (DOP or DP). There's something really exciting about bringing the visual goals of the director to life, and feeding off the emotion of the scene and actors by dictating the lighting, composition, camera position and movement, and lens types all to convey the emotion and purpose of the scene.
As a Director of Photography, I will still work as Cinematographer. I love working as a Steadicam Operator, utilizing the "Tilta Jib & RS2 Gimbal". This is a fantastic hybrid of being a steadicam operator and jib operator in one.
On larger productions with multiple camera operators, I will always choose the most qualified operator for the specific scene to take on the role of Steadicam Operator, Drone Operator, Jib Operator, or lockdown shots from a slider or tripod.
I love Editing as well. There's an art form to piecing together the scenes to create the best version of the story being told. Even a single frame can make or break the scene.
When are you available?
I am self-employed, running my two businesses "I Am Cinema" and "Kaizen Tactical Combatives". This affords me a certain level of flexibility to get heavily involved in a passion project.
As a business owner, paid gigs and clients have priority over my time. However once I make a commitment, I stick to it. I will book clients around my time as a freelance filmmaker, unless the paid gig demands that time and is too valuable to lose the income.
On an open schedule, I can offer sometimes up to 4 full days a week of dedicated time on set. I'll see the entire project through from Pre-Production to Post-Production.
I'm willing to travel as well as work overnights.
Are you available for hire or sub-contract?
Yes! I have often been hired by other production studios to help with their overload of projects.
Whether I'm brought on board to edit, or run B-Camera, or do VFX animations, or shoot product photography for a clients product, I enjoy these partnerships with other professionals.
I often use my own equipment on these projects, though there are times when they provide the gear as their are certain specs needed to be met.
I'm always willing to sign the necessary NDAs for clients and other production companies. My reputation is everything to me, so when trusted to work on someone else's project, I treat theirs as my own and give it my full attention, skill, and respect.
For those wondering, I edit on a current Mac Pro and MacBook Pro, and use Adobe CC. If you're a Final Cut or Avid editor, I won't be able to help you on the edits.
Will you work as a Director?
Cautiously and excitedly... Yes. I've Directed a few Indie Films and many of my own Passion Projects. While this position in filmmaking is highly coveted... one must proceed with caution.
In my experience, being a Director comes with many pros and cons. You're given creative direction and control over a production, and despite your best efforts to create a film you truly believe in, you'll always be met with objection and ridicule. Mostly this is when "Ego" gets in the way from various individuals on a production.
Don't get me wrong... I love Directing. But I feel directing is something I'm better at when it's my own creative project.
It wasn't until I worked under someone who became a very close friend of mine... in fact, one of the best friends I've ever made... Marc Zatorsky. He taught me more about Directing in the two series we worked together on than a lifetime of education could ever hope to accomplish.
Our relationship worked out perfectly. He learned to trust my visual creation of his film, and I learned to trust his direction. We butted heads quite often, but always came to a truce and together created something we both believed strongly in. I can't forget to mention Shawnee... she was the bond that held us together and kept us on track. It was truly a trio of creativity and passion that made our partnership work so perfectly.
I'm falling off track... To answer the question... I'd much rather join in as a Director of Photography or Cinematographer in someone else's production, than be a Director. It's easy enough to direct my own projects, but I truly believe a Director's role is best left to someone in creative control of the story. As a Director of Photography, I can bring their story to life.