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Finding and Interviewing Camera Operators for Internet TV Shows

If like me you're not a camera operator and need to hire one for your Internet TV show, you might have some apprehension towards the task. But don't worry; I've already gone through this process. And hopefully I can help you get rid of some of your trepidation by sharing my experience.

(And just a note. This article is long. But I've summarized everything at the end of the article in point form.)

As you may (or may not) have guessed, hiring a camera operator for an Internet TV show is exactly the same as hiring a camera operator for a plain old TV show. Which probably doesn't give you any more insight than it gave me (when I came to that realization).

Although I've done alot of interviewing, it's always been for jobs I've done myself and have alot of knowledge and experience about. Interviewing someone for a job you've never done yourself can be challenging. Luckily I have a friend who used to work in the film industry (mostly doing directing) who gave me some tips. And even though you probably don't have a friend like that too, you still have me :-) (And can ask me [and others] questions on the Make Television message boards for anything this article doesn't answer.)

Where Do You Find Camera Operators

The first question that may come to your mind is, where do you find camera operators in the first place? Luckly I didn't have to go into this completely blind. Like I already mentioned, I have a friend who used to work in the film industry who gave me some tips.

He suggested posting a classified ad to get a camera operator. And also suggested 2 places to post that classified ad. #1 was the Vancouver craigslist. (I live in Vancouver.) And #2 was the classified section of some of the smaller local newspapers here. I actually didn't even bother with the local newspapers, and only posted in the crew gigs section of the Vancouver craigslist. (And by the way, if you don't live in Vancouver, you can find one for your city on the craigslist city listing.)

I actually got a very good set of responses to my camera operator classified ad. There's some talented camera operators on the Vancouver craigslist.

But before you can post your own camera operator classified ad, you have to first write it. So let's look at that.

Writing Your Camera Operator Classified Ad

The next thing you need to figure out is, what is your camera operator classified ad going to look like. Here's some tips.

  • Be honest.

    Don't lie and and try not to exaggerate (too much). If this is the first Television show you're making, just tell them that. If you don't have tons of cash, don't make it seem like you're loaded. If you don't think you can give them consistent work (and this is a one-time-job or a job that will have a highly irregular schedule), tell them that too.

  • Tell them about what you are doing.

    Tell them that you are making an Internet TV show. And give them a little info about the show you are making. Some camera operators may be interesting in working on your show because of what your show is about.

  • Tell them about their compensation

    Compensation is another way of saying, what are you going to give the camera operator for working on your project. Money? Experience that they can pad their resume with? Candy? Or what? (And how much?)

    What the compensation should be is the topic of the next section. But regardless of what it is, be explicit about it, and put it in your classified ad.

How Much Do Camera Operators Cost

If you are just starting off, money may be tight and paying thousands of dollars for a camera operator my not seem very appealing to you (or even possible). (Just so you don't get too scared and discouraged from creating your own Internet TV show, let me say right now that not all camera operators cost thousands of dollars; that's a very high-end price.) You may be hoping that you can get a talented but inexperienced camera operator to work on your show for free just so they can pad their resume. (Someone willing to work for free because he or she needs to put more work experience on their resume.) And maybe you can find one. But more likely than not, you won't. So expect to have to pay them something.

Now, although some camera operators and camera operator teams can incur a cost in the thousands of dollars (for a day's work). You can find some for only hundreds of dollars (for a day's work).

One thing you can take advantage of is that many camera operators have their own professional cameras (worth tens of thousands of dollars). So you can combine your budget for camera and camera operator into one. What I did was specify (in the classified ad) a certain amount of money for both camera operator and camera.

In my classified ad, what I put was that if the camera operator had a good enough camera they would get the total amount of cash that I listed; but if not the total amount would be split between them and the camera rental cost.

You're probably thinking, so what's the exact amount you put in your classified ad? I'll tell you that, but you need to keep in mind that in your area prices will likely be different. (In your area you'll have different costs of living, etc.) The amount I'm giving is for Vancouver in Canadian dollars and for 2006. I offered $400 CAD per episode -- for a day's work -- as long as the camera operator had a "good enough" camera. Else, the $400 CAD would be split between the camera operator and the cost of the camera rental.

This is probably as low a price as you can get away with. And remember, in your area, prices will likely be different than this. So build this into your budget.

Dealing with Camera Operator Applicants

After you've finished writing your camera operator classified ad and posted it to the craigslist (or wherever you posted it to) you'll probably get a good number of people applying for the position. Far more than you likely have time to interview.

Depending on how much time you have to spend on the interview process, you should send a short response to either some or all the applicants who applied so they know what's going on. Why would you want to do this‽ You'd want to do this because it's polite, professional, and you'd probably appreciate it if you were in their position.

You might be thinking, but what do I say to them. Here's some things you can say:

  1. Thank them for their interest in your project and their application, of course.
  2. If you know you'll want to interview them for sure, then tell them approximately when you'll be scheduling interviews. Else, if you aren't sure yet, you might want to tell them you'll be contacting all qualified applicants; and tell them approximately when that will be.
  3. If they didn't already send it to you, ask them for their resume. (They might give you a link to it on the web, or just attach it to the message they sent you.)
  4. Aiso, if they didn't already send it to you, ask them for their portfolio. (Most likely they'll give a URL to this. Although many people still don't have an online portfolio, so you might have to wait until the interview to see it.)

Preparing for Interviews

Once you figure out who'd you'd like to bring in for interviews there's some things you'll need to do.

The first thing you should do is prepare a list of questions to ask during the interview. This is a very important step. Just trying to wing the interviews will give you bad results. It's better if all the applicants answer the same set of questions. (It will make your final decision an easier one.) Of course, in the course of each interview, feel free to ask non-prepared questions too.

You should also get each applicant to bring their portfolio with them. That way you can watch it and discuss it together. For me, I asked them to being it in DVD format. We then watched it together on my laptop (which can view DVD's) and discussed it during the interview.

The next thing to do is schedule the interviews. Depending on how many people you want to interview and how much time you have to dedicate to this you may want to book off days to weeks for for this. After you've booked off the time, basically, contact each person you want to bring in for an interview, and let them know the times and days that are available for interviews, and ask them to choose one. (And remember to ask them to bring their portfolio with them.)

One thing to keep in mind is that you should expect interviews to take between 1/2 hour to 1 hour. (The majority of the interviews I did last a full hour.) So be prepared for that. Also, when you schedule the interviews, don't make them back to back. Maybe leave at least an hour between interviews.

Summary

So here's a summary of how you find and interview camera operators for your Internet TV show:

  1. Write a classified ad for your camera operator position. (And be honest when you write it.)
    • In the classified ad, say that you are making an Internet TV show.
    • In the classified ad, say what your show is about.
    • In the classified ad, say how much you will pay.
  2. Post your classified ad on your local craigslist.
  3. Write a short response to the applicants to (first thank them for their interest in your project and their application and to) let them know approximately when you will be contacting applicants to schedule interviews.
  4. Write up your questions before the interview.
  5. Schedule the interviews.
    • Expect each interview to last about 1 hour.
    • Tell the applicants to bring their portfolio with them.
  6. Do the interviews!

After the interviews are done there are a few things you should keep in mind. Who you choose depends on the nature of the show you are creating. You should also try to pick someone you think you and your team can get along with. And of course, you should feel confident in their abilities, talent, and skills.

Next Blog Entry

In my next blog entry at Make Television I'll a take little break from the experience-oriented articles, and delve into the whole vlog and vodcast thing and how it relates to Internet television. So either bookmark this site's URL -- http://maketelevision.com/ -- or subscribe to our RSS feed -- http://maketelevision.com/feed -- to keep in touch and up to date.

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published on Tuesday January 31, 2006 @ 8:44PM
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Ms. Kitka <mskitka@gmail.com> said on Tuesday March 28, 2006 @ 2:25PM:

Great site

Hey... great site you have here... very informative. It's a great resource for those interested in making shows for the internet.