Getting Started – Camera Dept. Denise Woods
Denise works freelance as a camera assistant in the Camera Department for film, TV, advertising and experimental films. Recent credits include Inside I’m Dancing, Big Bow Wow. She just returned from Algeria shooting a pilot for a documentary.
I started working in 1998 for the Irish Film Institute as a receptionist for about six months and then I moved to Media Desk for another six seven months. After that I went travelling for about two years. When I came back to Ireland, I was finding it hard to get work in the film industry when I got a call from Séamus Duggan, from Filmbase. He asked me if I was interested in doing receptionist job for them, so I said yes (I needed the work). I worked for one year for Filmbase and it was during that time that I got into working in camera.
I was working on films while I was in Filmbase, and because Filmbase runs short films I got onto a short film by Brendan Muldowney, The Honourable Scaffolder, in the Art Department, for a couple of days. During that time I was thinking I definitely have a strong interest in camera, because I was always a fan of photography anyway, so I thought I’d like to try the camera side thing. After that, I started working as a Camera Trainee and during my holiday time, and days off, I shot films. So basically it was a year of constantly working, mainly at weekends, I rarely took a day off.
I’ve done a couple of camera courses in Filmbase, for Super 16, for Digital Camera and also a course in Directing. I just basically went from there, kept working and working until I got a job on the Big Bow Wow as a Camera Assistant. It was my first Camera Assistant job, which run for three months. I went directly from that onto Inside I’m Dancing as a Video Assist.
I had a good run. But it was a very tough two years, it wasn’t easygoing, and I worked really, really, really hard to get into it. It was a question of self-determination and just doing it.
Advantages of Formal Education
I think that being in college would help but I don’t think it gives you the facts you can experience working on a set. I think that it depends on the person that you are as well. Going to College is one way of going about it, but it doesn’t necessary guarantee you a job in film. I think that the best thing to do is to go out and just throw yourself into it, and work on set, and learn that way, because reading things in a book is certainly not the thing same as getting the hands on experience. The only way you learn is to experience it. That’s my theory, anyway.
Don’t give up. If you really, really want to do it, don’t give up. And also if you are in it to make money, all I can say is that for the first few years, you won’t, you just won’t. You could be lucky, and you could make some money but a lot of the films that I worked on, when I was trainee, I didn’t get paid for them. Don’t expect to get rich quick, it’s not a get rich quick scheme going into film. Go in and do it, and do it if you love it, and if it’s something that you are very interested in. Don’t go and do it just because you think it is cool to work in film, because it’s not the glamour and the glitz that you would expect it to be. If you are getting into it for those reasons, don’t do it. Working in a film set is tough, it’s tough work and it’s demanding. It’s very enjoyable if you are into it, but if you’re not into it, it’s not worth it.
Networking in Ireland is very important. You need to let people know that you are there and you are willing to do a job. If you’re out of sight, you’re out of mind in the film industry, you will not be hired and that’s it. Building up your reputation is also important you need to get your foot in the door and to get onto film sets and work for people and then they know you are capable on doing the job.
Just take over the world!
This originally appeared in an article in Issue 105 of Film Ireland Magazine.