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A Freelance Camera Crew’s Guide to Success

6.21.16

One of the best-known perks of freelancing is the flexibility. But for a freelance camera crew member, all that freedom comes at a cost. Sourcing new clients, managing a hectic schedule, and staying up to date on your insurance requires discipline. Whether you’re a beginning freelance camera crew or part of the old guard, everyone can use a little help. That’s why we reached out to one of our favorite freelance camera operators Rodney Lane Butler to pass on some of his hard-earned advice.

Rodney’s Tips for A Freelance Camera Crew Member

1) Be early.

Though no one notices when you’re on time, everyone knows when you’re late. So always be early. That is, if you want to keep working. Bonus tip: Apply this advice to every part of your life—not just call time.

2) To get on a crewer’s preferred list, do good work. 

Edible Arrangements and a round of drinks alone won’t get a freelance camera crew more work. Great work gets you more work. Let your product speak for itself. When it does; crewers, directors, and producers will talk, too.

You’re only as good as your last job. Live sports and concerts are fun to shoot, but they’re unpredictable. You have to be on your toes 100 percent of the time. If you miss a moment, it’s gone. As Rodney says, “If you screw up three events in a row, they’re not booking you again.”

3) Join every hotel, rental car, and airline frequent whatever program! 

Reap the rewards while clients pay for expenses. Points and miles do accumulate! After 20 years in freelance media, Rodney rarely pays for personal flights, hotels, or car rentals.

4) Don’t pigeonhole yourself. 

We’ve probably all heard that complacency is the enemy of excellence. Don’t take the same gigs year in and year out because they’re easy and you don’t have to learn anything new. Make yourself available for new opportunities. If a last-minute shoot comes up—take it! You never know where it might lead.

For example, say your 10-year stint with NASCAR comes to an end when they move to another network and you don’t. Such a change can leave you high and dry if you haven’t kept your options open and your skills sharp.

5) Learn to say “No.” 

For Rodney, the flexibility of freelance media was the initial draw because it paid great and allowed him to spend time with his mom, who was fighting leukemia. He’s grateful for the time it provided with her before she passed away. However, the flexibility can also pose a challenge. Rodney’s says the hardest part of his job is “knowing when to say no to jobs so you can create time for your family.”

Once you commit to a freelance job, you’re going to have a hard time replacing yourself on set—even if it means missing an important birthday or family vacation. Rodney’s advice? “Just don’t take it if you are iffy.”

Rodney Lane Butler has been a freelance cameraman in sports television production for nearly 20  years. Rodney has filmed live concerts—his favorite!—with bands like KISS and Aerosmith and sporting events including NASCAR, NHRA drag races, the NBA finals, the Stanley Cup finals, and a Super Bowl. He’s even filmed shows with cameos from Presidents George Bush and Barack Obama. He  specializes in robotics, RF cameras, handhelds, and remote sports camera operations. Book Rodney at 704-724-6287 or butlerr@bellsouth.net.

About Crew Connection:

Crew Connection connects you with media professionals—including the best freelance camera crew for your project— across the country and around the globe. With more than 25 years of experience and thousands of shoots with film crew pros to our credit, you can trust our expert coordinators to match you with the right freelance camera crew and equipment—every time.

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