Crew Connection Tips and Tricks for Crews

How Would an Immediate $50K Change Your Business?

How Would an Immediate $50K Change Your Business? 150 150 Alicia East

If every late or missed payment you’ve ever had showed up in your accounts today, what difference would that make to your business? According to this report, more than half of freelancers have over 50K in unpaid/late invoices. That’s no small thing. It’s a kitchen renovation. It’s a really nice car. It can even be a security umbrella during an unexpected pandemic or an international crisis!

One of my earliest clients ghosted me on a small job. The client was (hand to my heart) a collections agency. The fact that I had just taken the scary step of leaving a regular job made the blow extra painful. I followed up for over a year before letting it go. I’ve had the good fortune of working for mostly wonderful clients but even at this moment, I have 2 invoices in the red column. Maybe you can relate.

No matter what, being a freelancer is hard. Especially at the beginning, when many freelancers operate like a one-man band. You pound the pavement to get work, you do the work, and then sometimes, you have to pound the pavement to actually get paid.

Among the other discouraging statistics, survey respondents reported the following:

  • 74% are not getting paid on time
  • 72% have outstanding, unpaid invoices
  • 59% are owed $50,000+

Okay, so how can you combat this discouraging truth?

1. Require Contracts And a Down Payment

This was one of my earliest adjustments. In addition to writing a contract prior to doing any work, I started invoicing 50% up front. This means even when someone flakes on the second half, it’s not a total loss.

2. Fill Your Pipeline With Work

Crew Connection empowers professional video service providers to take their schedules back into their own hands. Since our database is online and on-demand, it allows clients to search directly for you. Once clients find a potential match, they are able to message you directly to get the booking process started. Removing the middleman means you get high-quality clients and projects delivered straight to your inbox.

Your professional profile on Crew Connection lets you control your own destiny. Creating an impressive Crew Connection profile that includes your best stills, demo reel, and bio information helps you quickly build a pipeline of paying projects with our high-quality clients. A full pipeline and steady cashflow helps buffer you against slower times and late payments. 

4. Guarantee Net 30

Guaranteed payment in 30 days can be a game changer. Every Crew Connection job  is ensured within 30 days of receiving your invoice. Every. Single. Time. You don’t have to worry about harassing a late client or going up against a much bigger company.  Video production professionals have a powerful partner in Crew Connection.

And while you can do everything online if you want, you still have the same excellent service and support from our crew coordinators whenever you need it. Give us a call literally any time at 303-526-4900, drop us a message right on the Crew Connection website, or use our handy Crew Connection chat feature to get a quick response between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. MT. 

The Bottom Line

Make sure you never have another $50K of lost work by setting up your own professional profile in just minutes. Crew Connection puts a suite of marketing tools at your fingertips. Get your demo reels, stills, gear, awards, and more in front of the biggest clients all over the world—for free.

independent contractor

Engaging Independent Contractors The Right Way

Engaging Independent Contractors The Right Way 800 536 Alicia East

Every business leader knows that hiring independent contractors has many benefits. Among the many perks are being able to outsource tasks, engage workers only when needed, end engagement whenever it makes sense, have less onboarding hassle, and avoid paying for benefits. It makes sense why engaging independent contractors is often to a company’s advantage, but only when it’s done in accordance with IRS guidelines. Here’s what you need to know to stay out of trouble.

An Ounce of Prevention

Classifying workers correctly from the outset is the best way to prevent problems and unwanted interactions with the IRS since a worker’s classification guides what benefits they’re entitled to by law. No matter what size your business is, the IRS is paying attention. Legal disputes over worker classification have plagued everyone from Fortune 500 companies to small businesses. Following the rules and classifying correctly from the beginning saves time as well as the potential for legal troubles.

Be Ready to Adapt

From workers to legislators, people are thinking about how to manage the evolving employment landscape. We can only guess how things will change, but we do expect them to change. Some envision an entirely new system with changing guidelines that suit changing times. Such a system might include “portable benefits” that travel with workers from company to company.

Whatever happens, businesses that stay in tune with legal considerations are in position to adapt as those changes come. When that’s not something a company can accommodate internally, engaging a third party to handle those details makes sense.

Protect Yourself

There are some basic ways to protect yourself should the IRS ever come knocking. The world of independent contractors offers benefits to workers and companies alike. While those benefits do include flexibility for workers and lower costs to employers, they don’t cover things we’ve grown used to such as built-in 401K plans, health insurance options, and worker’s compensation. For many independent contractors, that’s a problem. Understanding expectations helps protect everyone. It’s always good business to create a contract with an independent contractor. It’s not just good for businesses. Making sure everyone knows the expectations is good for employees, too.

The Bottom Line

Currently, there is no roadmap that guides businesses to pay contractors fairly while keeping costs down. The good news is that at PayReel, our sister company, we have been on this road long enough to navigate it legally and ethically. If you can’t (or just don’t want to) keep up with the rules and developments, PayReel can keep up for you. Check out this handy guide to see if you might benefit from having a third party handle these details for you. Our PayReel team manages worker classification, payroll, and payroll taxes. In addition, as the employer of record, we even take on all risks associated with a variable workforce.

Going above and beyond in the ethics department isn’t just a warm and fuzzy notion. It’s a sound business decision, too.

Ever Been Ghosted After a Job? We Got You, Boo.

Ever Been Ghosted After a Job? We Got You, Boo. 2560 1707 Alicia East

Every small business is familiar with that one invoice sitting in their pending receipt queue, racking up late fees while you wait for a client to pay up. Sure, you could hold deliverables hostage until you receive a check. But that’s not always feasible. And wouldn’t it be nice just to know you’re gonna get paid in 30 days no matter what? Our crews tells us that’s one of the biggest advantages of booking jobs through Crew Connection.

That, along with simplified prospecting means more legitimate leads (and therefore, projects) and a more reliable cash flow.

Here’s what our crews love most about booking projects through Crew Connection

1. High-quality leads seek you out

Every potential new client is inherently a gamble. You don’t start the project with the guarantee that they’ll pay on time—or at all. You don’t know if you’ll spend hours on a proposal only to have it go unseen. Not only does Crew Connection guarantee Net 30, it also takes the grunt work out of submitting proposals.

2. Bids turn into projects

Crew Connection’s tools make it easy for clients to find the crews that are the right fit for their job. And when they know they’re getting the best (that’s you!), they feel more comfortable booking. One crew told us that 100% of their leads actualized. 100 percent!

3. Get the best clients and projects without the hassle

One of the biggest challenges for crews and clients alike is accurate, easy, organized communication. Our online database centralizes details and simplifies communications. You can view and manage every detail—including gear and budget from our centralized, easy platform.

Ready to book better projects? 

Update your profile and ask your next client to book through our platform.

Clients Are Looking For Crews With These Skills

Clients Are Looking For Crews With These Skills 800 544 Alicia East

Just when you’ve mastered your craft, 2020 comes along, everything just up and goes virtual on us, and you have to stretch your creative muscles again. Speaking of crafts, maybe you’re doing more of them with your kids while missing the craft services on set? If it’s any solace, let’s just remember that the crudités and bite-sized cheesecake squares on set are only okay. And also that there’s still work for crews with the rise of virtual events and virtual productions.

While in-person conferences often need in-person videographers, online events need virtual crews! You might film or produce from afar or provide pre-produced videos to help the brand convey the exact message they want. There’s still work. Clients just need to know you can handle it. And while even celebrities have taken to recording Zoom calls and doing some fancy post-production for remarkably watchable content, Zoom is not our savior. Nope. It works well enough for some situations, but as we talked about here,  you can have professional, pre-pandemic quality footage without showing up in person.

Can you do any of these?

Remote Event Production – As a virtual event’s point person, this role is responsible for setting up the event within your platform, managing the live event, and dealing with any glitches.

Remote Producing / remote shooter – We went into some of the ways to do a shoot from afar here. Maybe you have others. 

Either way, update your profile  at Crew Connection with all your remote/virtual capabilities so clients know you can pull off a kickin’ shoot without wearing any kicks!

Raise a Glass!

Yes, you’re meeting the moment by going virtual, but these skills will benefit you from now into the ever after. You don’t have sit this thing out until Pfizer, Moderna, and Dolly Parton save the day. And just because you don’t get to grab a catering cookie on your way to the next shot doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy some of your own. Grab some freezer quiche bites and a slice of  your favorite Cheesecake Factory item to go and raise a glass to the future of production!

Need to Film Footage Yourself? You Have Options!

Need to Film Footage Yourself? You Have Options! 2560 1707 Alicia East

Sure, there are as many iPhones as there are stars in the (Samsung) Galaxy. Sure, people are more forgiving about production value right now. And yes, you can send a mountain of footage to an able editor over the wonderful, wacky web. But should you? Are you going to feel good about using what they produce once COVID is in our rearview mirror?

We’ve all found some workarounds for our normal processes, right? In our experience:

  • People are less interested in getting on a plane during a pandemic
  • We are shifting to virtual events and need more content than ever
  • Fully-staffed shoots are not feasible in many cases

There’s so much more to this thing than pointing a high-quality camera (which you carry in your pocket at all times) at your subject. But there are ways to get the production value you need (and will be proud of post-COVID) with support from the pros. Need to find those pros? We have the crews you need. Promise. Check their bios or ask your crew coordinator for someone who offers camera kits for self-recording.


Producing from a distance has become more common. Even shows like Frontline are using this method to get what they need. Ask for a crew that has a process in place for sending you a self-recording kit. Don’t try to wing this one. Without proper planning, it will be frustrating for everyone and you won’t get the results you want.

Who doesn’t love a good kit, amiright?

A crew with the chops to do it right will create and send you a kit and follow a procedure something like the following. You’ve got meal kits, craft kids, Christmas decoration kits. Why not a camera kit? Your crew will send you a package, likely including an HDSLR camera (equipped with a microphone), a lav mic, and detailed instructions on setup. They’ll also include a prepaid UPS or FedEx envelope for the return.

How will I know what to do with it?

Well, cameras can be kind of technical, but the crew will configure the camera in advance to make your job as easy as possible. Once you’ve received it, they’ll do a video chat to work out the bugs and set up the shot. From there, you’ll film a short test shot for the crew to review. They may set up another call to refine the shot as needed.

Then you’ll mail the supplies back to the crew in the packing materials they provide. That’s it! Then you just wait for the post-production magic!


You might be thinking you’ll save mountains of cash by filming yourself, but kit prep/shipping, collaboration between producers/DPs/and interviewees, plus the time it takes to pull this off will still be a big job for the crew.  Even so, it’s almost always less than the cost of travel to produce something comparable. Be assured that they’ll make it as easy as possible for you and you’ll be happy with the result–something you’ll be proud to use post-COVID!

Guide to Producing Professional Client-Recorded Video

Guide to Producing Professional Client-Recorded Video 2560 1707 Alicia East

Sure, there are as many iPhones as there are stars in the (Samsung) Galaxy. Sure, people are more forgiving about production value right now. And yes, your clients can send you a mountain of footage over the wonderful, wacky web. But should they? Are you going to feel good about what you produce once COVID is in our rearview mirror?

At this point, we’ve all found some workarounds for our normal processes, right? In our experience:

  • People are less interested in getting on a plane during a pandemic
  • Clients are tightening budgets and asking what we can do with self-recorded videos
  • Clients are shifting to virtual events and need more content than ever
  • Fully-staffed shoots are not feasible for many clients

I know we’ve all spent years trying to tell clients why there’s so much more to this thing than pointing a high-quality camera (which they carry in their pockets) at your subject. And it’s true, there is. We aren’t hedging on that one. But it STILL behooves you and your business to figure this thing out and embrace the self-recording. Do it well and you’ll be able to offer your clients more flexibility while still producing something you want to put your name on.

A Step By Step For Procuring USABLE Client-Recorded Video

Producing from a distance has become more common. But if you do it without proper planning, it will be frustrating for everyone and you won’t get the results you want. So here’s what you need to do it right.

1. Create a self-recording kit

You’ve got meal kits, craft kids, Christmas decoration kits. Why not a camera kit?

Create a package including an HDSLR camera (equipped with a microphone), a lav mic for the interviewee, and detailed instructions on setup. You’ll be sending this to each interviewee so assume you’re talking to a 5-year-old. Nope, scratch that, most 5-year-olds are more at ease with tech than their parents. Write each step as if you’re talking to a 90-year-old. Include everything from how to pick a good background to camera/chair height, lighting, etc. Nest products provide a good example of taking something complicated and breaking it into bite-size instructions. Include a prepaid UPS or FedEx envelope for the return.

Who doesn’t love a good kit, amiright?

2. Configure the camera in advance

Do as much as you can from your own studio to make it as easy as possible for your interviewee. Once they’ve received it, do a video chat with the interviewee to work out the bugs and set up the shot.

3. Film/review a short test shot

Have the interviewee send you a short video and set up another call to refine the shot as needed.

4. Include instructions and supplies to mail the kit back to you

What about cost?

Decide how you’ll charge for the process. You could consider using a flat rate or using your day rate, but consider the following. Kit prep and shipping, collaboration with interviewee. This could be the hardest part to overcome with clients, who might be thinking they’ll save mountains of cash by filming themselves. But the truth is that in addition to the camera kit and shipping costs, you’ll be investing a good bit of time to pull this off. Still, it’s almost always less than the cost of travel to produce something comparable. Reassure them that you’ll make it as easy as possible for the interviewee and that they’ll be happy with the result–something they can use forever!

Bottom Line

Are you convinced you should give it a try? Well let me tell you this if not: Even shows like Frontline are using this technique in place of previous practices.

What solutions have you come up with?

Need a crew that can help you accomplish your goals in the COVID world? We’ve got ’em. Promise.

Less Obvious Etiquette for Video Calls

Less Obvious Etiquette for Video Calls 2560 1709 Alicia East

If you don’t know why we’re revisiting this, well, bless you. But sometimes the things you think go without saying need to be said. I guess? But really. We’ve gathered some resources to help you be your best self on your work calls and there are probably a few things you haven’t thought of.


Treat video calls like in-person meetings

You wouldn’t eat or do your laundry or stare at yourself in the mirror during an in-person meeting. So give your full attention to your call and look at the camera, not the screen (i.e. yourself). We all understand that there can be additional challenges and distractions when you’re working from home and I say this as someone whose kids have walked through my calls. But if you can be ready to offer a thoughtful response when your name is called and you can make arrangements to keep the time kid-free, you’ll stand apart. It’s a way to show your commitment. And even if no one else knows you’re folding laundry, I guarantee your inattention will show up at some point and in some way.

Spend a little time setting up the shot

This isn’t about vanity. It’s more about looking alive and not being a distraction. An external camera allows you to look straight ahead, which is more natural, and more flattering, too. Sit close enough to the camera that participants see more of you than your room. It’s been an interesting phenomenon to see colleagues’ and celebrities’ and politicians’ homes, no doubt. But it’s a better experience for your co-participants if you’re the main attraction.

Consider lighting. You can go so far as to set up a nice selfie ring if you want. At a minimum, make sure you’re not right in front of a window and position yourself to avoid a halo from your can lights. I’ll be reworking my own lighting situation for the sake of my meeting mates.

Bottom Line

Don’t pull a Toobin. We shouldn’t have to list every single thing you shouldn’t do on camera or when you might possibly be on camera. You can invest in a camera cover or you can simply use a piece of tape. Use a post-it note if you must. Even if you think you’re muted. Even if you think you’re hidden or your camera is covered. If you wouldn’t do it in the office, don’t do it on a call. If you don’t want your mom or your kid reading about it on social media, don’t do it on a video call.  Think of it this way: When you’re on a work call, you’re at work. 

inclement weather - Crew Connection

Four Tips to Protect Your Gear

Four Tips to Protect Your Gear 5184 3456 Alicia East

As a result of COVID-19, many crews are moving shoots outside as much as possible. While it’s demonstrably safer than indoor shoots for the time being, it also brings a whole new set of variables onto your shoot.

As we enter fall and winter it’s just going to be more challenging as we face more inclement weather. Whether you’ve got Little bitty stingin’ rain” or “big ol’ fat rain,” the movies will have you believe everything is better in the rain. The kisses are more passionate, the redemption, more sweet, and the sadness, more palatable. Whether it’s rain you made yourself out of sprinklers or actual rain from the sky, it can be difficult to film in.

Four tips for shooting in inclement weather

1. Protect your equipment

You can buy rain bags–umbrellas designed to clip to your gear–or make a DIY rain bag for your equipment. You’ll also need to protect your mics and cables. The most comprehensive solution is a custom cover that allows you to access the controls, point the lens out from under the hood, and still see through the viewfinder. Some cover just the camera, while others cover camera and operator. In addition covering your camera and gear, you could also invest in water-resistant equipment. Don’t get too comfortable though. It’s not waterproof. 

2.  Pay attention to lighting

There are whole classes just on lighting in the rain, but here’s a really important fact: if you don’t do it well, it doesn’t look sexy or redemptive. A poorly-lit scene in inclement weather will take viewers out of the scene. It just looks sad. And not the life-affirming kind of tender ache you might be going for. Two basic keys are not to shoot in the sun and to backlight the rain. If you must shoot on a sunny day, you can take a page out of Inception’s book and block it.

3. Plan, plan, plan

In addition to having all your gear ready, conduct light studies with the camera you’ll use plus several positions at different times of day and record the results so you can find out exactly when “magic hour” is most magical. These are the only times of day that you can be sure there will be no direct sunlight. That way, you know when to show up. You’ll also need to be highly in tune with the forecast and build in extra time for delays and additional setup/teardown time. Even if the forecast is clear, be ready to provide a backup dry place for your cast, crew, and equipment.

4. Make it rain

If you need to make it rain, you can do it on a low budget or you can bring in the heavy duty equipment. There are rain rigs which allow you to control the distribution and flow and rain trucks which cost a fortune but look incredibly authentic. You can also give your scene that “just rained” look with a wet down. That’s a fancy name for hosing off the surface and calling it good. 

Rain isn’t the only inclement weather to plan for. Winter is coming and will bring with it snow and fog. If it’s on your mind, too, these tips for shooting in snow can save your equipment and your shot.  

Looking to add some work to your pipeline? Apply to be a Crew Connection crew and get matched with high-quality clients and guaranteed Net 30.

Video crews need someone in their corner

Video crews need someone in their corner 150 150 Alicia East

“If there’s magic in boxing, it’s the magic of fighting battles beyond endurance, beyond cracked ribs, ruptured kidneys, and detached retinas. It’s the magic of risking everything for a dream nobody sees but you.”

Eddie Scrap-Iron Dupris, Million Dollar Baby

Video crews have to be fighters. There’s no coasting. There’s no relying on someone else to pick up the slack if you have an off day. It’s just you—pounding the pavement with a load of gear on your back, facing off against competitors, keeping up to date on ever-changing technology and now, ensuring everyone’s safety with COVID-era safety measures, too.

It’s not enough to be a pro behind the camera. You also have to be an expert in marketing, finance, and interpersonal communications. Often, you just have to put your dukes up and act as your own advocate. It’s a lot to manage. That’s when it’s nice to have someone in your corner.

The best partner video crews can have

How much time would you free up if you could skip prospecting and fill your pipeline with desirable jobs? High-quality clients who understand the business realities of video production are hard to come by. Those who pay quickly are even harder. Time is money and clients and crews alike save both when they work with Crew Connection.

When you’re busy with work, the last thing you want to do is hound someone over an aging invoice. Crew Connection streamlines communication, cuts the red tape, and sends net 90 packing. Our crews are paid within 30 days—guaranteed.


This pandemic put production on hold for many video crews. Formerly busy production houses have had to adjust to the changing circumstances—by getting creative on existing projects, shifting their offerings, and adding safety measures. Running any business is hard and the pandemic just made it infinitely harder.

In boxing, you may be the one out there in the ring throwing punches, but there’s always someone in your corner. Now more than ever, video crews need partners to advocate for them. With a profile on Crew Connection, you get your very own marketing expert, sales rep, and accountant in your corner. And that’s worth a million dollars, baby!

Choosing the right camera lenses

Choosing the right camera lenses 2560 2560 Alicia East

Whether it’s framing as a storytelling device, the marvels of the latest gear, or the wonderful world of lenses, video professionals all have our areas we can geek out about. For Patrick O’Donnell of Eye to Eye Video, it’s the latter. His love affair with lenses started as a kid staring at catalogs and has now led him to a successful career as a tourist with better toys.

Here’s the 20-year veteran’s take on what lenses to use for what situations, what to buy versus rent, what mistakes to avoid, and how to be successful in the industry.

Alicia East: How did you get into this industry? 

Patrick O’Donnell: I had always wanted to be a still photographer growing up. I used to stare at photos in magazines with amazement and I knew that that’s what I wanted to do with my life— make amazing images. I also used to stare at photography catalogs and dream of owning all the lenses on the list. Some of them were $10,000 dollars! I wanted to know what it was like to put a lens that cost that much money on the front of my camera. My parents weren’t very supportive at first. They told me “A still Photographer? That’s not a real job!” They had very defined ideas about what jobs were. My mom was a teacher and my dad is a police officer.

“Still photographer” must have sounded really outside the box to them at the time.  But for some reason, they let me study Mass Communications and Radio at Towson University. I guess they listened to the radio and that made sense to them as a good career choice. They must not have realized then that images were everywhere in every medium and they didn’t equate that someone had to take those photos and got paid to do it. So I ended up taking Film 101 in between my radio classes at Towson with Professor Greg Faller and quickly found my passion. I was officially out of radio and into moving imagery. In high school I had taken a lot of photo classes, but it wasn’t until I took Greg’s class in college that I actually understood cameras and lenses and their importance to storytelling. Taking 24 pictures every second to compose a story, I was in love. I had such high regard for the power of a single image and still do, but this just fit, and telling stories with lenses quickly became my life.

AE: What lens do you use for which situations? Why?

PO: Every choice with a lens should be to serve the story. I shoot a lot of interviews and then shoot the subjects doing what they do. I really like wide angle lenses and if the locations are interesting I’ll use wide angle lenses to show them off. To get a close up I’ll move a wide lens in closer to the subject, always being careful not to distort them, and by doing this I can make a shot feel more intimate while also showing off a bit more of the environment behind them. This approach can make the subject’s world feel bigger and the lens is physically closer to them and that helps with the psychology of feeling closer to the subject, because you physically are via the lens. And it’s also important if the environment helps to serve their story.  20mm or 24mm are my favorites for interviews lately.

Of course it’s not always possible or appropriate to put a camera closer to the subject, and 50mm and 85mm are the standard portrait lenses for a reason. They are always the most flattering photographically to faces and they offer a greater separation from the background and can really help to isolate someone in their environment and give them enough room to let their story unfold.

AE: What are your go-to lens? Why? 

PO: My main lenses right now the Sigma 18-35mm and the 50-100mm, both are T2 cine versions. I treat them like variable primes. The flexibility to zoom in or out a little and still have a nice wide aperture has made for a perfect combination for me. Clients and subjects don’t always want to wait for a lens change, and more and more speed is required on set and it’s dictating lens choices. I find the Sigmas to be very sharp and fast, yet still economical.

I also use the Canon C-NE 18-80mm with a cine servo a lot. It’s slower at a T4, but offers great affordability and flexibility. When there isn’t time for a lens change and capturing coverage is more important than shot creation, it can cover just about anything quickly while still having great color rendition and sharpness. And for when the camera is on my shoulder all day, it’s light and fatigue is less of an issue. The Canon 17-120mm is a superior choice and I love it, but fatigue is a real factor during long days with it. Even with an Easy Rig, it’s a lot of weight. It weighs more than twice as much as the 18-80mm—not to mention that it’s four times the cost. After 20 years of holding a camera on my shoulder, my back now gets a say in the lens choice.

AE: What lenses are must haves even if you don’t use them often? Why? 

PO: As a documentary cinematographer, you need to be able to capture whatever is necessary to tell the story at any given time. This means a little bit of everything needs to be in your lens kit. No one can afford to have every special lens on hand at any time, but you’ve got to have enough to get by for when the surprise shot pops up from a producer or client, and they will all the time. Must-have focal lengths are everything from 16mm up to at least 200mm, and I believe in zooms. And then there are some specialties that can really help. A macro isn’t must have, but can really bring a lot to the table. Another is a super long telephoto. The Sigma 60-600mm has saved the day for me here and there when in need of a shot of a subject 200” away at a podium. You can’t always just move in for a close up.

AE: When do you rent and when do you buy? Why?

PO: Anything you use daily you should own, and you should buy the best you can afford and make money with while not sending yourself into debt. I learned early on when I was looking at the lenses in those photo catalogs as a kid that they are an addiction.  They are all so different and necessary that you’ll quickly want them all. It’s funny that those still photography lenses I was looking at back then are now available for and widely used on modern video cameras, but they lack some of the finer cine accommodations like a smooth iris or accurate focus markings. Even without those things, they can look great. Cine lenses usually are lot more expensive than still lenses and some cine lenses can cost over 100K! So I rent when a project calls for something special or when there is room in the budget. My Sigmas are great and I truly love them, but when the client is expecting more and is willing to put more budget into a project, I’ll go for it. I often consult with the production and show them why the story would be better with a certain rental choice. Sometimes the lenses need to be bigger, smaller, faster, longer, wider, or match a look that was previously shot. You can’t own them all… at least that’s what my bank tells me!

I recommend renting any lens before a major purchase and this will assure that you get exactly what you’re looking for and exactly what you need to get your stories completed.

AE: Have you ever regretted a lens purchase? Why? 

PO: I did have a regretful purchase. It was a used lens I had previously tried and I bought it from a guy on a web forum. It seemed to check out initially, but after some real world use I noticed that it was not 100% and it had a back focus/alignment problem. The seller denied any problems and also denied a refund. I had to send the lens in for a repair and it ended up costing just as much as it would have if I had bought it new at the end of the day.  Buying used is a great way to save some money, but you have to be careful. Be thorough and always buy from a reputable dealer or seller. Too good to be true is usually too good to be true. The bum lens is fine now, but the level of trouble was not worth the negligible savings and hassle.

AE: What is tops on your wish list? Why? 

PO: I want them all! But realistically I’ve got my eye on the new Angenieux EZ lenses. My primary camera has been and still is a super 35mm Sony PMW-F5, but I see the Sony PXW-FX9 in my near future and the main feature for me is its full frame sensor. Full frame hadn’t been a consideration when I first bought the Sigmas, which only cover super 35, but the world is changing to a bigger sensor and bigger is better, right?

The EZ line is made up of fast cine zoom lenses that cover a full-frame sensor and can also be outfitted with a zoom controller. The full frame combo of the two lenses cover 22-60mm and 45-135mm, which is a very similar focal length to my Sigma’s in S35.  It’s also a combo of focal lengths that I’m used to and comfortable with. Full frame means new lenses, and everyone likes new lenses, right? Well, everyone except my financial planner.

AE: Lenses have come a long way through the years. What do you think is next? 

PO: Autofocus could be a real game changer. I shoot a lot of very long interviews and most of the time I’m at a very large aperture to create a very shallow depth of field. This can sometimes make the task of keeping a mellow subject in focus very tedious, but a subject that moves a lot or is very animated can force you to stop down and change the bokeh of the shot to ensure that they remain in focus. For as long as I’ve been shooting, my advice to anyone about cameras was to turn off all the automatic controls. This may be over, because both Sony and Canon now have very professional and usable autofocus systems. Sony’s new system in the FX9 is called dual hybrid and utilizes both phase and contrast detection with stunning results. I’ll be following closely to learn which lenses have the best compatibility and dependability. I think autofocus could even bump the Angenieux EZs off the top of my wish list. I sense some lens testing coming.

AE: What advice do you have for people just getting into the business?  

PO: I have three pieces of advice to anyone just entering this industry:

Make yourself available if someone calls. The key to getting your foot in the door is entering the door when it opens.

Be on time. This is the most basic and best thing you can do. Production shouldn’t have to wait for you ever and not showing up on time is highly disrespectful and shows a lack of professionalism. In this industry you will need to build a good reputation and reliability and dependability should be your top priorities.

Listen to your instincts and be passionate about your work. I knew early on that I wanted to make images and I stuck with the path even though it seemed crazy to my folks. I made it work and even turned it into a great career. They can now see that I made a good choice for myself and that I have found this career path to be highly rewarding, engaging, and enlightening. I basically get to be a tourist, just with a much bigger camera, and I find myself getting access to people, events, and places that few get to see and experience firsthand. If you go down this path, throw yourself into it and enjoy the moments you get to capture and It’ll show on the screen. The gear is important, but the most important part of it all is a clear vision and a good dose of passion.

Once you build your arsenal of lenses, put them to good use with Crew Connection’s high-quality clients.

Note: Conversation edited for clarity and brevity. This article first appeared on ProductionHub here

About Patrick O’Donnell:

O’Donnell is Director of Photography at Eye to Eye Video based in the Washington DC area specializing in corporate, broadcast, and documentary video. O’Donnell has 20 years experience and is still learning new things every day. He works mainly in small crews of 2-4 people with him, audio, grip, and gaffer. He focuses mainly on feature stories and high-end interviews for Fortune 500 companies, major networks, and documentaries. Check out his demo reel for what all those awesome lenses can do.