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CAMERA DEPARTMENT - Job Title: Second Assistant Cameraman, Assistant Cameraman, Or Second Assistant Camera Operator

Job Descriptions and Careers, Career and Job Opportunities, Career Search, and Career Choices and ProfilesCareers in Film and TelevisionCAMERA DEPARTMENT - Job Title: Cinematographer Or Director Of Photography (dp), Job Title: Camera Operator, Job Title: Steadicam Operator

JOB TITLE: SECOND ASSISTANT CAMERAMAN, ASSISTANT CAMERAMAN, OR SECOND ASSISTANT CAMERA OPERATOR

Job Overview

The second assistant cameraman orders and maintains the camera equipment, ensures it is on set when needed, marks the actors’ positions during rehearsals, and slates each take. The second is also responsible for camera crew paperwork, such as camera and film inventory lists and time sheets. Additionally, on some shoots, the second assistant also performs the duties of the film loader.

“The second assistant is my direct assistant,” explains first assistant cameraman Anthony Cappello. “He helps me. He brings me the magazine; he does the camera reports, the slate, and takes care of all the paperwork involved with identifying scenes for the editors.”

Specials Skills Required

Camera assistants need a working knowledge of motion picture cameras and equipment. “Some real world common sense is necessary,” says assistant cameraman Mark Walpole. “People skills are very important—it takes skill to negotiate, sort of twist people's arm to get more money and still maintain a friendly working relationship so they call you again.”

Advice for Someone Seeking This Job

Although a college education is not required, Mark Walpole says, “It definitely helped me because it gave me a good educational basis and I made a lot of contacts.”

“Go to a school and study the field you are interested in; then start contacting people that do what you would like to do, one step up. If you want to be a second assistant cameraman, you find a film directory and start calling all the first assistant camera people in the town where you want to live and let them know you're interested in working with them.”

Professional Profile: Mark Walpole, Assistant Cameraman

Intrigued by making movies from the time he was a teenager, Virginia native Mark Walpole enrolled in a vocational video production course while still in high school. After graduation, he attended Valencia Community College in Orlando, Florida.

What do you like least about your job?

“The schedule is roughit's great money, but you do work very long hours. Fourteen to eighteen hour days are typical. You're home very little. It's hard on a personal level, having any continuity in your life.”Mark Walpole

What do you love most about your job?

“I like my work because it is completely different every single day: a different location, a different group of people, a different time schedule, and different scenarios. No two jobs are the same.”Mark Walpole

An important part of the school's curriculum is working with independent producers who utilize students to fill crew positions. “All the students are crew members. They don't hold the key positions, like director or cinematographer—all the high-end positions are held by paid professionals from New York and Los Angeles. The second, third, fourth, and fifth people down the ladder, stringing the cable from the microphones and moving ladders, are students.”

CAREER TIPS

* “To become a technician on a movie, a camera person, a sound person or a light person, Valencia Community College in Orlando, Florida, is by far the best program in the country.”Mark Walpole

When Walpole graduated in 1997 with an associate of sciences degree, he had already built a résumé of work experience and made many industry contacts. He began working regularly almost immediately and soon joined the union for camera assistants. Early breaks came working on television commercials and music videos for artists Shania Twain, Christina Aguilera, and others.

During the past three years, Walpole has worked as a second camera assistant on several feature films, including Collateral Damage, Minority Report, Spy Game, The Sum of All Fears, We Were Solders, and as a camera assistant on Along Came a Spider, Hannibal, Tuck Everlasting, and the IMAX film Ultimate X. He frequently works on the television series The West Wing.

“You start at the bottom and work your way up through the camera department: the lowest position is film loader, then you work your way up to second, and then first, and then to cinematographer,” explains Walpole. “I want to be a cinematographer.”

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