Recently I was asked to speak at the Atlanta Film Production Mixer on Feb 17. It was held at the Star Community Bar in Atlanta.
Organizer Edward Reid told me to prepare 5-10 minutes of “something inspirational, talk about your specialty.”
Never one to underdo something, I wrote a whole speech. I thought it was pretty good, so I’m sharing it here too.
The awkward timing on this photo provided by Marco Gutiérrez.
My name is Bridget LaMonica. I’m a cinematographer and Steadicam operator.
I graduated from the Savannah College of Art & Design and immediately started working in film, right? Great success. Roll credits. We’re done here.
SCAD – The University for Creative Careers and Existential Breakdowns. Had fun though!
No, not really.
It took a couple years. Thank God I moved here with a savings because it was months before I started getting paid work, and even longer still before film was truly paying my bills.
What got me here was not just what I knew, but my personality and work ethic. Yeah yeah, – but hear me out.
If you’re a pleasure to be around and you’re willing to learn on the fly, you’ll go far. My first full run on a show, I was hired as a production assistant. By the end of the first week, I was upgraded to camera PA and stills. And a producer was genuinely shocked I wasn’t a camera assistant already.
I got my first camera operating job on a feature because I had worked with the DP on several short films. She liked working with me, and trusted me to shoot that feature alongside her.
90% of the work I get is through recommendation. Your biggest goal is being the one that people like being around. Let’s face it, when you work a standard 12 hour day, the last thing you want to be is the grumpy one everyone avoids. We call those people… oh wait, we don’t call those people. Because they don’t get hired again.
You have to overcome the crushing disappointment of rejection and applying to promising jobs that then ghost you like a bad first date.
There’s also something else you have to deal with.
You see, after that big step of camera operating on that first feature, I was visiting family for Thanksgiving that I hadn’t seen for a few years. I thought maybe, this was one of those humble brags that would earn me sick thanksgiving family street cred. After I told this family member that I had camera operated on a movie, he winced at me – winced! – and said “Are you happy with where you are in your career right now?”
I didn’t know how to respond. The turkey hadn’t even come out yet.
I’m a camera operator on a movie! How is that not a good thing?
I’ve seen worse.
For every person who claims you can’t have a creative career, who says you shouldn’t bother writing that movie or working on some set… For every person who says “Get a real job” – remember they’re also the ones gushing over the most recent episode of The Last of Us, or listening to music on the way to their boring office cubicles.
Film and television productions spent 4.4 billion dollars in GA alone last 2022. All that content had to be made by someone. By someone like you….
If I couldn’t get past rejection and disappointment, I never would have taken that Steadicam class. I remember putting on the heavy rig we had at school, feeling overwhelmed, and thinking – for a minute there – maybe I can’t do this. But I’m no quitter, and this was just another goal to tackle.
I’m one of the few female Steadicam operators. I know, I know, you figured me for a professional wrestler. I’ve put on Steadicam rigs that made muscle-bound key grips go “Whoa. This is heavy.” I’ve also operated hour long segments on reality TV wearing an EZ rig and ye olde Sony F55 – about yay big of your best friend including the lens. (Imagine hand gesture here).
Eh this is the best photo I got after 2 seasons on the show.
Getting started is the hardest part. You’re here. This is a start. Networking is a big deal in this business. Picking the right projects will set you on your path. Go into each job with the knowledge that your presence could make the entire production better.
There will be hard days and crazy directors and hilariously bad crafty and moments where you may legitimately question your sanity – but if you keep going, you’ll find yourself saying, “I make movies for a living.” What’s not a little cool about that?
Even if that requires being the old cam op who can fit into tight spaces.
And if it’s a crappy movie you’re embarrassed you worked on? Well, did the check clear?
I’m not just in the film industry to make films. I’m also here learning, pushing boundaries and helping those who need it, because I was once the one who didn’t know what a c-stand was. Now I hope I inspire the next person.
One of the ways I do this is through the blog on my website (Holy crap, you’re here already?!). Thanks to my set experience, I write on my website about equipment you should know, how to write a screenplay, and even how to avoid scams targeting film people. That’s a big one for me. I don’t want those who chase their dreams taken advantage of by some jerk. Some jerk in a cubicle.
I’ve had people reach out and thank me for the information on my blog. I’ve had PA’s on set appreciate that I took the time to teach them a skill. It’s that passing of knowledge that makes me realize that I do make a difference, and it feels good.