Labu Ajans - Work with us
Dear LABU.ajans Inquirer,
Thanks for your interest in LABU and our minuscule little corner of the huge world of motion media. We get multiple messages everyday from folks you like around the world and are honored to be the target of so much interest. As much as we would like to, we cannot respond to you all individually; We find more than a few common threads in all of your messages, and have thus penned this letter in response. Of course, none of this will precisely fit your particular context, so take it all with a giant block of salt. Here we go:
First, hiring - we rarely hire full-time employees, largely because this business (films/branded content/commercials/TV, etc) has a long tradition of freelance specialists coming together on a project basis, rather than large companies making things soup to nuts under one roof. We do occasionally hire full-time producers or admin staff, and almost always have an intern or two on-staff part-time, but other than that, we hire experts on a project basis that contribute various skills from initial concept through finishing for each piece of work.
Which brings us to part two - Experts. We don’t hire entry-level or even intermediate artists and craftspeople - we hire established, expert freelancers in their respective fields to work on a team to create a particular piece. The only entry-level positions in any part of the process are interns (see below) and PA’s who are general helpers on a given shoot location - those PA’s are hired local for that shoot, as budget typically does not allow for travel and lodging for most positions. Every other position in every department - camera, G&E, art, sound, locations, production - are led and staffed by their respective leaders. We hire the DP, and in turn the DP hires his/her AC, operator, gaffer, then the gaffer hires key grips, etc. Each team, whether 2 people or 10, is thus typically fairly hierarchical and mentorship driven - most DP’s started on film shoots as runners, Camera PA’s, or in G&E, most Art Directors started as PA’s or Assistants to that Lead, Sound Mixers started as Boom Ops, etc etc.
Then there is Part Three: Small crew doc-style shoots. Many of you come to us mentioning some love of the outdoors, or a specific sport, and in turn, your wish to combine that with the use of a camera. Despite our fear of ruining the illusion, when we work on smaller-scale outdoor shoots, we are not playing - we are working 16 to 20 hours a day hauling heavy things to hard to get places, often with a client or other authority along for the ride with high expectations. We love this, however, it is not even remotely like a vacation or typical adventure travel, nor are we really participating in the activities we are filming. And critically, on these teams, we are staffing it with experts, not entry level, staff - other than a PA who may help haul backpacks, the people writing, shooting, directing and producing have years of experience in their respective crafts - on and this type of production, they also often have years of experience building the elite skills needed to get to and move around in the locations in question. There is, again, no room for entry or intermediate levels of expertise on these teams.
So you can begin to see, we hope, how your experience with a particular camera, or editing software, combined with your likes, dislikes, hobbies and dreams, don’t quite get you working for LABU.ajans, or really any other established production. So what to do? Well, we find ourselves repeating a few key suggestions more often than others, some that may or may not apply to you - here are the most common threads we find ourselves mentioning to newcomers and those with some experience alike:
Hobby Vs. Profession: If you love making short films with your camera and your editing skills, great! Nobody says you need to make a living doing it. Making a living doing a thing is quite a different beast than simply enjoying and improving at that thing. If you really want to give it a go, you are going to have to dedicate years of your life to developing those skills at a much higher than hobbyist level and eat beans and rice for a while.
Do The Time: You’ll have to spend thousands of hours focusing on a particular aspect of filmmaking - cinematography, editing, writing, sound design - before you can begin to create work on par with experts. There is no shortcut. At all. This field is extremely competitive - far far more young people with cameras and a desire to make nice images exist than there are clients to hire them or investors to fund them.
Focus: Perhaps the biggest issue of confusion we see in your inquiries is the lack of specialization. Neither we nor other similar companies like us hire “filmmakers.” We hire proven, expert DP’s, Editors and other Craftspeople who contribute to making films as part of a larger team. We do hire Directors who bring with them a proven track record making work that engaged an audience in the past on the level that we are asking him or her to do again. The fastest way to work with us is to come with a strong track record in your craft - DP, Writer, Editor, etc - the fastest way not to work with us it to come to us with a general entry level interest. In turn, we generally advocate that you pick an area of focus, and then work your ass off under a few mentors to build those skills.
The Work: We often get inquiries from young men and women who have made some short form work, who point us to that work on YouTube or Vimeo. Believe it or not, we do often watch at least some of that work from you. It will probably come as no surprise that the work is typically fairly “entry-level” in terms of artistic and creative maturity. Keep making those things, over and over and over again, and they’ll get better probably. If you are saying, hey y’all, I’m a strong DP and would like to work with you, we’ll look at that aspect of the work - against the level of the DP’s we hire, of course. Repeat for directors, editors and sound designers - compare your level of work with the best in your field - if it is clearly beyond entry-level you’ll know it, and so will others. An audience will begin to resonate. Until then…
PA on Sets: If you have not worked often on a professional film shoot of any sort, stop reading and go bug your local community of freelance Producers to hire you as a PA. Do that 50 or 75 times. You’ll learn quickly a lot more than we can ever explain here.
And finally, a quick word on Internships - we have a specific revolving program inviting applicants for 90 day unpaid internships at our studio in Istanbul City in Turkey. There is a test involving editing that must be completed to apply, and you can obtain a clear description and application by emailing and requesting such.