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HOOTING

IVAKE

MONEY
wrTH \oun CAMET?A
BY FRANK LOVECE
er of television in the hands of everyday

atchbook covers do not ask, "Can you videotape this dog?" But people do--dogs and school plays and golf swings and graduations. Forget weddings and Bar Mitzvahs. The demand for human-scale video services has pushed beyond them to en-

people-your clients.

Stqrt Me Up
The first step in putting together
a

compass dubbing and editing, how-to tapes, video clipping, even trial depositions. But there are no formal training grounds. So what do you have to do if
you've a keen eye, a steady hand, and an unquenchable desire to make a few bucks on the side with your video equipment? You just do it. Out-of-home video services are such a new field that anyone with a VCR and a
camera can claim to be a videographer, the way anyone with a typewriter can claim to be a writer. No exams have to be passed, and no initials are needed after your name. "No state I know of requires a license for

home-based video service is to decide what you like to do and what your capabilities are. The documentary nature of shooting weddings and other affairs is just one aspect. Consider, for instance, the painterly nature of a l0-minute "video portrait" of
a baby. Imagine how much a parent would

enjoy a moving, gurgling alternative to'


static, conventional baby pictures. Consider the instructional nature of
a

tape showing how to unstop a clogged sink or tune up an engine. If you know how to do

such things, you also know how often


friends call up for advice. Given the cost of a simple oil change, who wouldn't spend 20 bucks on a no-frills no-nonsense tape showing how to do it oneself2 If you haven't the patience or knack for a regular how-to,

you to go out and shoot video professionally, " notes William L. Taylor, chairman of the American Bar Association's Committee on Small Business. This doeqn't mean anyone can become

Stanley Kubrick overnight, or that

responsibilities.are forfeit; a camera, after all, can be as lethal as a gun. Tax laws, copyright laws, and insurance coverage can't be ignored either. Even so, this virgin

you might hire .yourself to tape skiers' snowplows or softball batters' swings, helping them perfect their forms. You could, in fact, turn just about any hobby or expertise into a profitable video
service. Wouldn't fellow nature buffs enjoy

territory offers not only the promise of

good second or even primary income, but

also a chance to indulge your creative


urges and to put nothing less than the pow-

a tape devoted to rare flowers or birds? Wouldn't coin collectors appreciate a tape detailing-with all the closeup power of a " macro lens-the fine points and flaws of ,l rare coins? You could shoot "video vear- i books" for high schools, and "video posr {
Vldo
83

Rest lnsuieC
You may be a perfectly nice person, but you may be guilty of equipment abuse. Consumer-gear warranties generally interpret the word "abuse" to include commercial use of the gear, which'voids the warranty. If your nights-and-weekends sideline starts to take off, you'd do well to consider buying a service contract. Try to choose a repair shop that'll be around for the length of the contract (no "lifetime" deals), and that stocks spare parts or can get them quickly. Service contracts aren't the same as insurance, though. Homeowner's or tenant's insurance generally doesn't cover cards" for pen pals (tape pals?). You could tape walking tours to cities, or bicycle tours of country roads. Video depositions have become almost a courtroom staple (although lawyers tend to shoot these themselves). While video willsper se aren't considered valid, a taped record of the si[ning often saves witnesses' having to fly business-related property damage, and we're speaking not only of damage to your equipment but also to your files and tapes. You'll need a "floater" policy, one that custom-insures particular items against particular perils. Perhaps more importantly, you'll need separate liability insurance-not only to protect yourself if someone trips over a wire you neglected to tape down, but also if, for instance, a video head clogs and you wind up with 90 minutes of nothing. All this coverage may not be cheap, but it ts tax-

deductible.

-F.L.
video buff, he found he had a knack for shooting in focus and in frame, and so decided to take a short filmmaking course (ironically, through an adult-education program and not his college). "Lighting and editing are different between video and fiIm," he notes, "but things like camera angles and storytelling are the same. " A typical shoot for Gillum began with a phone call. A local comic who'd be performing at the student-union tavern a couple of nights later had seen Gillum's classified ad in the college paper. The ad read:
"Professional Videotaping: Performances,

test thing going in a world of Andy Warhol's "15 minutes of fame." Suppose you were the parent of an Olympic attrlete, for instance. Wouldn't you want someone to
tape sports coverage and news items about

in to testify later orr. Depending on your interests, you could find a niche anywhere from video algebra
instruction to video party tapes. "Since I'm a dancer mj'self," relates Penny Ward, a New York City hobbytst- cum -prof e ssional, "I have an eye for dance." Three years ago, while waitressing for a living and just beginning to shoot video for money, she decided to make dance her specialty. Be-

your son or daughter? Local businesses appear on local news shows; every day people win awards, comment on local issues, and chat on talk shows. Moreover,

video clipping services are absolutely legal-although, cautions leading communications attorneyJames Goodale, "You have to do it 'fairly.' That term in this case

means you can only use small bits of a programs. You can'clip'a few two-minute news items, for example, but not a whole half-hour show devoted to your client."

Parties, Sports Events. Surprisingly Inexpensive. Industrial-Quality Camera and VCR." Simple and direct. The comic described what he wanted: an

cause of her background, she says,

"I

Ol'Gollege Try
Brad Gillum is a college student in Mor-

edited l0-minute demo tape of his performance. Since Gillum doesn't have editing facilities, he offered to shoot raw footage of the half-hour act, which the comic could have edited elsewhere. Gillum would need a half-hour to set up, a half-hour to shoot the act, and 15 minutes to shoot closeups for later insertion. He'd rent an industrial camera and VCR for the day for $50. He already owned microphones, cables, and other bits and pieces, and kept a supply ofhigh-grade tapes (he'd use a T-60 thatnight). His flat-rate charge to the comic: $125. Including the'time needed to pick up the rented gear, the whole job would

know what angles will and won't work, and I can anticipate what's coming next. My clients appreciate that I can empathize with

them."

You don't have to limit yourself to camera-related services, either: People will pay for dubbing/editing if they want a backup copy of some irreplaceable tape, or if they want to organize their haphazard
video collections. Some will want the video equivalent of a newspaper clipping service, for when they or their products are mentioned on tie news. Video clippings, in fact, may be the hot-

gantown, West Virginia. Using rented gear, he helps himself through school by shooting "video resumes" and "video portfolios" for art and theater students, as well
as for local musicians, magicians, and com-

edians. "I just tack up flyers," he relates,

"trying to put, you know, the idea into


people's heads. A lot of people don't think in terms of video, but once they see themselves on tape, they don't know how they

ever lived without it. "


Gillum's experience in the field is typical

of many video-service entrepreneurs. A

T:xes, GMe V:urself


Qualifying for business tax breaks is a major incentive for many videophiles to start their own out-of-home services. Beware, though, that the IRS has its own definitions for 1'business" and for "hobby, " "As a rule of thumb," notes IRS spokesperson Steve Pyrek, "You have to show a profit in any two of five years you operate your business, or else it's considered a hobby. lnthat case deductions and business expenses are disallow-

Breok

write off immediately or amortize over the expected lifetime


of the purchase. You'll file your business tax return separately from your personal tax return, on the "Schedule C" self-employment form. Most likely you'll start out as a "sole proprietor" rather than either a corporation (where backers invest in you, you're paid by the corporation, and the corporation files a corporate tax return) or a partnership (where at least one other individuaVcorporation/partnership is in business with you, the partnership files, and each partner pays individually).

able."
Wbat kinds of deductions and business elpenses are allowed? Among other things, a percentage of your rent or mortgage, and of your utility bills, based on the percentage of space in your home devoted erclusbely to your business. Within guidelines, you can also deduct the costs of businessrelated transportation, equipment repair, professional journals, and entertaining clients. You can write off the cost of hiring an assistant; if you hire a consultant rather than an employee, you're not responsible for withholding taxes. Capital expenses-large purchases such as video equipment, a business computer, or office furniture-you can either

The IRS supplies free informational booklets which you


can either pick up at your local IRS office

or send for via the

order form included in your 1040. Aside from the general "Your Federal Income Tax" (Publication 17), you might also want to peruse "Self-Employment Tax" (Pub. 533), "Tax Guide for Small Businesses" (Pub. 334), and "Depreciation" (Pub. 534). Since tax laws change every year, make sure you get current editions, which come out every Januy;.r.

take two hours. Gillum asked the comic to secure permission from the student union to shoot there, and to make sure tiere would be a safe, convenient spot for the equipment. Large-scale video services generally take care of such "preproduction" duties, but
quasi-professionals may prefer to leave them in the clients' hands. Gillum also suggested the comic put up a sign at the door

informing patrons the show would be

taped, so that anyone with-objections


would know up-front; he also asked the

comic to get permission to record his monologue directly from the tavern's
soundboard. The comic preferred to have

audience reaction on the soundtrack, though, so Gillum would mike the stage
himself.

"It

was a real easy shoot," Gillum re-

calls. "I checked the equipment that afternoon when I rented it, and checked it again at home with my own mikes. I brought a friend along that night to watch the [two] mikes and stands while I shot. I bought him a pitcher of beer and we both had a good time. Gillum brought photo lights, but turned out not to need them. He turned over the tape to the comic at the end of the

"

night for $100-in cash, since he won't take checks for his services. "Even if the check bounces," he explains, "I still have to pay for the equipment I rented." Prospective clients approached him all night, he adds, and he made sure to leave lots of
business cards around.

Somple Tope
Since word can get around quickly in a college corffnunity, Gillum has done well for himself. Others aren't too fortunate at first. "We made a mistake right off the bat," recalls Wayne Ferguson, who cofounded his Video Image Productions in his living-room two years ago. "We put an ad in the classifieds offering to shoot wed-

dings for free, just so we could put


together a sample tape to show to people. Not one person called. People thought there must be something wrong, or there was a catch. " Later, they took out a second ad with simply "our name, what we did, and our phone number. Someone called, and we got our first job by quoting a price we knew would be the lowest bid."
That brings up a crucial point: how much should you charge for your services? Ifyou

work out of your home, your overhead costs are lower than if you had a studio, making you more competitive. But you have to consider several. other factors
when negotiating a price, such as: n How much time is involved? n Will the subjects be relatively posed or is there action to follow? How much equipment will have to be

carted to the site, and are transportation costs involved? n Will additional equipment, such as microphones or lights, have to be rented?

fl

Will you have to hire an assistant? Will

it

continued on fage 150

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I Home Shooting I continued .frotn page 85 t I be a technical person or a less costly helper I just to caddy your gear? I n Does the client want an edited tape or I raw footage? Does he want backup copies? I I Finally, do you want the job? You ma1' I find yourself accepting an I assignment onsometimes the cheap for the sheer I pleasure of it. You might even consider
bartering your services in exchange for

II

Dealer lnquiries lnviled. Call or Write

something you need.

The absolute minimum you should


charge is what it would cost you to rent equipment if your own gear unexpectedly broke down. As a benchmark, a typical wedding shoot in New York, edited, averages $350 to $500. Newspaper classifieds from around the country showed wedding prices as low as $200, although virtually no ad specified the caliber of equipment.

The Righr Sruff


The equipment you use enters into what you charge. Just how much do you need to invest? "We started out with typical half-inch consumer equipment," says Ferguson. "Regular VHS and Beta VCRs are fine for most things. The industrial versions are

more rugged and they're good for very


exact editing, but the picture quality isn't any better to most people's eyes-fi" he insists, "you have a real good camera. We invested in an expensive industrial video camera right off the bat." A $1500 VCRy camera/lights setup is sufficient, he feels, for informal affairs, insurance records, and depositions. You may need about 10 times that, though, to put together even a basic system, including an editing console, for creating business and industrial tapes. For most things in between, including the ever-popular weddings and Bar Mitzvahs, consider matching a top-of-theJine consumer portable VCR with an industrial Panasonic WV-3180/6X ($1075) or WV-

38908 ($2495), one-tube Newvicon and Saticon cameras respectively. You may
even want to go super-slick and pick up the

new three-tube JVC BY-110U, relatively inexpensive at $4280. There are a host of other popular models, of course. Besides a camera, a portable VCR, and
possibly a second VCR for dubbing/editing, the accessories you'll almost certainly require include: At least one high-quality omnidirectional microphone, and possibly a long-range "shotgun" mike for distant sounds and one or two clip-on lavalier mikes for interview-

ing.

! A trio, optimally, of photographic lights with stands and reflectors, for setting up the standard three-light arrangement
shown in any photo manual. tr Spare batteries and a battery charger.

Extra cables, extension cords and three-prong-to-two-prong converters,


plus gaffer's tape to hold everything down and help prevent people frdm tripping over wires. n Lens-cleaning tissues and a can of compressed air. An earphone or headphone to monitor

sound.

I Plenty of blank tape. ! A small tool kit. n A first-aid kit. You just never know.

"One time a dancer cut her foot," recalls


Penny Ward. "The shoot could have been

ruined, or at least badly delayed. Fortunately my assistant had bandages."

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Be sure to pack mental equipment too.


In any kind ofpeople business, you not only

have to give clients what they want, but

you have to make sure they know what they want. Unfortunately, none of this will get you into the union. According to a spokesperson for the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees and Moving Picture Machine Operators, which presides over

Vdco s on oLrliror

CrstrrbL rtor for


B

zecJ l,1016r Strrri os


'

cinematographers and videographers,


"Our jurisdiction is over theatrical and/or

Pre Recorcjcrl Topes & Drscs

onk Toocs -\ccessorres

Vldeo DtsrPtSurloN co., tNc.'" I{I BEIIT FONESf, CINCII


NASHVlLla, rrr.37221

commercial productions, which include movies, TV commercials, industrial films,


and rock videos. It doesn't include smallscale video shoots. " An out-of-home company in Florida sells videotaped rides on historic train lines. Another place specializes in tapes of model

Fot additional infomation. circle No. 84 on Readet SeNice Cad.

THEVIDEO

CHANGE cuue
A

trains. Everything in between is up for


grabs. Whether your forte is at the editing console or on a mobile video shoot, there gl could be gold in them thar

EYf IIA NA.E A IIANA.

YOUR ONE STOP VIDEO STORE

l.II' AE AT TD

skills.