I first learned about film-making when I attended an after-school program during my senior year at Seward Park High School. It taught us the ins and outs of documentary film-making from recording to editing, compiling it on VHS, and then, of course, the screening.
I had a lot of fun during that process. I loved working as a team out on the field to film a piece of content and then we would return to the editing room and sit quietly in front of our laptop for hours to piece it back together.
I love film-making and always want to learn more. My teachers in that program (Liz and Jimmy) suggested that I go on Mandy.com and start applying for jobs. In the summer of 2004, I worked my first gig as a Production Assistant on an NYU student-thesis film. That first job lead me to many other gigs that summer. It totally opened my eyes. On one of the jobs, we were filming on the roof of the Manhattan Municipal Building. It was so freaking cool!
My most favorite part about this business is that I can travel to all those locations that average people will never have access to. Of course, on the flip side, sometimes we will be shooting overnights outside in the cold and not many people would like to experience that..
The long hours sometimes make schedules a little hectic. There was one time, we (the Electric department) double booked ourselves, we were on this Beyonce music video for 23 hours straight, ending at 7am . We were supposed to work on an MTV promo for Bruno Mars at 8am, of course, we couldn't make it; we had to hire another crew to replace us. No one could have expected that we would film for 23 hours straight. It was a bummer, obviously, we could have meet Bruno Mars.
After 8 years of nonunion Electric work, I decided it was finally time to join the Union (IATSE Local 52) because of the pension and health insurance. Most importantly, I want to work in this industry long term and have a more stable income. Now I am able to work full-time on TV shows and Movies throughout the year and I know I will get my paychecks every Thursdays. Getting in wasn't so easy, it took 2 years, but it was worth it.
I don't have a long-term mentor in the business but Liz was the one that helped me initially and supported my early journey. It did have a huge impact with that start and I will never forget her. Because of that support, I now try to give back; I helped a few of my friends get into the business, give them tips and support. Through my 13 years of experience, I have learned that as long as you have common sense, able to follow orders and a sense of humor, you will go far in this business and I try to pass that on to whomever will listen.
With the recent tax incentive and the explosive growth of television and web series for sites like Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu, it has become a hassle for many to manage the temporary hiring process of filming days and who is in and who’sout. We know that there are people available to work but we still spend too many hours working to locate them each day. Even in today’s world of constant communication and messaging platforms it was still a hassle. There wasn’t an easy platform that existed to facilitate these needs so that’s why I created Available; it’s a tool to help the film community.Available is an employment management platform that helps filmmakers find out who is available to work with just a click of a button.
Be among the first one to check out the app and get your production rolling.
- Ben Ng
Ben Ng is an Electrician and Grip and a member of the IATSE Local 52 Motion Picture Studio Mechanics Union. He is also the founder of the film crew management app Available.