Freelance tips on how to compete with LA crews

As someone who came into the entertainment business late in the game, I appreciate the value of networking because the people you surround yourself with can make or break your career. I met this month’s speaker at San Jose State University, when I decided to go to film school in my late 30’s. I graduated last June and am now in charge of hiring freelancers for Four Winds Creative as their Production Manager. Managing the Bay Area Creative Freelancers Meetup gives me the opportunity to meet video producers, DP’s, grips, audio, editors, and photographers, so I knew I had to find a speaker who could relate to this particular audience.

Our Speaker

Nick Martinez, co-founder of Roann Films has an office in LA and SF and spoke about the difference between LA and SF based crews. Here are some of the highlights.

Los Angeles is the mecca for the film industry

Bay Area freelancers need to accept and embrace that. Good news, jobs are plentiful, but that also means that people are willing to work for less because of the competitive market. Quite frankly, they are just willing to work. Period. Cost of living is more expensive here in the Bay Area, but that doesn’t mean you have to charge a higher rate. It also doesn’t mean you have to be cheap either. Finding a price is something only you can do, but keep in mind when a company has a budget and your costs appear higher, they may decide to hire from LA because they offer more affordable rates.

Northern California Vs. Southern California

A big aha moment for me was when Nick mentioned how Northern California doesn’t like southern California, but Southern California doesn’t know Northern California exists. We get so caught up in where people are from that we are not focusing on what we can do better. No one in LA will ask where you are from. If you’re on set, they assume you are from there, or you must be knowledgeable enough to have earned your spot there.

What can I do?

So, this may feel overwhelming and you may wonder “what can I do?” Well, Nick recommends that the biggest thing you can do is to “invest in yourself.” Nick shared the story of a DP friend of his who graduated from a top film school. That person couldn’t find work no matter how hard he tried. He bit the bullet and took out a 20-year loan on an Alexa camera package. 3 months later, he was turning away work. Companies want to hire someone who not only has the talent but has the equipment to do high quality work.

Embrace LA

Next thing I learned was how to “embrace LA.” Nick travels to LA every 6 weeks. He visits with friends, tries to network, and does what he can to keep his name out there. He even posts on social that he’s in LA so they can associate him with both cities. That way when something comes up someone may say…” hey let’s call Nick.”

Tough questions

“Ask yourself how hard you are willing to work?” Nick’s famous quote to his students is “I will die working. If you want to outwork me, you’ll have to shoot me. And if you shoot me, you’ll have to shoot me in the back because if I see you coming, I’ll get you first.” He will also tell them “If this makes you mad, good. Work harder. Try to beat me.” You need to be willing to give it your all. “The only difference between those who made it and those that didn’t is the ones that didn’t, quit.” My biggest takeaway was “don’t quit”. Keep going. You’ll get a lot of no’s, but eventually, if you keep going, you will get a yes. Then you’ll get another and another.

Client etiquette

Lastly, he reminded everyone, if you get a client you’re not particularly fond of, just smile, do your job, and you can choose not to work with them in the future. Do be professional because although you may not like them, you never know if they will refer you to someone else in the future, and in this business referrals are key.


There were so many juicy tidbits of information he went over, it’s hard to capture all of it. This is why attending is crucial. Put yourself out there and meet new people. We do try and get great speakers who have tons of expertise in the subject they are discussing. It’s important to us that you gain something from attending. Everyone was picking Nick’s brain afterwards, so I would say this meetup was a success.

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