Work in the USA?

I am sitting in a hotel room in Paris. Having just completed a mammoth 19 hour day. Shooting on the F350 and Canon HV20.

Damn that bloody firewire on the F350 has gone again tonight. Third time this year. Although I have found the problem. It’s not the leads or computer it’s the actual socket on the camera. It’s really loose and the outer metal part has come away from the side. So Sony have been replacing the firewire board but not even looked at the socket.

So it has to go in again. Annoyingly it gets sent to Paris to be fixed but I will probably have to take it back to London tomorrow then get it picked up. A major drag. Thankfully I have my new U1 USB XDCAM drive so I can at least get my footage off. Got some awesome timelapse of Paris and the rest of the stuff looks great. Shooting mostly DVCAM, but doing all the timelpase in HD as it gives me more options in the edit.

Now…anyway, back to the topic. Having spent a great two weeks in the States in the sunshine and open space and coming back to freezing England it makes me wonder if I should try working in LA for a bit. The only thing is I have no idea if or how it would work.

Would I need a green card? I would be freelance so I don’t know. If I did, how on earth would I get one as they must be very hard to get. Also, being a new boy on the block would there be enough work for me to make a go of it? I am very busy in the UK, making a nice living. But not always doing the sort of work I really crave.

It’s a question that has been on my mind for a number of days now…

Any advice greatly received!!



  1. Phil,

    Your work is lovely, and you would be a great asset in the States. I wish I knew the LA market (I live in the South), but talent like yours inevitably commands work and praise—at least that’s been my experience.

    Thanks for the site.

  2. Phil, I live in LA and after seeing the body of your work I am confident that your skills would really pay off here. I would hire you for my shoots in a second. What kind of rates do you get in th UK.

  3. Strange there are no comments yet? Fear of competition I suppose. The old “we love Phillip, so long as he stays in London” song and dance LOL. (or people are just busy)

    I say go for it. If you can handle the ugliness that is Los Angeles. The fake people and horrific traffic (second to Atlanta traffic IMO) But the weather, my god the weather alone is worth it.

    If you want to work in the states, I don’t think you would have to base yourself in LA. Find somewhere you would enjoy living, and commute to where ever you are needed.

    I believe all you would need to do is apply for a work visa. The H-1B. BUT I think you would need a US employer to sponsor you; which I am sure many people here would be thrilled to help you out with, me included.

    The H-1B visa would allow you to stay and work for up to six years. gives a lot of good information. Also

    Interesting to see how this pans out.

  4. Hello Phil, You too!
    Let me say first, thank you for the beautiful work you have put up for all of us to admire. Its was because of” Piccadilly Furs” that I purchased the EX1 and sometime next week will be recieving my Letus Extreme.The “You Too” comment`s from the fact that I am relocating to L.A. from New York. I have friends out in L.A. and from what I am told there is more than enough work for everybody and with an eye like yours I think you`ll do just fine.
    Thanks for help with your blog,the PP specifications and with opening my eyes to what I can achieve visually.

    Hey there is only one way to find out wether you`ll make it in L.A.-
    See you in L.A, Phil.

  5. Phil,
    You’ll need a “sponsor” for an H1B visa. The sponsor is your employer. Since you’re freelancing I don’t think an H1B visa is for you. There might be other visas for this purpose.

    A green card doesn’t come easy. I have doctor friends in the US who are in research here and whose work is published but still having a hard time getting a green card. Most of the “hard time” part is getting paper work organized and keeping after your case.

    I came in to the US on an H1B visa and 7 years later got a green card. But the companies I worked for paid the fees and the lawyers.

    You’re single right? Well, find a babe in the US and get married and stay married for 5 years.

  6. Hey Philip,

    Don’t make my mistake. If the opportunity is there, go for it. I had the chance twenty years ago and I have few regrets but this is one of them. Different field, (I’m a dubbing (re-recording) mixer by profession) but the same principle applies.

    It’s not for everyone. A very successful friend of mine spent six months there and hated it once he was on the spot. But you’ll never know unless you try.

    I have a lot of respect for your work and I tnink you have something unique to offer. On that basis alone, you should go for it.

  7. Hey Phil…..

    David Zaugh here.
    Come to LA.
    It will save me the expense of flying you here to DP my film!

    Seriously though…..this is where one must be to really get into the film business….I know there are exceptions, but the chances increase exponentially by being here. You will have a huge advantage for the first year you are here…you will be fresh! By that I mean, after a certain amount of time here, one slips into the relaxed flow that is LA, and time just starts to slip slip slip on by a bit. People get comfortable, content, and complacent….even the most aggressive and passionate of the bunch. Maybe it’s the downfall of the weather…who knows.

    I will say this though, after having met you when you were here, and viewing your work for the better part of a year, and seeing it grow, I have NO doubt you can hit the ground running once you arrive. There are so many people you can get in front of and meet here. It may seem intimidating from across the pond, but it is really a small town and it doesn’t have to take long to figure that out.

    I have a friend who is in his 50s, an amazing composer and living in Israel. I will definitely be using him in my film work, for he like you has wonderful sensibilities and the talent to go with it. He has a family and is back and forth on whether he can make the move to LA…it’s a lot to consider for him. Yet, if he were here as a resident for a little while there is no doubt he would work and have a career boom. But you Phil…you are in a different boat. You are more of a rogue guy by design…not too many people you have to answer to at the moment. I read someone suggesting you marry a US gal to get your green card. While I would not place all of your eggs in that one basket….who knows, you might actually find a sweet bird here that you fall for and find yourself happily married one day. But the point is you don’t know what LA will be like until you come and live here.

    You will need to get plugged in if you come and I can help with that. From finding a place to live to getting a car to nailing down some work. I can help with all of that. Like I said above, you don’t HAVE to live here to be in the film business, but to really increase your chances, it sure does help. You just have access to so many more things.

    I will put it to you like this. Next week I finish a directing course that I have been taking for about 8 weeks. In that time, my teachers have been David Fincher, Spike Jonze (and his entire production team including DP Lance Acord), Jullian Schnabel, Tamara Jenkins, Scott Frank, Zach Helm, Callie Khouri, and Jason Reitman. For anyone you don’t know of do a search on IMDB. Point is, classes and workshops like that don’t exist in Chicago, my hometown. It exists here in the epicenter of the film industry. The ability to walk into an office and physically engage someone, whether it be a producer, director, or whatever, is here. I bet you would be able to get an agent with a slight amount of effort, and that would certainly help. There are hundreds of films coming out of this town every year…no reason why you can’t work on a few.

    Anyway, didn’t plan on writing such a lengthly blog here…..should have just sent a damn email! I’ll talk to you soon.

  8. Hello David Zaugh
    my name is Hakim Robinson,I am about 90 days away from the move to LA from New York. The course you took that you were refering to in that last blog,is there a website or can you tell me how to reach the administrator for the class?
    You dont know my work,but you will.

  9. Thanks David. Great thoughts, thanks. Am really seriously considering this. Just got to be 100% sure and to know that enough work is there to make it work. Would be giving up a lot here to do it.

    I want to make docos as well as films. After all docos are my first true love. The spontaneity lights my fire

  10. Phil..

    I received my LEX, yesterday, put it on the vectorscope this AM. Using a Cacon 50mm FD lens, it appears that NO adjustment is needed from my TC2 color matrix, which you already have. It looks quite good on the vectorscope.

    As for your question, re: work, LA is certainly a mecca, no arguments from me. That’s the trouble. The competition for work is pretty heavy. There are other places, like New Mexico, that is attracting the movie biz in a big way, and doesn’t, yet, have that level of competition. Cost of living is appropriately less. Consider places other than LA, it’s quite a warzone in LA.

  11. Hey Phil,
    Or….. like me…… you could consider India.
    Great weather and the sheer insanity of the culture.
    You might not make as much cash but can you imagine the experiences you would have? Talk about life changing!
    I’m sure you know about Christopher Doyle’s time in Asia.

    A guy like you cold make it fly anywhere!

  12. Philip,

    L.A. is a tough town. I know if you’re going to the States, consider other options, too. There is a lot of hopeful bullshit in that town. Still, you must understand that America is the TV capitol of the world, and there are shows being produced all over the United States, and maybe you should consider going to High Noon productions in Denver, where you can work on the complete mass of cable shows for Discovery, and History, and a whole other bunch of places.

    I wouldn’t want to start over in L.A. if I didn’t have a winning screenplay in my pocket and anything less than a million US dollars (thats 5 euros now…. effectively LOL), because even the best end up as some film loader, no matter how talented, and then they go home and start their own production companies with the knowledge that they learn from real work, because it’s more valuable than doing the Hollywood shuffle. Others just become the character of “The Dude” from Big Lebowski. Get high, wear a sock cap, and skeek around movie sets witht their trust funded film school buddies to become a “Third-Third-Third Assistant Camera Loader.”

    Not what you want to do, I’m guessing.

    L.A. is a shark pool.
    I personally grew up in farm country in the middle of America (Indiana), which has corn and cows, and I had a terrible bout of culture shock in L.A. in several days. Why? I met some really fake bastards who are impolite, but then again, I grew up poor in what we call ‘Mayberry’ in the US, where literally we didn’t lock our houses or cars. My wife reacted violently to them. Not the noserings, or tatoos, or whatnot, it was the terrible self-centeredness. The misbegotten belief that their auteur craft was more important than any other aspect of their lives. The kind of person that drives past an ambulance on the side of the road, and says, “idiots.” The knowledge that, no matter what, someday they’ll do the same thing to you, and not think a thing about it.
    That’s Californians in big cities. Americans in most big cities.
    Californians outside of big cities are great. Americans everywhere else would give you the shirts off their backs in a snowstorm.
    Not everyone in America is as interested in being as friendly as we are, remember that. We’re all internet extroverts you’re talking to here. Remember, NAB is for the self-motivated, extrovert types.

    Be warned. Unless you’re sleeping on a friend’s couch for a few months free, LA can make you the person in that ambulance I was using in the metaphor.

    Take holiday in New York, and Chicago, or someplace like Miami too if you can. If you want film work, yes, L.A. is the place to be, but then again, there are seven bazillion people moving there every day to get film work, and often, they have something deep inside themselves that has something ridiculous to prove, meaning they’re cracked up on the inside. They’re really awesome, until they become dicks. Outrageous, ambitious, backbiting dicks in a second.

    However, there are cable shows popping up all over the states, all the time, feeding the world in TV. I think, as a rule, you’d just have a great time living somewhere in the states for the scenery and driving on the funny side of the road. That it would make you smile to be living in Miami, or New York, or some place like that. Maybe even Las Vegas!

    If you can do work as a photog for a year or two for a cable show, you’ve got your foot in the door. Some of those shows will have a lot of travel, and be great. See the whole USA on someone else’s money. Show people some work, and the producers will recognize it instantly. The problem is getting in front of a producer. The people who control the money.

    Your accent will garner instant attention, and then just find work from there. Just be warned, LA can really bum a person out. I know your work is good, but make sure that you just don’t land with a suitcase and no plan.

    When people in Hollywood say regular people can make it, they’ve saod things like “Nicholas Cage is an ‘everyman,'” and they mean he changed his last name to a comic book character from Coppola. That’s what we mean when we say it’s hard to get into Hollywood. Nicholas Cage did it by years of hard work, and oh, yeah, his uncle did the Godfather movies.

    If you want to be a production assistant, go right ahead. Otherwise, formulate a plan. There is, as a friend says, an ‘invisible force field’ around Hollywood.

    Good luck, and I’d do a year of research and another holiday in New York or Miami before I thought about slumping in a place seat.

  13. Phillip,

    you’d probably have to get hired by someone to get a work visa and since you’re a creative they don’t have to explain why they aren’t hiring a citizen or resident.

    but you have to find someone willing to go through all the paperwork to do that in the first place. personally watching you’re stuff I’d hire you in 1/24 of a second. but LA thats a different story

  14. If I happen to book you to help me out to do a short film about nightlife in San Francisco, California would you be interested? I would pay for all accommodations and maybe even shoot some stuff in Los Angeles. You may check me out at ( or visit my other site at to see some samples of work we’ve done shooting club videos of events at night. I want to create a short film about the nightlife of metropolitan cities.



  15. You might consider San Francisco where your work will be more appreciated. Hollywood is about connections and all you’ve heard is correct about the sordidness of the film business. LA is 50 minutes away by air and lots of creative people live in SF and work in LA. It’s a choice you can consider!

  16. i think i will just take jobs in the states as and when. San Fran sounds cool but i know people in LA, not San Fran. I do love it there though…

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