RANT // Stop Trying to Impress People With What You’re Shooting On

Because there’s a good chance I can find loads of work shot on a T2i, a hacked GH3 or even an iPhone that’s more impressive, moving or engaging than what you shot on that RED or C300. It’s funny, because personal experience has showed me that many of the people who boast about gear aren’t actually producing work that makes their viewers feel much of anything, or at least captivates them. And too often it’s just plain boring.

Before I go on making myself out to be even more of an arrogant cynic, it’s not my aim to discount the value of higher end cameras like REDs & C300s, and there’s an abundance of exceptional work shot on them. I’ve used them a few times & I’m aware of how advanced & innovative they are, the brand equity they bring, and how not using them or others can prevent us from landing higher paying clients. The RED, for example, is kind of my whipping boy in this post because so many times over the past few years I’ve heard the words “We shot on RED” used as a means of impressing & blowing sunshine up the butts of people who don’t know any better. Too often, it’s the answer to a question nobody asked. It’s flaunted as a badge of honor, or at least a means of validating their project. And this is a prime example of a mindset that’s too prevalent in our industry.

Now to the core of what I’m really saying. Don’t try to impress people with the gear you use. Impress them with the quality of your work. Impress them by making them feel something when they watch it. Impress them with how you structure & tell your story. Or at the very least, spend more time being detail oriented enough to eliminate the sloppy distractions in your work, instead of focusing on how to make your production appear to be more pro than it actually is.

Just focus on the creative first. Once your message & vision for the piece are defined & polished, then move on to the techy crap. But remember kids, oftentimes they really don’t matter as much as you might think. This will be heresy to many, but quite often, it doesn’t matter that you shot on a RED, C300 or F5 instead of a DSLR. Getting caught up in the minutia that comes with the former can be a real waste of time. It also doesn’t matter that you used a knockoff Steadicam and not a MoVi. And in some situations it doesn’t matter that you used a monopod and not a Zacuto shoulder rig complete with a matte box.

You don’t need that stupid matte box. Get over yourself.

People just want to look like pros, even if their work isn’t pro caliber. It annoys the crap out of me. That elitist mentality that sometimes comes with using top notch video gear, when the final product is anything but. It seems like in some circles it’s become an unspoken rule that you need the latest & greatest to produce good work. This is so mindless & shows that their priorities are out of whack. You don’t. You need a good eye, some heart and a creative vision. Like my pal Pablo Picasso once said, “Learn the rules like a pro so you can break them like an artist.” This is a craft you’re working in, so get crafty instead of talking about your tools all the time.

Rant OVER.

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IMPERIAL MOTION // Color Change T-Shirt Series

Every once in a while you get to work with the kind of brand that kind of made you want to get into video in the first place. Imperial Motion is one of those brands. One day back in November, I got a call from them with an interesting idea for a project. They were coming out with a line of thermo-reactive dyed T-Shirts (or color change T-Shirts) like what I remember seeing in the early nineties. They were asking for a series of short pieces showcasing just how cool these shirts are.

It’s nice having the kind of creative freedom they gave me for this. We had a clear objective & a 15 second time limit for each piece, but outside of that, they trusted my ability to communicate the main points in a simple & aesthetically pleasing manner. God bless ‘em.

I’m stoked about all these pieces except the last one that just features our guy walking into frame & standing there while his shirt changes color. It’s boring, un-engaging, and the change in color is hardly even noticeable in that one. The weakest of the five, for sure.

On a positive note, I saw this as a good opportunity to abandon my long lived dependency on music. I’d almost always depended on it to make the work more interesting for viewers. So for this one, I relied on the raw audio I picked up from the warehouse & had some fun reversing the audio of wine glass dings to add some fun. Worked well, don’t you think?

Me too.

THE END.

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Jogs for Dogs // Stay Fit. With a Friend.

Long before Jogs For Dogs ended up being one of the best clients to have worked with, I was left a somewhat vague voicemail about a potential project for some kind of dog running company. When Brenden left it, I thought maybe it was a joke, or at least I had a hard time taking it serious. He didn’t tell me how he heard of me, and he seemed reluctant to tell me much about his business. In full disclosure, I kind of just went through the motions of corresponding & submitting a proposal, assuming it would be out of his budget, because after all, I perceived it as a dog running business.

Come to find out, this wasn’t just a dog running business. It was a social network, of sorts, for dog owners & runners, and Brenden was in the process of refreshing his website & developing a mobile app to work in conjunction with the site. It also turned out that my normal rates were not out of his budget.

He wanted a high-energy edit featuring runners running dogs & using the new mobile app. He wasn’t looking for something particularly informative, he just wanted something uptempo and engaging. He’d heard about me from Jared of 6th Ave Studios, who’d been working on the website & mobile app. I’d met Jared a few months prior at a New Years Eve party. Brenden liked (270) Seconds of Summer & thought some of that energy would be put to good use in the video he was looking to have produced for Jogs For Dogs. This was the outcome.

Almost everything went according to plan in the production of this piece, thanks in large part to Brenden! In many ways he’s the ideal client. He trusts my creative direction & allows me to make a case when I need something & he maintains an open mind. When I told him I’d need to hire a second camera man & two actors, he was on board with that. When I suggested that we’d need an extra two hundred dollars for a music license, he agreed. He was prompt with payment & even offered to pay the full amount up front for the entire project. He showed many times that he trusted me & that was incredibly valuable.

The typography at the end was kind of a new thing for me. I’d wanted to learn how to mask text, and it took me almost a half day to research & figure out how to execute it.  It’s amazing how much you can learn from YouTube & Vimeo tutorials.

For second camera, I worked with Kevin of Yes And Video, who’s always a pleasure to work with, as we’re always in sync while on shoots. For talent, I found J’nisha Towne & Dja Soufka on the Northwest Film Forum Callboard. A great team of people to work with on a day with such perfect Seattle weather.

Good times.

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Brooks at O.R.

Bait me with an assignment that involves travel & I’ll likely bite. It’s one of the many reasons I got into video in the first place. Last January, Brooks hired Yes And Video, who commissioned me to travel down to Salt Lake City, of all places, to capture what they had going at Outdoor Retailer, one of the largest (if not the largest) outdoor gear & apparel trade shows in the world.

Brooks was putting together what ended up being an award-winning display & they wanted to document the process & the experience. This was the outcome.

From a creative standpoint I had a lot of fun playing with the photos of the Brooks logos at :07. That’s something I’ve been wanting to try ever since I fell in love with what Guillaume Le Berre did at 1:27 in his riveting short, Incubation. I love the tempo & vibe of the piece, and so did the clients. On the flip side, after completing this video, I resolved to always try & use a monopod when capturing live action on the go, unless for some reason I want a raw & choppy aesthetic, which I really wasn’t going for here. Overall, this ended up being a great experience & adventure, and I ended up with a piece of work I’m happy to slap my name on!

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Arbor, Art & Sharks

Over the Summer, board sport company Arbor Collective teamed up with Pangea Seed to bring us The Great West Coast Migration, a series of art shows up & down the West Coast put on to raise awareness about shark finning & ocean conservation. Arbor had worked with me before & contacted me about capturing the first two events for a film they’ll be producing. After a bit of discussion, he & I also decided to produce a teaser for the rest of the series.

 

Everyone involved was a delight to work with & we couldn’t have asked for a smoother experience producing a piece like this. Shooting took place here in Seattle & Portland, which is an interesting town, to say the least. The art work was tight, The Pangea seed crew was a great group of passionate individuals & Arbor is company whose brand & culture I can get behind. Their aim to conduct business in the most sustainable way possible while producing a dope product is admirable. Definitely look forward to working with them again in the future.

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7 Lessons in Crowdfunding

I’m two for two when it comes to crowdfunding. Last year I helped drive Ben Union’s KickStarter campaign to success by producing the video content for it. More recently, I managed to get my own RocketHub campaign fueled for my next film. I can’t take all the credit for running a successful crowdfunding project. The majority of the credit must be given to my contributors (or fuelers). What I can take credit for is being calculated & strategic when conducting the campaign.

Before launching my project, I did a tremendous amount of research about what it takes to succeed at crowdfunding. This post is me adding to the pool of information in the hopes that it will inspire & help someone looking to launch a successful project. When I first heard of sites like KickStarter, RocketHub & IndiGoGo, I was excited to see what was possible, only to realize that in reality, just a small percentage of these projects actually hit their goal. I’ve found that it’s because they’re not willing to really put in the work and because their campaigns generally suck. Or at least they’re perceived to suck. The following are a few things I can speak to out of experience & from research on how not to suck.

1) Tell them your story.
Who are you & what have you done? I see a lot of crowdfunding projects that don’t explain this, so people have no way to trust that you’ll do well with their money, or just as important, that you’ll even do a good job. Crowdfunding is not charity. You’ll get a few friends & family members contribute because they love you, but the general public doesn’t trust nor care about you unless you give them a reason to. One simple way to build trust is by letting them know who you are as a creative & what you’ve done. That second part is clutch. If you’re looking to get a book published, why should they help you if you’ve never written a book, an article, an essay, or a piece of poetry or whatever? They need to know that you’ve accomplished something. If you’ve had something published, tell them. If your band has performed at sold out venues, tell them. If you’ve produced a film that’s been recognized, tell them. You have to be validated as a creative somehow, so don’t be too modest. Luckily for me, I had my last film to point back to. If you have nothing to point to, like genuinely have nothing to point to, ask yourself if it’s too soon to be asking people for money. If it is, produce something good without money & build a reputation from that. This ties into point two.

2) Build a brand.
I’m learning more & more how important this is, not just for crowdfunding, but for career & business development in general. When I say let them know who you are, a big part of what that means is building a brand for yourself. If you have a website, blog, a portfolio, Facebook or Twitter page, that all counts. Give them ways to find you to see what you’ve been up to & what you’re all about. And make sure all these aspects of your brand are congruent.

3) Tell them what you’ll do with their money.
This might be the biggest thing that plays into the trust factor. It’s good to go into how you’ll be using the funds (without constricting yourself too much or spoiling anything creatively). For example,  I let my audience know that $1500 will be going towards a music license, then I’ll be using the funds towards a motion graphics specialist, paying a couple giving birth to allow a camera in the room, a photographer & gas, etc.. I also let them know that I’ll be using some of my own money to produce the film as well, which is definitely the case now.

4) Use, but don’t abuse your social network.
This may be one of the trickiest parts of crowdfunding. Come to grips with the fact early on that most of the people on your Facebook friend list will not contribute to your project, so don’t push them. When your project launches, ask your good friends personally to contribute & share. These are the people who genuinely want to see you succeed or the people who are enthusiastically into your work, not because they’re your friends, but because they admire what you create.  From there, let them help create the bandwagon that will make others want to hop on. You should reach out seldomly & when you do, it should be calculated & different from the last time. Bring them new news about an article that was written about what you’re doing, or how someone featured you on a podcast talking about your project. Once people on your social network see that there is some momentum behind your project, they too will want to come aboard.

5) Create momentum.
Bugging people on Facebook & Twitter to contribute is not creating momentum. It’s just bugging them. A way to create momentum is to get influential people to talk about what you’re doing. In my case, I got interviewed by RocketHub and was featured on a podcast. In addition, the band whose song I’m using agreed to spread the word on their social network, which definitely helped. Much of this work should take place before the launch of your project!

The harsh reality of all this is that if you have no past work that validates you as a creative, the likelihood of someone influential wanting to talk about your current project is slim. This goes back to points 1 & 2.

6) Timing is everything.
One of the big things I’ve been learning is that creating & capitalizing on hype is of the utmost importance. Striking while the iron’s hot could be the difference between success & a lack thereof. If I had the foresight to capitalize on the buzz generated by my last film, I could have been able to raise more money for my next project or brought in so much business for my company. But the fact is, at the time, I did not have my next project lined up, nor did I even have a company, a website, or a personal brand built around myself in any way. In the show Entourage, super agent Ari Gold talks to his client about the importance of using the hype for your current project to help get you your next project. I didn’t start to understand the importance of that concept until I’d been in this industry for a while. For myself, moving forward, I likely won’t be releasing the film I’m working on now until I’ve started the fundraising process for my next project. You see? Foresight.

7) Don’t sell yourself short.
In the interest of being ‘realistic’ I set my goal to a low figure that I believed was attainable: $2500. This number was a bare bones figure & I knew that if I only raised this amount, making the film would be a hassle, but possible nonetheless. I considered anything above this icing on the cake.  Within twenty-four hours of launching the campaign, I saw that hitting the goal was going to be easy, but getting beyond that goal will be a challenge. So in a way, I shot myself in the foot. I tried to push a second goal of $3500, so I can get some gear to make the production process a little easier. I found that reaching that second goal was a bit of a challenge, since the official goal for the project was still $2500 and cannot be changed. There was a large number of people who visited the project’s page, quickly saw that the goal had been reached & assumed that there was nothing else to be done, so their motivation to contribute dwindled. I ended up hitting my ‘second goal’, but knowing what I know now, I would have set the official goal to $4500 to cover more gear & un-expected expenses. I’m confident we would have been able to reach that figure.

If you do all these things right, you’ll be shocked at how your project will take off.

Now, get to work.

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VENUE :: Travis Tyler

Venue Ballard is awesome! Travis Tyler is awesome! Naturally I was stoked to make a video promoting both. Travis is a good friend & an exceptional artist who’s super talented with a camera. Venue’s a cool boutique in Seattle where artists can create & the public can see them in their element, check out the work & buy it! Back in May, Venue featured Travis as their artist of the month for Ballard’s monthly Art Walk. This video showcases Travis’s process in making & displaying the work. Check it out!

 

For a little while longer, you can see Travis’s work at Venue, in Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood, or you can check out the work on his Etsy page & order directly from him!

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