The business facts, on their face, seem grim. In video and digital cinema, the tools are better, cheaper and more accessible to the masses than they have ever been. Software is quickly making many production tools and techniques obsolete. How people consume media is changing everything in our business. Award-winning films like Tangerine, shot on smartphones, illustrate that, to a point, the gear you own and use doesn’t mean nearly as much as it used to. What this means for professionals, aspiring professionals and people who want to make a living in video and cinema production is that our image-creating world is radically changing and will keep changing on an almost weekly basis. So how do you stay on top of it all? How do you keep current with new trends, new markets and innovative ways to strategize your business?
Your Viewpoint: Levels Of Production And Markets
One of the paradoxes of video and cinema production is that there are so many people in the profession, working on so many different levels of production, it can be difficult to gain awareness about what’s going on in your own market, much less what factors are coming down the pike that can and will affect your ability to make a living in this business. You must think about both the micro and the macro. A Hollywood-based cinematographer who makes their living shooting music videos and commercials is going to be affected by very different factors than the wedding videographer from the Northeast. But what they both share is an acute awareness that what’s happening in their respective worlds has become much more important to succeeding.
For a perspective of Hollywood from a cinematographer’s point of view, Shane Hurlbut, ASC, is A-list and updates his website constantly: thehurlblog.com. For wedding videography, weva.pro is an excellent source.
Regardless of your niche and what facet of production you specialize in, you need to keep up to date with what’s going on in your world. One challenge we all face now is information overload. The web is our primary source of up-to-date, current, breaking news about our business, our world and how it affects us. But it’s so easy to get sucked into time-killers on the web. Social media is a double-edged sword. Used productively, industry forums, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube can be incredibly important to building and supporting your business. But as we all know, the same outlets have a way of utterly wasting your time as well. Consciously limit your daily time and resources you devote to social media. Don’t just browse and doodle on social media platforms; make a daily plan of what you want to accomplish and need to check out to make your business productive, and then move on to other tasks that generate leads or make you money. Most people are looking to expand their audience and network, so pick a number of comments/follows/likes per day to check out, and perhaps do those every other day.
As a good daily or weekly check-in, I recommend you take a look at the industry news and information forum at the DVXUser website. It’s very active and covers a good range of different video and digital cinema technologies and new products: dvxuser.com/V6/forumdisplay.php?81-Industry-News-amp-Information
Media Markets Are Converging, Are You?
“Cinematic Weddings,” “Web Series,” “Full-Time Professional Vlogging,” “Day and Date Release.” Video and digital cinema production in 2017 are full of contradictions in terms and new mash-ups of long-established conventions whose definitions are suddenly fluid. The point is, examine what your colleagues, friends and acquaintances are doing. Expand your own markets and clientele by combining new technology waves with your traditional work. Virtual reality, 360 video and augmented reality are all huge new media forms spawning new markets that didn’t exist just a matter of months ago. Some innovators who aren’t afraid to dive into the pool headfirst are making a lot of money in these new forms of media simply because they’re innovative and have numerous possibilities that didn’t previously exist. Plus, most people in our business don’t know much about how to actually conceive, shoot and edit these new forms of media. The more you know about how media is converging, the more opportunities you have.
A good example of a videographer who has turned their knowledge into money while helping out their colleagues is Curtis Judd, who has a YouTube channel called Learn Light & Sound. At a more cinematic, higher-end indie filmmaker level, Ryan Connolly’s Film Riot YouTube channel has a good mix of high-end gear reviews, techniques and humor, and over a million subscribers. Ryan and crew do a good job of exploring not only the gear but also how they actually put it to work on paying projects for clients.
Learn To Be Proactive And Fluid
In 2017, it’s dangerous to define yourself too rigidly. The days of only knowing how to do one or two job functions and having only one or two skill sets are gone unless you’re already established as a national or international expert. Furthering your education about all things media by reading books, blogs and magazines, talking to experts online, and joining organizations and associations tied to your particular niche can all be very helpful and productive. Build your personal network. Open relationships with others in your markets, hire colleagues and get hired by your colleagues. Shoot side projects together, whether it’s a video for a nonprofit, a friend’s indie film or commercial projects you develop together. Use your existing skill set in new ways. If you have the expertise, consider writing for media outlets and clients; you would be amazed at the people you’ll meet and the opportunities that can arise by being visible and building your network. Opportunity doesn’t always knock on your front door; it sometimes presents itself in the least likely of places, through the least likely person.
The Pro Video Coalition is a great website to learn about new ways of using your existing skill set in video production in new ways: provideocoalition.com.
Demo Reels Versus Networking
In the past, it was considered important and necessary in landing great new clients and work to have a current, up-to-date and effective demo reel. It still is, to a point, but frankly, who you know, who you network with and who they know is more important to landing new projects and clients than your demo reel. It can take months to compile, edit, refine, design and conceive an effective demo reel. It’s still important to have some clean, concise samples of your work and skills, but at least in my own experience, I’ve landed a lot more work due to networking and relationships than I have through my demo reel. I find these days that much of my work ends up being posted in social media by my clients, so it can be easier and simpler to send a potential new client some links to your work than to try to continuously update your reel.
The Secret Is That There Is No Secret
There’s no silver bullet, one-size-fits-all solution to having a successful career in media production in 2017. But here’s of recap of the simple points you can use and put to work today that will help you to build, sustain and grow your media business, no matter if it’s just you as a solo shooter or if you have an actual media company with staff.
Your Viewpoint. Stay optimistic, focused, aware, experimenting and, most importantly, connected with people and organizations who can hire you or know others who can hire you
Information Consumption. Think of social media as an aggregator. Use it to further your business in small, time-constrained doses. It’s the biggest double-edged sword in modern business life. Use it for good as the most current source of news and information available, not for evil time-wasting.
Think Convergence. Take a good, hard look at your own media market. What skill sets, connections and body of work and clients do you have that could possibly integrate with another skill set and group of potential clients?
Be Forward-Thinking And Turn On A Dime. It’s important to read about and become educated about new technology trends, fads and innovations like VR, AR, high dynamic range video, drones, motion control, gimbals and everything else new and hot in our business. You don’t need to become an expert or own any or all of it, but you do need to be educated and aware of it all. Knowing all about it makes you an expert, and people love to hire expertise.
Network! Don’t rely on passive means like a web page or demo reel to meet people, build relationships and network. Having a large and varied network of clients, colleagues, friends and acquaintances is the single most important thing you can do to succeed in media production.
The media landscape is only changing more each day. Get out there and put this all to work, and you stand a greater chance of succeeding!
Writer, producer and cinematographer Dan Brockett’s two decades of work in documentary film and behind the scenes for television and feature films have informed his writing about production technology for HDVideoPro Magazine, Digital Photo Pro Magazine and KenStone.net. Visit danbrockett.com.