Day 80: Small City Film

The point of this project was to become self-employed within 90 days, and by the looks of it, Christmas might be coming sooner than I expected. Yesterday marked the first day of Small City Film, my newly launched film production company.

Time Not Wasted

After a week and a half escapade of filming and editing, I finally finished my first wedding highlight reel for my friends Kevin & Justine Chiang. The process took an immense amount of effort, but the reverberation from social media, and the amount of leads I’ve received for filming more weddings shows that my time was not wasted.

Depending on how it all turns out, I could be up and running for the next two months with an increased amount of capital for expanding my team, gear, and overall online presence.

Booking More Time

While I was up in Kelowna, I met with the media coordinator at a camp that has deep roots within my family. My grandfather was apart of a group of German immigrants who actually founded the camp. All around, there’s a great story to be told, which is what led me to meet with media coordinator. I’m planning to film a short documentary on the camp, the people, and the overall story. That, and the month of August could potentially be loaded with more wedding shoots.

Time To Keep Learning

Today, I met with a friend to discuss the possibility of creating a full photography/videography wedding production partnership. We’ll see how this turns out in the coming month.

I’ve also been making the switch from Final Cut Pro X to Adobe Premiere, and to the overall creative cloud. Last night was mostly me raging at my computer, getting re-acquainted with new hotkeys, and experiencing an overall new workflow that at the time slowed me down a lot. It’s frustrating to know what you want, and not being able to get there as quickly as you once could. This lead me to start a whole new Lynda.com tutorial series on Adobe Premiere CC. I’m excited, I’ve already learned a lot, and I’m now starting to see why Adobe Premiere is a standard for video production.

The following video is Kevin & Justine Chiang’s Highlight Reel. I hope you enjoy it. Feel free to email me at sean@fromnextflixtolynda.com if you want to give me a shout.

 

Day 78: Take The Time

In my previous post I mentioned that while in Kelowna I was shooting some engagement photos. There was also a moment when I was about to venture off into the city limits and take some interesting landscape shots of the couple, but due to the rattle snake warnings, that never happened.

However, while on our way home, we found an isolated logging road just off the highway in between Kelowna and Merritt. You’d literally have to be going 40 kilometers an hour to see it. Which we were, as we were appreciating the stunning scenery.

Polite Private Property

One thing I noticed while in Kelowna is that most if not all the land is privately owned, so walking on forsaken land was a dream; you’d usually be deemed a trespasser. This road was different though. There was no “private property” or “trespassers will be prosecuted” signs. Instead we read a lovely little sign that said “be responsible”. And so we were. It’d be irresponsible of us not to venture down this road in search of some forsaken scenery.

About 15~20 minutes down this small one way road we found a jetted out exit in which one could walk straight into the valley, and so we did just that. It was around 8:00pm and overcast. The couple looked at me hoping I could produce the vision I had pitched for them, but none the less we were all excited. We stayed until about 10:30pm taking photos and appreciating the view.

Be Willing To Adventure

While walking back to the car, which in its self took about half an hour, we were all fairly happy with our spontaneous outing. Photos or not, witnessing the sunset and view was priceless. We were all glad that we took the time. I’m certain all of us would agree that none of us knew what was down that logging road, past the forest, and into the valley. None of us knew of the sunset that was going to take place that night. And none of us really had the same vision for what we envisioned that night. But we all had a willingness to see where the road would take us. To take the time. To experiment. To adventure.

I’m not as sad about the rattle snakes anymore. They had their place. We had ours. And I think our’s was better.

 

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Day 75: Shooting Engagement Photos

Being in the Okanagan, there are plenty of orchards, desert landscapes, and all around stunning scenery close by. Yesterday, I had the privilege of shooting engagement photos for two friends of mine. Taking a break from editing video on my laptop, we decided to head out on a picture taking adventure across Kelowna.

After sometime at a farm that was owned by a family friend, we ventured up past the city limits to find rolling hills of beautiful desert. We kept driving, hit private property, and turned around to scope out some of the landscape while heading back to the city. We pulled the car off to the side of the road after we found a nice landscape for the perfect panorama. But unfortunately our adventure stopped after getting out of the car. The Okanagan grass is littered with rattle snakes, and that’s all we heard, rattle snakes.

…sometime I’d like to wander Iceland. Mainly due to the lack of rattle snakes, and the abundance of beautiful scenery.

Gear Wasn’t The Highlight Today

Most of the photos I was taking were during mid day with the sun being diffused by the clouds, while using my old 50mm Super Takumar f/1.8 lens (cost me $30 on craigslist). I was hovering around ISO 100~160, and my shutter was anywhere between 1/2000~1/500. I noticed that I could be taking these on my old T3i if I had wanted too. The lighting was good, I had a wide aperture on a good lens, my ISO was never being pushed, and my shutter was at some points being maxed out.

I was reminded that I really was no different then someone shooting on a T3i. Probably on Auto too. What made it different was the decisions I made. To not settle for cliches. To check my focus. To drive a little longer than normal… the more I confirmed that the gear is only a tool, and that it’s you that makes the difference. If you’re someone who’s interested in some sort of creative art, we live in a time where the barrier of entry is extremely low, and relatively cheap, compared to 10~15 years ago. Also, hiring yourself out to your friends for engagement photos is a super low cost, low pressure way, to practice your photography, and expand your portfolio. Maybe you should think of grabbing some sort of basic tool, and start practicing on how you can make yourself a better ___________ (photographer, videographer, audio engineer etc.)

The following photo was shot in a local cherry orchard in Kelowna.

Leoemmalynda

 

Day 73: Why Is Workflow So Important?

It’s a lovely sunny afternoon in Kelowna, BC as I edit over 10 hours of wedding footage. Sunday night I decided to head out with some friends for a spontaneous vacation up here in Kelowna Albeit, I do have some work cut out for me as I have to assess the footage from this past weekend.

However high pressure a wedding shoot might be, I must say, I do enjoy the layover that comes after. Editing is a task that can really be done anywhere as long as you have a computer, possibly a mouse, and a healthy supply of caffeinated beverages. If not for the portability, I probably wouldn’t be enjoying the Okanagan sun right now.

Workflow Helps Bring Rest

Considering I have a lot to do, this is one of the first times the idea of a healthy workflow has come to mind. Many creatives tend to just get right to it. You sit down, start cranking out some photos or videos, and call it a day. But you just can’t do that with 10 hours of footage. Getting up from an editing session, leaving it for the night, and then get back to it in the morning leaves no room for undecided decisions, or vaguely new approaches. You need a consistent system in which you can put your mind at ease once you leave your work to rest, along with being able to pick it up right where you left off, however long the break may have been.

Workflow Helps You Focus

One thing I’ve noticed is that I’m a sucker for colour grading. I love taking one piece of footage, and seeing how many different ways I can put it on display via different textures, filters, and colour-scales. This approach however, leaves little room for beneficial editing. One never commits, and one is never satisfied. Along with not knowing how to properly colour grade, one might never get out of the the black hole of amateur, filmmaker, colour grading, death. I’ve been there, and it sucks.

Learn a Consistent System

I’ll be looking at some colour grading tutorial on Lynda.com this week, and I’m excited to see where it takes me. I’m no where near the level of a profesisonal colourist, but I do think I have a decent eye, and a good understanding of the technicalities behind it. The one thing I don’t have though, is a foundational outlook on the process, because all I’ve ever known or learned has been gained through trial and error. Taking a look into a the professional landscape of colour grading I think will benefit my editing immensely.

Along with increasing the actual quality of the content, learning a foundational (and professional) way of doing things adds to the confidence and consistency of your workflow. Having something you know how to do, and you know will give good results is the key to any healthy workflow. If not for those two things, you’d be all over the place all the time, always trying new things; you’d never know what worked well because it’d be mixed in with all of the stuff that didn’t. So, learn a system, and get good at it.

Day 71: Filming Two Weddings & Learning For The First Time

Last Friday I filmed my first paid wedding, and it was an amazing experience. From the groom seeing the bride for the first time, to the ceremony, and the speeches and dances, it was an all around party. Not to mention, I was also in the wedding party celebrating my best friend who was just married (I had a second shooter for the ceremony). The whole day went until around 12:00am, and then came takedown. Seeing as I was also a groomsmen, it was my responsibility to help fully end the wedding day. I stayed longer then a videographer normally would because of this. There was also a breakfast the next day for the wedding party, and along with that, I also had another wedding I was to attend for another best friend the next day. Talk about on the run.

As I went home that Friday night, I hit the preverbal hay as quickly as I could. I needed the sleep ASAP, as the next day would most likely run just as long. After attending the breakfast in the morning, I had to run a few errands and drop off a few rentals, and then I was off to another wedding. This one however, I was not planning to shoot. My close friend who was being married that Saturday asked me to not film so I could enjoy the day, but something in my wanted to still make him a great film, and I knew inwardly that I’d still enjoy the day (especially for the fact that the film would be his wedding gift).

Spontaneous Shooting

So, showing up as a normal onlooker, about 5 minutes before hand, I ran from my car with only one camera I happened to bring that day, and my lower grade tripod, and lavaliere. I found the pastor, mic’d him up, and took a place on the side to grab as many dynamic shots as I could. I only had one camera, my 6D’s battery was dead. I forgot to charge it when I got home the night before, along with the batteries in the T2i I was shooting with.

I had half a battery left for the whole ceremony, but I didn’t let that discourage me or stop me, I wasn’t being paid for this wedding, but that doesn’t mean you should cheap out on a gift. My last 16gig SD card was in the camera, with no hacked firmware on it (magic lantern; a firmware I never shoot without), and in the back of my mind I was wondering if the T2i would randomly activate it’s auto gain control while the lavaliere was being recorded. But I kept moving, and I kept filming.

Things Get Worse

It was almost over. They signed their license. They got blessed by there pastor. “I know pronounce you hu—“ and then the battery dies. I missed their first kiss as husband and wife! The worst! My friend Bryan, who was in the wedding party that day, and who was also my second shooter for the day before, saw me suddenly turn my camera down and run away. He was so confused. Why did I not film their kiss? I later told him why, and he bursted out laughing. He told me he placed a GoPro in the tree above which should entail a pretty nice overhead shot of them kissing, and I also found my friend’s dad who happened to get a nice closeup of the kiss on his Canon.

Enjoy The Day

I ended up going home in-between the ceremony and reception, charging my cameras, dumping my cards from the night before, and in essence, doing all the things I should have done when I got home last night. You really never know as a videographer when your next shoot is going to be. It could be planned, and paid for, or it could be spontaneous. Either way, you always need to be prepared, and this is something that no video, tutorial, or teaching, will ever teach you. The past two days of filming has made me that much more confident in the field of videographer, and especially wedding videography. There were problems I encountered that I never expected, and I have to say, I’m glad that I filmed my both of my friends weddings, even though they were both hesitant on me filming as they wanted me to enjoy the day. Valid argument, but I’m glad that I took the chance, and soon giving both couples the ability to relive their wedding for years to come, and that made the day extremely enjoyable.

Learn While Doing

I have another paid wedding at the end of the month. One that will be much more elaborate, and that’s exciting. But I’ve been duped into thinking that they best way to plan for a wedding, is to plan for a wedding. Wrong. The best way to plan for a wedding is to shoot a lot of weddings. The truth is you will never get better at any skill or trade if all you do is plan, and never test out your assumptions and techniques. Test them, refine them, and build some confidence in knowing that…

  1. You’re choosing to be someone who constantly learns… and…
  2. You’re choosing to be someone who takes action, even though they don’t know all the pieces yet.

If you take these two things to heart, you will exceedingly surprise yourself at what can be accomplished, because the best time to learn something is when you’re doing it for the first time.

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Day 69: Finding Your Hourly Rate

If you’re reading this blog then I can assume you’re interested in entrepreneurship, whether it’d be a lot or a little. In my sphere, I know a few people who are extremely talented in a few areas, but have yet to make the change from hobbiest, to professional; a change which is actually not that hard to do. They’re either scared of risking the time for no reward, or the other, more prominent circumstance, they don’t know what to charge if they would start freelancing. What am I worth? What would my friends pay? Would this price scare people away? are all questions that venture through the mind of an aspiring entrepreneur, and I’m here to ease your soul.

Find Your Hourly Rate

Finding your hourly rate is a great step to moving forward in a freelancing career. But how do you find your rate, Sean? Well, here are a few tips to help you get started.

  1. If you’re freelancing, you’re special. Not too special. But you having some sort of knowledge that not everyone knows, nor is willing to learn. You’re worth just as much as the 16 year old flipping burgers at the nearest burger joint. He flips burgers, you make movies, or music, or whatever. Great. You’re makin’ minimum wage now! Awesome.
  2. What does your portfolio look like? Have you done a few jobs already? It doesn’t have to be amazing, but having something to show for allows your clients to build some trust in you, and helps them understand what kind of content they’ll be receiving. From your clients perspective, that’s worth a lot more then minimum wage. So don’t sell yourself short. You’re not flipping burgers! You’re filming weddings! Act like it!
    1. If you have no work to show for your talent then I’d suggest taking on one or two projects for cost, so you can build up a little portfolio. For cost I mean, have the client pay for all outstanding costs like rentals, parking, gas, maybe lunch, but they don’t need to pay for you. You are free. 
  3. Nice! You have a decent portfolio now. You’ve worked with different kinds of gear, and you have a few people calling you up asking you to do some projects. Now what? You have two directions.
    1. The Guy That Owns All His Gear: If you’ve somehow landed with a bunch of amazing gear… one, you’re lucky… and two, you’re unique. That being said. You’re worth quite a bit. Now we’re going to do a little bit of math. Add up the amount your gear is worth. Let’s say $10,000. Now, let’s say you want to upgrade that gear once this year, and you plan to work on 4 projects a month, one a week. $10,000/52 weeks = $192. Let’s call it $200 even. So on top of your hourly rate, which we’ve agreed is double minimum wage now. You can add on $200 per project, per week. Wooo! These are all ball park figures, but it’s supposed to help get the ideas flowing.
    2. The Guy That Rents All His Gear: If you don’t own your own gear, you probably rent all your gear on a project to project basis. This makes it very easy to write up a quote for a client. They say what they want, you say what they’ll need, and then you show them a quote for what it’ll cost to rent it, along with how much it costs to have you. Rental guys are in a unique situation because you can work with anywhere from really elaborate projects, to really simple ones. The burden of responsibility rests on how well you know how to organize the project and use all the gear you’re renting. If you take the total worth of the gear you’re using for a project, and do the same calculation Total Gear Value/52 weeks = Mark Up Per Project, you get a pretty good idea how much that project is worth.

So let’s say you’re shooting a wedding video, hypothetically. You have $10,000 worth of your own gear, plus a few things you’re renting. The rentals only cost $27, but the total worth of the rented gear is about $500. We’ve also established that we’re charging double minimum wage because we’re special, but not too special. So let’s do the math. A wedding video takes about 40 hours of total production time from preparing, to shooting, to editing, and then distributing.

40 x $20 = $800

$10,500/52 = $202

Rentals = $27

Total = $1,029

Nice. That’s a pretty good pay cheque for a 40 hour work week, and a wedding video at a very reasonable rate. As you can see, this basic formula works with a lot of different scenarios, as well as different professions. Hopefully this helps out some of you aspiring entrepreneurs.

Day 66: When Stress Is Ok

There’s a consistent theme that’s been running through my posts this past week; doing things for the first time. Considering the intent of this blog was to document my journey of becoming self-employed, it’s only natural to move from a phase of watching tutorials, learning, and upgrading my gear, into a new phase. A phase of action. A phase of first times.

Stressful First Times

So far I’ve been booked for two weddings, and in the mean time have acquired two more couples interested in me shooting their wedding. With all of this new unchartered territory comes a lot of first times. Planning a wedding shoot. Acquiring the needed gear. Writing up quotes and receipts. Organizing gear rentals. Communicating with sound technicians from the venues. And so on. With so many new things on my plate, there’s one thing that is inevitable. Stress. But, when is stress ok? Everything in our society tells us that stress is bad, to have as little as possible, and if we do, our life will be better off both physically and mentally. But that’s only a half truth, and it’s a half truth that’s killing the chance for people to do anything truly noteworthy.

Stress Isn’t Bad

While I was attending University, during my Organizational Behaviour class we were taught specifically that not all conflict is bad, and the same goes for stress. A certain amount of conflict is what actually helps bring an organization closer together, especially when the conflict is resolved in a group effort. So it goes with stress. The way you approach a situation changes when someone has hired you to do some sort of work for a cost, in my case, wedding videos. You suddenly go from someone who makes a really good product to… someone who’s product is worth so and so amount of dollars. The first one actually never has a cap for your potential, but it also doesn’t have a minimum. As a hobbiest, you can make something really good… or really bad. It’s all up to you, and no one is going to call you out on it. When you do something for a price you’ve actually set a minimum for what it is that you need to achieve, and it changes the way you look at everything; from production, to gear, to deciding that you need to rent gear, or needing more people to film, etc. These are things you don’t naturally examine when you do things for free.

Stress Has Made Me Better

All of these decisions, pressures, and responsibilities each add a little bit of corresponding stress, but I believe it’s a good thing and something to be sought after, because I know for a personal fact that it has made me a better videographer (even though I haven’t even hit the record button yet). Everything through my planning, my gear, training those to shoot with me, and my overall professionalism with clients has dramatically increased, because of the one fact that my product has to be worth the value it’s being sold for. Why? Otherwise no one will buy it for that set price. And why does that matter? Because I need to work, and eat. In an interview with Warren Buffet and Bill Gates, an audience member asks Warren Buffet what he does for daily work. Warren Buffet answers saying his job is trying to get his co-workers up at 6am to work the same way they did when they had no money. How do you get someone to work just as hard when they have all the money in the world? There’s truth to this statement. The truth that stress, pressure, and friction are inherently some of the key factors to accomplishing anything bigger then yourself. To be pulled and stretched into something you once weren’t.

Are You Ready?

If you believe that a stress free life is something to be sought after, you might find it, but you certainly won’t do anything great with your life, and I guess that’s the real question. Do you want to do something that’s bigger then yourself a week from now, a month from now, a year from now? It’s the perseverance through stress that makes you into something that you once were not. Are you ready to be stressed?

You can check out the Q&A with Warren Buffet and Bill Gates below.

Day 64: Bootstrapping & Passionate People

This Friday I’ll be shooting my first wedding both in general, and of the summer. The past week has involved multiple trips all over the city to gather the gear needed for the shoot and I have to say, it’s incredible what you can borrow when you find people just as passionate as you are about a certain thing; in this case filmmaking.

My Gear List

  • One Ball Head Tripod
  • 55mm Takumar f/1.8 prime, 50mm Yashinon f/1.9 prime, and 24-105 f/4 Canon L Lens
  • Canon 6D DSLR
  • H4N Zoom Recorder
  • 2 Sennheiser G2 Lavaliere Microphones
  • 3 Piece Lighting Kit
  • Canon T3i DSLR
  • Canon T2i DSLR
  • Glidecam HD 2000
  • Manfrotto Video Tripod

People Who Care

This is a pretty standard list for a lot of basic weddings (I didn’t include memory cards or batteries in the list just because it would take up a lot of mundane space, but I have many as well). The gear in bold is my personal gear. The rest has been borrowed from multiple people, of which I am truly grateful for. Gear like this usually isn’t being used every day, so most of my friends where willing to lend out their gadgets to help me shoot my wedding, and get started.

There are two points to this post. One, it’s easier to bootstrap equipment then you think when you’re around people who genuinely care about their craft, versus only their income. i.e. passionate people. Two, are you surrounding yourself around passionate people who care about their craft?

Venturing into uncharted territory can be both exciting and nerve-wracking, but having people around you who have been there, and are willing to help you out when they know you need it is truly one of the greatest things you can overlook as an entrepreneur. Thankfully through these people, I’ll be able to start off my first wedding shoot with a bang, and in turn, be one step closer to becoming a self-sustaining entrepreneur.

Day 61: Why Waiting For The Future Keeps Us Lost In The Present

How often do you wait for the future while ignoring the present? Believing this grandiose idea that somehow the grass is greener on the other side; that what you want to do now cannot be done until tomorrow. Through social norms and systems to walk through like getting university degrees or certifications, this idea has been carefully manoeuvred into how we… Read more →

Day 59: Production Choices

Yesterday, I had a film shoot for a special project I’m working on with some people. I arrived at the location. We set up the lights; the scene; the shot. And it came time to finally shoot a test run. The shot was elaborate, choreographed, and most of all, long. I hit the record button, and we started.

The test run was mainly desired by myself, so I could check my lighting, and composition in the midst of the choreographed segment. When we finished our run, I dumped my SD card, did a few edits, and we watched the take there and then; getting a feel for what we were trying to do, and whether it was being communicated properly.

The First Take

We watched, and we were mesmerized. The test run worked well, and there were moments in the take that were unplanned for, but still blew us away. There was only one problem. All of the thoughts in my head on what we could do better; the focus was soft, the shot wasn’t wide enough, the lighting could be better.

After we finished reviewing the take, most of the team was ready to call it there and then, but I proposed we do it again, and that we could really nail it this time. Everyone looked at me as if I was crazy. Not only was everyone tired after a long day of setup for this shoot, but no one thought we needed to do it again.

The Second Take

I thought they were crazy. You aren’t seeing what I’m seeing! It was late at night, and I had to pull the teams arm quite a bit. Eventually, we agreed to redo one last take, and so we did. We reset the scene, I changed up the lighting and lens, and off we went.

By the end, everyone was beat and went to bed; no one was in the headspace to stick around for a full take review. So, I got comfortable, and examined both. Watching. Comparing. I saw the changes I made. I liked them. But there was one thing that I didn’t like. The moments.

The Moments

One take clearly had better moments, and it wasn’t the one that had the seemingly better production choices; it was the first take. Something in me got really tense at that moment. Knowing that I clearly knew which take was prettier, more captivating, and less abrasive, at the expense of the better production choices in the other take through me for a loop in my head.

Going back and forth between my choices, I found myself in a hard place. I’m one for production, excellence, and perfection. But, I am one for moments, art, and spontaneity. There was battle going on, as I thought the two were in utter conflict. Until something crossed my mind the next day while I was sitting at a coffee shop.

Could picking the take with better moments, in its self, be a better production choice.

Production Choices

I remembered a conversation I had with a member of the team, and I said “It’ll all be worth it when this art starts changing people’s lives.” And that’s the point. It’s about the art. And production is only a tool. No one will be talking about how amazing the quality, composition, or lighting was in 50-100 years. (They might not even talk about it at all). But what people will talk about, if there’s any chance they will, it’ll be about the moments.

Why do you think some retro video games have the replay value that some game makers are still trying to achieve? Why do some people still gather for movie nights to watch their favourite old film? Or why do extremely lo-fi records that were recorded with experimental ideas and techniques years ago still make it onto our top 100 playlists? It’s because everyone remembers the moments.

Sometimes we can get too caught up in the production, that we actually start treating the production as king, instead of the art that we’re trying to capture. Not everyone will remember what lens you used to make that video. But everyone will remember the way that video made them feel.