Self Employed In 90 Days

Hello,

I’m Sean Witzke, and I’m a music producer, videographer, photography, and all around media enthusiast. 90 days ago I cancelled my Netflix subscription, and set out on a journey to upgrade my personal skill set, become self employed, and in the end foster a lifestyle of learning and creativity versus consumption and laziness. In turn, I exchanged my Netflix subscription for a Lynda.com subscription; a website which develops university level online tutorial videos (photography, videography, music production, photoshop, autocad etc.). This website gave me the platform to help achieve my goals, and in the end, I achieved them.

What started off as a personal experiment, trying to teach myself how to program, turned into a full on lifestyle change through pursuing business opportunities, learning new skills, and overall being more prone to take risks and adventure out into the world. I can say that I’ve accomplished more than I ever have within 90 days. I went on multiple road trips across the coast of Oregon, and British Columbia; both endowed with amazing scenery and photographic inspiration… upgraded my video production arsenal far beyond what I thought I would personally own at this point in my life… founded my own video production company which currently specializes in wedding videography, Small City Film… and built a hefty portfolio in both videography and photography.

A Change In Direction

I look back now, and it’s interesting to see where this journey has led me. My original intent was to learn different programming languages, and see where that would take me in the world of technology, but after multiple nights on Lynda.com, I began watching tutorials on video production; more then I planned. I started growing more in my confidence as a videographer, throwing myself into new opportunities, and taking on projects I thought were once out of my reach. Overtime, I started filming more and more, and eventually landed multiple wedding video gigs over the summer. My goal at becoming self employed grew far closer then it ever did with programming, and so the switch was made.

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Day 89: When Giving Up Is OK

There are moments when I look at what I’m doing, and I ask myself at what point is it ok to give up and move on. Giving up, in the sense that you are pursuing a goal, and you fail to achieve it. By no means would I stop making videos, music, programming or the like. But by many means would I stop pursuing a business endeavour, a way to make money, or a pursuit within some sort of project.

Currently, things are going well with me. And I am very thankful that this is the case. However, from the lessons of learned will investing in the stock market, there are moments when selling a loss is more profitable then holding it for the long run. Mainly, because your time and money could be spent doing much more profitable and impactful things then just sitting back and waiting for the tide to change.

What Does This Have To Do With Me

Well, making wedding videos for the couples I know has been great. I’ve been able to take part in their day, and provide a very personal keepsake for them. A wedding film. But at what point do I say I’m going to pursue videography over audio engineering, or photoshop over programming? It comes down to two factors really. Are you spending your time doing the best thing you’re good at… and… are you do the thing that is most likely to make you a living that you can survive on. Two very important things that at times can be very isolated from one another.

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Day 87: How To Be Different

Over the past month I’ve been struggling with the idea of how to be different. Any freelance job is usually successfully backed by word of mouth leads. That being said, differentiating yourself from the competitor i.e. everyone else who owns a video camera, and creating original content is usually how these leads are formed. People only talk when they’ve been wowed. But how do you keep over delivering standardized product, while still adding a sense of uniqueness that will wow them in the end?

I’ve seen it over and over. Videographers (or audio engineers etc.) pass around their work with one another looking for critique. They come to a conclusion that this one piece of work wasn’t their best, they release it, and it actually resonates with a bunch of people very deeply. More then they ever thought it would. But we tend to do that because we look at things from a different perspective. A professional perspective. And so it is… the best thing to ask yourself at a shoot is…

How Would I Be Wowed?

If we can send out what we think is mediocre work, but still have people find joy, meaning, and beauty in it, then we can for the most part agree that if you can wow yourself, your audience will most likely be REALLY wowed. Just think about the first time Steve Job’s got on stage to introduce the iPhone. He said that he wanted Apple to make a product that he himself would love using. You could see it in him. He was excited. And so it was with the greater population as well.

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Day 85: When Failure Happens

It’s ironic. My last post was about being ok with failure, but this last wedding shoot I encountered just that. Failure.

The Gear

The day before filming this past wedding on Friday, I decided to rent a few things from my local music store. Mainly some audio equipment. I borrowed my friend’s H4N portable audio recorder, and rented a wireless Sennheiser G3 wireless lavaliere microphone. Little did I know what I was to expect.

On the day of the wedding I was setting up a few tripods with my second shooters for the ceremony. I finally whipped out the lav, and mic’d the pastor who was marrying the couple. As he went off to mingle for a bit before the ceremony I checked the audio on my H4N. It was all good. Nothing to worry about.

The Problem

The ceremony starts, and my minds in the game. We were shooting for the next 40 minutes, and that’s all there was to think about. The ceremony went well, until I got back to my H4N and reviewed the audio. As soon as the pastor started walking towards the alter to begin the ceremony, the mic cut out. The wire was broken. This was something I didn’t see coming. I tested the signal, but I never tested how resilient the wire was. It turns out, I’m never renting a lavalliere mic again. Now I know what my next investment will be…

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Day 82: Be Willing To Fail

Small City had it’s first production meeting yesterday, today I’m off filming another wedding, and all week I’ve been working on the non-stop editing train, all while trying to stay “social”. Life sure packs a punch when you’re trying to make lemonade.

Before the production meeting yesterday, I had a friend call me. She pitched me the idea of starting a wedding planning company; cake, food, planning, production etc. She was meeting with a friend, and realized that if we really wanted to, we could start a full force wedding company. Why? Because we knew of people who could fill each role.

I thought it over, and I told her we should meet up and have a fo-meeting. Then we hung up the phone. The conversation lasted for probably about two minutes. Tops. But afterwards I thought about it… and that’s all you really need. You need excited people with an idea, the people who can make it happen, and the intent to follow up.

Don’t Shut Off

If you have those three things, it doesn’t matter how short or long a conversation, meeting, or planning session takes. You’ve accomplished more then the average joe just by the fact that you’ll sit down and listen. How many of us are so quick to shut off when we hear about something that will take work? Or effort? Or maybe it’s just never been done before. And because it’s never been done before, you really doubt that you, of all people, could possibly be the first one to do it. These are the things that go through the minds of many people every waking second. These are the doubts that keep people from adventuring off, taking risk, and seeking growth in their lives.

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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.

 

Leo_Emma_Valley-9 Leo_Emma_Valley-8 Leo_Emma_Valley-7 Leo_Emma_Valley-2

 

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.

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