Shoot By Daylight

We as humanity sit down today in America reflecting on blessings, while also re-learning historical truths thanks to the humongous reference book that is “the internet“. I am completely content knowing *that* internet, hyper-evolving technology, and a love for changing paradigms led me to the startup wave that emerged after the Great Recession. After discovering entrepreneurs like Seth Godin, Chris Sacca, Nick Campbell, Chase Jarvis and Kevin Rose, I was inspired to follow a similar path. Freelancing in and of itself is a small business. You have to bootstrap your gear, your brand, your marketing, your payroll department. Many times, you wear all those hats (and more).

Four years later, I had the wonderful opportunity to work for the best tech blog in the world, TechCrunch.

It all happened quite fast. I was already a “jack of all trades” in the Film/TV world at that point. You had to be adaptable in the post-Recession landscape. When some Huffington Post Live colleagues recommended me for the job of Video Producer at a blog I already followed intensely, I was beside myself. I will always be thankful for Jon Orlin, John Biggs, and Jordan Crook for seeing the potential of what we could do together in New York City. Hundreds of videos and 3 years later, I can say TechCrunch Video is the strongest it’s ever been.

I always felt grateful that TC hired people with real personalities and deep opinions. Because who the hell wants to watch a wishy-washy take on a piece of tech or a hot new app? From CES to TC Meetups to the infamous Disrupt Conferences a small, fierce team managed to create content at a pace I haven’t seen in my career. Today, that team has a firm grasp on shareable social media content, web series, feature videos, breaking news, talk shows and daily rundowns with ease. They are in really good hands.

I say this because before I left for Nepal with Rashmi, I had made the tough decision to leave TechCrunch in search of new opportunities. As many tech journalists can tell you, news is a grind. Many times, I have watched in awe as our team would hunker down in a Skype or Slack room, divvy out coverage, and just slay an Apple announcement WHILE being all-hands-on-deck for Disrupt. Insane. They are absolutely the hardest working, most intelligent, savvy, and tight-knit tech blog in the world (read about TC’s history here). If you have heard the rumors of our post-Disrupt karaoke, you know it is epic — and *usually* alcohol fueled.

<3 Look at these bad asses <3

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So you’re asking yourself, why leave? To this day I still have that entrepreneurial spirit alive. I’m about to launch a podcast about musical guilty pleasures called The Guilty Mixtape. I have a steaming music show idea I’d like to develop. And I’ve become very taken with Virtual Reality (VR) video. Aside from that, I’d like to tell stories of startups, nature conservation, musicians, microbreweries, art, organic food, DIY-culture, green homes, activist causes, and all the other things I love. Just outside the news cycle.

The Freedom 360 Explorer VR video rig in use in Kathmandu this past month.

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My vacation in Boulder, Colorado this past April also reignited a kinship I grew up with: being deeply connected to nature. I spent time in a yurt in the middle of the Rocky Mountains and just shot photos and video for the love of creation. I ate delicious bacon and guacamole soft tacos. And I hung out with an over-zealous blue bird. Which culminated in this meditative video.

It reiterated what I needed to be doing. Also around that time, my wife’s family experienced the horror of debilitating earthquakes near Kathmandu. All of this was a wake up call that I needed to put into motion my own family, while ensuring I am building a future for us going forward.

                                                                             My family in Ohio.                                                                        

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My extended family in Nepal.

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This new start is a part of that.

Oh… PLUS a group of us finally finished a fiction short film called “What We Talk About When We Talk About Zombies” which got into the Nitehawk Shorts Festival in Williamsburg (and hopefully more, fingers crossed). I worked with a great team and hope for many more film projects like it.

As for right now? I am currently booking, and looking to collaborate with YOU. I do travel, and I have an active passport. I love New York City, but won’t say no to a gig in Costa Rica, Morocco or the Pacific Northwest this winter either 😉 If you know anyone who needs their story told effectively through video or photos, or would make good collaborators for me, please reach out – steve@shootbyd.co or call me 201.618.2642

As for my day of thanks, I have made lifelong friendships at TC, and amongst the startup community we reported on and championed. I look at the caliber of people I was able to interface with daily, as we rode that wave with (relative) ease and just feel happy that I got to spend the last 3 years as part of their quirky, nerdy tribe of geekdom.

Thank you all.

If you were online at all last week, chances are someone in your professional filmmaker network shared the brilliant parody video by Vancouver-based viral hitmakers “I F*cking Hate That!“. Over the course of 3 and a half minutes, with the help of YouTube up-and-comers Stacey Roy and Hoodwinked Films, they manage to skewer a bunch of filmmaker tropes and then char them to a crisp. Even the star wipe makes an appearance. It quickly spread amongst video pros and also jumped to the top of r/Filmmakers for good reason.
One of the bits that got the biggest laugh out of me was Step 3: Build DIY equipment.

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There’s nothing funnier than seeing a follow focus made out of LEGO or a homemade camera cage outfitted with utility banana attached via ziptie.
Another meme revisited on many steps was the over-glorification of our craft via bragging on social media. Notably:
Step 4: Make a gear grid… and then post it to Instagram
Step 9: Take a picture of every RED you encounter
Step 13: Let everyone know you’re a filmmaker by holding a camera in your profile picture

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Hashtag #SetLife has more than a few times garnered eye rolls amongst working professionals. But in a world of “what have you done lately” it also becomes a way to broadcast, “Hey! I’m working. You better rush to hire me on the next one.” I can attest I’ve seen far too many RED rigs in my Instagram feed. And how many of you just walked up to an ARRI Alexa and played “cinematographer” behind the eyepiece? C’mon I know many of you are guilty…

I can’t wait to see more from this team. They also were behind the hilarious parody song “Turn Your Phone 90 Degrees” which got over 800k views. As an added bonus, Kessler Crane was a strategic partner on the video and provided a bunch of gear and technical help. They put up a behind-the-scenes post here that you can check out.

Why Your Next Gig will be in Web Video

Sometime last month Jason Fried (@jasonfried), co-Founder and President of the web industry standard-bearer 37Signals, decided to break new ground and hire a full-time filmmaker. This is nothing new for a company that has prided itself on always jumping on trends before others: It’s flagship project BasecampHQ was one of the earliest mainstream web-based applications. Not only that, the code Basecamp is built on has become an internet juggernaut forming the backbone for sites like Twitter, Soundcloud and Hulu.

Needless to say, there are plenty of reasons why new-hire Shaun Hildner with a camera at the ready will add much to 37Signals’ brand and following. According to Jason in his Inc. Magazine article, “Video is a great way to show off a company’s personality, people, culture, and customers. It helps humanize a business.” And he’s right; it’s super affordable to shoot, produce and edit micro documentaries nowadays thanks to the HDSLR movement. While a website, twitter account and even podcast appearances can do much to project a company’s “essence” it can be argued that a 4 minute web doc can do all that and more.

Why should this matter to you? Well, more than likely this is the beginning of a trend for regional urban filmmakers. First, companies are more image conscious than ever. The business transparency movement is gaining steam so thousands of startups and media savvy companies may look to hire similarly – or at least short-term contract work. Secondly, as the mobile smartphone revolution continues, a splash video for any website, social media account and business that lays out: Who we are, What we do, How we do it – in a concise, professional video will be essential.

This promo video for the Evernote app is a great example.

But that won’t be the only gig goldmine. With the news from The Daily Beast that Google is finally spending real money on original content, we are entering an age in which web video will finally be taken seriously for media consumption. Big rumors remain that Netflix may follow. In the Tech TV world, there are already shows with a great following on web network Revision3, notably Tekzilla and including Film Riot. As freelancers, you’ve probably already worked on plenty of web promos, ads and testimonials. Soon are the days where you will be working on full-fledged web series, online indie film premieres, and subscription webstreams. The best thing you can do is position yourself to get these gigs and learn or buy the technology necessary to stay ahead of your competitors.

My advice? Dive into the web television culture any way you can. The desktop Boxee app is free and syncs with a lot of the content. A Roku is very affordable and allows you to stream content to your regular television. And of course, you can pore over popular YouTube series as well. My personal favorites being the thought provoking “TED Talks”, indie music art of “La Blogotheque”, and comedy puppet show “Glove and Boots”.

How about my readers: Any web trends you’re noticing? What are your favorite web shows?

Cool Find: An Open Letter to Canon

Thank you Doug Bayne!
‎”I had dreams of making cinematic masterpieces, for less than the price of a new dog”. Haha

All jokes aside I think that’s the major misconception from many people who go out and buy a real nice HDSLR and expect it to spew out pure effortless gorgeousness. Now, in fairness, these cameras make it MUCH, MUCH easier to create professional visuals. But, like any thing that is worthwhile and artistic, it is still a craft.

I can’t take a crash course in carpentry via Mahalo or YouTube and expect to be able to build a well-crafted treehouse though I wish it was possible.

Passion will take you really far, but nothing will ever overtake talent, experience, knowledge, and lots and lots of lessons learned mistakes and failure.

Do you agree with Doug??

Step Up to the Rate

 

About a month ago, DP & Director Philip Bloom posted on Twitter a screengrab from someone’s online ad offering a Sony F3 Package with Shooter for an unheard of rate of 200 Euro per day – roughly $284 American-. We’re talking an entire kit of gear as well including: a Zeiss Lens set, an LCD Monitor, a Rode Shotgun mic, and 2 Sennheiser Lavs. Philip had this to say: “…if I were to take them up on that offer, I would give the cameraman a chair to sit on and ask him to get me a coffee every now and then whilst I used his gear!”

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This got a lot of people talking on Twitter about freelancer rates and what to charge, especially so as to not undercut the competition – usually your fellow colleagues. So since the topic has been breached, and will remain a hot topic amongst freelancers for quite some time, I will begin by talking about one of the first things you will encounter, “What are your rates?”

Now, the first thing everyone will tell you is that rates are always a challenge. Not only do you account for the regional cost of living, but also: market saturation, competitive rates, cost of overhead or gear, experience, talent, and your own availability. The first thing you should really do in this situation is to take a look at your competition. Some people post their rates online but a majority will smartly list them as: negotiable. On a sidenote: a lot of people will say posting a rate will help weed out cheap clientele. I have always believed that the quality of work on your website and client list should speak to what potential rate you will be charging. Plus, there are the rare gigs that have a far better tradeoff of exposure, a client relationship, or a barter of services.

If you are without a professional network, then you most likely will end up cold-calling or emailing area filmmakers and TV industry professionals.  You can even use this as a networking opportunity. Make sure to ask how many years of experience they have on the job. This research will allow you to create a baseline for yourself. You can also call local Production companies and Post-Houses and see what they pay their freelancers.

In Bloom’s article about rates he had a good point about someone just starting out. He lays out a path in which a shooter does around 3 jobs pro-bono of differing styles, for example: music video, commercial, and video podcast. Once those gigs are under your belt they become a marketing tool to acquire paying projects. Obviously at an early stage in the game, you are in a weakened position. My advice, is to choose the 3 clients you would like to offer pro-bono work to, as opposed to answering online ads. The people actively looking to give someone “experience” are probably just looking to exploit a young pro.

The major key to all of this that baseline to go off of. Not only are you not underbidding yourself, but also your area colleagues. Situations like the above with the Sony F3 and shooter will only dilute the rates for the true Pros who have bills and a family. And once you set a bar with a new client so low, it’s hard to get a legitimate rate out of them in the future. Keep that in mind.

It all comes down to knowing your worth. Your skill level, your enthusiasm and creativity all matter in this math you are attaching to yourself. Also realize that freelancing is like your social world. You’re going to have your blind dates, acquaintances, best friends, and long-term relationships. You can tailor your rates higher for a one day gig and a little lower if it’s a 3 week one.

How about my readers: How do you/did you go about defining your rates?

*Hat tip to visual artist N.C. Winters (@ncwinters) for the lead image. Be sure to check out his entire comic series “Freelance Freedom”. Trust me, you’ll laugh and you’ll relate.