- They talk themselves out of things. – Telling themselves that it wouldn’t matter if they learned new skills or shot new images or whatever they didn’t want to make the effort to do.
- They try to “educate” their clients (sometimes a bit too much) instead of collaborating and possibly learning from them. A lot of “older” photographers are like this when they are working with younger art buyers or directors. I think the energy needs to work both ways.
- They give themselves an A for effort for starting something but too many times their starts lead to nowhere if they don’t have an end goal in mind.
- They don’t open themselves up to networking with others by attending industry meetings or events.
- They treat their clients like their enemies where one needs to win instead working toward a positive outcome for both.
- They make the mistake of creating for an audience, instead of creating for them selves. (Thanks to Seth Godin for that thought)
- They take workshops or pay for a service and then don’t utilize them. I’ve been guilty of this too many times.
- They don’t shoot for the pleasure of it.
- They rely too much on commissioned work instead of taking advantage of new opportunities and ways in which to market and sell their own projects.
- They don’t stay true to themselves.
Posts Tagged ‘HDSLR’
I am winding down after a couple of intense months, traveling the film festival circuit with my documentary Opening Our Eyes. I have enjoyed every bit of it, but it wore me out – in a good way.
I find that when I am “out there”, I get richly rewarded in many ways. I think what I enjoyed the most about the film festivals, and what was the most beneficial to me, was the opportunity to dialog with other filmmakers. I learned a lot in the process. But what stood out to me was how different these conversations were from conversations that I have with my still photographer colleagues.
Many times the conversations I was having with other filmmakers were centered on a story. That should come as no surprise because that’s what filmmakers do – they tell stories. But filmmakers tell stories “cinematically”, so when they are talking about the story that they are currently working, or a story idea they want to pursue, they speak in great visual detail so I see a very clear picture in my head.
My conversations with my still photographer peers, in terms of craft, are more apt to be about how they created an image. Photographers generally talk more about the role they played in making the photo, like how they lit it or the gear they used. Sometimes, photographers will tell me a story about what they went through to make a photograph and those stories can be very interesting and entertaining, but again the conversation is more about the execution of the image – than the story of the image.
Lately I’ve been trying to figure out how and where I fit into the mix. The truth is, I remain in the middle – a true hybrid. I realize that ever since I can remember, I have always seen stories playing out cinematically in my head, so I guess I have always had a filmmaker’s mind even though it lay dormant for most of my professional career. On the other hand, as a still photographer and one who has been an observer of life through my camera I see things like light and composition.
So, I am a true hybrid and I can see my still photographic “eye” in the motion work I create. Others who have seen my film have remarked about the composition and lighting, because it does look different and stands out from other documentaries. Sometimes that has been a good thing and sometimes not. Regardless, it is what it is – a creation from a still photographer’s eye applied to motion.
Embrace the differences – see what happens.
Years ago, a colleague wrote an article about me for a trade magazine and entitled it “Gail Mooney – Past and Future Storyteller”. Before that was written, I had never really thought of calling myself a storyteller, even though I had lived my entire life pursuing “the story”. In fact, it was because of my infatuation with people’s stories that I became a photographer and filmmaker. The pursuit of the story is what has driven me in making my own choices in life
But having a love for the story is far different than being able to tell a story. Regardless, if the story is told through still images, movies, songs, poems or books, the story must come through in order to resonate with an audience. I’ve been reading a lot about screenwriting lately, and how a story is written and structured for the movies. Certain things must take place within the structure to make a story work.
- Characters should be well defined and developed in the first third of the film. The audience will need to get enough information about the characters in order to care, one way or another.
- Stories should have conflict and contrast – just like life. In every good film there is usually a low point right before a character prevails or a situation turns itself around.
- Cinema has a language all of its own in how it tells and drives the story. The choice of lens or the way the camera is moved and from what angle, conveys to the audience a feeling. Make conscious choices and decisions as to what cinematic tools you use and why.
- They say editing is the last line of defense for the story. Every cut an editor makes has a profound effect on how the audience will feel. An editor is able to tell a story in a hundred different ways, based on what clips they choose, how they cut them together and their selection of music.
I was very fortunate when I first started learning video. I took the Platypus Workshop with PF Bentley and Dirck Halstead and they always stressed “the story”. I remember that I couldn’t even begin to shoot my project until I got my “commitment” (story) ok’d by Dirck or PF. In order for them to commit to my story, I needed to commit to it first and they knew I wouldn’t be able to do that until I knew the story well enough to tell it.
Knowing and communicating your story in any medium simply means always being present in what your doing. When the choices and decisions become obvious and effortless, then you know that you are telling the story you meant to tel
1. They forget about the story – it’s not your camera that tells the story – it’s the person using the camera. Pretty visuals, slapped into a motion timeline with music, doesn’t necessarily tell a story. Video is a story telling medium – don’t forget that.
2. They think they already know how to shoot – if you think because you are a professional photographer and all you need to do is get a camera with a “video mode” on it, you are mistaken. Shooting in motion is far different than shooting still images. An experienced motion shooter can spot a video shot by a still photographer with little know how, right away.
3. Thinking audio isn’t important – audio is more important than the visual when producing video. Hire a sound person to do it right, but don’t discount it.
4. Thinking the DSLR camera is all you need for video productions – this is a biggie. How are you going to go after professional video jobs if this is the only tool in your kit? Sure you can rent a RED – but make sure you are as proficient with this tool as your competition is before hanging out your “motion” shingle.
5. Positioning themselves just as DP’s or Directors and thinking you’ll maintain ownership of your work. If you assume the role of a camera operator, DP or even a director – you will be in a work for hire position in most markets. Position yourself as a producer – shoot if you want to – and direct – but realize that you’ll be just one rung on the “content ladder”.
6. They don’t learn interview skills – this is what separates the pros from the still shooters who have DSLR cameras and think that’s all they need. I’d say about 70% of my work includes on camera interviews. Even though I ask the questions- I’m not on camera, my subject is. I not only need to know how to ask the right questions and get great audio, but I need to produce a usable interview clip for an editor. That means knowing how to get great soundbites. This is one area I excel in – it’s all about rapport with your subject.
7. They try to compete in “old business model” markets – Everyone wants to shoot broadcast spots and feature films (or short films) so they think that after shooting motion for only a few months – or even a year – they will be able to compete in the high end business of video production. First, this market, like the still photography market, has changed drastically, mostly marginalized by still photographers who are just starting to shoot motion, shooting jobs for next to nothing because they have no understanding of this “business”.
8. Learning the “how to’s” in terms of gear – but nothing about the business – this is also a biggie. There are so many “how to shoot motion” workshops and roadshows out there but no one seems to be teaching the business end of things. Still photographers think they already know “the business” but quickly realize that they don’t, and they put themselves out of business in this medium – before they’ve barely started.
9. Teaching “how to” workshops in video with little or no experience – I can’t tell you how many photographers have called me for technical advice about some pretty basic stuff in terms of video, and four months later they are teaching workshops. Please don’t become part of the problem and send more shooters out into this field without teaching them something about business. And if you are considering taking a workshop – do your homework and take the workshop from someone who is accomplished in this field and has done something.
10. They forget about the story – I know that’s #1 but it needs reinforcing.
I’m sitting in the Continental (United) airport lounge at EWR, waiting to board a flight for Beijing. I’m headed to China for 4 weeks to teach Chinese journalists, video journalism. My mind is spinning with ideas, questions and the usual array of “what ifs” as I take on another adventure.
About two years ago, I started saying “yes” to opportunities that presented themselves to me – or at the very least, I began to consider opportunities, rather than to talk myself out of things, right off the bat. Because, of that mind set, I’ve been going where life seems to take me and it has presented quite a few interesting adventures. It’s not that I’m foolhardy and doing things on a whim – it’s that I have been listening to myself – my inner voice – and it has been my guiding force.
I’m told that the Chinese are hungry for “western” knowledge. But what I have to teach them is something universal, and that is – how to tell a story – using the medium of video. Seems so basic and simple – how to tell a story – and I suppose it is, but like anything else, it’s simple if you understand it. The key to understanding something is to have the desire to learn. Some people say they want to learn – but that’s different than really having the desire to learn.
Some folks feel threatened by this seemingly insatiable desire of the Chinese to learn all things western. I’m also finding that when people feel threatened by something – they try to “stop” whatever it is they are feeling threatened by. It’s one of those stupid human tricks that folks have played since the beginning of mankind. I process this behavior pattern as unproductive and unsustainable. It rarely works as far as eliminating a perceived threat. You simply can’t totally eliminate desire.
Rather than stop others from growth – a better way is to better yourself. I’d rather put my energies into where I want to go in my life – than in trying to squash other people’s hopes and dreams. I’ve also found that what goes around – comes around. When you “give” and “help” others – you ultimately create a better world – or “space” for everyone.
So, as my mind races this morning with my hopes, my expectations and enthusiasm – I try to keep the nagging doubts and fear at bay. I tell myself that it’s natural to have concerns. But I also tell myself that I can either let my concerns consume me and turn into fear or I can welcome the “unknown” and embrace the opportunity at hand. I’ll let my inner voice guide me because it seems to be doing a good job.
I got the best email yesterday. It was from a young man who had attended a seminar I had given at Yale for ASMP on “Should I Be Thinking of Video”. I remember that evening well. I had recently returned from a 3-month journey circling the globe with my daughter creating a documentary on people making a positive difference in the world.
I was still very much in the same head-set that I had been for the past few months – one full of peace and belief in myself. I had just come off an intensive period where I was “walkin’ the walk” and I was practicing what I preached.
The young man, Brian, wrote, that he had attended my seminar with his father, who was a photographer and that he, himself had grown up wanting to make movies. So, my seminar was a perfect combination for them. Then Brian wrote “That night you inspired me.” My heart jumped when I read it. He went on to remind me of things that I had said that evening – about overcoming fears in order to realize your dreams – in my case traveling the world to make a movie. Leaving the known behind – for the unknown. Telling yourself “yes” instead of giving yourself reasons not to.
Brian said that he had recently landed his first job of his career as a structural engineer. He loved it, but he also had a great desire to travel. That night he went home and furiously “googled” anything about traveling the world and beyond. He came across the website of “Engineers Without Borders” and as serendipity would have it, they were having their monthly meeting that week.
To make a long, but interesting story, short, Brian went to that meeting that week, and talked with some people during a break who were organizing a trip to a village in India.
Then they invited him to go with them in February. He was astounded. And then he did the same thing many of us do in similar situations – he started giving himself every rational reason why he shouldn’t/couldn’t possibly do something like this. In Brian’s case – how could he ask his new boss for 3 weeks of time off?
That night when Brian heard me speak, was about a year and a half ago. In the email he sent to me yesterday, he talked about spending the last year editing his 15 hours of footage, down to a 40 minute piece. He told me that it hadn’t been easy and that he frequently read my blog posts where I had written about my similar experiences with post-production – magnified. What I had shared had helped him through it – angst and all.
My favorite line in his email read:
“So, I’m finally done with my movie, although there’s things I wish I had done differently, I did my best and I’m glad it’s finished! The final product is one thing, but the journey to get there is another, and the past 18 months have been such an amazing experience for me! I owe it all to you! Sorry for the long email but I’ve been waiting 18 months to tell you my story!!”
Brian just launched a Kickstarter campaign to send another engineer to Nepal for a similar project. You can find out more about it here: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/videotaping/welcome-to-abheypur-the-movie
I think back on that evening and the year and a half in between. I’ve gone through two tough winters, doing the kind of work that needs to be done, but nevertheless takes its toll on my heart and my soul. That evening, my spirit was alive and well. Brian and others felt it and it moved them to a place they wanted to be. And now, after a tough winter, that same “energy” has come back around to me through Brian’s email. It has reminded me to stay the course and stay on purpose. Thanks Brian.
Today, I’ve been looking back through two year’s worth of blog posts that I have written. Wow – I’ve written a lot! I really surprised myself at just how much when I started gathering the content that I had written in regards to the making of my documentary, Opening Our Eyes. I’m putting together my 2nd ePub that will be a companion to my first ePub, recently published on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.
My focus is centered on the “craft” and the making of the film, and I talk about everything from “the gear” I put together for our 99-day journey around the world to the distribution process for the final film. A bulk of the content has already been written with photographs ready to upload and links. It’s just a matter of consolidating the information and presenting it in a more concise way.
Earlier in the year, I paid my dues in the learning department when I put together the first ePub. After my experience working with a professional formatter, I quickly realized what not to do. One big thing I learned was not to get too heavy with the images because the first generations of Kindles have only b&w displays. I also learned not to create intricate designs in Pages because later I had to undo all the work I had done for a PDF version of the printed book.
I am amazed at how much I have written over the last few years. It was interesting to look back through some of my blog entries, and see how I was “processing things” at the time I was writing those posts. I’ve never really kept a journal before, accept for a one year period in my life, between the ages of 19 and 20, when I was making my first journey around the world.
I’m really happy that I have archived these stories and records of my life, but that’s not what motivated me to first start writing. I used to wake up super early in the morning – my mind spinning with ideas and random thoughts, not allowing me to get back to sleep. So, I would get up and I started writing down my random thoughts and I found it therapeutic. It was like having a conversation with someone and sorting things out.
There are chunks of time in my life that I simply don’t feel like writing or that I have nothing to really say. My mind seems to go into a dormant phase where I convalesce with other distractions – usually mindless ones. But then there are days when I just have the need to get my thoughts down on paper. I’m grateful for those days – on days like this when I take the time to look back from where I’ve been.
It’s been a very full year for me. I mean that in every sense of the word full – full of new experiences, full of hope, full of achievements – but also full of my share of rejections and disappointments. I’ve shared a lot of these experiences through this blog.
There have been times I haven’t written in a while because I didn’t feel like I’ve had anything worthwhile to say. And there have been times when I did write but I probably shouldn’t have because it wasn’t worth reading. I always told myself that when I didn’t feel like writing in my blog, that I just wouldn’t do it. So if there are long periods of time when I haven’t posted a new entry – it’s because for whatever reason, the desire may not be there. I have always appreciated the comments and feedback.
Here are the top 5 posts as far as number of hits:
As you can see, the blogs about DSLR (for video) gear is where the interest was. But I’d have to say that out of those 5 posts, “Standing on a 10 Foot Frozen Wave” was my favorite. For me, it’s all about the story. And as Orson Welles once said “If you want a happy ending, it depends on where you stop the story”.
Happy New Year everyone.