Abundance or Scarcity – What’s Your Choice?

I read Seth Godin’s blog this morning and as usual, he was right on target with his observations of our culture and the shift in our economy.  We are moving out of the “industrial age”, an economy based on scarcity and into a “connection economy” Roller skaters jump over teammates, Tokyo, Japanbased on abundance – abundance of  “choice, connections and access to knowledge.”

In our new “connection economy”, we can connect with more people and “leverage our skills at a higher level.” This is leading to two races:  a race to the bottom which is forcing us to lower our prices, because it’s easy to find plenty of people who will do something cheaper or a race to the top which gives us the opportunity to use our new connections, resources and knowledge and become the one “they can’t live without.”

“The connection economy doesn’t create jobs where we get picked and then get paid; the connection economy builds opportunities for us to connect, and then demands that we pick ourselves.”  It’s no longer sufficient to just deliver a job at a fair price; a “connection economy” is all about standing out and being remarkable.

We need to invent – not duplicate.

So how do we stand out in a world of noise?  I believe we need to be authentic and true to ourselves.  We need to take the ultimate risk and listen to that voice inside because that’s the voice that should be heard.  We need to be vulnerable in order to race to the top.  At the end of the day, we are all human and we can spot a phony or an imitation when we see one.

Most of all we need to remember, we are human beings with basic human needs  – one being the need to connect with our fellow human. We don’t connect merely on devices alone – you connect by telling your “story”.   If your story resonates with others – it spreads. Today that means it gains traction quickly and spreads globally.  But you don’t connect with people by doing the same things as everyone else or regurgitating the same information.  You make connections because people are human and they’ll always spot “the real deal” in a crowd.

So be vulnerable, be different, be brave enough to stand out with a fresh approach to old problems and you won’t need to race to the bottom along with others clamoring for those “scarce” jobs.  You’ll be the one carving out the opportunities and picking yourself.

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How Video Has Helped My Still Photography Business

After a slow spell, which I can’t say I ever get used to after 30 plus years of freelancing, the phone started ringing.  The calls were all in regards to still photography assignments.  Having been a still photographer for most of my life, that wasn’t unusual, but what was interesting was that I beat out my competition – other still photographers – because I knew video.

Times have sure changed. When I started exploring the medium of video, over 15 years ago, I didn’t abandon my still photography10Ft.WaveI simply added another skill set.  Most of my clients over the years have hired me to shoot one or the other, and sometimes both.  But what I see happening now is that as print moves to electronic delivery, my still photographic clients are also looking for a “photographer” that can shoot video components on a still photography assignment.  They need multimedia content for mobile devices and online platforms that cry out for movement and sound.

I don’t think of myself as a “still photographer” or a “videographer”.  First of all, I absolutely hate the word videographer because it smacks of a dated notion of what video used to be.  I think of myself as an “imaging professional” or sometimes a “new media producer” or sometimes just a “storyteller” because that’s what I do – I tell a client’s story, or deliver their message to their targeting audience.  I don’t define myself by the tool I use.

With convergence happening not only in the cameras we shoot with but in the media we create, I will opt for the “tool” or camera(s) that enable me to tell the story I need to tell, in the best way possible.  I’ve been thinking that way since I first forayed into video.  It’s nice to know that now my clients are thinking that way too.

Creating Inspiration

I’ve gotten away from writing lately, maybe because I’ve been really busy, and maybe because I’ve felt uninspired.  That’s a terrible feeling for me, it’s as if I’m void of any “feeling” at all.  It tends to happen when I’m spending more time doing the things I don’t want to do instead of what I feel I’m here to be doing.

When I woke up this morning I thought, “anything can happen today”.  Temple of Horus, Edfu, EgyptThat thought in it self makes me want to get out of bed. I start thinking about the endless possibilities that can happen on any given day.  I grabbed a cup of coffee, checked my email and read Seth Godin’s blog and it was like it was written for me.  It was called “The moment of highest leverage”.  He was talking about moments when you’ve either lost something or won – when it feels hopeless or when it appears to be a lock.  He said that these were the times you can choose to do what’s in your heart and bring your real work to the world, instead of the lesser version that you think the market wants.

I’ve been struggling with feelings of hopelessness after a slew of rejections and misses. I knew I needed two things:  a change of scenery and some insightful conversation.  I went to Hawaii on impulse and got both.  One day, my good friend PF Bentley was showing me the “film” that he made for National Geographic photographer Dewitt Jones.  Dewitt has been shooting extraordinary images for the Natl. Geo for over 40 years and he had hired PF to create inspirational corporate training videos.    The “film” segments were a combination of Dewitt speaking about his life and his career in an inspirational way and b-roll of him shooting in beautiful Hawaiian settings interwoven with his amazing still images.   The piece was so touching; it brought tears to my eyes.  When it was over I started crying and I apologized to PF.  He said, “that’s ok, I know I’ve done my job right”.  PF and Dewitt had done theirs jobs right and they had inspired me.

I’ve had two speaking engagements and a screening of Opening Our Eyes this past weekend and in each situation, I was feeling good and that I had something to say and to share.  It must have come across because at each venue there was at least one person who I inspired – I could tell – I could feel it.  There was one woman at the screening, who had found out about it through one of our subject’s blog, Maggie Doyne. After the movie was over and most people had gone, I talked to her for a long time and I could see that the film had inspired her greatly.  I knew that I had done my job right and it was the best feeling in the world.  It reminded me of what is most important to me in my life and that is to create awareness with my still images or movies and move people or inspire them.

I don’t spend a lot of time on Facebook these days but I was looking at my news feed at the end of that long weekend and I noticed a photo that Ethan Browne (Jackson Browne’s son) had posted on his page.  It was a photograph of Jackson with one of his fans and Ethan had commented underneath it  “proud of   my pops – he stokes people for a living”.  I smiled and I thought, “That’s what I want to do”.

Polishing a Trailer

A trailer can attract someone to see your film or not.  It can determine if a film lives or dies. I just got back from Hawaii.  I had been visiting and working with my friend PF Bentley in Molokai and PF was color grading my trailer, balancing the audio and creating new title graphics.  I had been wanting to do that ever since I made the trailer over 2 years ago, but I didn’t have the know how, nor the proper software to do it.

Here are the BEFORE and AFTER versions of the trailer. Before and After These clips only illustrate the before and after in terms of color grading. PF also changed the title slates as well as greatly improved the audio, but these clips only show the “after” results as far as those changes.

Generally, a good trailer will peak your interest and make you want to see the film. But sometimes a trailer makes you feel like you’ve already seen the best parts of the movie, and that’s not good.  Trailers set the tone of the film.  They tease and introduce us to the characters and a bit of the story.  Thrillers evoke suspense with fast cuts while romantic love story trailers let shots linger on the screen.  Choice of music is integral to setting the tone, pace and rhythm of the trailer.  All these things combined is what makes a great trailer.

There are editors who specialize and only edit trailers.  Editing a trailer is different than editing the full film.  You don’t need to be concerned with explaining the whole story of the film. You need to tease the audience and make people want to see more. I have gone through a few variations of this trailer since the initial cut, each time shaving off a bit of time on it’s length. This latest revision was just to give the trailer more polish, smooth out the color and sound and create better graphics.  Overall it has made the trailer look more “movie” like and less like a video.

The best way to learn about making trailers is to watch a lot of them.  It’s pretty easy to find trailers online.  You can watch them on a film’s website or on a site like moviefone.com.  Check them out – It’s a great way to see first hand what makes a great trailer.