Choosing Your Subject
So as I was trying to find a subject, I live in New York, Brooklyn. Go New York, right? So as I was trying to find a subject to come out here and teach a class, I had a really, really great pre-production team out here. Okay. I had some help. So I'm admitting this right off the bat, that I did not do this alone, I could not have done it alone without Kathy Ramos. She was amazing. Kathy was on me like white on rice. Like she was on me, hey Victor, we gotta talk about this. Hey Victor, we gotta talk about this. If you have someone to bounce ideas off of, if you have someone in your life that can keep you accountable, that's your Kathy Ramos. She will make sure or they will make sure that you will do what you say you're gonna do and deliver it when you say you're gonna deliver it. So I talked to Kathy and I had four choices. We could do Luchadores. We could do a pet sitting company, a violin-maker, or a gym owner. Now each subject presents its on pros and cons. So as I was going through t...
his with Kathy, I said, okay let's talk about Luchadores. Something I don't know, something that the only vision I have was Jack Black in that movie. So not a usual topic. Could make for some interesting footage. Human interest. Okay, it kind of interests me. But the cons were really, really heavy. I didn't know a lot about it. So the up time, the research would be a lot. Not enough time. I had to fly to Seattle, shoot in a day, edit over two, build the content to teach it in two. So there's not enough time to do something like that. And then also, that's more than a one person job. I can't shoot that on my own, impossible. Pet sitting company. It's fun, light-hearted. I love animals, I've got two dogs. I miss them deeply. Cons, they're animals. They're animals and unless you have a way with animals, you shouldn't do it as a project because it's hard, because you need a wrangler, you need all these different things that are usually above the fray that you don't think of until you get to the shoot. Too much can go wrong. Just think puppies, okay. Just think puppies. There's things that go wrong all the time. And then also, not enough help. So then I talked about the gym owner, or so the violin maker. Okay, interesting subject. Process. I love process. So the violin maker what he did was he would take a violin, restore it, hand shape it. So you can imagine just the imagery that could come out of that. The dust and all of the stuff. It could be a beautiful film. And I guarantee you anyone shooting it would have made it beautiful. The cons though, it's too static. It may be too static to teach on. I needed to find a piece that was exciting, that would be compelling. That will help me be able to teach it to a class and to an audience that it would resonate with. So if the material for me was too static, I felt like I wouldn't have been able to deliver on my promise of being an educator. I could have delivered on my promise of being a content provider, but not on one as an educator. So I didn't have enough information going in and then here's the thing. I may not have had the equipment. Because the equipment aspect of it, if I got a barrier and I gotta bring in a ton of stuff, then it becomes about the equipment and less about the film. So I need to know when to say no. Reading a great book right now and if I remember the name of it, it's High Output Management, hilarious. It's an amazing book. High Output Management. And the crux of that book, in the opening pages the book says, the minute you say yes to something you immediately say no to something else. So as you look at this, yes I wanna do violin maker. It's gonna be a lot of equipment, fine. Those are the two things I'm saying yes to. Something else is gonna suffer. The minute you say yes to something, you're automatically saying no to something else. There is no yes, yes, yes. We're not in that game. It's yes and then no to something else. So the decisions you make now will impact what you can do later. So you have to know that. The gym owner. The gym owner was accessible, it's local to Seattle. I'm knowledge, I have knowledge of the business because I actually kind of wrestled in high school so there was a personal interest in the material. And there's a potential for offering exciting visuals. So over here though it's like, oh it's a gym. Gonna need the releases. It's gonna be a challenging space. There is only amount a very, very narrow amount of time with these classes. So I've gotta navigate that. And to be honest, right now we're kind of at this whole thing of fighting gyms and MMA and just personal health and alternative types of working out. Not lifting weights or running or something, but MMA and crossfit. We're kind of in that type of era right now in personal fitness. And it could be an overdone topic. Do I really wanna do something that's overdone? So those are the challenges. So what, I've got four, what I think are viable, viable subjects. So we ended up picking the gym owner. And we did that because, because of this. All of this I could do with Kathy. My location scout, my producer over yonder. I could do this because she could help me with this. And notice, it had nothing to do with gear. It had nothing to do with anything outside of just logistics. So when you pick a project, if you can hone in on the logistical things that you can get out of the way, that's gonna help you narrow down what's good. And I know it, I know. Sometimes you're gonna get, client's gonna be like, well I want video and you won't have the opportunity to pick a subject, but I guarantee you you'll have the opportunity of which logistics you can push off or have them provide you help with. And again, addition to that if it is a paid gig that's when you bill in for assistance. That's when you bill in for other things you're gonna add to your production so that you can accomplish what it is you set out to do. Okay? How we doing?
Yeah, am I resonating with you guys? I see a lot of nodding heads. Yeah? Good, good. This is really important to me so I'm spending a lot of time on it. All right, so let's get to planning. So what are the five W's. Not who, what, when, where, why. That's not what I'm talking about. We'll talk about that in second. The five W's, who, what, why do I want to do this, why does he do this, why should we do this? Remember it's not just about you. It's about the client and you. So who? Ivan, athlete, gym owner, UFC champion. What? It's a profile piece about his passion for coaching. That's just me throwing out a what out there just so I can have a foundation for how to approach this conversation. You're gonna take a lot of inference on this topic based upon what you bring to the conversation. So you've gotta take a, you've gotta make a decision. You can't be on the fence. You gotta go in thinking something so it can be proven wrong, but you have to be allowing yourself the opportunity of being proven wrong. You may go in wanting something, your conversation will make you do something else. And you gotta be open to that. The minute you lock yourselves down into a type of opinion, you're done, you're phoning it in. You have to be malleable, you have to be flexible. Why do I wanna do this? Well I love sports, I'm inspired by athletes, I believe in teachers of all kinds. I glean a lot from people who are passionate about what they do. And that top tier for me. Why does he do this? He believes in teaching people. He believes in giving knowledge. He loves what he does. And how do I know that? I just read the reviews. I went and read the reviews of his gym. I did my homework on him. I did my research. I found out about the gym before hand so that I could relate to him. Why should we do this? I believe that I can tell his story well and that we, he and I, will be able to work together to tell his story the way it's supposed to be told. A lot of times people try to tell someone else's story but they tell it incorrectly. What? Because they forget the why. Tie it back into the why. So let's get to planning. What's your timeframe? Well I have 24 hours to 48 hours to shoot. I had 24 to 48 hours to edit. I had 72 hours to refine, deliver, and teach it. So that was my framework. I flew in on Sunday. I did an equipment check. I shot on Monday. I did pick ups on Tuesday. I edited a rough cut Tuesday night. I edited it all day yesterday and I showed the rough cut to Kathy yesterday, last night. So we talk about timeframe, well it's a very narrow timeframe so I had to pick a project and a subject that I could do in that timeframe. And the last thing here, what will I need logistically? So as you plan, what's your timeframe, what are your five W's, what are you gonna need logistically? Well we're gonna need a lot of help. I live in New York. He's in Seattle. I can't come out here to meet with him. So I'm gonna need a location scout. I'm gonna need someone to talk to, to bounce ideas from. Not only just for the project, but also for the class because we're doing stuff real time. It was so meta. Super meta because not only was I doing stuff, there was a whole crew following me while I was doing stuff and it was really awkward in a moment where I'm setting up all this equipment by myself and there's like seven people watching. (laughing) But it's, that's the kind of thing. We need a lot of help. Who is your Kathy Ramos? Who is that person because without her I would not be here. I would not have done the job. I would have failed. So you have to admit that you need help and you have to admit that someone in your life can help you do that. And the thing is, they don't have to have experience in producing, they don't have to be a real location scout. All they gotta do is simply, at the end of every day ask you, what did you do today? How did you, what's going on with that project? That's how it starts. And last thing, solid pre-production. It's talking about film making and not ever having picked up a piece of equipment. That is the importance of pre-production. To get you into the mindset of creating a piece of content that is not only compelling, but that you are also proud to show. I want you to be proud of everything you make. And I want you to be proud of everything you show.
Victor, I have a question for you about this pre-production and challenges of pre-production. I'm glad you're sharing what those challenges were. But when you are starting to work with other people or, what are some of the things that you've experienced in the past that come about in this phase? Or things that you've made mistakes on in the past so that we can think about not making those same mistakes?
That's a great question. I like to think that I've been a really open person my entire life, but I can look back as I've dealt with clients and immediately remember instances where I've prejudged the client. That's the first thing you can't do, is maybe they come from a different background or maybe they are nervous so they put up a veneer and put up a shell and that shell is affecting your perception of them. That's the first thing. It's not your job to make a judgment on that person you're trying to get content from. It's your job to break away the veneer, to get the real person behind that. And I've made many mistakes thinking that a person is a certain way, asking them leading questions that confirm my beliefs that they are a certain way. And then getting back to the editing room and going oh crap. I don't have anything to work with. That's the first thing. Another thing is I oftentimes get in my own head. I oftentimes get so worried about the nitty gritty technical details, the issues that could potentially crop up that I fail to listen. How many times, I mean we've all shot weddings and we've all been at weddings. How many times have we seen a photographer either ourselves or the one that's photographing looking down at their screen or turning around and missing a moment. That's me sometimes. That's my main challenge. Is that I'm oftentimes so tunnel visioned making sure that I'm not making mistakes that I fail to see the world around me. And when you acknowledge that kind of like handicap, it really makes you grounded because then you can kind of see, oh geez. Like for example in this shoot, there was a moment where I was fiddling with the camera to try to get it to do something and I heard some commotion behind me and as I'm going around to get the shot, it's already gone. And that's the thing that we, that I make continuous mistakes on is because I'm always worried about, oh is my camera set right, am I good? That's kind of something that really I always have to pay attention to.
From Dana Olly who is tuning in from Pakistan who says, Victor's energy is so contagious, but I'm wondering if he could tell us and explain what does fall under pre-production. Could you go through some of the elements that that actually means for people?
So pre-production, it encompasses everything that's gonna be, that's gonna set you up for the shoot. Pre-production happens all the way up until the minute you step on set. The minute you step in and talk to a client. So that involves getting gear lists. That involves, in the case of a client profile, getting interviews. That involves planning for what types of questions you're gonna ask. Learning about the client. Learning about their competition. Learning about the space. All of that is pre-production. Understanding the challenges of what you're gonna come into so you're bringing the right equipment. All of that stuff. That's where I think a lot of times where we talk about filmmaking and we try to teach it, we gloss over. And we're gonna dedicate a good portion of that to pre-production.
When you're producing these client profiles, you talked about two to three minutes, how many times have you produced these and squeezed those into a 60 second TV spot and/or a 60 second?
You know, that's a good question. So I think once you get to two minutes, the hardest part, the hurdle, the hurdle is always getting from the three and a half minute mark down to the two minute mark. Or 2:30 mark, that's the hurdle. The minute you get to 2:30, you've cut so much already that you could actually make it shorter. It's really easy to take something that's two minutes and make it a minute. It's really easy to take something that's two minutes and make it 30 seconds. But I think as you shoot and as you start to realize the content you're creating, there comes a moment where you get attached to certain phrases. And you get attached to certain things that the client says and you try to wedge those comments in where they don't belong, where it doesn't fit in the edit. And you have to kind of like become agnostic to the things you become passionate about because cutting things is really, really hard. Especially when you've already spent, this edit probably took me eight to ten hours. All said and told. So if I look at that, I spent eight hours with the footage I shot, which I'd spent days and months preparing for so it's really hard for me to jedison something that I think is valuable to me. Because I'm now vested. But what you have to do is you have to kind of cast away your loyalties and then jump into that mode of once you get to that rough cut start hacking away at it. Getting down those statements to really, really digestible, meaningful statements that can really say something in as few words as possible.
We have a question from Chris Walt who says, my compelling story that I want to produce is the passion that drives a ballerina to strive for her excellence in dance.
And so I think, do you think that that's a good why?
I think, so, let me get this right. A ballerina that wants to--
Strive for, a ballerina, the passion that drives a ballerina to strive for excellence in her dance.
Okay so the passion a ballerina strives for excellence. So I think before you answer the question of excellence, you have to answer the question of why they dance. Right? Do you see that? Don't answer why they wanna be excellent. Answer why they dance and have that answer inform the excellence. Okay? That's what I'm talking about. Taking a second, listening to the question, understanding the question, and then spitting back something that's more focused. Why do you dance? Do you dance because it's how you express yourself? Do you dance because when you get up out of the morning you hear music? Do you dance because you just can't help yourself? I'm a dork, I dance all the time as I'm walking and my friends laugh at me all the time. I wanna know that. I wanna know that. Because if I know that, then that's gonna help me create a piece of content that is completely individual to you. So tell me why you dance. I don't, why you wanna become excellent because at the end of the day, all people wanna become excellent. Who doesn't wanna become excellent if they devoted their life to doing something. That's the easy question. It's very easy to make a film about someone wanting to be excellent. It's very difficult to make a film and a profile about someone, why someone wants to dance.
I'm working a couple projects for landscape. I go out and hike a lot. And the flying in the dust was actually interesting to me because I was asking myself the question of why? You've got a bunch of beautiful captured footage and it's wonderful and you put it together with a soaring soundtrack. I was kind of constantly asking myself the why question in that whole thing. So I'm curious from your point of view, I understand where you're going with clients and everything, is it the personal passion that you bring out of that. The why am I here in the air capturing those images? How do you connect with others on that level?
I think, on a variety of different levels, I think, I was, my connection to that film was unfair because I know the guys who made it. So because I know the guys who made it my perception of that piece is probably very biased and very swayed. And I think that when I look at pieces that are in nature, in landscapes or just soaring, just beautiful, beautiful imagery, I think what I get out of a piece like that is why would I wanna go there? Why would I wanna do that? Why would I wanna be there? Because in my estimation the person creating those images is trying to show you through their imagery why they are there. Because everyone can shoot a landscape. Everyone can shoot whatever, a post card. We have the technology, we have the capability, we have the skill set. But I don't, I can't photograph and I can't create something for you answering why you're there. So maybe an added step in that film, so let's break it down. I do this a lot. So with that film that we saw, maybe it was just a glossy reel of just beautiful footage they didn't want to do or say anything with. But how could that have been something where we were more able to capture what their why was? Maybe it was, maybe they're trying to show it because they wanna see, they want to show the beauty of America's cities. And they way, and because they're so passionate about beautiful our urban centers are and that kind of stuff and create more of a, instead of a glossy reel, more of a story behind it. And I think for the specific purpose of that film they used that as an illustrative piece of content to reinforce this idea that you don't need a lot of equipment. So I think they used it has this piece of footage to show you, hey guys, in this world of all of this technology, you have one of the best bits of technology in your pocket, so don't let technology get in the way of you creating beautiful content. And so I would encourage you, if you're gonna go and you're gonna do films in nature the question of why that you wanna ask yourself is why am I here. And let the footage you capture tell that story to me because you live in the Pacific Northwest, probably one of the most beautiful places on earth. And I live in Brooklyn, New York which is so different from the Pac Northwest. And when I see footage of this region of the country, it sings to me because I'm in a concrete jungle. Every 30 days I gotta get out of the city or else I'm gonna go crazy. And you get to live and experience that so tell me why, tell me why you're there. I don't wanna see you hiking, but show me the things that compels you, that drive you to do that consistently.