Add Videography to Your Business
Another reason that I'm, really an advocate for this transition, if people want to make it, and the reason that I teach this class is because I genuinely believe that people from photo backgrounds do well with cinematography, but also that it's, for me personally, its really expanded my work and I would not teach this if I didn't kind of believe in the expansion that it has allowed in my own life. So I went from thinking like, oh that's not something I do, that's something other people do, to then doing it and finding that like, there were all of these opportunities open to me that I just didn't think were possible. And since I've started doing video work, which is not that many years, I've done shorts, I shot a narrative feature a few years ago that played in a bunch of festivals and that was really thrilling, and I'll show you guys some samples from that. I directed a documentary feature this year, I've worked for HBO and Showtime and a whole bunch of clients that I never thought wou...
ld be possible. And I say all of these things not to brag. I say these things because, like I'm brand new at this too. I am not talking from the standpoint of being a veteran at this and saying oh I've been doing this for 20 or 30 years. Like, this is very new territory to me. And the fact that like, I could just kind of begin and work for these clients that I think of as like way way out there or have my film supported by the Sundance Institute. Like, that's great, and that's because that's available, that's a possibility. If you make a short project you can get into festivals, you can get funding from good reputable institutions. It's not just that you're gonna be up for like, the student award. People will hire you, people that do this stuff will want you to do this for them. And I think that has been really exciting. That's also been like a revenue generator. I've been able to make more and charge more and all those great things. And so, for me in this moment when photography, which I love so dearly, but also when the pages of magazines were starting to shrink and the editorial budgets were going down, transitioning over to video was also a little bit of a way of creating a lifeline for myself and by doing that it has really expanded who I can work for. These are places I didn't think I would be able to work for but I can, which means that you can too, and it's really kind of broadened what I thought was possible in my own career and I think that's an exciting thing, its just like an exciting thing to be able to add. And again, it wasn't about jumping ship. It's not like, oh I used to do this thing and now I work for these other clients cause I completely jumped ship and I changed the course of my life and the direction I was going. I just added a skill, and by adding that skill new doors opened up. So I think that's a really exciting thing. Yes?
So, we have some more great questions coming in and to what you were just speaking about do you believe in this day and age if people are interested in photojournalism, editorial, or even in commercial type of work, that they do need to add videography to their skill set? Are people that are hiring looking for people to be able to do both of those things more so than just video or just photography.
I think that it's a great thing to be able to add this as a skillset, cause again, I think the people that you can end up working for, the CNNs, the Al Jazeeras, the PBS, the organizations that want to make videos, the NGOs that want to make short films, all of those things I think its great for someone who feels, if someone strictly feels like they're drowning by just doing photography, I think obviously in this moment in time, this is a great moment to be thinking about video and what that would add. And I think if someones really struggling to maintain their career in photography that it would make sense to think about it. But I, again, I am not about closing one door or I'm not about converting the people that don't want to be converted. Still photography is the most beautiful, awesome thing in the world and people will always value it and want it and there will always be a place for it. That is not going away, and people, magazines will continue to publish images, magazines will continue to create amazing photographic assignments and stories and when you think back to a story that you know about often the images that really stay with us, the things that we can really pull up in our head are not video sequences, they are stills. And there is a real reason for this, there's something about the still image, and that compression of time, that thing that happens in one twenty fifth of a second, or sixtieth of a second, that really stays with us. And we are able to kind of pull those up in memory in a way that video doesn't totally do and I think that is the power of still photography. So, I'm not about trying to convince people that don't wanna do it, what I'm trying to is convince the people that do want to do it but are scared that they don't know how, I'm trying to convince those people that they do know how. Yeah.
Do we have any questions in the studio audience? Yeah, grab a mic and stand up please.
So it kinda sounds like its similar to still photography, where its about your work, its about your portfolio, its not necessarily about what school you went to or what program you went to. Cause it sounds like, I mean if you're making feature films or documentaries and you didn't go to film school but you're still getting into festivals and getting jobs, I don't know, it seems very democratic, its about the work that you put in and the work that you do.
Totally, I mean I think, with all of these things, it is very similar to no one cares that I didn't go to film school and if I made crappy work and went to film school no one would care about that either. You know, it is about whatever I put out or you put out. And, I think it's really incredible that like, you can kind of start off and not necessarily have a name for yourself, or not necessarily know people. And it's a little bit of a process, I mean, we, in the film that I just did, so for the past four years or so I worked on a documentary feature called The Pearl, which I co-directed with another photographer turned filmmaker, Christopher LaMarca and we had to apply to some grants three or four times. We definitely didn't get it the first time, we didn't get it the second time. But no one was looking at our work and saying well these guys haven't made films before so therefore were not going to help them out or give them grants. Once we could kind of demonstrate that we also had something to say. Not even that we were done with it, not even that we knew exactly where it was gonna go because its documentary. But once we could kind of demonstrate that we had an idea and we had passion for it and we wanted to execute it it didn't matter that we hadn't done it before. You know, what we were bringing, and I think in part because we were coming from the photography background, what we were bringing to the table in terms of what we did have already, was convincing and compelling enough that they said well even though they haven't don't it before we think that they can probably do it. And in part, it's because as photographers we already knew how to tell stories, we already knew how to make things look good, we already understood kind of what good characters were and what might be a compelling piece. So, yeah. Okay. Yes?
A question from Colin McKenney, who says "Combining still photography and videography into the "same project would be something that I would like to do, "specially in portrait work. "Is that something that you do "or that you encourage people to go out and do?"
That's a great question. So, step one of this, for me, step one of this was really the kind of multimedia world. So, as things started kind of ramping up towards video, the very first step was that I was getting a lot of stills assignments where editors were asking me to go off and take audio as well. So come back with a set of still images but have like an audio track that would play in the background. And for me that wasn't, that didn't suit me very well. I didn't really think, with audio, I didn't really think with my ears. Doing has kind of taught me how to think with my ears but at the time that didn't feel like quite the right fit. And I would do it, but I'd always be like, why am I being asked to do this? The second step was multimedia. So, this kind of mixture of some video and some stills. And I think, really born out of kind of people from our background or from my background, your background. People that were like photographers and loved photographs that they were taking and didn't wanna get rid of those photographs, but were starting to incorporate a little bit of video. And I think that that's a great kind of gateway drug, if you were, to get into the stuff. Which is that, there are images and there are moments that like, absolutely should exist as stills. They work as stills, people will respond to them as stills. But then there's maybe something that you wanna unpack a little bit further. So, one of the very first things I did, for example, was a project that VII Photo did with MSF, or Doctors Without Borders, about childhood malnutrition globally. And, we had this great opportunity to create a bunch of different stories about what is overall a, kind of, cliche topic and to approach it from a bunch of different angles and in each country, I think we went to seven countries or so, in each country to kind of attack one aspect of childhood malnutrition and to look at it in a slightly different way. So instead of just like kids with the distended bellies and kind of very cliche images to try to get at something more nuanced and something more emotional. And the story that I was assigned to was looking at childhood malnutrition through the perspective of a mother. So the idea being that like, chances are if there's a malnourished child out there, it's not because the mother just forgot to feed her child, but there's a very very dire and scary and serious situation going on. And the chances are, for that mother, even though the ramifications of it might not be affecting her as physically, that she is probably having a very traumatic physical and emotional experience if her kid is malnourished as well. And so there were a lot of still images in this project that really wanted, that were about, getting to that feeling and getting to that emotion. Portraits especially, as this question asked, that get at how desperate and scared she was. But there were also moments that video was really helpful. So one of the things in that situation was that one of the only food sources was millet and she didn't have a lot of millet left in her farm but also, the process of harvesting and grinding millet is this very kind of labor intensive thing that doesn't yield a lot of nutritional results. And, in order to demonstrate that, that was the moment that was like, oh video is really helpful here. Because a shot of her grinding millet is like, alright, that's what it looks like to grind millet. But in video, because you can start to play with time I got to kind of shoot it from all of these different angles First it was like, from the side and her kid is on her back and she's grinding the millet. And then the second shot is kind of right in front of the stone as its coming in and out. And then there were some details, and then it was pulled back. What I started to achieve by doing that was that your audience is like, your audience is a very sophisticated visual... absorber. They understand visual information very quickly. And so, my audience in that, hopefully, could understand oh, what's going on here is that this takes a lotta time. If its one shot (snaps) its a shot and its just like, oh this is part of her day. But by taking this moment and unpacking it and looking at it from a variety of angles I'm cueing to the audience, look how labor intensive this is, look at how long this takes, look at how difficult this process is, and look at the very little crumbs, both physically but also nutritionally, that this woman gets out of it. And so that was like a great opportunity to not necessarily want to just do this in video because I wanted those strong portraits of her, I wanted to see her in that kind of emotional space, but also to incorporate video in way that would be helpful. Now, while that's great, I also have this thing, now that I've started to do more of it and I've started to think about stabilizing my camera, which is what we're gonna do in the next segment, and thinking about bringing more production value and adding audio. There's a danger to that thing, in my opinion, to tacking both things on to one project, which is that video and photography are different. They come from a very similar skillset, I think coming from a photography background you're going to be able to do a lot of video, but its a different beast. They look different in the field, you have to operate differently, you have to think differently and I really kind of try to push off this idea of trying to do both. And I think, especially in the kind of editorial magazine landscape, the early stages of this were that people would ask you to kind of go out and do all of it. And I think its a lot, I think something is gonna give. It's very hard to kind of be doing stills on one side and then pick, is it going to be the same camera and you're going to be toggling back and forth between settings, or is it gonna be two cameras, one for stills one for video? If its two, where are you putting your video camera when you're taking your stills? Where are you putting your still camera? What's in your hand when you have your video camera up there, where's your still camera? So, I think that people should experiment with both and should get excited about what both can offer, but also really think about kind of dividing those things out. Is there a way, in a project, to do only video one day and only stills another or only stills one half of the day and video on the other half instead of really toggling. Cause at a certain point, somethings gonna give. You're either gonna miss that great video moment or you're gonna miss that great photograph.
Questions in the studio audience? We've got some more online before we do go to break. Lets see, Sandy Chang asked "What are your thoughts on using iPhone for video?"
I mean, I think iPhone can be great. I think its something that A, we all have with us all the time, there are good little lenses. I don't happen to use it a lot. I'm also a really low light obsessed shooter. I love shooting in as minimal light as possible. A lot of the work that I'm going to show you today is shot in that way. So, for me, that sensor in the iPhone, its a great little lens, but that sensor in the iPhone just doesn't handle low light in the way that I would want it to so I end up not doing it a lot. But I think if someone has it and they're excited by it, great. I think so much of this, were gonna talk a ton about gear, but of course, also, its not about gear. It's about getting excited and doing it and executing it and pressing that record button, even if that record button is the same thing that you would press to ask Siri what the weather is.
Thank you. Question is from Cesar Flores who said, "I'm all about music when it comes to a film, "but is this considered part of an editor "to incorporate into the film or the filmmaker."
That's a great question. I mean, I think that this stuff is so collaborative in nature that like, if you, if that's not your skillset and you're like, I don't know anything about music and I don't know what would be here, that is fine to kind of ask of your editor. If you've got great ideas and you're like, I want it to feel like this and I want it to sound like this and this is what I want the world of the film to be like, then that's great too.
Jessica, just getting back to how you film your stories, do you film them in order as best you can or do you move from segment to segment and put them all together in editing?
That's a great question. So, in a little bit, after, first we're gonna talk about kind of stabilizing your camera and then the very next thing is we're gonna talk about story and were gonna talk about kind of story boarding. In some situations I do things very much in order and in other situations I really understand kind of where I want the story to go and the filming of them might be in very different order than that.