A blog, mostly focusing on projects I'm working on and things that pertain to film and video making.

Tuesday
Nov182014

Some Great Advice for Freelance Creatives from Jim Shields, Creative Director of Twist and Shout

Yesterday, I attended a small informal talk given by Jim Shields, who is the creative owner of a production company called Twist and Shout, jointly-based in Dallas, TX and Leicester, England.

That's us. Jim is on the far right. Nice room, eh?

He's writing a book about taking control of your creative freelance career, and, as I am also writing a book regarding the same topic(albeit with a focus on those just starting out in the business), I thought it wise to attend. I was not disappointed.

We had to finagle our way into taking over the backroom area of Mudsmith, politely asking the regular denizens of this faux-mahogany mansionesque faux-reading-room area if they really wanted to sit and listen to a 2 hour talk on career strategy for freelance creatives. Once the 7 or so of us were settled, Jim began to speak about what it means to freelance as a creative and how to be the captain of your own ship(my cliché, not his).


I took notes. Here's what I took away:

 

  • You can either be "Some Guy", "That Guy", or "THE Guy"

 

Some Guy - ex. "We need some guy who can operate a camera."

That Guy - ex. "We need to hire that one guy who is shoots documentaries."

THE Guy - ex. "WE ABSOLUTELY MUST HAVE RON FRICKE!"

Jim spoke at length about how in smaller markets it's typical for creatives to fashion themselves as jacks-of-all-trades, and how, when all creatives do pretty much the same thing, they become a commodity instead of thinking, feeling, problem-solving creatives.

It's important to specialize. That's how you stand out in the crowd.

 

  • The Danger of Replicating Mediocrity

 

A lot of times clients just want what the next guy has. And that's fine, I guess, but it's definitely not a great feeling to be hired to copy someone else's work.

One of the great concepts of the talk was the idea that every project can be approached with the question, "What's the problem we are solving?"

Giving your client a carbon copy of a website or a video or other piece of content really isn't solving any problem except, "I need a video" or "I need a new website", and in that case, it's kind of just money down the drain, because the opportunity has been missed to create content that's tailored to solving a particular need or issue.

 

  • Use Your Blog as a Tool

 

Jim spoke about using your blog and social media to "raise a tribe", which to me, means a community of people who share your specific focus, people who are excited about the same nitty-gritty niche parts of your field that you are.

Your "tribe" is defined as a group of people(typically around 200 people after the initial two years of "raising a tribe", according to Jim) that actively participates and is engaged in the content you post. Hopefully you recipocrate that engagement by staying involved in their social media output. Kind of like an ongoing conversation.

Also, a blog is a great way for potential clients to get to know you before up you meet them. Establishing yourself as an expert online gives you added caché in booking and negotiating the terms of projects.

You can use your blog to educate your clients, as well. One example is writing posts on how you solved particular problems and then pointing to those posts as needed if and when you are negotiating the terms of a project with a client.

It's a good thing to be hyperspecific in your blog. Jim spoke of the importance of finding the focus of what you do - "your cause" - by "writing about what makes you angry".

In Jim's case, what made him angry is how corporations often mistreat their employees and customers by seeing them as numbers and not as creative, problem-solving human beings(my words). Knowing that allowed him to find his cause.

 

Here a piece by Twist and Shout which imagines how a corporation would propose marriage to their girlfriend:

The Proposal from Twist and Shout on Vimeo.

 


Most recently, Jim and director/partner-in-crime Rob McCollum created Restricted Intelligence, a webseries about information security that is aimed at corporate clients in that field.

 

Restricted Intelligence - 30 second teaser from Twist and Shout on Vimeo.

 

 

It was a great talk. You can follow Jim at @jimshout on twitter and you can like Twist and Shout on facebook.

Wednesday
Jun132012

Editor Andrew Weisblum, ACE, on Moonrise Kingdom (via StudioDaily)

Fantastic article about a fantastic movie. Even if you don't like Wes Anderson, go see it. Hank Williams, Sr., plays throughout and it was shot on Super 16. What's not to like?

 

Tuesday
Jun122012

Steadicam Shot from Hugo

Tuesday
Jun052012

C300 VS. 7D by Pro Video Hire in the UK

Here's a neat one that compares the image of the C300 to the image of the 7D:

Monday
Jun042012

Why I Chose to Invest in a C300 over a RED MX(or a SCARLET)

After lots and lots of deliberation, I finally made the decision to invest in a new camera. To be exact, I bought a Canon C300 with EF mount. 

 

 

I have been agonizing for almost 2 months now over getting a C300, a used RED MX, or putting together a DIT cart. I've owned a 7D for a couple of years now and my hope was that purchasing a higher end camera would help me get better work/less run 'n' gun videography-type gigs, or at the very least, provide me with another stream of income through rentals.

 

I considered many options but one of my main criteria is "what do people want to rent?". Through research and recent experience working at a rental house, I narrowed it down to two cameras: the RED MX and the Canon C300. I would've gone for the EPIC but that was simply out of my price range.

You may disagree that the RED MX is still a popular camera to rent but, I have to say, I know some local owner/operators of RED Camera packages and they stay pretty busy in the Dallas/Ft. Worth metroplex. And now they all have EPICs. It's hard to deny that RED has a certain mystique that producers and filmmakers will pay to make their movie with. It seems that, at least here in Texas, buying a RED is a great way to gain credits on low-budget indie shoots and make a living as an owner/op.

I've used the C300 to shoot some BTS and was really pleased with it's ease of use and the quality of the images that came out. I've always had my hands on the MX enough times to comfortably operate it but in the end, I felt the C300 was better suited to my needs. Here's why:

 

-Warranty/Dependability in the Field: Canon has a standard 1-year manufacturer's warranty as opposed to the 3-month warranty I'd get from RED after paying their $750 transfer of ownership fee. Also, Canon has been around longer and their gear is simply just much more dependable than RED's. All RED cameras thus far have been plagued with strange issues and quirks. From firsthand experience and research on the net, I've heard nothing of the sort concerning the C300.

 

-Ease of Use: Everything I need to shoot comes with the C300 - onboard monitor, Viewfinder, batteries, AC power. All that's need is CF cards and an EF. I already have those too. Not to mention camera support such as tripod, etc. If I bought a used MX package, most likely there would be something missing in terms of memory or power, I'd need to purchase a relatively heavy duty tripod head and sticks, not to mention purchase a computer that has more processing power than my 2.4 GHz, 4gb of RAM Macbook Pro. Which brings me to my next bullet point.

 

-Editing/Post: Like I stated above, if I bought a RED MX, I'd need to buy a better computer because I know that at some point I'm going to need to edit stuff that I shoot, at the very least for tests and putting together a reel. I shoot and edit the same projects fairly often so this was a concern. The C300's 8-bit 422 broadcast codec edits without any hiccups whatsoever in Final Cut 7.

 

-Low-Light Performance: At this point, there aren't any digital cinema cameras that can rival the C300's low-light performance. Not the REDs, not the Alexa, not the F3. Film might be able to if you push it two or three stops. I love to paint with light and always strive for healthy exposures but the low signal-to-noise ratio is really what makes the camera special, aside it's usability and accurate color science.

 

Some other notes:

I did not consider the Scarlet because I do not like it's design. It's a cube. It's like RED gave zero thought to the form factor of the camera. I mean, the C300 is no Aaton but it can be comfortably handheld. I think sometimes the whole modular thing works against RED in some cases.

Another thing I don't like about the Scarlet/Epic's design is the one HD-SDI port nestled in a recessed spot on the back of the camera. It's annoying and hard to reach whenever you need to disconnect an SDI cable. Just one of many design flaws that beg for 3rd party bolt-on hardware that is often shoddy.

The RED MX has multiple HD-SDI outs, as well as HDMI out that can run simultaneously, and the C300 has an HD-SDI out and HDMI out that can run simultaneously. Not sure if this disables the factory onboard monitor but we'll see.

 

Don't get me wrong, RED has done some amazing things in it's short lifespan. Pushing digital cinema to 4k, 5k, 6k. And for the price 12-bit(RED MX) or 16-bit(SCARLET/EPIC) Redcode RAW is amazing. However, for where I'm at, financially and career-wise, the C300 is the better decision. I am an avid Reduser lurker and sometimes poster and if I had more money, I probably would've bought an EPIC. Based on my circumstances the C300 was the best option.

 

Also, regarding PL vs. EF on the C300, I have to say that I'm not a huge fan of Canon EF lenses, L-series or not, but, for the future, Zeiss CP2s are decent and come in EF mount and there's a wide range of stills lenses out there(Zeiss Contax, Leicas, Nikkors) that make beautiful pictures. I went with the EF mount because the price difference between EF lenses and PL lenses is gigantic. Also, if we're gonna get really cine-vised there are affordable EF to PL adapters that will fit most zooms such as Angenieuxs or Cookes.

The WFT for the C300 that allows you to control focus, aperture, remote start/stop, and metadata from a smartphone or tablet was a deciding factor in getting  an EF mount as well.

 

Anyway, last I heard, the C300 was still renting pretty well at rental houses and that a lot of Alexa shoots are using them as B-cams. I'm hoping that trend lasts!

 

If you are interested in renting an EF-Mount C300 camera package, please email me or call me at 214-213-4840. Rates are flexible. We want to rent out this camera!