You are in video, but what do you actually do?

This is my first blog post in a long time and my first post on my new site, which was courtesy of the good people at Medium Rare and I am very unduly proud of. (Because all I did was write some copy and then let them do their hocus-pocus web stuff.)

I have some thoughts on the nature of the industry at the moment and especially on the nature of how skills or roles in the industry and I thought, let me share these…So, here goes:

Very often I am asked, “You are in video, but what do you actually do?”

To which I usually reply, “Talk on the phone and write things on my computer.  Sometimes I stand and look at a clip-board on set. And talk some more.”

Because, really those are the things that I do.  (It’s not great for my back, all that sitting, but that’s another blog for another time.)

Another way of putting it, is that I am a writer, director and producer.  Those are my roles.  If I was in the commercials or the features industry, it would be nigh impossible to be all three of those things in their entirety. But because I live in the beautiful world of video and documentary, I can. Because of the nature of my work and the way I have shaped the structure of my business, it is possible for me to play all three with equal vigour.

I am often asked if I COULD shoot and edit my own films.  I could.  It would just take a very long time and be shaky and frustrating. There is nothing wrong with shaky, but early on in my career, I realised what my strengths were.  (Every now and again I get confused about this, but generally I manage to stay on track.)  My skills lie with story-telling: extracting timelines of information that fit together to form a larger picture, be it through words, images, sound, numbers or dialogue.  I use this story-telling skill to tell the stories of brands, organisations, people, movements and even objects.  Sometimes it seems like my work is far away from story, but in fact, it is always about the basics: concept, content, character, delivery and relativity.

There is a growing trend in the media industry to diversify and be good at “everything” instead of specialising. Call me old-fashioned, but there is still so much value in doing one thing and doing one thing properly.  (Okay, technically I do three things and do them properly, but for the purposes of Substance Films, I have smooshed these all into one role.)

This approach also allows me the magical opportunity to work with other professionals: editors, photographers, camera operators, sound recorders and engineers, animators and sometimes even other producers.  On every project, we have at least four brains and sets of experiences giving input. This makes for better work and it stops me feeling worn out and used up at the end of the day.

This industry is challenging. Budgets are tight and standards are high.  A lot of the work I do is based on personal relationships with my clients.  These people have become my greatest collaborators and I need to be able to look them in the eye and know I have done my best for them. That means, sometimes, I need to get out of the way and hand over to someone else.