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Monday, September 1, 2014

••◊ "It'll Be Great For Your Portfolio!"

This week I was reminded of one of the common annoyances of being a no-name in video production.  I received an email that we pretty much all have in the past saying, "such-and-such company/organization needs a video done.  They don't have a budget, but it'll be great for your portfolio!"  I usually equate these messages with the calls I receive from phone solicitors every week.

First, do you know what I do?  I don't do event videography unless it's an organization I'm involved with or have a passion about.  As a DP I do photography for motion pictures.  I direct a crew to light a scene, frame the shot, plan equipment needs, and move a camera.  That's what I do.  If they can't afford to hire me that also means they can't afford to hire my AC, provide catering, a camera rental, as well as grip equipment.  Even most of the videographers I know in town need to have the cost of their camera equipment amortized over the year, so they aren't likely to bring their gear to a freebie shoot.

Then you get the statement, "it'll be great exposure!"  Do you really know who I want to be exposed to?  Do I want to be exposed to more NPO's that want free work done?  How will I be credited such that everyone watching the video will know?  Who is doing the edit and color grade such that my footage won't get screwed up in post and I'll look bad?  Unfortunately I've learned this the hard way through the last few years.  There are certain people who you don't want to work with because you know their standards for "good enough" will make my work look like an unprofessional amateur.  There are also projects where I requested to have my name removed from the credits in the end.  Doing these type of projects doesn't get you very far as a director.  Not all exposure is good exposure.

Now there is a time and place for the infamous "portfolio" and "exposure" keywords.  For instance I shot a promo for Aerial Mob earlier this year.  I knew the director and crew and the level of work they wanted to achieve.  I was working with a prototype camera and stabilization system which I knew would get attention on the Internet - which it did.  The video also ended up as a demo at NAB in 2014 playing at the Tiffen booth. 

I like freebie work when I know I'm going to learn something; for instance, working with an ASC member as I did last summer on a documentary or on the Aerial Mob shoot where we were working with the prototype Panasonic GH4 and the Movi-like handheld stabilizer.  Learning opportunities put a few more useful bullets in my back pocket when difficult situations arise.  I love freebie shoots for learning new cameras.  That's how I learned how to use the Red Epic, C100, FS-700, and most of the cameras I've used.

So before someone comes begging to me for free camera work they need to look at it from my perspective.  Does the production really offer anything?  My colleague Angelina has made the proclamation that she won't work on free projects unless it's a passion project.  The trick with marketing free projects is how you sell the "passion" part.

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