If video is anything, it’s constantly changing. Knowing where to start, or simply keeping up, can seem daunting at times.
In the first episode of our Pro Perspectives series, we catch up with Clark Vandergrift, an independent photographer and videographer. He shares some amazing tips on how embracing personal work as a laboratory for learning new things can lead to commercial success with video.
Here’s how he does it.
Clark’s Professional Perspective
It’s a cold and gray day when we arrive on set to see Clark in his element. A man in a Santa costume is dangling halfway through a roof while Clark is checking the settings on his RED Scarlet camera.
Unlike his big advertising shoots with full crews and a lot of client pressure, today he’s trying out some new ideas and getting his hands dirty on all facets of the shoot. One moment he’s ordering assistants toward a new task, and the next he’s searching for a new place to plug in the HMI key light before assembling the boom pole.
“Who wants this?” he asks the small crew after the audio kit is ready. “Okay Peter, it’s yours. You’re audio today,” Clark says as he slings the mixer over his assistant’s head. Peter shrugs and smiles; just another day on set in Clark’s cinema laboratory.
Clark got his start in video as many do, by making the shift from shooting photography alone. After falling in love with the creative freedom afforded by video, Clark has slowly and incrementally made it a substantial part of his business.
It’s been eight years since he pressed record on his Canon 5D, and now Clark owns an entire production studio worth of equipment and a large tandem trailer to pull it. And the visuals he creates are on par with much larger production companies.
When talking to Clark, it’s clear he’s truly found his passion in life in working with video. His natural enthusiasm bubbles over countless times as we talk through different things that worked, or didn’t, over the years.
If he could give you one main piece of advice, it would be to dive in, and figure things out for yourself. You might not start as an expert, but learning by doing is one of the best ways to master all aspects of filmmaking.
So, how exactly can you do that?
Use What You’ve Got
Don’t let your lack of gear or paid actors hold you back! Grab whatever camera you’ve got, and start making video.
Get friends and family involved, and make it fun for them, too. This way you not only hone your technical skills, but managerial skills as well.
Oftentimes, video is more of a group effort than a lot of other creative endeavors. It’s good to feel comfortable managing crew and talent before doing it for a client.
Act With Intention
Shooting random video will not necessarily put you on the path to success. Identify the specific skills you need to hone in order to succeed in your craft.
Although it might feel overly formal when working on a pet project, being buttoned up about your work, no matter who the intended audience might be, will pay dividends when working with clients.
For each production, practice:
- Hair and makeup
- Set design
For each video shoot, try new methods for:
- Camera angles
- Special effects
- Framing shots
- B-roll footage
When editing, test:
- Different pacing of the edits
- Motion graphics
- Vary the transitions
- Musical scores
By devising every shoot with the intention of building up your skill set, you’ll wind up with the experience and know-how clients are looking for when it comes time to book some business.
What are your tricks for honing your skills, or making sure you’re client-ready? Share in the comments below.