As we come to the end of another year I can’t help but think how quickly the time has gone. Perhaps it’s a sign I’m getting older or maybe I’m just enjoying work too much, but either way (both are true!) 2018 has flown by and its been an incredible year filled with exciting projects. As I look ahead to what 2019 is going to bring here’s a quick roundup of what’s been going on in my world in 2018:
2018: a year of challenges & successes
Before I get to the successes - and there have been many - it wouldn’t be fair if I didn’t talk about the challenges 2018 threw my way.
18 months ago I spoke about what I’d learned after 5 years of freelancing but the months following this tested me as a jobbing freelancer and some further lessons were learned. 2018 saw 2 clients go into liquidation and I have faced the prospect of not being paid for a serious amount of work. In one instance this could have been avoidable as the client in question acted strangely on first contact. The big lesson here was about trusting your gut; 99% of the time it’ll be right and when I ignored my gut feeling - that there was something just not right about this particular client's actions - I was eventually right and I, along with many others, suffered the consequences. The other client in question was a case of completely coming out of thin air with no warning whatsoever - and no one can be prepared for that, especially during this volatile economic climate. However, this led to my second lesson; to be strict about deposits. Even if you know and trust someone within a company that doesn’t mean you’re safe from the firm’s financial difficulties. This is why I now take 50% deposits upfront before any work commences. If a company has an issue paying a deposit, then why would the final invoice be any easier to settle?
The positive side of all this however is that these issues did not affect my ability to trade and survive. In fact, the majority of this year has been reassuringly positive! Such highlights include:
Twenty Twenty-Four AKA ‘It Lives’ got a UK release
This little film, made on a shoestring budget and my first feature as camera operator became available on DVD in HMV, Morrisons, ASDA and on Amazon, as well as digitally via Amazon Prime, Google Play, iTunes and the Sky store. Outside of the UK it did well too, becoming available on Hulu in the US, on HBO in Eastern Europe and it can be seen in Asia as well.
For those of you who don’t know about this film, it is a psychological thriller about a lone scientist who maintains an underground bunker for the coming nuclear disaster. After he becomes prematurely isolated things start to get a bit weird. Sound like your cup of tea? You can read more about the film on the official website.
Nothing says ‘the fruits of your labour’ quite like Twenty Twenty-Four, a real achievement for Director Richard Mundy, cast and crew. I spoke to him about making the film here.
A force for change: Aspiring Solicitors
Over the last year I’ve been fortunate enough to work with an organisation doing something quite unlike anything I’d ever done in previous years. Aspiring Solicitors is a diversity and inclusion platform with the sole objective of helping people from underrepresented groups break into the legal profession. Founder Chris White has been helping students since 2013 break into a sector that historically has a poor record for diversity and inclusion. AS helps applicants who identify themselves as LGBT, disabled, socially mobile or BAME, as well as career changers, single parents, refugees and those from non Russell group universities. 2018 saw me going with AS into numerous law firms throughout the City of London finding out how they were ensuring their employment and training opportunities were accessible to those from all walks of life.
There is nothing more rewarding than knowing your work is making a difference and having a positive impact on the world and it has truly been an honour to work with such an organisation.
A brush with the news: HSJ
Having worked with the leading journal for health service professionals for over 2 years now, HSJ saw me travelling up and down the country this year producing a variety of event video content. As most of us who watch the news know, the NHS is under increasing pressure, especially from financial, workforce and digital perspectives. Being at the forefront of this news at times has been exciting and highly rewarding.
From preparing to film the then Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt at the Patient Safety Congress and then learning he had changed jobs overnight, to interviewing his replacement Matt Hancock a week before Theresa May’s Brexit deal was announced in November, as well as hearing emotional stories from patients who have suffered from system failures, there is never a dull moment in healthcare.
And now for something completely different: ‘Strike’
Lastly, 2018 saw a couple of friends of mine get me onboard Strike, a stop motion animated feature film about a young mole from a family of miners who wants to be a footballer.
“Animation? You don’t do animation!” I hear you cry..
Well, not in an animating capacity. I was fortunate enough to create a 9 minute behind the scenes featurette (another first for me) working alongside animator/director Trevor Hardy and Giggle Fish studios.
Curious about what it takes to make an animated feature film? Unfortunately at time of writing the video hasn’t been released yet but do stay tuned on Facebook, Twitter & Linkedin in the coming weeks when I’ll be sharing the socks off of it when it becomes available!
For now though, you can view the trailer below.
This is just a small selection of the year’s highlights; of course there have been numerous other clients and collaborations, far too many to mention at risk of boring you to tears!
So, what’s in store for 2019?
For many of us in the UK it is easy to see with the state of current affairs at the minute why the upcoming year is likely to be fraught with challenges. From my perspective however, there are certainly challenges but also many opportunities.
Yes, I’m sorry. I had to mention it, as it’s kind of a big deal! However I’ll put politics aside as best as I can.
Regardless of which way people voted in 2016, the truth is at time of writing we still don’t really know what’s going to happen to us as a country. Work wise this is a concern to me as I’ve not only worked on the continent on the odd occasion, but I’d actually like to do it again if possible! What’s more, this continued uncertainty is not going to do any good for businesses of all sizes and could potentially affect some of my current and future clients. My greatest concern is that companies will hold off on investment and marketing budgets will suffer as they could be early victims of spending curbs. On the other hand, despite the uncertainty and many larger organisations choosing to produce their video content in-house, my workload has actually grown since the referendum result. Whether the two are connected I cannot be sure, however the demand for video content is there. The problem is we have never left the EU before so anything could happen in the months ahead.
At the end of the day demand for video content is growing year on year and as a nation our creative industries are viewed as some of the best in the world. After having spent a few years building a client base and reputation and proving as a freelancer that I have the ability to adapt, there are many reasons to stay optimistic about the future despite this uncertainty.
To maintain a work ethic of continuous improvement there comes a time when one needs to push themselves in order to raise the bar. Those who have worked with me will know that I’m constantly seeking ways of raising production values and creating content that not only looks more cinematic but also has a more lasting impact on it’s audience and 2019 will be no exception. The problem here lies in the juggling act of balancing investment (whether that be financial or time) with the need to make profit so bills can be paid. There’s no doubt about it though: risks need to be taken in order to progress. As a sole trader in a competitive industry I’m no stranger to risk, but a few years down the line and with overheads it now becomes a matter of deciding which risks are the ones worth taking. Responsible, calculated risk taking is essential to anyone who runs a business.
In order to raise the bar in 2019 I’ll be doing the following:
Improving lighting techniques to increase production values. I go on about it a lot but good lighting really can be more important than the camera. This will be achieved through continued lighting tests, practice and colour grading experimentation for more cinematic and dramatic looks. Although lighting evenly with soft white light works for many projects, there is more to cinematography than this. The trick is finding the projects that want the cinematic production values and have the budgets to execute them. In the long term I expect this to involve working less by myself and more so in collaboration with larger crews.
Developing After Effects skills for improved motion graphics work. These skills have become increasingly useful for online video, especially for social media, training and instructional videos and as such I have been working in this area for some time. The key here for me is to improve the quality and complexity of certain graphics to increase production values but without venturing down the path of becoming a full time motion graphics artist, as that is not a core focus (or strength) of mine.
Investment in 4K. As we all know it’s not what you’re shooting with but who’s shooting it, however throughout 2018 I’ve noticed an increase in demand for camera operators with kit who are able to shoot in 4K, including for online. Although I currently deliver for the majority of my clients in HD, the benefits and cost elements of shooting in 4K are starting to align as technology becomes more affordable and keeping up with the industry becomes increasingly important. Hiring equipment is still an option as it’s not always cost effective to own, however the convenience and familiarity of using something you have time to get to know inside out could be the difference between getting all the shots in the can or not.
Whilst I won’t be getting a Red or ARRI camera any time soon, I’m now ready to hop onto the next stepping stone of investment and am evaluating what will serve me best for professional use over the next 3 to 5 years. The question is, will it be Canon or Panasonic?
Lastly, after a good few years of steady work I realise it wasn’t that long ago that I was struggling to get experience, find work and getting increasingly frustrated at the lack of worthwhile opportunities for young people to break into media. I’ve therefore decided to play my part in giving back and will be offering shadowing opportunities to students and aspiring media professionals with an interest in video production. I may not be a large company but I am a working professional and as a mark of respect to those who opened doors for me, it would only be fair to do the same for those who are as hungry for it now as I was then.
Subject to business demands, if you’re reading this and want to find out more, get in touch here.
So, here’s to the next 12 months..
Whatever the new year brings I’d like to thank all of my clients, collaborators, family, friends and everyone else who has supported me throughout the year during the rough and the smooth. All in all I couldn’t be in a better place than I am now and am ready to dive into 2019 to keep on creating. All that’s left to say is..
Happy new year!
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