We can all look back on our early days of shooting, whether it be stills or video, and think about all the things we did wrong. All the ‘shoulda woulda couldas’. That’s one of the beautiful things about growth mindsets. Looking back, I made so many mistakes. Ask me in ten years, and I’m probably still making plenty, albeit different ones (I hope!).
In this video, Chris from YCImaging shares the things he wishes he’s done differently when he first started making music videos. If you’re just beginning your filming journey, these are great ideas to quickly take you up a few levels. They are applicable to all genres, not just music videos.
Rent Gear Instead of Buying Expensive Equipment
Contrary to popular belief, owning all the equipment you use for your shoots isn’t necessary for the filmmaking industry. Renting gear is a common practice among directors and cinematographers. Chris says that if he were starting out today, he would prioritize renting gear before purchasing expensive camera rigs, lenses, and lighting equipment.
Owning expensive setups without enough projects to justify their cost doesn’t make financial sense for most people. Renting gear on a project-by-project basis allows flexibility, affordability, and the ability to quote clients for rental packages, incorporating the cost into the project’s budget. Even the town where I live now has some decent rental options, it’s a no-brainer, as they say.
When initially starting in the music video realm, it’s common to price low to gain experience and determine skill level. Also, musicians generally don’t have a lot of spare cash floating around. However, if Chris were to begin again today, he says he would charge a higher rate for his music videos.
“Evaluating the hours spent shooting and editing and calculating an appropriate hourly rate is essential,” says Chris. Many aspiring music video creators earn less than they did in their previous jobs. It’s crucial to reevaluate pricing or explore other lucrative avenues within the filmmaking industry. Shooting for the moon and asking for a higher price when quoting a potential client can yield surprising results. Even if they negotiate down, it can still be a significant win.
Generally, musicians are highly invested in their work, and they recognise the importance of the creative product. I have found that many are happy and willing to save up and invest money in a high-quality production, particularly those involved in classical music.
I would also consider a project or creative fee instead of just an hourly or day rate, there’s a valid argument for both ways of charging. Sure, you need a day rate and to know exactly how much your assistants and editors need to be paid. Break everything down and itemise each expense. Once you know your basic costs and how much you want to come home with, you can start building accurate estimates.
Document the Journey
One of the most valuable actions Chris would take if he were starting his music video career today is documenting the journey from the beginning. Recording the excitement of receiving the first camera, exploring lenses, and finding inspiration in other music videos would be invaluable.
Documenting stressful moments, doubts, and early sets would provide a personal and professional timeline. These documented memories become a source of motivation and self-reflection, helping to overcome creative slumps and setbacks.
Additionally, in the current social media landscape, documenting one’s journey is highly intriguing content that helps build a personal brand and connects with an audience.
Prioritize Lighting over Expensive Gadgets
One significant mistake Chris made when starting out was investing in various camera gadgets before acquiring proper lighting fixtures. Lighting is the key element that transforms projects and enhances their visual appeal. Regardless of the camera or lens used, understanding lighting and how to shape it elevates the quality of your work.
Fortunately, good lighting has become more affordable, making it a wise investment. Instead of rushing to buy the latest gimbals, sliders, or lenses, prioritize purchasing quality lighting fixtures. This decision will have a more profound impact on the overall look and feel of your music videos.
Ultimately, there’s no replacement for experience and learning on the job. Each time you go out and shoot, you’ll learn more about what to do better next time. Taking stock of everything that went right and conversely everything that could be better will keep you on track.
I have fallen foul of one or two of these, namely the expensive slider in the cupboard that I’ve used approximately twice! What were your biggest mistakes when you started out?