Schooled again by the kid. Want more video jobs? Practice your craft instead of reading about it!

More and more I find that "wisdom" is not necessarily an outcome of the aging process. There is an old saying that always makes me smile. It goes like this: "With age comes wisdom. But sometimes age comes alone...." At times I can be a shining example of that disconnection.

We were in the car yesterday heading home to Austin after a quick trip to San Antonio to check on my nearly nonagenarian parents and, curious to hear Ben's opinion, I asked him in what ways did he think I might get assigned more video projects from clients. His first thought was, "do more marketing." but he stopped and did his usual long consideration before delivering his core advice...

"You know, you've probably read every book out there about video production, directing, lighting and audio, and you've probably watched every video on Lynda.com about video but you still come to get me when you're sitting in the studio editing. And mostly when you ask my opinions it's about aesthetic stuff like where to cut or what clips to  use. My advice is to stop learning from the books and the video and all the other stuff and start making fun, small videos."

"When I first started out Jack and Graham and Cade and I would sit around and come up with these zany little story lines and then we'd grab whatever video camera we could get our hands on and go out and act out our ideas. We'd make crappy props and try obvious special effects. And then we'd come back and edit the stuff together. When we did our edits we'd figure out that we needed a different angle or a whole different clip and we'd rush out the door and shoot some more and then come back and work it in. After a while it just becomes second nature to make sure you've got what you need while you are actually out shooting."

"I probably shot and edited 200 short, fun pieces before I was even out of high school. You learn best when you actually go out and apply all that stuff you think you know. You learn best when you screw up. But you really learn best when you are just having fun." 

"If you did more hands-on stuff you'd end up with a lot more stuff you'd want to share and the fun stuff is probably what prospective clients really want to see. They want to know that you can have fun with their stuff. And that the edits and stuff are natural and practiced." 

"There is such a thing as knowing too much....and doing too little." 

We were just passing the outlets malls in San Marcos, about a half hour from home when he summed up: "Write and shoot a few hundred projects just for fun and then start the marketing. That should work."

When he finished his mother (the source of all his intelligence genes) smiled her typical Mona Lisa smile and added, "Sweetie....it's like you've always told people, it's all about time in the water."

I drove on in silence. Ben was in the back seat zoning out to his trying to fall asleep in the car playlist on his phone while his mom turned her attention back to the novel she'd been reading. As the giant pickup trucks roared by in the left lane I was busy thinking about some of the fun stories I needed to start telling. It took my mind off the search for my next ultimate lens.

You may not believe me but I've found Ben's quotient of common sense to far exceed whatever meager supply I was given. When I follow his advice I am usually successful. When I rebuff it I generally have no one but myself to blame for the outcomes.

He's heading back to school on Saturday. I'm comforted to know I can always text him when I hit the next roadblock.


Michael Matthews said...

Truer words have yet to be spoken.

By the way, for some video work that's work, rather than fun, have you talked to your electric utility client lately? They must have crews taking part in the Houston-and-other-sites emergency work. Even if they've been too busy to think of it they probably could use some heroic effort video for later use....PR, annual report, and so forth. Get their men and women up poles, in boats, in the chow line, waking up at some hellish hour to board a helicopter, mucking out an underground conduit, splicing cables, all that kind of stuff. They really need it, even if only to bank for later use.

Kirk, Photographer/Writer said...

Ah...Sadly the electric utility was so happy with the results our videos were providing that they created and staffed an internal department to create and edit video in-house. A person who ran a similar department for one of my tech clients was laid off from tech and marched right in to become their lead video employee. Hard to market video to them with that impediment. The freelance business is one of constant change....

Eric Rose said...

Smart boy that lad.

Tom Judd said...

I can't add anything about the video, but isn't it fun when your kid becomes old enough to be like a friend and fellow worker? And marvel at how smart he has become (despite all you have taught him!).

mikepeters said...

If we are lucky enough to have patient kids that slowly teach us how to be good parents, we sometimes end up getting more out of them then they do out of us.

Unknown said...

Ben's advice surely gets to the heart of what's most important.

Though I can understand why it's hard for a professional like yourself to enter into that kind of video making mode.

For example, it probably makes sense to work on the kind of videos you want be great at making. And it follows that you might need to do some work for free, if you want to be unconstrained in what you pursue shooting. That’s something you may have learned, with good reason, not to do.

And while he’s undoubtedly right about what’s most important, it still seems some learning resources can be more valuable than others.

A huge percentage of learning tools for video production are focused on how to use gear or master software. And there are almost no online courses, at a professional level, about aesthetics and “where to cut.” They do exist though .

For example, Paddy Bird is an experienced editor who’s worked for the BBC, Discovery Channel, PBS, etc. and he’s created a “software and technology agnostic” course that delves into the art and craft of editing.

Inside the Edit

Having gone through all the Lynda.com course, a number of CreativeLive courses and a bunch of other resources this course was unique.

Unlike any of the others courses, Inside the Edit helped me understand things I’m not sure a decade of shooting and editing would have taught me. Such as the really fine points of cutting documentary style video that’s structured around a backbone of finely crafted interview footage.

Undoubtedly it would be possible to learn the same skills by assisting a working pro like Paddy Bird, but for me the course was more feasible.

I don’t have any affiliation with Inside the Edit, and praising that course isn’t my main point.

I guess I’m fundamentally finding this advice right on target, with minor caveats or additions.

Michael Matthews said...

Jeez. Well, at least they didn't hire you to train your replacement.

Paul Gero said...

wise young man...you guys did good!

Anonymous said...

Kirk I think is your best ever post. Poignant.

Henk said...

Wow! The Boy is a Boy no more. He is a wise young man.

Anonymous said...

Cool post. You have a wise son!

MO said...

great post!

Anonymous said...

Kirk, I am a huge fan of yours. You are lucid, wise, challenging, and engaging. Plus I am still in love with that portrait of Renee Zellweger.... But this post is your best.

It can be humbling when kids become smarter than their parents. I am in the same boat too. Maybe boat is the wrong expression to use when writing to someone in Texas right now (and that is not meant to trivialise what must be an absolutely horrendous event for Houston) but you know what I mean. Enjoy. You sound like a lucky man.

Jeremy (UK)

KK said...

Kirk - Short version: Do more YouTube.

Long version: I've been a long time fan and wore out your Minimalist Lighting book before finding your blog. As I write this, however, I realize that I don't visit here as frequently as I once did. Part of that is down to my funneling of news and blogs through the Apple News app instead of an RSS reader, and, unfortunately, I can't get to your blog through Apple News. That little bit of extra friction to access your blog through a browser makes a difference.

But, perhaps more profound, is the impact that YouTube and social media have had on my blog consumption, and it's not just your blog. I used to check out Philip Bloom, Cinema5D, and Newsshooter, among others regularly. These days, I'm far more inclined to hit YouTube than drag through my blog boommarks. Coincidentally, many of my favorite sources of news and inspiration have moved to YouTube.

So, getting back to the gist of your blog post - it would be great to see you do more on YouTube, and if you agree with your son's advice, this is an easy choice. I see you have an account on YouTube and that we share many of the same channel interests/subscriptions. Yet, you only have three videos uploaded. By doing more personal work on YouTube, you can get your laps in AND increase engagement in one shot.