I’ve been a working videographer since 1999.
Back in the early days of my career, I didn’t use the word “professional” in describing my practice – I don’t remember exactly when I started. I knew then that while I was a practitioner, I wasn’t an expert yet. I autonomously recognized that I had a journey ahead of me to become a True Professional.
Mind you, I did have the opportunity to work alongside some of the very best shooters in Winnipeg (my hometown on the Canadian Prairies) very early in my career and even during my study at media college.
I was awed and inspired by what they knew and what they brought to a production. I wanted to emulate them, learn from them and be more like them. I wasn’t a “kid” either at this point – I was already 27 when I started out and had been working full time for 10 years already in three industries utterly unrelated to video. Employers had seen fit to give me responsibilities over crews and equipment.
Most importantly, what my background taught me was you can’t bluff your way out of a bad situation.
Know what you don’t know. (You’ve seen this material before…)
I take what I do very seriously – I studied as both a student in media college and as a life-long-learner afterward. I read voraciously even to this day. At one point when trade periodicals still sent monthly magazines to your door if you were a recognized producer, I had 4 trade mags coming in the mail every month.
I knew where I was in the overall sphere of video production in terms of knowledge and career development. I was an industrial video producer who worked as a broadcast lighting camera operator and offline video editor. I had to earn my way into the online video editor chair. I was one step up from being an assistant editor, who basically logged and captured footage and arranged everything neatly for the offline editor, but seemingly lightyears away from the online editor chair.
But I understood that.
I had clients who had faith in me… I just needed to earn their respect before I could move on.
What brings me to write this Blog post is the recent discourse on web forums, usually by people new to the industry, who ask “so what qualifies you as a professional and not me? If you are a storyteller, tell a story!”
I will happily concede that point:
If you are a storyteller, tell a story.
Where I get my proverbial knickers in a knot is when folks who are massively unqualified but keen try to take on work, especially paying work, that I am qualified for and have proven exceptional skill at.
Recently, we had a provincial election. One of the parties had a media disaster when their live webcast of an important event utterly failed. They were lambasted in the news and some argued that if they couldn’t pull off something as simple as a webcast, how could they lead one of Canada’s richest provinces.
Yup. That’s how the spin machine works.
The fallout from that debacle kept the party in question from even attempting further webcasts, even when I offered to come in and consult initially for no fee. I was pretty darned sure exactly what went wrong – an utter beginner mistake.
That party did not go on to make up our provincial government come election time.
I’m not suggesting the two are related – I’m just suggesting that momentum was effectively nullified at that point around using tried-and-true technology to get the message out.
I have “Plan B’s” and backups to my backups.
I have Worst Case Scenario plans in place.
“Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.”
Mister Murphy loves live events.
So to sum up, what do I think qualifies me as a professional?
- I won’t take a gig I don’t know how to do
- I don’t go on web forums asking “I just got hired to do this gig. Any suggestions?”
- I get hired for my “look”, my skills, my core competencies and my proven track record of delivering even in the face of adversity
- I’m not a generalist. I claim to do very few things well – if I say I’m good at something, you’d better believe I can back that up
- All I’ve got is my reputation. My last gig is the one that gets me hired for the next gig. I live, sleep, eat and breathe video production. And I’m pretty darned good at it.
Thanks for reading!