In this episode, I have a fascinating conversation with the wonderful cinematographer Bjorn Charpentier on thinking strategically as a filmmaker.
Here is the Sean Bobbit masterclass mentioned in the episode https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IHcYjKpJb-I
I’m trying to see with my agent, what we can do as a as a marketing solution for next year. So we go back and see, what did we do last year? What worked? What didn’t work.
Welcome to another episode of the next level filmmakers show where we interview filmmakers from around the world to explore their pathway to success. What worked, what’s working now, so you can take your Korean business to the next level. I’m your host, Clarke, Scott. And I believe that having the right systems in place is the difference between taking your career and business to the next level, or just being another dude or dudette with a camera. So if you’re tired of hustling for one off projects, being undervalued and underpaid, I’d like to invite you to an exclusive free training I’ve put together for filmmakers, just like you where I share the exact strategies I’ve used to grow my own video production agency. Just go to Clarke, Scott education.com. Let’s clock with an E. Clarke Scott education.com, forward slash free training. That’s Clarke, Scott education.com forward slash free training and start your journey to becoming a next level filmmaker today. Okay, Mr. Sharp piante. Do you want to kick into this overview? Alright, so the first question I ask everyone is how did you get your start?
Well, I finished a film school in 2002, I went to Belgium film school called the National Institute for radio television. And I came in, because there’s no family of mine that are in the business. So for me, it was just love of the movies that led me to pursue that career. And because I didn’t know anything about it, my first impression was, I want to be a director. Because as the me you know, electrical director, that’s basically it. Yeah. And after my first year, and second year, I realized that directing was not really something that was meant for me, I was more towards a visual approach a bit on the school I went to was a education that gave us a general broad strokes of every department. So it’s not just directing or cinematography or sound, so you taste a little bit of everything. So you can always decide afterwards what you want to do. So once that for me, I knew I was more in towards the cinematography part of it, I start to focus more on those bits, during school project, stuff like that. And then I was in my law school, I started doing internship as an intern as a PA as a grip, intern. But I always want to go to camera. At some point, I start rolling into apartment when I was finishing school, and I worked as a second assistant for five years. I love being a second at that time, all the features were shot on 35 or sometimes 16. There was no additional at that point. It allowed me to deal a lot with my eyes. So what I did is you load the magazine, you know what lens on the camera, you have to write down the filters, the the lenses, the film stuff. And once the cameras rolling, I was closed several ways to see what is nippy doing likewise, what are we doing dollar wise stuff like that. So as always still my eyes.
after? I think around 2007 I really the focus pulling in gave me a lot of sleepless nights. I did like I love biggest second. I hate being a first year. I have to be I have to admit that was bad. It was just I mean, you know, if you put the backlight is a bit too strong or key like it’s not strong enough. You don’t see it. If it’s out of focus. You’ll see it. Yeah, boy that was pulling focus for some of the bees. And it was a lot of wide open air with long lenses,
low budget shorts, and so there was not a possibility to do take to over focus reasons if there was a doubt. So you gave me a lot of sleepless nights.
I think that’s the same will actually be I just wanted to interrupt because what you were just saying it reminded me and of course, your shot. So not your latest feature, which we can’t really talk about here, but the bay route. So with Jon Hamm, the, the in the first few seasons, I think it was the first three seasons, they shot that on 35. And my wife and I just recently binge the whole, the whole seven series or six years or however many of these again, and those are those first series that were shot on the 35 which are now you didn’t shoot but there’s a number of times where I’m kind of another luck. Massive home theater in my place like, like a 20 foot screen. And, of course, you know, you blow it up to 20 foot, it’s like, I’m yelling at the screen focus, like there’s these really beautiful scenes where the acting is fantastic. But the ice is just, you know, the focus is slightly off. So I’ve never I’ve never put focus on film on on, maybe on like an old light lacquer or something. But but not not. Not that kind of film. Right. So you, you said you’re not very good at it. So you obviously did it at some point, right? Yeah, yeah. Yeah, two features. Okay. So I would love to know how something like madmen could get through where there was clearly the thing was out of focus. Is that simply a case of time?
Well, look, I mean, as a director, you always choose the best performance. So performance? Focus, surely. I know, I know, a lot of people don’t see it. So I hear what you’re saying.
the big fight is like, I prefer to shoot on I reserve for and Heather, the infocus. They’ll say let’s do the hours of two to have more other folks background, right. And then you miss the performance. Because in Edit, the editor and director will always choose performance above everything else, because this tells a story. Yeah. So it’s better to have a say it’s better have a perfect emotion with a technical mistake, a typical perfect shot with the emotion. So try to story. Yeah, as frustrating as this as the first day see, to see your work at that point. It’s great to see now the focus, but they always choose performance. So that’s why I’m always trying to work with the best day sees not to have that. When we wrote our rehearsals, we call the 5050. Meaning that the actors are sometimes not actors, they’re like extras, they don’t always are aware of what’s happening. Because usually what happens is, once if you use it, if you should the commercial, for example, and you have talent in front of you does not really matter. What is the theory really rehearsal, they are very casual, but the moment you say now is for real and the other clapperboard everything they’ve reserved, and it goes more mechanical. So say know what we do a 5050 day. So we don’t tell the actors that we got the role, the technical crew knows that we got to take this shot. So that point, you have the best performance sometimes, but sometimes that is like no what we just go for it with talents. Because we’re the energy and we’ll see what happens. It’s also 50 50% 50% chance we have a focus or not. And that’s why I’m trying to work the best focus boards around the just to minimize the the focus moments. Because like I said, you should always go for the best performance.
Yeah, this I mean, it was we shot so that we’re just soft, our like, focus. But you’re right, I think the end, I’ve shown a lot of branded content over the years and, and just even and therefore shut a lot with non actors. And you’re right, as soon as I go, I don’t use cotton balls, but the just, it just it makes it feel very, it’s stifling for for a lot of people making it far more casual. But out of that, this is all just as a lot more footage to get through to kind of edit something that’s consumable by either the agency or the client or or whatever, what have you So, okay, so you’re you did you tried, you’re out, you’re the first AC, and you ended up on second, I say, how’d you go? Where do you go from there?
Well, for me, AC was always for me a stepping stone. And in 2008, I decided to start shooting my own stuff because I saw so much during the years I was like, I wanna start shooting my own stuff and express myself visually. So in 2008, start shooting us to insurance basically, projects, projects. And luckily for me, I stumbled on director. At that point, I didn’t know that his mother was running one of the biggest commercial productions in Belgium. So as shooting his short film that was appreciated by by some people and then I started shooting small commercials Appropriate commercials disabled small scale and budget.
my philosophy is if you do something good, right. So even if you’re selling, whatever you have around you, as I’m selling, this is a silly pen. But still, I’m going to show this like, is the biggest, best product you’ll ever find. And you put your heart and soul into it. And even if it’s a silly thing, for me, it’s more than to make it for me and for the agency for a client, to give you all your love and attention to it. And a lot of people appreciate that. So that gave me more and more opportunities for for jobs because I love what I’m doing. So you’re selling your love, basically. And I never considered myself working. I’m just enjoying life and shooting stuff. And once I’m started doing international work, I was made a mistake then to my wife, I’m going to holiday, which is actually a shoot abroad that is you know, people pay me to travel around the world, visit the world shoot content. So if you’re
with your with a pin you, let’s say you’re shooting something that is like it’s a shitty product, and you really don’t care about it. I love the fact that you’re bringing your heart and soul to it. But let’s say there’s no budget, like the budget is just because yeah, I mean, you’ll know over the last 1015 years, commercial filmmaking budgets have just taken a nosedive. So how have you have you got around that?
Well, at that point, I mean, I started 2008. So at that point, in Europe, mainly in Belgium, where I’m based, there was a recession. So that was the year I bought my first camera. So I bought a red one. I put all my money into this. And then we had a recession. So I nearly had a heart attack saying oh my god, what’s gonna happen with all the money has spent on gear but like you said, budget wins down. People want good content. So I was able to do a package deal. and shoot and it gave me a lot of work. So I, I could
learn the craft better. on my end, he was surrounded by great gaffers and grips that always support you. And for me, it’s important to always surround you with with family. I mean, for me, it’s very, very important to care about people working with me and around me. And the Morrigan share that love you more can support people around you, the more you get a return. At that point in Belgium, other people were not working and I was working full time. What do you think?
Is it was it just the fact that you had I mean, if you did you buy the red one when it first came out?
Yes, I was. Early buyers. Okay. So, buyers, but any? Yeah, I mean, a lot of people say it is because if you own gear, like I’m not agreeing with that, because even if you have the latest camera, if you can’t do your job properly, the camera will solve it for you, the cameras to how great tool may be if you can’t handle it, then you’re still creating crap. So you need to know your stuff. And a lot of people came on 35 jumped on red one saying Oh, it’s just the same thing. No, it’s not that they came back the red cameras and no, you’re just shooting in the wrong way. You need to have different filters into taking into account of infrared light you need to black sheep, whatever I mean, all those things if you don’t know of course the camera won’t reform because you don’t know how to handle the camera. I was daily when I woke up and when I went to bed first thing I ever did every single day I did I went to the red forum and see what are the new updates, what are the problems with our new solutions. So it was always very aware of everything and even now I mean, I’m still buying your cameras and new cameras coming out I almost have every one of them but I want to know everything from it before I want to buy it or use it so I know the toy or the the gear I’m using because it should be a part of my my toolkit. So I need to know every single bit of it. But that was my skin I still need to know how to tell a story. And it’s not only to cameras through camera position, lenses, light movement, all the things was the core of the see was the core of the story and focus on that. And that’s something I started A lot of time. For me, it’s almost one of the most fun things of a shoot is the first on the project, start to analyze, and dissect the story to see what are the arcs of each character was the arc of the story? What are the visual elements that can trigger a story to change the visual language? All of this is for me a very fun stage. Because that’s something if you have IDs, you go back to the director similkameen for this scene, or think about this, this, and then you have a dialogue. It’s like, Oh, I don’t like this. I love this. I haven’t thought about that. And you craft the movie together. So in a sense, you know how the movie is going to look like before you start shooting. And that was one of the first questions my producer got me when I was doing Beirut. Beirut was my first feature. It’s like you come from a commercial backgrounds, you have two, three, maybe five days at the most now going to a project of 37 days. Can you handle that? So yeah, I mean, yes, the The movie will be done before we start shooting, because I will know every single scene, I know where I will have my trigger points, I would have taken correctly. And I will have my whole crew around me. And we will be ready. Yes, this is not an issue for us. is again, it’s all a love adventure that you have you just put into the project.
Okay, and so I mean, one thing that I see when I look at your work, and it’s interesting to hear you say that you’re and this is what I’m hearing you say is that you have a really good grasp of, of the technical aspects of the camera, and you make that a part of you. So when I see your work, it almost feels like I’m looking through almost like it’s it’s lower than your eyes, though. It’s almost like I’m looking at your chest. So I’d be interested to see where you hold the camera. If it’s very often it’s it’s, I don’t know what it is. It’s very strange. It’s also potentially the why in particularly in the walking shots, if you’re, if you’re kind of hand holding something, it feels like you’re holding the camera here, as opposed to here. I don’t know whether I’ve got no idea whether it’s true or not. That’s what it feels like to me. And you you mentioned that you you really locked in felt almost like you’re internalizing the camera so that the camera becomes a part of you. It’s not just you said it’s like a tool, but I don’t think it’s a tool for you. I think it’s something that actually becomes. Yeah, it’s an extension of you. Yeah. And so for me, I think the difference between and I say this all I say this all all the time, I don’t believe the difference between people doing well or not well in in our industry is just skill. I believe that it is, it is it’s not just the work, because there’s so many great filmmakers out there, that there’s something beyond it’s those 1% things that are the difference between those guys and girls that are doing well and those that aren’t. So with that what I just said, then I’d be interested in your feedback on that. But let’s segue into the second question, which is, what’s the one? Like kind of strange or even like odd, unique thing that you’ve done in your career that you that you believe has driven your career forward? The most? Actually, I think I’m fucking the question I’m so let me read it, because it’s the one the one unique or even strange thing that you do or have done that you feel has been the biggest contributor to your success so far? Well, I think for me is really being a wingman of a director. I really want to, but beyond everyday, everyday peace is the same thing like so it’s got to be
the main point for me is being enthusiastic, mainly being enthusiastic and motivate people. I know. Sometimes, I come a shoot and on this call sheet it says basically, a whole day around the dinner table and just talking heads basically. So I mean, it’s not the most fun or creative things to do. When I come on scissor your guys, I really feel like we’re gonna have a lot of probably, this is just go for it. And people just go into this vibe, and you share this. You know what, let’s go. Let’s go. Let’s go. And I always tell people as the P, you’re almost the the point of the spear.
meet me you have a director who is nobody wants but in a way you have a first ad who dictates the schedule. But if I’m not ready, we’re not shooting. So for me being ready As fast as we can, to have minimal technical installation, so directors maximum time to perform with actors and try stuff out is important, but also by pushing forward. And for the first three setups of the day to really base it with the people are Oh, wait, I mean, does does the speed we need to keep up or stay behind, it’s important because then it gets to the rhythm of the day. But if I push through it, my first day, see my grip, my gaffer are right behind me and they push through, the whole crew has to move forward, they can’t linger back. For me, my biggest job is to go to first thing D and tell them whenever you ready, because we are ready to shoot. That’s my biggest joy. We are ready.
I’m going to push, I’m gonna push back a bit, because I believe what you’re saying. And I believe that you believe what you’re saying. But that’s once you’re on set. And so one if you’re if you’re already on set, you’ve already got the job, if you’ve already got the job, it’s not won’t be just for your enthusiasm, and enthusiasm. I hate what you’re saying though, because when I show up my feature, momentum is a massive thing. Like you just can’t stop. And we run and gamble a lot. And we and we use a lot of natural light. And in the in the script that I wrote that was one day where there’s there’s one scene, and it was morning, it was I was going to use like golden hour, early in the morning. And in the script. It was like sunrise. So the sun’s coming up. The first day we shot the sun. The second day we shot pissing down rain. So you just got to keep pushing forward. And we had to do a little bit of a ratio because of the waiver issues. But other than that there’s this momentum thing. But that’s once you get on set. What is it that you did or have done in the past that you think that even got you on set?
Well, I mean, let me explain what happened with Babe Ruth, for example. Okay, this is exactly what I said is the love and passion basically, let me elaborate on this. So my producer reached out to my agency. WPA say, Kay, can you give me a key propose me a dp for this script. So it was like an open, open in house. I mean, dealer’s choice, basically. And my agent, my agent sent me a script and asked me to read it. And at that point, I wanted to be pa because I want to elaborate my commercial work. I wasn’t really looking for features. A lot of people go for an agency for features. For me, it’s like, I want bigger commercials. And even as a scribus. Right? Fine, but I’m not really looking right now for script. So my agent told me read the script. When I read the script, I was a page turner, I read in one go, I emailed my agent immediately said, I want to shoot this feature. Give me the email of a director. So I emailed him and said, Look, I love the script. I would love to be part of this movie. I don’t know how you visualize this movie. But when I read it, this is what I saw. And I gave him like 40 or 60 pictures in attachments. I told them look, maybe it’s not exactly what you see. But at least we have something to talk about some shows, or pictures you don’t like some are spot on. But listen, I know where you’re going for that. And he replies saying this exactly same visual ID that I had. But between that and having a contract, I think there was two or three months in between. What I did is, every time I saw a movie, or commercial, or I read something that I thought, oh, that could be interesting. Well, I just saw this scene or that shot could be interesting for my potential movie for that scene of that shot. So I emailed him regularly saying, I just saw this movie, I saw this. See, I think that would be a great ID for that seeing the script. That commercial. I saw this could be interesting for that. And I kept doing that. In India. He said, You know what? You’re emailing me. With this. I’m saying it’s like you just spent love attention to IDs. And in the end, you have the job by just showing your passion and your energy to do this shoot. Because your hunger to do this. And to reply and the other question. I’m always shooting from the
shoulder. Hey, oh, let’s just I’m really disappointed to know that because I was convinced that you’re holding a lot How are you? How tall are you? I’m a one meter 74. Okay, so you’re not overly tall either. I was completely wrong. No. So I would say that with your Let me ask you the question when you’re emailing the director? How much of it? I mean, obviously, there’s a passion there. And I’m absolutely not discounting that. How much of it was strategy, though?
Nothing. I mean, yes, I want the job, of course. Yep. Because I know that the only thing that was working in my disadvantage is I don’t I didn’t have any feature. And that’s why my producer was saying, like, Look, I mean, we are interested, but how do you feel of shooting just seven days, knowing that you come from commercial background, there was his concern, and there was direct concern or smooth. So we talked about that. But I think the only way to counter that is just to show what you can bring to the table.
Yeah, and your enthusiasm and your desire to be a part of the product. So there was strategy, you’re being very, you’re being strategic and showing again, and again and again. And and don’t be Don’t be frightened the word? Yes, yeah. It started many, many filmmakers. They hear the word marketing that I hear the word strategy. And because it’s not pure art, they think, oh, yuck. But one of the reasons why I wanted to start this podcast was to show other filmmakers, that even the big names, big names, the middle names, the small names, we all use strategy. That’s the only way you’re able to I mean, because strategy, if you think about it, it’s just using analytical thinking, to kind of almost like a like pre cognition go, work out what I want this result. So what do I need to make that result happen? That’s what strategy is, you wanted this job. And you and in your mind, you’re like, I’ll show this producer and this director that I have the energy, I have the passion, that is strategy. So you know, it is about your work. Your work has to be good. That’s a given. You have to understand the cameras. That’s a given. But it’s always strategy that gets you over the line. That’s, that’s my firm, firm belief. I haven’t been proven to be wrong as although I’ve been proven to be wrong that you don’t hold the camera here. You hold it here.
No, um, no. Any strategy? Yes. But at that point, my agents always telling me you need to post more on Instagram and be more aware on Instagram. And I’m very bad at that. I’m very bad at that. Yeah, I think that’s bullshit. I think that’s cool. That’s I call that quote marketing. Well, yes, and no, because I mean, friends of mine are on Instagram, and they post a lot. He, if they keep shooting, it looks like you keep being busy. If people see you’re busy means that you’re popular. So they call you because you’re always busy. So in a way, I understand the idea of it. So this week, the Twitter for your future is coming up. And then I will also start sharing stills from the shoot then behind the scenes just to promote the movie, but also to promote my work, and to show what I’ve done and how we did it. And what I did before on Instagram, is for example, I did a TV show called over water. And then I did several Instagram posts on only closers only, why I chose only those lenses, only those lenses just to, in a way almost indicate through Instagram, to to share knowledge. This Friday, I’m going to give a school lecture a small on projects, I think it’s very important to share knowledge. I agree with that. Because a lot of people are not aware of it, or my start the wrong way. And by that I mean a lot of people from school, it’s like, Okay, how much money can I make? And suddenly it’s all about the money. I was never chasing the money. I was chasing the right jobs. And one of the best examples in my career is the Leica commercial. Josefina, we’re directors and I shot several commerce with them. At some point during the shoot, they asked me we have a new potential shoot for Leica. Are you interested in shooting it? There’s little to no money for me. Yeah, I mean, like it’s a big it’s a big brand is directors I work a lot to say. Yeah, sure. Of course. Now in the end, was basically no money. And I said, Look, I mean, I’m still in because when I read the treatment, and you already record the voiceover, it was something I want to be part of because he was an homage to photography was like 100 years. So the idea was to really create selected in the end, I think we had 48 pictures that we call sexually redesigned. But the idea was to pick one of the pictures and see which of those hundreds we can bring together as a visual storytelling. So it’s something we did together with directors. But I told the producers Look, I mean, I’m supposed to bring my fee. And I’m still three my gears for everything I have. I fly to eat, you just pay my flight and my hotel. And everything I have is for you for free. So India that way, I was in Europe, why? Because we should go to boy, I was there for I think 10 days, we shot for two days, we were begging for third day, but there was no money. And then you don’t make money for 10 days. But I don’t care. Because I believe in that project. And then luckily for me, six months later, in 2015, it won all the awards at can it eight won the gold line? For craft goclimb. For director, it’s one of the best the biggest prize as well. So overnight, my career has completely
changed. Sure, and and the strategy in that as well. No doubt
is to shoot for me the strategy, my strategy is shoot good stuff. Don’t shoot expensive crap. Because if it’s expensive crap, people won’t see it. But if you shoot something with no money, but it looks amazing, people will recognize that work. And it will come back with other jobs being paid. So money will follow. That’s my that’s my experience. Anyway, money will follow should something that you believe in, spend money on it. I mean, I shot several commercials with the producers, like we call the for this, like, I don’t care, I want to head out pay for it, because I need it. Because I know in the end, it will make our work better. And if the work is better, I will get bigger, better jobs out of it, or bigger jobs, whatever. But on a lot of commercial, I spend money on it, just to make it better. But I do that only on projects that I believe are worth spending my money on it. Yeah.
So again, you’re you’re using strategy to work out? If it was, if that was for instance, I mean, with the locker It was like, so it makes sense to do that job, I’ve done work for free as well. But only only when it’s going to make more money, I’m going to make more money down the road at some point, that work is going to get me more work or is going to better work. That is a strategy. That is that is strategy. So the fact that you said you don’t want to shoot expensive, crap, you want to shoot the right projects. It sounds like you are using strategy from the start. In fact, we spoke earlier, when you were talking about being a first AC, you’re crap at it. So you went to second AC that then taught you how to do all these various things. But you always have the art your eye on becoming a dp, the cinematographer. So yeah, again, that strategy. Yeah, it’s knowing where you want to be and then creating the steps to make that yeah,
I mean, I want to have a gold statue on my shelf. Of course, yeah, that’s my goal. I keep telling my age as long as like,
that’s, that’s the end game. I mean, we need to aim big into the moon. And it just it like you said it is strategy, but it’s also
I believe in it. It’s my love as well, because it’s good to have a strategy. But if you believe in it, it won’t work out. Either way. You need to fight for it as well. It won’t be given to you. You need to find a way through it. And right now. For me, I’m doing now a new show. I have already planned the next show as well but you’re still in a way marketing yourself. Just to be in the top drawer basically. It is a strategy and then you use Instagram or I was lucky enough to have an article AC to have more visibility as well because visibility you needed to have work. I think right now we are the very golden age of digital marketing. I mean 2030 years ago was a complete different ballgame. If you want to have your reel on the VHS tape across the ocean. I mean the chance of making over there was way slimmer than now now because of your podcasts, other people’s work and internet. You My name gets around as well, which is helpful. I mean, in a way This interview is strategy as well. Yeah, totally. Totally energy. Yeah. My, my name across the pond and the Australian right now. So it’s all about marketing.
Yep. I agree. And I think that the, for me the reason why I, my focus is on that is that I believe, and I’ve come from a from a, my mindset was very much as pure art. And I was broke, I was dirt poor for a long time, because of that attitude. So is that your phone or someone’s trying to ruin someone’s trying to Yeah, I had to tell my, I had to text my wife and say, Don’t call me. I’m on a on an interview. And don’t text me, she still texts me. But anyway, whatever, of course. And so I feel that the work has to be that if the work is no good, you’re not going to get any work. Or you might get you in trouble too, and you won’t get any more, the work has to be good. In order to in order for the work to be good, you’ve got to you got to be dedicated, you got to be passionate, you got to be enthusiastic. But if there’s just that, then it’s just art, you’ll be a starving artist. The other side is if it’s just pure strategy. And you’re just thinking about the strategy and you’re not thinking about the art, then you’re going to fail also, it has to be a combination of these two, you have to be strategic, you have to think about marketing, but you have to be good. And it’s these two to get when these two come together. That’s when you can, you know, excuse pun intended, but excuse the cliche, that’s when you can take your career and your business to the next level, it’s the two together, that is the difference. So quality video production, coupled with the ability to market yourself in a way where and I’m going to push back a little bit on the whole Instagram thing. Because, you know, it might be different for you because you got a bit of a name. But for those young guys and girls who are just starting out if they if they just posting to Instagram, and and hashtagging, you know, Fuji frames, or fucking like a frames or whatever, no one ends up seeing that. They just look like everyone else. So you have to be smarter. Just the Instagram strategy is not a strategy. It’s what I call hope marketing, you’re putting your your work out there in the hope that someone’s going to see it. And it’s it’s there’s better ways of going about it, including digital marketing, but but coupling that with automation, automation is extremely powerful. And most filmmakers don’t know anything about it. And it really is, it’s extremely powerful. But anyway, let’s um, let’s get moving on.
For example, is that if directors were the TV show with and they did two seasons, so when they come back to commercial, they start on a slower
So I said, You know what, let’s come together, let’s find a write our own script, it could be a commercial could be a feature film could be short, I don’t care, you put money in table, I put money on the table, and we make something of our own. And again, that’s marketing as well, because you will put your name on it. But it’s again, an investment. And I think for me, I always invest a lot on myself. And I invest in people directly by believing. So if, if you had a hard time starting up, I was like, Look, I’m gonna help you. I have all the gears, I have a whole crew behind me. I can give you all of that. We just need to find the right script could be music video, could be commercial could be a short, but just do something we’re shooting. This is something that you’re passionate but don’t shoot a silly commercial about something just to have a commercial No, shoot, something could be commercial. But it could be that the concept is great, or the technical part is great. But something that people will see a for a festival, do something and say that we’ll be into festivals, people see that. If you have that. I’ll invest right away. I’m going to help you because I’m going to help you. But I’m mainly going to help myself as well. And both of us are going to rise, rise again. It will be again in the top drawer because it’s just something that people see. So I’m agreeing with you. It’s like it’s not about Instagram is about investing on the right story, the right people and I see a lot of people around me it’s like struggling, but they’re not making the effort. It’s like you have any useful dynamic user energetic and I don’t have that anymore. Like we do need to find that fire in you to bring it out. And it’s the same as later. scenesse laziness is a disease. If you’re lazy on set, it spread as a virus, it goes there.
That’s true. But it’s the same as passion. I’m passionate, and I push forward. And we go, and we go. And I mean,
people want to be on that train. And they got to be a disaster and go work better and faster, ain’t going to go on to go the extra mile because everybody’s going for it. Yeah, but that means that in the end, it’s not it’s not a given. But in the end, you end up probably with a better product product. Because everybody involvement is bigger. Yep. If you’re big on everybody, people say fuck you, and it won’t go the extra mile, you won’t have this extra footage. Yeah, but if you share love and passion, people will, will they want to join? Yeah, want to be part of that. And that’s something I’m always striving though. I know, when I was doing my feature. In Canada, I was, um, it was there for 10 weeks. And I had to do all the interviews with crew members at all. Look, I need to find a second family for me, I need to find people. If you have an issue with that guy, I won’t put you guys together. If you have an ego, I won’t have you my crew. I want to have collaborators with me who are there to help each other and to support the project. And if you have an ID shared with me, and if you are these great, I will show you the director and give you the credit for it. Because your ID, but we should all aim to make the project better. It could be my it could be your and it could be his ID, but just share it and let’s bring it up and move forward. And that’s what I spent a lot of time finding the crew. But then when I found it on shoot was such a joy, because everybody knew each other and got along very, very well. You push through and when it goes hard, and I mean, it went very, very cold in Canada. And for me, it’s a known for Canadians overseas second nature. But you’re all there together help each other through those moments. And on a set, you know each other’s best and worse, because you go through so much. So at least do it with people you care about. And you will end up with a better project because you have a whole crew that will support it. So in a way, is it marketing, it’s a strategy for sure. It’s not marketing, but it’s a strategy to have to surround you because having the best people around you. But all of those people are eagles and assholes. Yeah, I don’t want to have Yeah, on the project I did, I had to have a second operator. And I the show, I could choose to one that was older and more experienced, or a guy that was younger, but eager, and he shall never slow. I shot for I chose the second one because I want to have a guy next to me who was eager to push forward and bring something new. And meet I’m sure the other guy was great as well. But to have this energy around you and everybody want to make the best out of it is for me vital, it gives energy to the set. And sometimes if I’m too dark, he comes up with ideas. Oh, that’s good deal. And you move again, and people pushing forward and forward. So that’s the key to me. crew is keeping me there. I
think passion enthusiasm is addictive as well. It’s it’s like you mentioned before about everyone getting behind you. If you’ve got that kind of energy and a project begins to take place it like you know funding comes through or whatever people get you get behind you. And if you’re leading with passion, then they’ll they’ll naturally follow. But one thing, one thing I want to kind of double back on is that with your advice, which I think is stellar advice, the key phrase that really stuck out for me is having people see it because at the end of the day, you can have a great real you can have, you know, the best spec in the world. If no one sees it, it’s not going to mean anything. So is it is the right content and I people that know me and they know next level filmmaker will know that I say this all the time. It’s the right content in front of the right people at the right time. That is for narrative filmmaking. It’s for commercial filmmaking. It’s for industrial. You know, I work mainly in corporate and industrial. ado, some branded content. I’ve shot TV sees but nothing like what you’ve shot. It’s always about raw content in front of the right people at the right Time. And if you can do that for your clients as well, then that’s how you’re able to get more work because then those people will come back to you. For more work same with with narrative stuff, you should have a great short film and have that obviously, it has to be good. Have that scene by No One, nothing’s gonna happen, haven’t seen by the right people at the right time while you step up. So the key then becomes, I’ve got to be good at what I do. And I have to be able to create good content. But the missing link for most filmmakers is not this bit. Because there’s plenty of people that have already done that. It’s the better, it’s the it’s the section of getting the right content in front of the right people. And that comes down to strategy. And the two horrible words that we all hate. I honestly do not like this word, I have a every time I go to utter it, I have this, it almost feels dirty. It feels like it feels dirty. The word marketing, it feels dirty. I don’t you know, and I do a lot of it, that it does, it feels fucking dirty. But that’s the difference. It doesn’t mean that your works no good. If that’s what you’re doing. It just means you’re smart. We kind of need to come up for come up with another word for marketing for filmmakers so that it doesn’t feel so dirty. Anyway, let’s move on. The third question when we’re around, that’s the first two questions beyond where I got through two questions. Right. So the third question is, and we’ll be able to get through this fairly quickly. I reckon. What do you do? What are you doing to sustain your career?
Well, look, I mean, when I get home for two weeks, I get nervous. Because I feel like oh, people already forgot about me. So let’s try to call my agency. I mean, we need to find something. So if I’m not working, I’m creating work. I’m looking for people that say, What can we do? Can we shoot something together just to keep rolling, because I think it’s important to keep shooting. So for me, it’s mainly that it’s, it’s, it’s looking for other projects. And if they’re not along, I’m starting to do something for myself. For example, right now there is I don’t know what’s wrong with the world right now. I have two daughters and a son. And when I see on the news, the amount of rape that’s going on, is insane. It’s like, can’t we do something? A project? Could be awareness could be whatever. But better sound work my brain like can we can we create a project where we can confront people with where we are right now being all this rage being in Belgium in the States, whatever it means is going crazy right now. I do the project for the Special Olympics as well. It’s like how can we do something that’s going to help the world in a way help me as well? So share those so I’m always looking for my own projects. Sure, to that point, and then I want I don’t production office, but I don’t mind working as a producer on this and trying to find crews money directors, and then try to share, share it. So right now. I mean, Id development and stuff like that. Okay, again, it’s like keep busy.
So just always always keeping busy. That’s basically the thing a do shoot stills at all?
Not much. No, no, I would love to shoot more still, I do that once in a while friends of mine shoot all the time during the shoot. Because at least I mean, when you should everything is laid the other beautiful line that you create other was romantic light. So it will be easier to shoot in that light, amazing steals. Friends of mine do it all the time. I don’t have a second time to do that. Because all my time goes into shooting and prepping and whatever. So for me, I don’t have time to do that. So when I do photography will be more on my own personal projects could be when my wife was pregnant, for example, I showed pictures of that. My legs will be fracture. I always had a Mamiya rostering camera with me on Dolly. I think I took like five pictures maybe but one of them. I blew up bigger because I’m very happy with it. And I prayed out they gave it to sam i gave to the producer directors, they kicked us off to a memory of other shouldn’t be together. So I would love that.
Is that the feature that we’re not allowed to talk about the one that you just mentioned? Yes, exactly. It’s coming out on October 11. So that’s marketing again. Exactly, exactly. Oh, you got you got a little bit In the background, yeah, my son just came back. Almost bedtime for him.
Yeah, it looks like it. Alright. So on to the fourth question, what are you doing today to help your tomorrow? So they these two are kind of related. But what are you doing today to help your help the future?
Well, I’m always looking into what’s new a, on the gear side, what’s new on the market, to know what the what to potentially use on future projects. If it does exist, I build it. I have a technician. He’s a former camera operator. And so whenever I find that I have keyless missing. And that’s not on the market. He built it for me. So I have a lot of stuff that I built. And mainly I built myself to work for myself. But in the open, I don’t have a website, I’m not selling, I have a shop, whatever. But what I do is whenever I will set people see this, like, Where’s this coming from? Like I designed it, because I need it, and people to buy it. So I sell them because it helps me to help you.
We need to talk about that later. We’ll talk about that later.
So I’m doing that. Otherwise, I’m towards marketing, I’m always trying, I’m trying to see with my agent, what we can do as a as a marketing solution for next year. So we go back and see, what did we do last year? What worked? What didn’t work? Where did we spend time on that was not the right way to spend time on? So what can we do towards the next year to avoid those kinds of shoots or those kind of circumstances? So to plan my next year ahead, learning from last year in the last two years, what can we do to improve that? Otherwise,
that’s interesting. So you’re doing that with your agent? I correct? Yes. So so let me get this straight. So you do you do a body of work. And then at the end of the year, you sit down with your agent, and you look back at the work you’ve done over that last 12 months, and you go, that route was good, that thing led to this shoot, but this shoot was it was okay. I enjoyed it. But then we got no work out of it. So do less of that one before that one. Is that correct? Yeah. Strategy strategy. Yeah. Okay. That’s, that’s good to know. And so how are you determining? What’s the determining factor between whether something is good? And you do it again? whether something is bad and you don’t?
Well, mainly, what I usually do is because when I say yes to one project, I need to say no to five other projects. So at the beginning, you need to teach your projects. And then I always again, I never pick up budgets, I will pick out what’s the right script. What’s the right director? Those two are key for me. Right now I’m looking for right script, writer, director, but also right producer, because having the right script and the right director, but not having the support from the producer won’t bring you far enough either as well, because it can, it can you can bring you to this level, but you want to be basically here. So you need to produce it to pull back and to help you work with several producers, the amazing producer in Belgium, and He never says no. So even during Scout, we scout and for example, there was no crane or no drawing the budgets. Were like no one it would be great to have a crane or or a drone. Or maybe a second camera was never budgeted for but he will say no, but it’s fine. Let’s put on the list was put on the list. And the end of the day. He says Look, that’s the envelope with all the money into it. That’s all the gear you want to have. Now you pick what you will know at least it shows, I think that’s the right way of producing. So press the no you can’t have a crane. No, you can’t have a drone. Wait a minute, because if we take the drone, we don’t need the crane. If we take a second camera, we don’t need this. We can we’d have the shoot and do something else. And maybe we can we can get money out of it at the end by a lot of people. Young producers make that mistake all the time in my point of view is like sometimes it’s better to spend more money in breath to gain more money. Again, shoot but most people are free to spend too much money in the beginning. But then you end up spending more time more money anytime. Yeah, a friend of my make the the visual idea about building a house, your trench is your foundation. The shoot is the build of the house, and the post is the finishing. So if you’re the rock Foundation, I suppose you spend more money in the ground, the finishing of your house is going to be easy and done. But if your foundation is good money, your foundation, foundation is a move. And when you build, maybe you need to put a little more money left to right to keep it together. But once you start doing the finishing, the polishing and the plaster, whenever you start to crack everyone in it, add more and more and more support, and then you start putting more money into it. So what I’ve learned is like, even if your envelope is only this big, sometimes it’s better to add a little bit more money to this. Because you got to spend less in post if you do it more now. Yeah, that’s something people are always afraid of doing. Yeah, I
wish I had. That’s exactly what happened to me. On my future. There’s moments, the post was just a fucking nightmare. Because I rushed pre Pro, I’ve just I just rushed it. And it was my mistake all on me. My my thing was, you know, it’s not, it’s tiny. It’s a micro budget feature. So nothing special. But that that is just so true. I think even even for tiny little micro micro budget features. It’s it’s true then, and so can only imagine it’s true on me and our features. So let’s go to the last question. And that is tell us something that you’ve read, watched or heard that inspired you recently?
Well, right now I’m watching a lot of Netflix. And I watched Ozark last year. And now I’m watching season two. And I saw the same thing at escape at dannemora. from Ben Stiller. Both of them what inspired me those two shows is the director having the balls to shoot several scenes and becomes a visual stylistic choice. But to shoot a lot of single tech scenes. I find a lot of people always want to over cover scenes just to make sure and the next person will do now I told my directors was like know what, the more you shoot, the more you’re going to give the editor an ability to use that. Even if you say I don’t, I don’t need it. I’m going to I’m only going to use this shop but just for the sake just to this and this as well. Your editor is going to use that and it’s going to cripple your visual style if you’re moving something when I was for example, at EMI, China’s work unbreakable with Bruce Willis, and Samuel Jackson. A lot of scenes are told from one camera position, it could be a travel, it could be static, it could be handheld moment, but it’s all single camera, it becomes so powerful. And when I was watching Ozark season two, I think it’s Episode Five, there is a shot of overlake. And in the far background, you have a boat coming across. And the camera is on the drone and flies towards it. But it’s a very long scene, it’s an important dialogue. And you always see a boat like that big and the end, the camera comes so close that you see let’s say full frame of a boat, but it’s still a long shot of a character. And then the boat goes out of frame and that’s the scene is and any other director would say let’s shoot close ups and all the back and may wander from another big drone and don’t do like eight shots per scene and he just needed one shot. Very graphical book coming by all dialogue was inspiring to me. Then I saw Gomorrah notice saga Miranda, Italian articial now it goes so dark and it’s it’s beautiful in an ugly way. And that’s something I read that’s why I’m always using my lighting as well. I light use ugly lights to make something beautiful, meaning I use light with cold temperatures that are off with a lot of green in it and I put color. I always put two color temperatures fighting each other the frame. And they did it all the time. But they pushed even further that way by just not lighting actors and helping actors do a close up dialogue scenes. There’s no detail whatsoever in the face. But you understand the motion of the scene and And the post I did before, I had a hard time finding my, my showrunner and producers, I wait to see the face me to see the face. No, you don’t need to see the face. You don’t always need to see this face, you see 10 episodes of this face, you know who it is, you know His voice. But the interest of the integrity of the scene, the installation, it allows you to go dark and you still the standard. You don’t need to see every single detail. If you look at the Godfather, all the stuff are falling, what are falling back in blackness. And it’s teasing as an audience you’re looking at what is this and you needed support over producing, you can do that. By next my new feature fracture that’s going to be looked over we said before, my The first thing my producers said to me is like it can’t go dark enough for me. Just dare to go dark. And it’s so inspiring. And liberating, that you know that your producer is supporting me, Roger. Yeah. My producer did me. He wants to work with Brad Anderson was the same director from Beirut, he want to work with him for years. Finally, the other project, Brett want to work with me. So he proposed to me two producers, producer, the South Bay route, but otherwise he doesn’t know my work. He said look in bread, trust you. I trust you. Whatever you need, I’ll give it to you. Because I know what he wants. If he wants you, I will support you. Does a producer you want to have on your behind you support you all the way through. Because that means that you can push the boundaries. And when you go too far he can say he can say what do you think maybe this or that is that there may be a go too far. I can go back but you have a dialogue. And you have
again, support and support from the highest level as a producer. And on other shows I had to fight every single day on No, it’s not too dark. No, it’s not. We’re not losing the builder. So you’re limited and you working out the fear sometimes like I think they’re gonna make it bigger. I think it’s gonna be too dark again. No, no.
afraid because we shot 107 days. And the first 45 days, every single day in a text message. Meeting or an email, which is too dark. It’s too dark. It’s too dark. Now. I know where you want to go. But if you want to end there, I need to shoot it this way. You will have this at the end. But trust me, I need to shoot this right. Yeah. And in the end, I was like, Okay, are we shooting too dark? So I started to make things brighter. My gaffer came to me said it’s too bright. It goes dark again. I was talking to the SBC, which is a bunch of ASC. And they were telling me No, no, stick to your guns stick to your ID and your vision. It will pay off at the end. But it’s so frustrating. And it is sucks out energy to spend every single day 45 days in a row to battle. Yeah. your creativity.
Yeah, the battling theocracy, I think a producer on your shoulder. is spying on you and pushing you for saying go dark, be bold, because Fortune favors the bold. If you look at for example, House of Cards, they break the fourth wall. That was I mean, it’s not episode
one with the dog. Yep, episode one. Yeah, exactly. Yeah.
But I mean, they do it several times in the show. But in the past, it has proven that it’s not very effective to break the fourth wall. Then to have a Netflix show with Kevin Spacey in the lead at that point was when the first one came out was very big was very expensive. It was a risk that they took. But it turned out in their benefit. Also, the way they live stuff is a very murky and it’s not clean photography that you used to for television was also very dark and muddy and whatever. Everybody wants this now but it’s also because of a director pushing forward and producing a producer allowing you to do this. And this I’m saying next group of brushes I’m looking for is first right creative, but also the right director, but also the right producer. Yeah, supporting you and helping you fighting scared client or skate air because when people make decisions out of fear, it will always be a bad one because you played safe. You won’t be new, but you want to shoot like everybody else. It doesn’t work that way. You won’t be new you need to break some rules and boundaries. And then we’ll see. I mean, maybe it’s gonna be amazing. Maybe people say no, it’s crap, so don’t work at all. So it’s an experiment. It’s like Steven Soderbergh doing right now shooting stuff on on the iPhone. Like, it’d be amazing could work against you, but at least try to do try. Try new stuff. Try to see what it means.
Yeah, possibly, that could also just be marketing. But anyway, they could be the thing that I’m hearing with what you’re saying now is the thing that’s inspiring you is, is courage.
Yeah, yeah. Yeah. Yeah, that’s something different. And right now I’m on stage that my new movie, I mean, you’ll recognize as my style of photography, but in a way for me is already the next step of my evolution as filmmaker just to I shot a lot in a certain way with sort of lenses. I broke that tradition, I did something else. And I experimented with wider lenses. Usually I should close up on other morphic 75. And rarely, I use a 50. I never went underneath 50. For the new movie I did, I shot a lot of the 40 with the other two for close ups. So for me was a complete different visual world. I usually do a lot of handheld. This was a lot of sticks, a lot of shots. And it was a new way for me to experiment with my craft together with director and tried to push boundaries as well. So yeah, I agree is in stood there and and push forward.
Cool. Awesome. All right. Well, we’ll leave it there. Thank you, sir. Thank you for sharing your knowledge and wisdom and time.
My pleasure. My pleasure. If I can go back to one thing. Sure. Sure is always want to do handheld work. My camera is always on my shoulder. And always, always a viewfinder. Okay, if you find this for me, well, the people use LCDs. Yep. And I was watching because I spent all my days of I’m watching a lot of interviews, podcast movies, and I saw a a workshop that Shawn bobbitt did on. I saw. Yeah, yep. And he was explaining how he does a handheld work. And he says, even handheld in a way you still have a tripod base is like one look. Second Look, look is a bullet in your head, and your three positions your stable frame. So something I learned from that, as far as like when you do handheld, just make yourself locked into clean frames. But my camera use is always on my shoulder, I go through my knees to float around. That makes me always a little bit lower on eyeline when I’m low because I rarely use easily. What I usually do is when I hold my camera, I hold it usually around here, and to move here and go up and down. And that’s something that’s for me very helpful because I can float around. That’s what I’m saying. They never have a camera here. position. I never have that my camera will be low, let’s say around hip height. Yeah, albeit I’ll have a height. And I built my own accessories to make my handheld work easier. If I need to go from the feet up to the waist base. Right now there’s no no handles for that. So I built my own accessories, just to make my life easier and to make those shows possible.
So let me ask you a question about the the show and Babak. It was a master costume that was that was shown and and read Morocco. Was it was it? No, no, no. He she. Yeah. Okay. So he talks about in that workshop, he talks about locking in, but then when you walk in? Yeah, well, he I mean, he has the he has things on his on his knees. Right. He has a special okay. But when he walked through the set and you touch everything, and then I think he was talking about the opening shot of the Derrick see in France film, the police one where we’ve gotten pints, correct. That opening shot and that was all handheld or it was like it’s a one all right. But it’s only showing up. So he said the way that he’s able to do that is to basically match Ryan Gosling’s pacing so as he’s walking, yeah, so that’s what you’re doing. So that’s what I’m seeing because there’s, there’s a in a lot of your work. There’s there is that kind of shot where someone’s walking, you’re with you’re walking with them, and it feels it feels like it’s here. Okay, maybe not an easy way you you walk with an easy rig and that thing kind of flops all over the place. Right. So that’s what you’re doing. You’re locking in and using the Shawn bobbitt walk.
Correct. Yeah. All right. Excess, basically. So when I go up when he goes down, so that’s what you’re doing. And then I tried to float around. So I got to my knees. So your shoulders flows, basically. But I always try to pace myself around later. So my focus for I’ve always almost looked into the same focus field as well. Yeah,
yeah. So that’s what I’m saying. So I was, I was wrong, where you had the camera, but what I was seeing and what I was feeling because it’s more of a feeling thing, that when there’s this, that kind of thing, it feels, I mean, it’s beautiful to watch. It’s it feels. I mean, it’s great to watch, but it feels beautiful. The opening scene in the pines, your work. There’s just something to me when I see those shots. I really feel that I can feel I don’t know what it is. It’s just I like watching those kinds of shots.
There’s a lot of people always afraid of handheld work. Because if you should have held the wrong way, is going to go over to MTV. No, I mean, you can do proper handheld, but loose like slugger Steadicam. But you need to be able to operate first to be able to walk like that. And that’s something I’ve been doing for years now. And a lot of people call me mainly for handheld work, because I can float around. Yeah,
your handheld, beautiful. Your handheld is beautiful. But it’s it’s it’s not like steadycam it has a different feeling. Steady camera, steady cam floats, and it feels you can see it. It’s like that’s a Steadicam shot. This thing doesn’t want you and Shawn do it that it’s not Steadicam, and it has this different kind of feeling. What I’ll do is I’ll find that Shawn bobbitt, because I’m sure it’s still on the internet somewhere, because I’m sure there’ll be people going, What the fuck are they talking about? What’s this? Who’s this Sean bobbitt for one. And if you don’t know who Sean bobbitt is, then why, why are you even listening? Second thing is, what’s the show on bubble walk? Well, what I’ll put our put in the show notes, a link to the master class, where he shows you exactly what it is that you’re that you do. Sean does. And I said, there’s a couple of other filmmakers where I say it. And that’s. So I’m really glad that I got to ask that question. And I’m happy to look like a fool to know exactly what it is that you’re doing. So thanks, man. I really appreciate it.
My pleasure. Nishan. Bob is for me is a big inspiration. He’s a big K. His background is mainly documentary and him using I mean, his work on the Homer wells. It blew me away because it’s so there is so single life direction. So simple. It’s always inspiring me. Same with Josh because we’re just because it’s complete different level and different artistic vision. But both of them are a biggest pressure for
me. Yeah, me too. Me too. Cool. Thank you. Have you enjoyed today’s episode, and here’s what I want you to do next, I want you to take one thing that you got from today’s show, and to put it into practice in your career in business, because it’s only through having the right systems in place, that you’ll be able to take your career and business from where you are today to where you want to be. So again, I hope you enjoyed today’s episode. So until next time, I’m Clarke Scott from next level filmmaker. Have a great day.
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