Paying the bills and having fun!

Life as a freelancer can be a tough one. Many of my friends are desperate for work. People are dropping their rates everywhere causing things to go into free-fall. It’s not a great time really.

I am fortunate enough to be pretty busy. But it wasn’t always that way. When I first went freelance it was great for a few weeks then it got bad. 2 months and about 6 days work. I was very worried. I went freelance to make long form docs, commercials and things like that. But when you don’t have any work you have to take what there is.

I was lucky enough to start doing some work for channel 5 in the UK during my dry spell. They took me with my full DSR kit and FCP and hired me on a day by day basis. They put me on the fun stuff or the “make something out of nothing stuff.” I am pretty inventive, very creative and think on my feet. Working in News for almost 17 years makes you fast, it doesn’t necessarily make you good though! But I got to a point where I could walk into a room, and decide within 60 seconds where to shoot an interview and how to light it. It also made me very fast at editing.

Over the past two and a half years I have been doing shifts for Channel Five in between my more glamorous assignments…it’s not Hawaii every day. But I am lucky enough that my bread and butter challenges me as much, if not more than my commercials or my long form docos. I have to direct, shoot and edit something for TX at 5pm that day, often with nothing set up and no real idea what we need to do. So it’s manic. But the challenge is very exciting. It’s also exhausting. I find days at five twice as shattering as any other shoots.

The great thing about having a regular client is also you they give you great flexibility. If something comes up that I really want to do and I am booked with them, I can generally negotiate to be released from it to do it. i don’t do it often though!

The moral of this tale is don’t be snobby about what work you accept. Do what you enjoy, have fun. I love doing my commercials, my documentaries, my short dramas, my corporates. I cannot wait to go to India next week to make a commercial for Greenpeace on the 5d. If you enjoy working for someone then great. I enjoy working for five immensely. I have made some absolutely nuts pieces for them that there is no way i could have done anywhere else. I love every minute of it. I have a load of friends there and have become great friends with one of the Reporters Ruth Liptrot, we have become a bit of a team there bringing our quirky stuff to life. it’s great to pitch crazy ideas to them and they say go for it and before you know it, it’s on air. For example, check out my Hammer Horror piece, Straight 8 piece and Dutch Ark. Stories I pitched and turned out great.

I always bring my high production values to my work for them. SD DVCAM mind, but always progressive, dolly and track, kino divas, magic bullet etc. All squeezed into a very short amount of time. The moment I don’t try and cannot be bothered is the day I move on.

Today I filmed a very simple piece about life drawing. I made the effort with the Wally Dolly and it lifted it so much. I am not saying use the dolly and track on everything, just try your best at everything you do. With that attitude you will succeed.

I have made some serious shorts for them too. My Anorexia series is very powerful and I am so proud of it. It has been very successful at raising awareness of this illness and I love my Religion series.

Here a few sample of my more fun work for five over the past 2 years including today’s little piece. You can see more here.

Life Drawing from Some Like It Shot on Vimeo.

Space Hopper World Record from Some Like It Shot on Vimeo.

UFO documents from Some Like It Shot on Vimeo.

Hammer Horror from Some Like It Shot on Vimeo.

Where is the Loch Ness Monster? HD from Some Like It Shot on Vimeo.

Straight 8 from Some Like It Shot on Vimeo.

The Dutch Ark from Some Like It Shot on Vimeo.

KGB Experience Lithuania from Some Like It Shot on Vimeo.

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5 comments

  1. Some Dutch wise words from my grandmother: ‘If he/she does not care about the little things, he/she is not worth doing the big’ (rough translation)
    I think every job has it’s up’s and downs but one has to count his blessings and have the guts to step down and do the work you once had. And believe me, there are quite a lot of people who forgot what they once had to do for their work. I’m afraid those people will have a very hard time in the next few years.

    I simply enjoy the day when my boss rols up his sleeves and starts helping me or my other collegues. Afterall, thats how he once started himself.

    I keep looking back with love to the days where fun was more important then money. These days we are parents of two beautifull girls and now it’s the other way around.

    Still, I love what I’m doing for my work and the freedom I have with it. I’m doing this for more then 10 years now and last year I was promoted to Senior Engineer. That made my day.

    As for the video stuff….that’s only a small hobby of mine…(My FIFTH LOVE, after my wife, two girls and my dog)

    Live long and prosper

  2. Philip, I’m just stumbling upon this post of yours, and it has stirred an epiphany, as if the scales have fallen from my eyes.

    When I first started watching your shorts, I took the technical and aesthetic instruction from them. (And I’ve been quietly thanking you for that.) But I see now that you are a visionary and are showing the way, or at least ~a~ way for a generation (by which I mean videographers of all ages who have been “generated” by the DSLR emergence) to carve out a living telling stories with the hit it and quit it pace of the ENG package, and the artistic value of the filmmaker.

    And for that, I thank you with a loud voice!

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