Video Content, Personal Branding For Creatives: A Storytellers Survival Kit

June 6, 2016  /  by Lucas Marston  /  in FILM/VIDEO, CREATIVE ENTREPRENEURSHIP

As if there weren’t enough content online, jockeying for position for our limited attention spans, the world will be welcoming another 4+ billion human beings to the world-wide web by 2020.  While we are all trying to build a larger audience for ourselves, do consider that this influx will create an equal measure of competition to opportunity. Our initial instincts may tell us that we ought to think like better marketers. However, do note that many marketers are learning that they now ought to think like publishers. In fact, some are even developing their own media houses, much like we have seen from companies like Red Bull and Marriott.

Sounds great for large companies with deep pockets, but how about artists, solopreneurs, or young startups? Well, take a look at some of the successful YouTubers out there. Some of which, by their own efforts, have amassed 6+ million subscribers. This doesn’t require any outlandish marketing gymnastics; they’re leveraging cheap technology and social platforms to simply join, or start a conversation. And yes, often very lame conversations, perhaps. But do they always have to be?  

Creating compelling content-driven experiences around a body of work is known to effectively act as a funnel in attracting new, relevant audiences to the work (products, services, art, etc); all while arousing profitable audience action over time.  In addition to attracting, it allows us to stay in the periphery of our existing audience and establish a meaningful dialogue between us and them. No gatekeepers required.

Paying for advertising, a publicist, or waiting to get picked up by a blog is not wrong. Though it should only be a part of our marketing plan. Paying for these things means our marketing is an expense. Creating content allows for our marketing to become a valuable asset.  Advertising provides little data about its effectiveness and no relationship with our audience. People’s interaction with our own content gives us direct audience insights. 

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In business, this strategy has been stamped “content marketing,” and has become somewhat of a buzzword over the last decade. The reality is that it has been going on for well over a century in a variety of forms, and across industries, but with no title. To discuss in detail why it has recently come into prominence is too long of a lecture for the purpose of this article. What creatives ought to take away is that its focus is to a) Join the conversation of a target audience in a way that reflects how they consume media while providing value, b) Funnel this audience to your product or work, c) Develop a direct relationship with this audience to cultivate over time.

The key performance indicator (KPI) of a given piece of content is not necessarily its engagement metrics (views, shares, etc.) but the resulting email subscribers, as this is the only remaining medium which most assures us contact with our audience. Any artist or business social profile is a home built on rented land, and is at the mercy of its pay-to-play algorithms. Social media platforms are great, though they should ultimately be considered a stream to our own web properties and just a pool on someone else’s.

This is especially relevant for e-commerce merchants, as your websites are where your checkout counters are. Make it a valuable, engaging destination. Investments and strategies in this will prove more effective than handing your money and trust over to someone else, and will ultimately give you better control over your brand while exhibiting authenticity. Of course, you need to get in front of as many eyeballs as possible. But don’t rely on paying to reach a transient, wide audience. Work to create an engaged one. Try Kevin Kelly’s idea of “1000 True Fans” which promotes that if you can manage to get 1000 people to pay you $100.00 a year for your work, thats $100,000.00 a year!

Making the cut as a top pick in this limited space for people’s attention will require much audacity, differentiation, and relevance. A bootstrapping, DIY’er on a shoestring budget looking to attract gatekeepers or bypass them completely cannot simply scream “Hey, look at me!” That is how paperboys once sold newspapers on street corners and Tide advertised detergent on billboards. Today, anybody with a connection to the internet has the capacity to reach a wider audience than the world’s largest media companies did only 20 years ago. What are you doing about this?

What Is Personal Branding?

This brings us to the contentious subject of personal branding. “To brand yourself or not brand yourself?” Simply put, it is the practice of people marketing themselves and their careers as brands. This means going beyond a logo and colour scheme and deeper into the keywords and feelings people attribute to your character and work. Now, independent of anyone’s feelings about personal branding is the reality to the question: If you’re seeking public life and someone Googles your name, will they see a fair or accurate reputation of your merit? Of who you are? A representation of where you want to be, or your aspirational value? As marketing guru Robert Rose says: “Market to where you’re going, not to where you are.” Brand yourself in a way that leaves no room for interpretation as to where you are going and what your values are.

The appropriate content recipe will depend on who you and your audience are, what you’re offering, the story you want to tell, or the cultural conversation you wish to join. What are your goals and what kind of audience behaviour do you wish to influence? These are questions that you will have to answer for yourself. However, among these content marketing avenues, video will undoubtedly be a top pick. The competition among Facebook, Amazon and Youtube over video are a clear testament to the engagement video receives.  People want information in the context of video. The arena for distributing and monetizing video content is at a pinnacle high and will surely continue to grow for years to come.

To many, creating quality video is seen as an impossible expense or unachievable skill set, making it an inaccessible option. Depending on your standard of quality, this is no longer the case. 

In 2015, writer/director Sean Baker produced the comedy-drama Tangerine shot on three iPhone 5s cameras which premiered at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival and went on to receive 7 different awards. The film was later picked up by Magnolia Pictures and received plenty of positive reviews. 

Certainly the success of Tangerine is greatly attributed to its edgy story and artful filmmaking, but it is a shining example of how the democratization of the technology that was once a barrier but is now more accessible than ever, offers the potential to sidestep increasingly irrelevant gatekeepers. 

We dug around to find the tools Sean used to make Tangerine, along with some online courses where for around $500 and 1 week of time, you can be well on your way to broadcasting your own career, building an audience, and telling the story of not only what you do but who you are. (Should you doubt the importance of that last one then just try to explain the rise of Snapchat.)

The Steadicam Smoothee lets you capture incredible video without the shakes normally associated with hand-held video. It comes with a universal adaptor to fit any modern smartphone along with a mount to be used on a tripod for still shots. Based on the same technology as the big rigs used in Hollywood, it features a smooth gimbal which allows for seamless pan and tilt action to create cinematic style footage. BOOM!

Tangerine was filmed using FiLMIC Pro, the standard for iPhone videography which turns your IOS camera into a broadcast worthy HD video camera. With variable speed zoom, audio gain control, and variable frame rates up to 240fps on newest devices, FiLMIC Pro has competed and won against Sony and Canon products pricing up to 13,000 dollars in blind audience testing.  Actress/Director Olivia Wilde produced the music video for Edward Sharpe And The Magnetic Zeros single ‘No Love Like Yours,” shot entirely on iPhones using FiLMIC Pro.

Moondog Labs have developed a collection of 1.33X anamorphic adaptor lenses that work flawlessly with the various sizes of iPhones. Their precision anodized aluminum and all glass adapter enables wide format imaging, subtle distortions and organic, horizontal flares seen in Hollywood feature films. They preserve the full resolution of your iPhone camera while creating 2.4:1 aspect ratio video and panoramic 16:9 still images. 

The Zoom iQ6 and iQ7 are compact yet full-featured stereo microphones small enough to slip into your pocket. A large front-facing GAIN knob allows you to set the appropriate input level displayed on a three-segment LED meter. The iQ7 offers a mid-side feature, an advanced recording technique that allows the width of the stereo image to be varied, even in post-production. 

So now we’ve presented you everything you need to capture your footage. But how do you get the most out of this footage to tell your story and ultimately come out looking sharp? Luckily, education in post-production is as accessible as the technology listed above. CreativeLive offers affordable, in-depth training in visual storytelling; covering all the angles of the filmmaking process from beginning to end.

Mobile Filmmaking with IK Multimedia and FiLMiC Pro

creative live mobile film

This is a free, 9-lesson course by FiLMIC Pro founder Neill Barham and noted cinematographer Jonathan Houser on getting the most out of FiLMIC Pro. The course has just over 2 hours of content that can be downloaded or streamed on any device. Again, it’s free.

The Art of Filmmaking and Editing

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This is a comprehensive course of 28 lessons covering shot sequencing, storytelling theory, camera angles and finalizing your film. It may appear overly ambitious to those first dabbling in diversifying their skill set to become more self-sufficient creative professionals. But at the low cost, it’s worth taking what’s useful to you and leaving what may not be. Spend a few hours over the course of a couple of days to a week and be on your way to being a better marketer, publisher, and self-contained media platform for your art or business.

If you’re a creative who needs a story, write one! If you need press, then give them something to write about!  The tools, knowledge, and distribution are available to you. It’s your job to write the story and make it happen. The future will require creatives to diversify their skill sets, develop a knowledge for building systems , acquire an eye for design; many skills for which there are resources for us to learn. Keep your eye on where the ball is going, not only where it is. Toil in obscurity and embrace what you find. Take strategic ventures down rabbit holes. Try running with it. This is what I like to call: “Whippin’ it out and shakin’ it.” Don’t ask, it just works for me.

“I feel that artists have to try to connect. They have to try to be very clear in what their purpose is and what it is they’re conveying because otherwise, it’s just more stuff.”

 – David LaChapelle

Did you enjoy this article? Read our Part 2 and dig much deeper into the craft of iPhone Filmmaking.

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