Between 2012 and 2014 I tried to prove a point:
It is possible to make money as a photographer.
The way you do it is through video.
I met these gentlemen while taking a few cinematography courses at the local college.
Sean McGrath and Kollin O’Dannel
Through years spent doing corporate engineering, motivated to help “build the org”, I’d been taught to recognize genius when I met them. Ultimately I dropped out of that school, but kept in touch with the team. I was their lighting expert. They brought me in on all their big projects.
They once even paid me $20 for my work! That’s the same day I got to play with gasoline and a campfire, which was a lot of fun.
When they graduated with media arts degrees, I was ready. A few conversations, a little negotiation, and we had a biz.
• I was “producer”,
I negotiated contracts, signed the paychecks, and bought all our gear.
• Sean was “director”,
knew how to make movies.
• Kollin was “cinematography”,
ran a camera better than any other legally blind person I’d ever met.
• I also ran lights, as “gaffer”.
I was both top and bottom of the crew rank list. I’m sure the other guys enjoyed that less than I did. Regardless, together we made some amazing things.
Kickstarter videos became our specialty, with product videos in between.
In 2013 we were offered a lucrative contract to help produce a feature-length film.
This bike dude had written a script about biking culture. It was pure masturbatory art: it was by him, starring him, to feel good about his own life choices. He very much wanted to blow his whole life-savings on making a movie from it. He needed a film crew though.
The hitch was, he wanted to be “producer”, which was usually my role.
There’s this conversation I remember, in our tiny corner office. The team was discussing what the contract looked like and what it meant. It was a lucrative deal, but he was hiring my guys without me. I’d be just a bean-counter in the sky. Did we, as a company, want to take this contract?
Yes, we agreed, we did.
We agreed later, it broke our working dynamic. They’d been struggling their struggles, and I’d gotten sidetracked on a project in a whole ‘nother universe.
For what it’s worth, counting beans from the sky was great: the money was coming in, and my whole point of the company was proven. But when main production was done, we dissolved the company and went our separate ways.
One of the guys finished post-production on the film a good couple years later. Honestly, I’ve never seen the film.
To life, and the lessons we learn.