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Re: how do i start

COW Forums : Corporate Video

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Mark SuszkoRe: how do i start
by on Nov 9, 2005 at 5:38:29 am

Robert:

The question you're asking doesn't have an easy answer. Not the way you're asking it.
"Corporate video" is a very wide term, covering so many different kinds of work, performed at various levels of budget and craft. It encompases everything from copying a canned powerpoint slide show onto DVD's and videocassette, to lining up and overseeing far-flung live satellite feeds, special effects, etc. for a gigantic live show in front of thousands of people, or travelling to exotic locations to shoot product photography. Or trying to get images of the invisible, in some lab or workshop. It could involve many aspects of production, or be confined to one narrow area, such as DVD authoring. Or animation. Or sound. And even there, to do that one job right, you need to have experience in a lot of overlapping disciplines. You can be doing training tapes, or commercials, or public relations/news work, or forensic documentation, teleconferencing, or web video/streaming... just to name a couple things. There isn't one book, one teacher, one "right" way to learn "everything" about it. "It" is too big to be contained that way. Most people only think of TV as broadcast TV, news and entertainment. Corporate covers not only those, but everything else too! I got into it back when it was called "Industrial" video, and was considered a secondary or tertiary part of the overall "business". The name change reflects the expanded universe of possibilities.

For people wanting to break into it, I advise you read as much about it as you can from various sources, decide which aspects of the field appeal to your talents and creative inclinations, then work towards that part specifically, while learning as much as you can stand about all the other puzzle pieces of the business. Production courses at a community college or community access station might help if they concentrate on the key areas you're interested in.

Me, I like to write, produce, direct, and edit. Writing and directing and editing I feel are my strengths; producing, I do because I have to, to get the writing done my way. But I don't always get to write, sometimes I get stuff handed to me and my job is to polish it up and make it all work somehow. Shooting, I can do fine, but as time goes on, I feel pulled more in one direction than another, and I can let shooting go, let someone else cover it if I'm concentrating more on something else in the production.

I still like to be the all-around generalist "Renaissance Man", don't get me wrong, but when the stakes get sufficiently high, I am willing to expand my team of one to working with a crew, where each can do their specialty better than I can. And it's getting ever more difficult to BE a competent generalist, with things like authoring, streaming, compositing, animation, etc. If you were really good at just ONE of these, you could make a good living at it, somewhere.

I think maybe one way to look at it is: generalists tend to be full-time on-staff hires, and specialists are brought in most often as freelancers to do a specific job only, then split. Though they may get called back to do that one-shot gig many times for the same company, they typically work for many places, where the generalist hunkers down at one place to handle the most common jobs they have full-time.

So, what part of the business attracts you most, Robert? Start reading up on it at sites like this one and others, check out books in your library that relate to it, peruse the more obscure categories at Amazon for even more sources, read some of the trade magazines. Then start building a resume', reel or portfolio of stuff to show when you interview, any way you can.

You may or may not get a lot more specific recommendations than that, because to many people's way of thinking, the first step in seeing if you're cut out for this is: do you want it bad enough to self-direct your research, show initiative? Corporate work is part of business, and business is cutthroat and unforgiving; you need to be able to stand on your own feet most of the time, have more answers than questions. Also, Corporate people specifically want to hire people that come "pre-trained", because frankly, they mostly don't know anything about how to do these jobs themselves - they are looking for people that solve their problems, not learn a job on their time.

Makes for a "chicken/egg" situation, for sure. You beat that by starting with one specialty you can master, and you build up skills as you go on from there over time.
This is why I suggested the hotel shooting gigs for you as a good entre' to Corporate work. I got my first corporate gigs after 4 years of college learning the craft and some practical experience thru hands-on internships, so even though I had no resume, I came into the interviews with training.

This is why I suggested the hotel AV stuff for you as a logical beginning: At the start, the entry-level versions of those jobs only require you to be a good shooter and manage good audio, plus understand basic connectivity of A/V gear - how to set up laptops, projectors, etc... You have a head start on that with your wedding work.

After you shoot a bunch of these, get repeat business from the hotel and other hotels in town, you branch out as a freelancer, make contacts, and you can maybe find work on larger corporate theatre type productions: multicamera jobs where you might be the IMAG camera guy, or run a mixer and wireless microphones, or the light board, or a character generator, etc. As the jobs get bigger and the people that hire you build a trust (and you add to your skills), the time will come where you get a break on some project, doing more than you ever expected. You will have switched from being a simple hired hand techie to a producer. Then many doors can open for you, if you play it smart.

It's not fast. And not immediately exceptionally lucrative.
But it's one possible path. You start down that path by picking a direction.
What do you like to do best?



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