An act or instance of failing or proving unsuccessful; lack of success
In our current social media culture, where we pretend that our lives are truly better and more exciting than what the reality is, it is rather simple to find yourself sharing the same skin color as the Grinch, envious as hell that somebody else got a gig you believe you should’ve gotten or could’ve done better.
Overall, I am fairly shitty at using social media. I have a back log of stuff that I’ve shot this year that I’ve never shared on social media (shit that I am actually stoked on, too). The whole social media thing has always felt a bit uncomfortable for me, “Hey. Look at me. Look at this thing I shot of this person for that client. ME. ME. ME. I. I. I.” Yet, it appears to be a necessary evil, specifically within our creative skillset. At times, I seem to channel my inner Søren Kierkegaard, pontificating my quandary to post or not to post something on Instagram. “If I don’t post about my work, am I even working? Will anybody hire me? Do I even exist if I am not active on social media?”
The answer to that asinine question is, yes. Yes I am working and, yes, I exist. That’s why I don’t post too often because, uh… I’m busy. Working. Or spending time with my wife and our dog, or our closest friends. I don’t believe every single moment of our lives needs to be documented for our “followers.” It all feels so narcissistic and self-involved. But, at times, it does seem like you need to post to show you’re still relevant and alive.
Perhaps I am wrong, though?
I can’t say any of the work and clients I’ve worked with in 2020 have been because of a single Instagram post or Instagram story I have shared, but rather about the work put out and viewed on the YouTubezzzzz. Certainly, I do my best to not get caught up on the social media side of things, but the social media addiction has swallowed us whole, making it difficult to look pass the seemingly never-ending scroll.
In 2018 I did delete my Twitter account. As of a few days ago, I also deleted—not deactivated, but deleted—my Facebook account. So, I’m just left with Instagram and my four friends on Snapchat. It feels nice.
For a while now, I’ve had an idea of utilizing my Instagram account as a way to shed light on the realities of what I do, namely my failures. Not in a “Woe is me” type fashion, but rather to potentially inspire others in that we all make mistakes and we all have failures within this line of work and, most importantly, it is okay to talk about them. Currently, myself included, we conveniently leave that part off of our social media posts because we need to make sure all of our followers buy into our smoke and mirror show of how badass we appear to be via somebody’s iPhone screen. Turns out, we aren’t as cool as we think we are. We are humans. We make mistakes. Everyday. Thus, to be true to what I am babbling about right now, I am going to highlight some recent mistakes, errors, and missed opportunities I’ve encountered over the last couple of years.
While I am forever grateful for my opportunities within the dirtbike world and that the work is still coming in, my long term goal is to move away from dirtbikes and focus my abilities as a full-time, high level DP within the scripted narrative world (i.e. Roger Deakins, ASC, Erik Messerschmidt, ASC, Robert Elswit, ASC, I could gone). It has nothing to do with their being more money, fame, status, or big award shows at that level. It’s about the creative process, creatively pushing myself as far as possible, learning and understanding new knowledge, techniques, a creative approach to a script/character, creating a whole world based on words on a sheet of paper and being the absolute best I can be behind the camera. The reality is, within the world of dirkbike video pointing, there is, I believe, a creative ceiling. And, for better or worse, I’ve never been interested in a ceiling dictating the levels of my creativity or being pigeon-holed into one thing.
So, to the failing and mistakes…
In 2018, I started making that jump into the scripted narrative world. I managed to land a gig DP’ing a low budget feature film (comedy). It was a 16-day shoot with seven or eight locations, two co-directors, gaffer, sound, and hair and makeup (incredibly small crew when compared to other narrative gigs I’ve since gone onto DP). After wrapping day 15 of 16—because we operated on, essentially no budget, I was DP, cam op, AC, and DIT—when I was dumping the card for that day my hard drive failed and all footage was lost. We tried taking it into a shop for recovery. No luck. We literally tried everything you could think of. Gone. And, because the individuals running the production had no production insurance, they couldn’t file a claim to recoup cost to cover a reshoot (Note: Always make sure there is production insurance on these sorts of gigs). So, it would take three months until we could coordinate the entire cast, crew, and location to reshoot this lost day. And, let me tell ya, even after a 90-day cool down period, one of the directors had a very hard time even acknowledging I existed. That was a shitty deal. Completely out of my control and a painfully hard lesson learned, especially when arriving to set and telling the directors on day 16 (our last day of shooting) that we aren’t actually wrapped. It was embarrassing to say the least, but a part of the journey on some of these incredibly low budget productions. As for the film, I’ve only ever seen a rough cut of the trailer. We shot it in August of 2018, and the last I ever heard was a potential release date of Fall 2020.
Overall, I learned a shit ton from being on that feature. More than I had learned in nine years of filming dirtbikes. There was a whole other world of filmmaking language, set etiquette, and creative knowledge/approaches I had no idea existed. It was, to say the least, incredibly humbling, yet embarrassing that there was still so much I didn’t know. It solidified the fact that I had a very, very long ways to climb until I came close to reaching my goals within this space. But, to some extent, I had achieved things behind the lens that I never knew I could achieve… Images that I was genuinely proud of and surprised came out of me. So, from there, my thought process went as follows, “Well, if I managed to convince these two co-directors to hire me as their DP for their feature when I had no scripted narrative experience of any kind prior to this, now that I have one narrative under my belt (and it’s a feature), I should be able to start landing more low budget gigs a little easier and faster.” Insert reality check and bitch slap across the face here. Uh, I wildly misjudged that one.
I spent all of 2019 chasing down leads for scripted narrative work. Whether it was a feature, a short, or an episodic, no matter the genre, I was applying for the gig because I wanted and needed the experience and to further build relationships, meet new crew, actors, and help build my narrative reel. Out of the roughly 20 or so narrative gigs I applied for that needed a DP, I was only hired for one of them. Yep, that’s right. Out of the 20 or so I chased, only one of them hired me. As for the other 19, I was mostly ignored all together. However, I believe four of them had brought me in for in-person interviews. And, actually, all four of them had me go through multiple in-person interviews to the point where it was narrowed down between myself and another DP for each of these four gigs.
Once it’s to this point, I am having one-on-one lunch meetings with the director to talk about the script, my creative approach, potential gear, and simply getting to know each other. Also, I like to read the script and then pull a few scenes from said script and create a five to seven page visual treatment where I pull frames from other films to show potential composition, lighting, color palettes, etc. along with a small concept of how I see the scene playing out based on the directors initial creative input. Directors love this, but at the end of the day, it still didn’t matter. One gig I did not get because the director was hell bent shooting on anamorphic. However, I had no experience with anamorphic glass. So, despite loving my treatment and ideas for the film, he didn’t feel comfortable hiring me. Another gig, it was almost the same situation however, because I didn’t operate a steadi-cam (the director did not want a gimbal), he went with a different DP. As for the other two, well, simply put, they liked me, but I didn’t have enough narrative experience despite my reel looking professional and high quality. My reel was all two-wheel focused and not nearly enough narrative for them to feel comfortable bringing me on board.
However, like I mentioned, I did land one narrative gig that I DP’d in November 2019. It’s picture locked and going through sound right now and then off to me for color correction/grading, and then to the festival circuit. Recently, I saw the picture locked cut and was really impressed. I felt proud of myself and my crew for what we accomplished. And, in March of this year, I DP’d an episodic narrative.
If people are interested, these are films that I think could make really interesting Frame of Mindblogs to discuss the process from pre-production, to production, and post. There is so much that goes into even these small productions that very few people understand. I think it could be insightful to show what it takes even at a smaller level like the sets I’ve been working on.
Check out some of Kyle’s coloring work
Maybe what I have discussed aren’t failures as much as they are missed opportunities, but, for me, I’ve viewed them as failures. At times, incredibly discouraging and questioning if I am truly capable of pushing into this particular space of filmmaking. Even as recently as the episodic I DP’d in March of this year, I had the most incredible camera department and G&E team (TJ Signaigo, Shannon Stutenroth, Emma Juncosa, Fernando Castro, Alex Kinnison, and Brandon Carter) that will forever be my crew on anything I do moving forward in this narrative space, I walked away from that shoot after we wrapped truly believing I put everything I had into it to make it the best it could possibly be. However, recently I saw what is a picture locked cut of the show and I wanted to cry from embarrassment. It was nothing that my camera department did or that my G&E department did, it was all me.
I saw so many areas on my behalf where I believe I failed behind the camera. Things that, as I continue to develop my skillset as a DP in the narrative space, I am just shaking my head because I should’ve known better with how we worked out our blocking and then I place the camera on sticks instead of handheld and have the frame way too far right justified… I could go on. I was just embarrassed because I genuinely felt proud of what we accomplished and then I see the cut and feel as though I failed my team and the production as their DP.
Check out some of Kyle’s Treatment References
As I mentioned earlier, this space of filmmaking wildly humbling for me. Sincerely, it feels like I am starting all over again. However, I know I am gaining confidence (slowly) in my lighting and how to communicate my vision to my gaffer so that he understands what he needs to do. I am learning how to work with my first AC about what they need for camera to do their job to the best of their ability and, most importantly, as the DP, fighting for my crew when needed, keeping the mood on set light and fun while creating images that meet the directors visions at the highest level we possibly can.
There is an incredibly long road ahead of me, and I am aware it won’t happen overnight. But I think it’s important discuss our failures and our missed opportunities. It’s easy and nice to fake how perfect our lives are on social media or show people all the cool shit we are doing with this person or that client. But the reality is, everything leading up to that moment you are proud of was a fucking fight, a struggle, or a failed attempt until we got what we wanted.
Let’s talk about that struggle. The struggle is motivating. It shows who has the heart and grit to keep fighting no matter how many times we get knocked down. It makes us appreciate the final piece of art that much more. And, let me tell ya, getting rejected 19 times by 19 directors in 2019 was painful and embarrassing. It’s something only my wife and I discussed. But, when you want something so badly, you won’t stop. I may end up being rejected by 101 times by 101 directors and, if that’s the case, then so be it. I will not stop. In the words of David Goggins, “The pain you are willing to endure is measured by how bad you want it.”