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Entries in Photography (4)

Wednesday
Apr162014

New Media - What YouTubers Can Teach Us about Getting Noticed #atozchallenge #IndieFilm

TIPSYBARTENDER host Skyy John partying with singer Jessica Tovar, Alphacat, King Bach and other YouTubers at Vidcon, an online video conference. It's so easy to produce content these days that I believe filmmakers can stand to learn a thing or two from YouTubers and other media makers (Vine stars, Netflix, etc.) who are building audiences, getting paid and gaining a high profile within the entertainment business.

In addition to fielding offers for production deals and landing representation at the top talent agencies, many of them have also expanded their brands into self-supporting business ventures, complete with merchandising and offline gigs. The fruits of their labor, however, didn’t just show up on their doorstep overnight. Online mediamakers are winning because they have something to show – today, right now. They are doing, not talking; Most importantly, they know how to use new media to their advantage – making changes and improving as they go while learning the ropes of whatever platform is working for them.

We still need not get it twisted -- the common perk of exposure that comes with utilizing online media could very well be the extent of a platform’s value in having an impact on one’s career. “More people view my art…my films and photos. That’s about it,” says Estevan Oriol, a notable photographer who also makes documentaries about subcultures in Los Angeles. When I welcomed this urban lifestyle entrepreneur to discuss some of the highlights of using new media, it became clear that YouTube is not attributed to his success as a director.

Lowrider scraping Photo by Estevan Oriol“Nobody’s ever said ‘Hey, I’ve seen your work on YouTube…would you be interested in doing this job for me?’ It depends on what kind of success you mean. Some people might think that having a million views on your YouTube channel is success. To some degree, it is, but to me success is a little bit more than that,” he says.

Oriol, who produces content for three shows on his "SANCTIONED TV" channel; including Skid Row Stories, Tattoo Stories and L.A. Woman, foresees having to find something else to do as his deal ends and YouTube, so far, hasn’t brought him any new clients. The uncertainty of cracking that online success code also hasn’t escaped Skyy John, host of the YouTube show "TIPSYBARTENDER." Having watched this Bahama-bred actor’s videos for some time, I was familiar with his channel long before even seeing him on the CBS show “COLD CASE.”

Despite having nearly 400,000 subscribers to "Tipsybartender" -- some of whom send gifts like high-end Tequila and a year’s supply of Cinnamon Toast Crunch, and help him organize meet-ups in other countries, Skyy John doesn’t consider himself among the top media makers online. However, this former bartender who was once hospitalized following a machete accident while working on his show does find the medium to be beneficial for aspiring actors.

Skyy John's 'Rainbow Shots' episode with Emma is the most watched video on "TIPSYBARTENDER."A lot of people think that YouTube might hurt their acting career. I’ve been on YouTube for a while and when I began, most actors were under the assumption that YouTube is beneath them – but if you look at YouTube now, that’s where [casting directors, producers, studios, etc.] go to find talent.

For instance, King Bach is big on Vine; a lot of people do both. Vine and YouTube kinda go hand-in-hand. He created his whole thing online; the new Black chick on Saturday Night Live (Sasheer Zamata) was a YouTuber, so it's becoming that place to showcase your talent outside of the conventional methods.

Hollywood wouldn’t normally accept a dude like me [because of the way] I speak; I’m a naturalized American citizen but I wasn’t born here so I sound funny and that doesn’t always play well [in Hollywood]. Yeah, we have some dudes like Arnold Schwarzenegger [who make it big in the entertainment industry] but that’s rare.” – Skky John

Actor Robert Patrick ("TRUE BLOOD," "JUDGEMENT DAY" and "THE UNIT" | Photo by Estevan OriolEstevan Oriol agrees on the importance of artists being proactive in getting their work noticed. “Just put it out there on YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and then you’ll get eyes on it, and then it’s up to the people and the work [to decide] whether anything comes out of it or not. There are people doing great art but they don’t have eyes on their work, so nothing comes out of it,” he says. Reinforcing Oriol’s advice, Skyy John lets it be known that showcasing your stuff on social media is not only vital to your chances of success but also hard work. In other words, just because you upload something doesn’t mean viewers or fans or money will come.

Showcase your stuff on social media; don’t think anything is beneath you and just keep working hard. You always gotta be on the grind 24/7 – being in entertainment is not like a nine-to-five job where you work a couple of hours and then go home; with us, you’re working around the clock,” says Skyy John.

New media has been good to many online personalities like Estevan Oriol and Skyy John because they are prolific -- always releasing new content, which is a huge factor in getting people to pay attention to one’s work. The formula is simple -- If I want to be a writer, I need to write often; If I want to be an illustrator, I need to practice drawing daily. My sketchbook should be active and if I want to make films, I need to be doing so on a consistent basis. The only way I see how to make filmmaking work for me is by following through on this very practice; using tools that can take me to the next level.

Do YOU think it's easier or harder to get Noticed, in this age of New Media?

Monday
Apr142014

What’s LOVE Got to do with it? A Closer Look at Making Movies #atozchallenge #IndieFilm #LA #Photography

l-r: Actors Rodney Benson and Mike Gaudioso shooting a scene in the short film ABYSS: THE GREATEST PROPOSAL EVER.Although my interest in being a film director blossomed from a childhood fascination with an uncle’s video camcorder, I’ve since realized that cinephiles who want to dip their feet into filmmaking are in for a rude awakening. 

Just because you love watching movies, or have been in awe of people making them doesn't mean it's reason enough to want to create films yourself; No amount of fondness in the world will sustain you through the crap that comes with production and other aspects of the job.

Do I believe we should all do what we love? Yes, but to an extent.

I've loved basketball for some time, but that doesn't mean I ever wanted to compete against Dwayne Wade for an NBA championship title. I also love “LAW & ORDER: SVU” and “CSI: NEW YORK” and used to think being paid to write about those shows was among coolest gigs I ever had -- until that job got old real quick. I eventually dreaded having to not only watch these series, to also pay attention to aspects of each episode that, when I was just a regular television viewer, didn't care to notice.

Self-Portrait by L.A. Photographer Estevan OriolStill, it seems that a love for one’s art, at least at some level, must be present if we are to see our ideas and goals come to fruition – for it is part of the recipe for success. For me, I have to love what I’m doing so that I can feel like doing it. Otherwise, it’s just a job,” says Estevan Oriol, a world-renowned photographer and documentary film director based on Los Angeles.

Given Oriol’s lasting experience in the arts – he’s a former tour manager for rap groups Cypress Hill and House of Pain, and directed music videos for various artists including Eminem and Blink 182; I recently invited him to address the impact, if any, that love has on the quality of one’s work.

He quickly points out his certainty that love is required to make great art. “Sometimes, there are jobs that come up that I have to do, where I must focus on the art; I have to check myself and tell myself that even though I don’t want to do it, I have to get into that ‘love-what-I-do’ zone, or else I’m gonna put out some shitty stuff,” says Oriol, who also points out how the work suffers if it’s creator doesn’t fancy their art.

Chevy Bombs Car Photo by Estevan Oriol“If you do it half-ass because you don’t feel like doing it, it’s gonna show. So, you have to get in the mood to do it -- even if you’re not; and put everything into it because sometimes people won’t have enough money to pay what you normally ask or what you’re worth, but when you do the job, you have to do it just like they can afford [your work].

If you have one job for $10,000 and you have one for $5,000 -- the rest of the world doesn’t know what you’re getting paid, so you have to put [the smaller gig] out like you’re doing a $10,000 job or everybody’s gonna be like ‘oh look, he must have only gotten paid a little bit of money for this; because it’s poor quality work.’” – Estevan Oriol

The thought of making movies seems exciting, and it can be, but after writing screenplays, producing short films and trying to develop a feature length project, I’ve found some comfort in knowing that just because I can, doesn’t mean I should. That goes for any of the professional or personal paths we’re on. It's a whole new ballgame when you're suddenly depending on the thing you love to put food on the table. Film is an expensive and physically, mentally and emotionally draining hobby. I believe that more benefits must be factored into the equation, for one to choose film as a profession and stay the course; what started as a fun activity fizzles quickly when you’re in the trenches of trying to finish that last scene, for the 6th, 7th – or 18th time.

New York based film producer Ted Hope once said “If we don’t want to lose sight of what is needed to make a great movie, we have to make sure we don’t lose sight of why we want to make the movie.” I understand how his train of thought factors into making the best work possible by understanding what your intentions are and operating from a place that supports those objectives. I’d like to think that we all want to make work that we can be proud of; how that measures up to seeing a return for my efforts, however, has more to do with what form of payoff it brings and less to do with an adoration for filmmaking.

'Plain Us' by Amir MotlaghIt often feels like I lost a lot of the love I had for making movies and all the while, other factors kept (and keeps) me going. Time and more experience will only tell if this stifles my work’s potential in any way. Besides, “’Great art’ is a concept,” according to director Amir Motlagh, who helmed several award-winning short films, a feature film “WHALE” and more recently, the electronic pop EP “MEAT ON YOUR LONELY BONES.”

While Motlagh shuns the notion of preferential treatment for in the arts, he does recognize an underlying thirst for making fresh ideas come to life, which manifests itself on screen. “Aside from getting into a pedantic treatise, I would assume that you have to have a binding passion or drive for doing something so fleeting as working almost solely with the imagination. I don't even want to mention the uncertainties, as that's almost an afterthought. Why else would you want, or better yet, need to tell stories?” he says.

There are moments when I’m so wrapped up in editing or shooting that no other activity measures up to the pleasure that comes from the task at hand. Then, there are many other instants where it seems like I’m either just going through the motions or am ready to throw in the towel on being a filmmaker. So far, I’ve learned – sometimes the hard way -- that having a love for cinema is not the only reason to make movies. One should be able to get something else out of it beyond the sheer joy of creation.

Is LOVE the driving force behind YOUR career of choice?

Do YOU agree or disagree that the value of one’s creations (or even one’s output in the workplace) are influenced by the amount of LOVE one has for producing it?

Be sure to read the previous post about Killing Your Babies! A Lesson from Kevin Smith.

Monday
Mar172014

Monday Movie Meme – Say Cheese!

My apologies for last week’s missing theme. Let’s get this Monday Movie Meme started with a new topic: Say Cheese!

Share on your blog or in the comments section, movies featuring photographers. This can include those who do it professionally as well as characters who are hobbyists.

Here are my selections for this week’s Say Cheese! theme.

Road to Perdition

Although it’s been a long time since I’ve watched this crime thriller starring Tom Hanks, I could swear there is a guy who takes pictures of dead people or something, in the movie. Correct me if I’m wrong about this though!

In Search of a Midnight Kiss

Guy meets girl who loves photographing abandoned shoes, in this romantic comedy directed by Alex Holdridge.

Born into Brothels

Filmmakers teach kids in Calcutta how to use still cameras to capture their experiences, which leads to the children’s’ growing interest in photography in this documentary directed by Zana Briski and Ross Kauffman.

Love Jones

Man meets woman who starts working as a magazine photographer but not before she starts snapping nude photos of him in this romantic drama starring Larenz Tate and Nia Long.

Blood Diamond

A journalist uses her photography skills to ease a potentially hostile situation in this thriller starring Jennifer Connelly, Djimon Hounsou and Leonardo DiCaprio. I know there are other scenes where she takes pictures, but, the one that comes to mind right now is when a group of village warriors are skeptical about her, Danny Archer and Solomon’s intentions. Oh, and there’s also the scene later in “Blood Diamond” where she takes some investigative photos but you’ll have to watch the movie to find out what that’s all about.

What movies have YOU seen that feature photographers?

Also, I’m over at the A-to-Z Challenge Blog today, in the feature: Meet Your Co-Hosts – A Word (or Two) about Nicole. Check it out to learn some things that you didn’t know about me.