Are you considering a career in video production? You may wonder: what does it take to make it in this industry? What job will I do and how will I glorify God through this vocation? What training do I need and should I specialize in one very specific niche or should I generalize, become good at many things? There are benefits to each approach but generalizing, building a unique complementary skill stack to maximize your talents, will make you more versatile, employable and better equipped to spread the Gospel. It is an intense, exciting industry! Talk to 15 people in production and hear 15 different stories about their journey. I want to open a dialogue and hear from people with questions as well as insight from our many talented industry professionals of all backgrounds so we can help each other learn and succeed in this industry!
Specialize – Finding Your One Big Thing
The first approach is to specialize, to become extremely good at One Big Thing. Child prodigies are a great example, the genius violinist or golfer who spent every free moment of his or her life practicing until they become in the top 1% in the world. You may decide early on exactly what you want to do in this industry, and knowing what that is will help you focus time and energy on that thing. A famous film composer, director or movie star could fit into this mold of being the best in the world at their craft from specializing from day one. There are examples of very technical positions in the industry where specialization early on led to success.
- You can become a leading expert in a niche and build verifiable credibility in it faster.
- In an oversaturated, distracted world, some say the way to stand out is hyper-specialization.
- It's easier to dominate a niche.
- You can become the go-to person in a smaller market if you are the only one who knows a certain program or owns and runs a specific camera or special lighting equipment.
- Time is limited. It's been said that it takes 10,000 hours to master a specific field.
- You can potentially do higher quality work.
- Some consider it easier – less to learn – less to keep up on.
Technological Renaissance and the need for the Skill-Stacking Generalist
We are at the dawn of what's been called the Fourth Industrial Revolution, a technological renaissance, which has radically changed the video production industry. One piece of editing software that cost $90,000 in 2002 costs $750 today. The video quality in smartphones blows away expensive DV cameras of 15 years ago.The popularity of internet video and cell-phone social apps has exploded in recent years creating amazing opportunities for all types of new video production. YouTube vloggers and Vine video stars made careers for themselvess and reached millions doing all aspects of production themselves. If you have a smartphone connected to the internet you have the potential to become your own media empire. This also means more competition in the industry. What only a select few had access to years ago is available to many more people. Because of all this, knowing just one thing really well may not be enough!
Generalize – Start with a Broad Background
The concept of generalizing is to stack complementary skills that are all related so that you can maximize your impact and potential in the field. Knowing how to use multiple software programs and technical knowledge of specific equipment is important, but it is only the beginning. Think beyond pushing buttons. Companies in Silicon Valley, Hollywood and the advertising world have recently pursued some applicants with a broad liberal arts background, who have critical thinking skills, writing and persuasive skills, ethics and creativity in the arts. "We look for unique thinkers, artists, makers and doers," says one agency recruiter. Employers also list concepts and traits like "inquisitive," "original," "unexpected," "artistic," "storytelling," and "aesthetics." Get a broad depth of training and knowledge. Literature, Visual Arts, and Communication still matter!
- Trying a lot of things helps you decide what you like the best and what fits your skillset.
- In a competitive field, you can become more valuable to an employer the more versatile you are.
- If you know only one thing you could overspecialize yourself right out of a job!
- Certain hardware and software can become obsolete almost overnight.
- Freelance work can give you more options.
- If starting your own company, you don't have to hire as many early on.
- A smaller company may value you more if you can do multiple things.
- Variety keeps life interesting, and helps prevent career burnout.
- Every experience can add to your skill stack.
Approaches to Generalize – Evaluate and Experiment
- Keep an idea journal – write down ideas constantly, and periodically re-evaluate your skills, passions, talents, needs and what employers look for. (Browse job openings on Linkedin/Job boards for this.)
- Try out and research as much as you can. Pick a favorite, then build complementary skills that relate to it. I am not suggesting one could master all of the following skills, but that they can all help you become a valuable, well-rounded production professional.
Genres to consider
- Sports/ Commercials/ Narrative/ TV/ Film/ Documentaries/ News/ Corporate/ Travel/ Religious
Examples of Skills to Stack and Categories of Study to Choose from
- Editing/ Audio/ Shooting/ Writing/ Directing/ Lighting/ Branding/ Speaking/ Shooting/ scriptwriting/ communicating with people/ persuasion/ aesthetics/ web design/ drawing/ painting/ graphic/ music/ design/ business/ semiotics/ art/ art history/ literature/ storyboarding/ acting/ voiceover/ grip
Get in the Door – Work towards what you want
Whether it's on a television show, movie, or in sports, being a Production Assistant is a great place to experiment early, a gateway to opportunity and a training ground to stack skills. Learn as much as you can, find what you are excited about and good at and stick by the people you want to become. Take advantage of opportunities and be ready when you get your chance.
- Be intentional – let it be known that you want to move to your desired spot.
- Recognize there is still a hierarchy especially in Hollywood. You can't walk in and direct a $100 million dollar movie overnight.
- One director went from art school to set design to directing hundreds of commercials to big budget features. Film critics have become directors, actors direct, director's edit and act; there are countless examples of crossovers in the film industry.
- Recognize that there are gigs in this industry that pay little or no money. Whether it's an internship or an indie film, evaluate if the experience and skill you will gain is worth it considering where you are in your life compared to your needs.
- If you get in at a full-service ad agency, embrace it and build up your skill stack! In the agency world, I spend most of my time editing videos, but I've also written scripts, engaged with clients, acted on camera, shot video, produced, run a teleprompter, set up lights, come up with creative ideas, trained-in new people, all related activities that have become part of my skill stack.
Networking and Communication – Important skills in this industry
Who you know is an important factor in this industry and networking is a key communication skill that can be stacked. Mixers, internships, Linkedin, Facebook Groups, and alumni of your school can all be very helpful in connecting you to industry professionals who can share key information and may help you land a job some day! People skills matter now more than ever. Be the salt of the earth! Be interested, be respectful, target the right people and don't necessarily expect anything. You could find a great mentor, a trusted peer, or a friend for life.
- A key factor in job interviews is likability. Production is still mostly a team sport, and people want to work with others they like and trust.
- Speech classes, mixers, acting classes and groups like Toastmasters are all ways people can improve their verbal skills.
Ways to Stack Skills
- Work to stack complementary skills in your down time from your job.
- Make your own movies/videos/commercials even if you have no budget.
- Don't be afraid to try being on camera. Learning about acting will help in directing.
- Speed is a skill – clients expect videos almost instantly. Practice speed!
- Try combining a personal passion that is unique to you with skills you have learned. Experiment with different niches. This can lead to extraordinary results.
- Try creating your own website or learn to create a phone app if that interests you.
- Think of certain social apps and video sites as creative outlets to showcase your creative projects and learn. Put your stuff out there and see what happens!
Moving from General to Specialized – but always use and build on your Skill Stack!
As we think about these two concepts, maybe there is a healthy mix of the two, starting general and working towards multiple specialties while using different complementary skillsets along the way. We can aspire to be a person of many talents while recognizing that is important to surround ourselves with people with different talents than we have. Everyone's journey will be different and there is no perfect path. As you move towards a generalized or specialized job in the industry use your entire skill stack to do your job to the best of your ability. Never stop learning, and be open and ready for changes and possibilities, all for the Glory of God!
Keeping it Real – Things to Consider
- Balance big ambitions/dreams with realistic expectations of the work and the time it takes to get there.
- Discover your direction and general goal but be open to many options within the industry.
- Consider location. What city/region/country will best fit what I most want to do, or matches my skillset? Am I willing to move there?
- You may have to take side jobs to support yourself while you pursue your desired area.
- Try to keep a healthy work/life balance as many jobs in production can require travel and long hours.
- Some production gigs require a lot of lifting during setup and takedown. Editing is sitting staring at computer screens. A healthy diet, exercise, and a standup desk are all key to maximizing potential.
- Research the different unions in the industry and join at the appropriate time.
Luther's Talent Stack
As we celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, it is remarkable to think about Martin Luther's talent stack. He didn't do only one thing well, but many things – he was an outstanding professor, theologian, writer, preacher, composer, translator...the list goes on! What a great example of complementary skills used for the glory of God! How can we learn from him and maximize our talents for God's Kingdom?
Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters. - Colossians 3:23
Work Ethic – Show a strong Christian work ethic and you will stand out in today's lazy world.
Enthusiasm – Inspire others with a positive attitude and high energy. Let your light shine!
Morality – Don't be afraid to refuse to do something you find unethical or immoral.
As you are learning skills in production, be bold in volunteering to experiment while learning to...
- offer to help run a video promo campaign on YouTube, Facebook or Instagram for your church, school or a mission field. There are great resources in previous GOWM conferences to learn about this:
Using Social Media to Become Known Throughout Latin America.
- offer to do a promotional video for your school – for example
Making Videos that Promote Your School (and Your Lord).
- offer to create content for a YouTube channel for your church/school or your own Christian-themed channel.
- do the same for Instagram/ Snapchat/
- take part in a comprehensive social media program for your church or school, with guidance from
#Social - Getting Started with a Church or School Social Media Program.
- offer to help film or livestream worship services (see Streaming Worship in World Languages in this conference).
- offer to film or edit a mission video. Go on location! Or do it from home (see Promoting Mission from a Distance – Haiti in this conference).
- start Facebook groups with videos for Christian purposes in the USA and abroad.
Whether you decide primarily to specialize or generalize, remember there are so many things we can do to excel in life by making the most of what God has given us in our jobs and for the church!
More Questions to consider:
- What are some other ways that you could Skill-Stack for your church or for a ministry?
- What are other examples of Skill-Stacks within Video Production?
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