Get Your MoJo On
Today is the first in a series of posts about mobile journalism (aka “MoJo”). In celebration of “Women’s History Month,” the first two Mobile Journalists we’ll cover are women. And the first is a country music loving content creator based where you’d least expect it.
Country Music MoJo in the UK
Would you believe us if we told you there is a growing country music scene in England? It may come as a surprise to hear that the Brits can honky-tonk, too. But don’t just take our word for it. We sat down with mobile journalist and London native Caroline Scott to get the lowdown.
Caroline was previously based in the South Atlantic where she developed a television station and its news programming for the population of the Falkland Islands. Since then, she has produced content for the BBC, ITV, Thomson Reuters, Associated Press, Journalism.co.uk, and British Forces Broadcasting Service.
Like many other journalists, she has turned more and more to mobile journalism. This has become particularly key during this age of COVID lockdowns where access to office editing suites and camera studios has been limited.
Caroline’s become so adept at it, that now she teaches fellow journalists, filmmakers, and television producers how to shoot and edit on their smartphones. She also keeps her love for country music alive through her western lifestyle blog, City Cowgirl, where she promotes country music and culture in London.
As the face and technical producer behind City Cowgirl, Caroline gets to be in front of the camera doing interviews with bands, chefs, and even fashion designers as well as being behind the scenes with setting up cameras for shoots and editing her own videos.
Over the years City Cowgirl has become a platform for her to further explore her love of country music and video storytelling.
Building the Brand of a Mobile Journalist
So how does a Brit working in London end up creating an online video series about country music? Her affinity for country music started young with her mother who played Shania Twain in the house and continued to grow when she took a broadcast journalist position in the Falkland Islands where country music is popular.
“As you can imagine, country music fans are scarce here,” Caroline says. “The culture isn’t based around country music at all. It’s nowhere near as large of a scene compared to the States or Canada.”
When deciding to choose country music as the center for her brand, she made the decision that most online content creators make. She chose to just create something she was passionate about.
“I love that type of music. So I thought I need to develop a brand online. Because I enjoy presenting and video production, I just thought rather than do something like health and fitness or beauty or food and what everybody else is doing, what do I enjoy the most? Okay, I love listening to country music. I’m going to create my own brand around country music.”
If you ask any successful YouTuber, Podcaster, TikToker, blogger, or any other online content creator worth their weight in salt, they will tell you the secret to “success” is creating something you’re passionate about. Do that, and you will find your audience. Caroline confirms.
“Everybody should have an interest or a passion for something. Whether it’s something widely loved like fashion or something very niche like painting objects. Whatever it is, there will always be other people that are going to share your love for that niche. No matter how small or bizarre.”
It is that pursuit of the small and bizarre (in this case, country music culture in the hipster parts of London, England) that has helped Caroline find both a local and international audience.
Her mobile workflow
Caroline’s work on City Cowgirl has helped her improve her production skills and pushes her to keep up with the latest trends and techniques in mobile filmmaking. It also helps when she teaches TV producers how to shoot and edit from their smartphone. Often Caroline will show examples from City Cowgirl as examples in her classes.
Caroline produces all of her content on aniPhone 11 Pro Max. A typical workflow involves her using FiLMiC Pro to shoot and then shifting to editing the footage using LumaFusion. Once her edit is complete, Caroline exports the video for distribution.
Caroline’s pre-production process varies based on whether or not she will be shooting a long-form news package such as a feature piece. When shooting a feature piece, such as London’s best venues for beef brisket, Caroline will typically have a pre-written script before arriving on-site and conducting interviews.
After the shoot, she brainstorms the different packages she can create from one story. For example, she might publish her news piece to Facebook and then post quirky short bits from the same shoot on Instagram or Twitter. She frames the shots in such a way that the composition of the subjects is still aesthetically pleasing when presented in varying square or vertical aspect ratios for other social platforms.
Often for shooting, Caroline relies solely on her iPhone, but occasionally she will whip out her Manfrotto tripod or a grip to help with stabilization. Caroline has found the tripod to be helpful when doing an interview but typically she prefers to hold the phone when she can to capture the magic of the moment.
“I’m a big fan of the rough and ready footage you can get, that kind of run and gun style,” said Caroline.
Caroline prefers to start editing on the same day or even on the train home while the interview is fresh in her mind. Occasionally she will begin editing during the twenty minutes between interviews or while sitting in green rooms or backstage with time to kill.
“If someone just said something great in an interview, I’ll go and edit it straight away,” said Caroline. “Plus, if something is wrong with the footage, you’re still there and can ask them to redo something.”
When it comes down to it, the name of the game for Caroline is getting the content out sooner rather than later.
Caroline has her workflow and rhythm down pat. To streamline her titling and lower thirds, she has all of them pre-made and stored in LumaFusion. This preparation allows her to create new videos easily and simply drag and drop her branding onto raw clips.
“If I’m doing something for myself with City Cowgirl, I know exactly what I need and I make my own templates,” said Caroline. “So if I know when I’m doing my long-form content with the City Cowgirl show, I need to have the City Cowgirl logo next to me. I might also need a lower third.”
When doing projects for clients, Caroline also makes sure she has their graphics and other materials transferred to the app beforehand, that way she can efficiently add assets and create content faster.
Advice for aspiring mobile filmmakers
For new filmmakers interested in adopting a mobile workflow, Caroline suggests going online and seeking out people who are creating interesting content and learning from their successes and mistakes. “All of us have gone out there and made mistakes, and most of us have written about it to help others avoid them.”
Caroline says it’s also great that filmmakers have the opportunity to directly connect with other filmmakers on social media. “You can just literally approach anyone nowadays,” she says. “As long as you’re polite, most people are willing to talk to you.”
She’s also discovered that TikTok is an amazing place to learn—although she was doubtful at first. “I was one of those people at the start of lockdown that was determined not to download it. I felt it was for 12-year-olds. I’m not doing stupid dances.
But then I realized that actually, there are some amazing accounts of people who are putting up techniques, tips, and tricks. Everybody on there who has a good following is in some way an amazing creator. I go through everybody’s content, and I look at things that I don’t know how to do. I then screen record it, slow the motion down, and then I work out how they’ve done it.”
As is the case with any art form, studying the craft of others and attempting to emulate their work (while putting your own style and spin on it) is the best way to learn. If you want to take Caroline’s advice and learn from a practicing pro mobile filmmaker, you can follow her adventures on Instagram or take a lesson from the master herself via Smartphone Video School.
About the co-author: For this piece, Caroline was interviewed by Ron Dawson, and it was co-written by Hailey Lucas and Ron Dawson.
Hailey is a professional content marketer and a senior writer on the Blade Ronner Media writing team. She is passionate about all things marketing, tech, and social impact. In her free time, she blogs about her digital nomad lifestyle while slowly traveling around the world. Hailey’s work has been featured in various marketing and tech publications receiving over 500K – 1M monthly views.