Finding work in production and post-production environments is typically a hustle, and that’s been the reality for decades. But things certainly have changed. Cameras and editing systems are cheaper and easier to use than ever, but the Internet and mobile devices have completely altered the way in which people connect with each other. How do you establish a working relationship with someone over email or when you never meet in person?
To help figure out the best approach in this ever-evolving landscape, we talked with Katrina de Leon, Director of Marketing for ProductionHUB. Katrina is focused on helping connect professionals with those seeking industry products & services, and often speaks at resume workshops, portfolio reviews and educational panels for the industry. We discuss how she’s seen the job market develop, what advice she gives to professionals looking for their first or latest job and plenty more.
ProVideo Coalition: ProductionHUB connects businesses with professional content creators, and has been doing so since 1998. Obviously things have come a long way since 1998, but even if we just focus on the last couple years, what sort of changes have you seen around the way in which businesses and content creators connect with each other?
Katrina de Leon: Over the past few years we’ve seen how important it is for professionals to not only create a strong online profile, but to take all iterations of their online presence into consideration. First impressions and professional perceptions are created device-to-device, more often than face-to-face these days. It’s become easier and easier to search for, and find, information online.
People are making hiring decisions within minutes–often based solely on search results, online portfolios and a few email communications. When it comes to post production or digital media project(s), two parties may work together for years and never meet in person.
Relationships are built and carried out in large part online, which is a new development. That said, loyalty, work ethic and culture come into play in a big way in this competitive marketplace, but that’s always been the case.
With the prices of hardware and software so much lower than they were five years ago, much less twenty years ago, it seems more people than ever can get their hands on high-end cameras and programs that will do everything they need. How has that impacted the job market?
The affordability of new technology has opened up creative avenues for more people from a career standpoint. This easy access to high-tech equipment has flooded the job market with hobbyists, who unfortunately muddy the waters by pursuing jobs they aren’t qualified to properly execute.
Everyone has to start somewhere, but just because my five-year-old nephew knows how to operate a pair of scissors doesn’t mean I’m going to let him cut my hair, much less pay him to do so.
Fortunately, with a little due diligence, it’s relatively easy to weed out the amateurs from the professionals. Experienced pros who stay on top of trends in technology in their respective fields will always be in high demand.
After all, there’s so much more that goes into shooting and editing than operating a piece of equipment–skills and knowledge that contribute to every decision a professional makes during the process. That kind of experience is realized in numerous ways on a project, and it’s often the difference between delivering content that’s smart and engaging versus ineffective and unpolished.
How difficult is it for someone who doesn’t really have a personal network to rely on to find work in the industry?
Personal referrals will always be the best way to get work. However, technology has made it incredibly easy to extend your connections and your reach. Investing a little time, energy, and sometimes advertising dollars in enhancing your marketing presence online and coming up in search results for the jobs you want, can help put you in front of new clients and grow your network.
Also, people at every level should always be working to expand their network in every direction. Keep in mind that the PA you worked with on a student film last year may be directing their own commercial next year. You never know. That’s why it’s so important to be professional and respectful to every person you work with below and above the line. Everyone you meet has the potential to refer YOU for future projects.
What do you tell people who are struggling to book their first job?
When in school, take advantage of every opportunity to show off your skills so you are armed with a solid portfolio upon graduation. Internships and real on-set experience is key, as they are often your connection to your first real job or client.
Visualize the career you want. Instead of sending your reel out to anyone with an IP address, make a list of your top 5 ideal “dream clients” and what you wish you would do for them. Is there a reality style commercial that you’ve perfected? Are animated typographic videos your thing? Once you identify your niche and most unique skill set, network your bum off to those ideal types of clients. One of our popular freelancers in town started in the real estate video market. How? By joining a local community board populated by realtors.
Specialize and hone your craft, but stay flexible and don’t back yourself into a corner.
Along those same lines, what do you tell a seasoned pro who is between jobs and isn’t having much luck booking their next one?
Check out your competition. Find out who IS getting the work out there and how. What does their online presence look like? If you were in the hiring managers’ shoes, would you hire you? Are you up to date on the latest technology and techniques, or is it time to do a little training to be brought up to speed?
There are a lot of things you can do online. Google yourself and your ratings / reviews online – is there something there that is negative? Positioning yourself as an expert or thought leader in the industry by posting video or articles can lead to new opportunities as well. And of course, you want to make sure you’re receiving all the leads available to you on sites like ProductionHUB.
You can get creative with your approach to finding new opportunities as well. For instance, why not being the “Video Sponsor” of a local association?
What are some common mistakes you see people making in their demo reels?
Too many professionals want to rely on their demo reel alone to show their work. Your demo reel should be a showcase of your work, but you need to have different kinds of showcases that are going to be a fit for the different kinds of work you’re going after.
You can create different reels for different types of projects — i.e. commercial vs. corporate video. You always want to make sure you have longer clips and finished pieces that you can easily share with potential clients should they request it. More and more, people want to see a full example of what your finished product looks like — not just the best bits of a mediocre body of work.
There are also a few specific tips I can pass along to help people avoid some common mistakes…
- Start out strong – Like any good story, start in the middle of the action. If the best part of your reel is 15 seconds into it, there’s a good chance no one will see it. Ask a few friends or colleagues to give you their feedback.
- Be clear about the role you played – Give credit where credit is due and don’t unintentionally take credit for someone else’s work by not properly identifying the specific part you played in a collaborative project. For example, in a complicated 3D animation, call out exactly what you did. It’s also helpful to tell potential clients what software you used to do the work.
- Don’t use old, dated work or show everything you’ve ever done – As you grow and build your portfolio, update your reel to showcase your best, freshest, most current work. Show them what you can do NOW.
- Get clearance for the music you use in your demo reel – Musicians are artists too just like you, and they don’t want to work for free either. There are so many great local musicians and music libraries at your disposal.
Companies of every size need video content for countless purposes. How has that need impacted the job market?
80% of all marketing plans have a video content marketing strategy. Internal creative departments now use evolving titles like “Director of Video Production,” “Content Manager,” and “Creative (or Digital) Producer” — adapting to this surge. If content is king, his kingdom is the worldwide web.
Larger companies have in-house creative teams devoted to creating their brand’s video and digital media content. Smaller businesses and agencies, recognizing the need to frequently update content, have gone from hiring one-time freelancers or vendors to building ongoing relationships with trusted perma-lancers–keeping favorite shooters, editors and animators on tap’ for the year, and favorite production companies on speed dial. These prolific relationships span careers.
All of which is to say there’s a lot of opportunity out there.
Video camera viewfinder photo from Shutterstock.
Should professionals do more to showcase their various skill sets and abilities either during the interview process or once they land a job?
It depends on what the specific position you’re applying for is; the nature of the project; and the terms of employment. For example, if you’re interviewing for a freelance crew position on a big budget feature film or for a full-time position at a larger corporation, they’re probably looking for an expert in a particular field. Focus on your qualifications and the specific skills necessary for that position and project. Listing too many different skills and abilities during an interview can communicate inexperience and/or confuse potential employers about what you’re really good at. If the person interviewing you is looking for a candidate with certain skills, they’ll ask.
On the other hand, if it’s a corporate video shoot, a lower budget indie project, or a small company, having some versatility can be a huge asset. For instance, being a makeup artist who can also do light hair and wardrobe or a shooter that can also edit, can make you invaluable and give you an advantage over your competition.
No matter the scenario, be sure that you showcase your skills and knowledge through your previous work experience. If it’s a creative or technical position be able to show your work and present it to potential clients in a polished, professional way.
Once you’re hired and working on set, be sure to follow proper setiquette, unless doing so threatens the integrity of your safety or specific job duties.
Any tips you can offer to professionals around the way in which they’re searching / applying for work?
While it’s always been fairly simple to find what you are looking for from an iPad or tablet, recent user feedback – and survey results – have proven the need to accelerate the hiring process for those shooting on set or on-location via their mobile device, which is why we recently rewrote our site to be responsive and streamlined the process for applicants to quickly (but efficiently) apply to jobs or bid on projects directly from their smart phones.
Also, when applying online, marketing managers and production managers / directors are busy. Don’t waste their time. If they specifically said “don’t respond without a reel showcased” or “please only local candidates,” applicants need to follow instructions and stay respectful. They never know when that production manager on set may need their specific services next, so you don’t want to start on the wrong foot. Put your contact info at the end of the slate so they don’t have to go back and look for it.