Heavy Chef has recently started a collaboration with a Johannesburg-based videographer to capture and edit our Joburg events. I met Justin Sandmann the first time on the day we were setting up for our event at the Birdhouse - you know, the day of that infamous lift incident. I chatted to Justin during a coffee break about his trade and the ups and downs of being a freelance videographer. Meet Justin, the man behind Jozi’s finest one-stop-video-production-shop
Justin, it seems everyone is picking up a camera and shooting footage nowadays. Do you think your trade has become overcrowded?
Yip - it definitely has. Technology has particularly played a huge role by making gear/ equipment so affordable and accessible. This has levelled the playing field by making it much easier for people to enter and compete in the industry. You could debate whether this is a good or a bad thing, but for me - it’s just forced me to up my game.
What separates a good videographer from an ordinary one?
Good batteries. Just joking. Perseverance and a good attitude. No one likes working with a knob. It also comes down to crafting. A good videographer won’t just capture sharp footage, crisp sound, combined with brilliant editing, but he/ she will craft it all together to tell the right story for the right audience.
How does one make money in this industry? Where do the opportunities lie for young aspiring videographers?
I believe the future is in Digital Marketing. The production costs are relatively low, but the return on investment is really high, for both the client and the videographer. I don’t think many of us truly understand how big the potential of Digital Marketing is and is going to be in a few years from now. Also, this country is ripe for entrepreneurs. Understand the needs of your client(s) and keep offering a great service. Times may be tough but just hang in there. A quote from Robert H. Schuller: “Tough times never last, but tough people do.”
What's your take on the freelance gig economy? Is it awesome, or is it awful?
Both. Seriously. I’ve been in the industry for 16 years and I've been part of the freelance gig for 7 years. It’s been the best thing ever, and the most challenging. I’m able to work how I want, on what I want and for whom I want. Most times, my effort has been directly proportional to my pay and that is very motivating. I’ve also grown so much as a creative and pushed my own boundaries in ways I never dreamed possible. On the flip side, I’ve had to learn how to always make a plan, manage unrealistic expectations, pull a freakin’ elephant out of a hat, and to deal with late payments.
What tips can you share for aspiring freelancers?
Never stop learning. There’s always a newer, better, more efficient way of doing something, and you've got to stay humble and keen to accept change. Dare greatly. When I went to film school, I didn’t know what a JPEG was. Later I taught myself how to do motion design, 3D animation and how to fly a drone. I’d also encourage those entering the industry to team-up, job-shadow or even intern with someone with experience. Film school (even YouTube) can teach you the most brilliant things, but on-set experience trumps it all. My first few gigs I worked for mahala just to get experience. Another thing is to get your name out there. You could be the best darn video guru, but if no one knows you exist.. how are you ever going to get work? Finally, get good batteries. There’s nothing worse than half way through the most epic shot your camera dies…
What's been the weirdest/funniest/most memorable gig you've worked?
The weirdest and most funny thing I filmed was for a campaign called ‘Crack my Poker Face’. The concept was that the contestant (in front of a live audience) had to try and make the presenter on the stage laugh, smile or react in any way, thus ‘cracking’ his Poker face. If successful - they’d win some mega cash. The only rule is that they could not physically touch the presenter. Anyway, we were filming in the East Rand where this guy ate human faeces. With every bite he gave a gut-wrenching heave. I was laughing so hard that if my camera wasn’t on a tripod - my footage would've been totally unusable. It stank so bad on stage they had to call a recess to ‘clear the air’. Sadly he didn’t crack the presenter’s poker face. The most memorable was filming an interview with Chris Martin from Coldplay when they came to SA (#namedrop). I was so super stoked to meet ‘n greet and get a pic with the guys. I was like a 13-year-old girl at a Katy Perry concert.
Thanks, Justin! Onwards and upwards and see you at our next Joburg event!