How to Travel and Make a Living as a Cinematographer

November 15, 2016
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In 2005, ShareGrid user Kapil Gandhi started Full Lock Media LLC, a small scale commercial and narrative production agency based in Atlanta, GA. At that time, he was only two years into working in video production, and he had a variety of different projects under his belt.

Today, Full Lock Media employs seven people and rents one of only two available RED Epic Helium packages on ShareGrid Atlanta. Last year, work took him out of town for 267 days, and he got to spend many of those days exploring unique city finds and attending high-end events. Plus, he gets to create stunning images like these.

 

How did he do it? 80 percent of Kapil’s video clients come from the travel industry. Here’s why the travel industry can be very kind to filmmakers, and how to find success in it yourself.

Kapil and his RED camera.

1. You Get to Travel Well

Let’s get the obvious part out of the way first. If you work for the travel industry, you’re probably going to do a good bit of traveling. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you'll be shooting hotels and resorts exclusively. Often times, companies want to show off their locations, so they’ll send shooters to nearby hotspots and hidden gems. The video crew gets to be tourists.To do that, you just have to be accessible.

 

“We’re learning things about places like Boston and New York where we’re like ‘Man, that’s a rad bar we wouldn’t have known about that’s hidden below that Korean restaurant.’ That’s an actual example. In New York there’s a place called The Grain, that’s located below a Korean restaurant, and we got to go down there and do some shooting with them because The Insider (for the W Hotel) knew about it.”

Pro Tip: According to Kapil, while travel industry clients will come to you, it helps to be located in accessible, big-media markets.

Kapil's RED Dragon

“Our biggest edge in Atlanta is the fact that we’re located in somewhere known as an up-and-coming media city so it helps clients that don’t know if they want video, it helps that we’ve been successful in this city. It also helps that we’re right next to the busiest airport in the country. So it’s super easy for us to get anywhere in a straight shot flight… That’s the biggest edge. Atlanta’s got a killer airport and, being on the East Coast, they know that they can get us pretty easily.”

2. There’s Enough Work for Everyone

There are a lot of travel industry clients, and many of them need a lot of work. While Kapil gets a lot of travel industry work, most of that work comes exclusively from W Hotels. These companies are huge, and require a lot of video services for a wide variety of situations. Moreover If you can win over one big client, they can become your bread and butter for years to come. The key is to understand their brand. 

 

“The amount of TV commercials, Youtube ads.. Every little company needs something. If you take the time to understand their products and their clients and what they want… If you’re willing to use your creative juices to tell a story, people will notice.”

Pro Tip: Make every client personal. Let them know that, “Not only am I here, but I care.” According to Kapil, the easiest way to do this is to have a good time while you work. That mentality got Kapil his big break. He sort of happened upon the hospitality industry. A film school friend approached him about doing work for W Hotels that wasn't the same, lifeless, corporate videos everyone else was putting out. By keeping the client personal and the energy fun, Full Lock was able to win over a client that still regularly employs them today.

“At the end of the day, it might be work and it might be corporate, but instead of being too tight about everything being perfect, have fun and get a good shot and make it work. Having that mentality on sets has always helped us.”

3. There's A Lot of Room for Creativity

Clients want to entice travelers, so they're looking for exciting and interesting images. This can mean anything from drone footage to first-person style shoots through cool hidden spots in a city. To harness your creativity correctly, though, you're going to want to develop a keen eye for indoor natural lighting and be very well-versed in the spec ads your industry peers are putting out.

“Everything from photo montage edits to showcasing a property to ‘What’s this brand about?’ To even more fun creative pieces like ‘Follow this brand rep while he shows you around the cool things to do in this part of town.’ We try to keep things fun for ourselves by shooting in a way that at least we’re excited about while obviously playing to the brands and what they’re about.”

 

Pro Tip 1: Learn how to utilize natural light within interiors, as it will allow you to milk the most out of the locations you shoot in. Also, shooting great slow-motion always helps.

“Both the RED and the A7s are great for low-light and give you the ability to shoot that perfect sort of slow-mo speed, which I’ve found is 2.5-3 times slow. So it’s like 60 frames or 71.93 frames. Those two looks are kind of epic. The subtleness of movement just walking through a space, you look like a rock star. Being able to do that while capturing the low light of an interior, those two cameras are really good for it.”

Pro Tip 2: Pay attention to the spec ads that other people are doing. The reason that you want to look at spec. ads is because this is the work people put out when they aren’t getting paid. You get a glimpse of what your peers are doing at their best.

 

“What helped me the most was paying attention to spec ads that other people were doing when I was starting out… Paying attention to either local directors or other directors that I liked… Kinda watching the spec ads that they would shoot as a way to show this company that we know what we’re doing. They’re essentially doing a $100,000 commercial out of their own money just to show that they can. There’s a lot of creativity that goes into those… That’s when they’re really allowed to be as creative as they want.”

Make sure to check out Kapil’s gear on his ShareGrid Page.

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Brent L Zaffino

I am a filmmaker out of Atlanta, Georgia currently working as a freelance director and videographer for music videos, short films, and corporate videos.

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