I constantly read the video production forums, from cinematography.com to nofilmschool. Sometimes I learn things, but mostly, lately, it seems, I’m learning not about technical things as much as I’m learning about human nature. In particular, there’s an overwhelming number of posts by newbies and (usually new) pros alike, talking about which camera they should buy for their movie/short film/commercial work/corporate work.
I used to be that way. I used to think the camera mattered more than anything- and it hurt my work. I’ve since come around. I think once you get to a certain level of technical/production values level with your work, what clients hire you for isn’t that expensive camera. It’s your creativity. It’s your work. It’s how can you solve their problems, and do that on budget and on schedule. And I’ve noticed that, at a certain level of success with your career/business, if your client is asking about your camera package, then, well, they’re not a very good client.
For me, I’ve found that the process of getting hired by a brand or agency goes like this: they somehow find out about you, and then they check out your work. If they like your work, they’ll contact you. And then it’s up to you to do the dance of “are we compatible”. If it turns out that you are both compatible, and you’re in-line with budget expectations, and the job is real to begin with (a whole other article), you get the gig.
In the past two years, I have had exactly one potential client ask me about camera packages. And they were a very green iOS app developer in Hollywood who didn’t know what they were doing, and the job wasn’t real after all, and they went out of business two weeks after I figured that out. All the real clients I’ve worked with? They don’t care what camera I use, as long as I kick butt on their videos.
I think a lot about why creative people care so much about this stuff. I think part of it is an insecurity, a worry that they are not enough somehow. Part of it’s probably also wanting to give your clients “the best”. But it’s important to remember: they already want to work with you, from your work. You are enough. And that very expensive camera? If your project really needs it, maybe consider renting the thing, unless you can pay it off with the profits from your work in the next 18 months.
Now for the “Mostly True” part of this, the disclaimer: Of course I don’t think you should shoot on a crappy camera. Use the right tool for the job.