Two years ago, when I first decided to post content to a blog, I wanted to have an online virtual version of myself. I wanted to be discovered and remembered. I felt confident I had stuff to offer the television and film community.
I bought ‘my name dot com’ and secured a lot of storage and bandwidth. I wanted a place on the internet where I could post a digital resume. I never expected that my name would become a “brand” or that my website could generate income. I also never expected the website to take up so much of my free time. I love doing this, but my spare time is very valuable to me.
As many of you may know, I work in television and film. I enjoy what I do immensely. More importantly, I want to progress my craft. I want to do things just a little differently than everyone else. I want people to see my style. I want to be someone who pushes the industry forward and inspires progress.
As I got more into it, I started to toss around my personal opinions on my website. I began posting reviews, blogs, tutorials and short videos incorporating tools that I use everyday to earn a living in television production. I also was able to get out in front of the camera (which is very scary for me) and talk to the lens to get my points across. I made the decision that my site would stay positive, and I would only talk about stuff I liked. If I did not like a product, I would not place any sign of it on my pages.
All that being said, this ethics statement is a vital addition to my webpage. My first innocent blog post was a long time ago things have changed quite a bit over the last couple years. People are actually listening to me! And companies that make products want me to test them and post my opinions online. So how do I stay fair to everyone?
I have a steady stream of traffic on my webpage and people send me hundreds of emails a week asking questions about products, the art of filmmaking and my career as a cinematographer/DP. So I feel that it is very important that all my visitors understand why this site is on the internet and why I am doing all this. Keeping a website updated and fresh with content that people want to consume, is very difficult and even stressful.
I believe it is very important to be honest with everyone who reads my blog posts and watches the videos on my website.
I am now making some money directly because of this site. And as far as I am concerned, it is about time. I say that because the job of typing, taking pictures, shooting video, sitting down and editing the content just for the web is time consuming.
I want to provide a place for people to visit and learn stuff that I may have picked up from another seasoned veteran in the field. I want to give back and I enjoy teaching. And in many ways, my site is free. But, instead of charging people to view my pages and videos, I simply post ads that link to affiliate programs. I earn a small percentage, 2% mostly, on products I talk about on my website. So if you like what I have to say and value my opinion, I get paid when you click and buy the product.
So that brings up the question, what happens when a company pays you off to chat about only their products?
I will never let that happen because I do not do exclusivity deals with anyone and I never plan on it. I also have a day job, and that job keeps me fresh in the field and pays my mortgage. I do not need to rely on pushing products to the masses online to make ends meet.
The only way to keep a website unbiased and fair to all involved, is to test and talk about all products and companies in the industry, even if they directly compete with each other. That is what I have done and plan to continue to do. When I need a bit of gear, I ask a company if I can try it out on a job. If I like it, I could do the time, write a review and charge for the work.
If I test something and it is bad, I will tell the designer what needs to be done to improve the product. I will not get negative on my website and toss products in the fire. I send them back and say, “fix this or there will be a lot of pissed off people out there.” If a company fails to improve a product based on the opinions of people in the business, then they fail as a company.
When I shoot a review or tutorial for a company explaining a product and its features, I am working a freelance job. I set a price and the company is my client. This is the relationship I now have with Kessler Crane and Eric Kessler. Sometimes, I only demonstrate how a device works and keep my opinion out of it. The tutorial video is made to work as a training program and in essence, a video instruction manual.
Eric Kessler has also sponsored me to travel with his products around the United States to bring back images for use on my site and his company promotion. He not only uses me to test his equipment to help improve it, but he also encourages me to shoot with it and bring back eye candy to show off its potential. And yes, I love the stuff Kessler puts out. It is priced very fairly and it gives people the opportunity to capture amazing shots on a tight budget.
Sometimes I get paid for my time by keeping the product, sometimes I have to return the unit and I get a day rate for my work. Either way, I am being paid for a job.
I have continued to support Letus Direct and Aaron Pinto because I love their 35mm lens adapters and feel they are the best on the market. Since the introduction of the DSLR, many wonder why I still talk about Letus adapters. I talk about them on my site often because I continue to use relays and DOF adapters to get the illusive film-look onto broadcast television. A 5dmk2 is not a proper video camera in the broadcast world for many reasons. Workflow, rolling shutter, ergonomics, moire and lack of audio inputs are big drawbacks. A DSLR is a tool for production, but not a shallow depth of field camera solution.
I am picking up a few new affiliates like Zacuto and Red Rock Micro this coming year. I use Red Rock gear very often and I look forward to trying out Zacuto kits in 2011. I will continue my relationship with BH Photo and Video and hope to strengthen my affiliate program with them by adding more links from my site to their online store.
I am also supported by the Vitec Group of professional television products, most specifically Vinten. These guys are located in the UK and they found me because I could not say a bad thing about their vector pan heads. I posted a positive blog about Vinten when my site was in its infancy and they have thanked me by sending me to NAB each year! I have a love affair with the Vinten Vector 70 and tell people it is the secret to my success as a sports television cameraman. The pan head is simply the best and when you operate a huge camera on top of it, it becomes an extension of your body. At NAB, I hang out with the Vinten folks and tell anyone who will listen why I can’t live without a Vinten tripod.
In conclusion, I want to remind everyone here that this site is a ton of work. I am being compensated for my time to bring you information. It does benefit me, but at the same time it helps people to become better filmmakers through technique and tools. Plus, I hope people find my videos enjoyable to watch.
So bottom line, I never plan to have money sway my opinion in this business. I tell potential affiliates and companies that I do not deal in exclusivity.
I hope this clears some stuff up for you and please post any questions or concerns at the bottom of this page. I will answer them truthfully.
Happy New Year.
December 31, 2010