In September of 2017, I was approached by Ray Lin (@mybrotherray) from The Great Company, about the possibility of doing some video work for Pepsi. I very candidly said yes, brushed the idea off to someone else more qualified, and forgot about the inquiry altogether. To my surprise, I received a phone call from Ray that following month, while driving home after the first day of my contract at The Wonderful Agency. I was one of the 3 artists selected for Pepsi Co's artists residency program, and was hired as a brand curator for Pepsi's new craft soda line: STUBBORN™ Soda.
The project, like any media project, was stressful and high anxiety pressure. This was my second big commercial project, or rather my second project overall since my NBC Web Series: Beyond Belief. And like any commercial production related work, there are always frustrations and aspects that can be better improved. And this being my real second video project, this meant a lot of self-doubt and anxiety moving forward. I'm just grateful that I was able to go through this process and all its bumps with the amazing people at The Great Company. Here's an overview of the project, and the growth I experienced in part of it.
i bit the apple ---
Everything happened pretty quickly. The following week, after the phone-call, was the dinner and briefing where I'd meet my clients who flew in from New York to meet me. A long dinner and discussion eventually gave way to premise of their needs: three 60-90 second videos, highlighting three cultural influencers that fit the STUBBORN™ brand. I was surprised three times during the briefing/dinner: when they showed me what they wanted, when they told me how much they'd be paying me, and when they told me I was flying to New York in a few days for NYC Comic Con.
Not much to say about this without getting off subject. My first time in NYC, it was amazing, I loved it. I was however confused a lot of the time as to why STUBBORN™ wanted us to be there... Then the other curators that were selected and I figured it out: we're here to be filmed and interviewed because we're being highlighted as the artists. Duh. Above is a picture of my good-looking friend James (@jamespettvision), who recently moved to NYC and is a freelance videographer there, filming us.
the breakdown ---
The first person we shot was Joe Penna, aka MysteryGuitarMan, who is an OG YouTuber and now acclaimed filmmaker and storyteller. The second was Jason Markk, an entrepreneur and owner of THE premium shoe cleaning company: Jason Markk. Last but not least, the final influencer was a local rapper by the name of Stix, from Watts, CA., who happens to be touring with Snoop and opening for his show.
I was given about two hours with each two interview and shoot b-roll, which meant about a 3-4 hour shoot day for me in regards to preparations and wrap. Needless to say, this shit was hard! Never underestimate the benefit of a helping hand-- having or not having one person can make or break the flow of production. I didn't have any help on the Jason Markk shoot, which was a bummer because that one was the one I really wanted to execute on a higher level just because the brand and culture hit closer to home with me.
I'm not going to go into detail on what could've been better and what went wrong, because there's always things that can improve in production. But I will say that my development as a storyteller and filmmaker is evident throughout the process of each video. The first two shoots with Joe Penna and Jason Markk felt heavily underprepared, and I was unprepared. To be honest, a lot of times I have no idea how to even properly get ready since I haven't had any formal training. I'm used to working with budgets nearing quarter-millions, not self-directed and self-shot no budget run-and-guns.
Stix's shoot was fucking dope though. It was my final shoot for the contract, frustrations were hitting an all time high, but I felt like this one had ample time to prep mentally and emotionally, because I'm soft af right now and I need that. I took the time to shot-list and wrote down whatever abstract visualization I had for the video overall. Needless to say, it's the one I'm proudest about. We burned through that shot-list at lightning speeds and had more footage than we could possibly use.
what i learned ---
90% of the time, bad work is the byproduct of self-doubt and fear. I've learned that the moment you're comfortable in your work and position is the moment you're not growing. I strive for a day of peace of mind, but am coming to terms with the fact that my life isn't suited for comfort. Hence, fake it 'til you make it. It's always better to ask for forgiveness than to ask for permission.
Say no. It doesn't matter how bad you feel, how much they feed you, or how much they talk you up. If they really respect you, they'll pay you for your time. Learn to say no, love yourself, don't let people and corporations take advantage of you, your time, your work, and your creativity.
Always stay positive, always maintain growth-mindset. No matter how shitty the situation, always push the limits of yourself without allowing yourself to lose dignity. Every situation and context is different, I understand that, and I try to meet the needs of every client and/or person I'm working with or for. But you'd be surprised just how much of a difference you can make in terms of your work and life, just by caring.
Just give a shit dude. Don't be so passive and indifferent. If you're mad, good. At least it indicates it matters enough for you to be mad. In the end, no one gives a shit about you and how you feel, only what you make.
As Chance & Kanye put it: "Music is all we got. So we might as well give it all we got."
Lastly, you only get better. Not everybody hears the narrative process of creating, they only see the byproduct of what's finished and done. That's fine. But I find that starting is always the hardest part, the part that requires me to overcome my own social anxieties, my own insecurities, and force myself to step out and be wholeheartedly me. With every project there's vulnerability, and I have to create from that place of vulnerability and ask to get paid for it. It's the most humbling and growing process ever. So do it, and get better.
gear used ---
Sony A7r II
Sony Zeiss 55mm f1.8
Sony 28mm F2
Ikan Beholder EC-1 Gimbal Stabilizer
special thanks to Enoch Ku (@eeeeeeenoch) for the BTS photos