How to book your first $100,000 shoot
Over the last few years, I got pretty close a few times… but that barrier is a magical one… and as superficial as it sounds, it felt so good to finally do it.
That good feeling isn’t from the money. Its all from being validated that you are awesome in someone elses eyes. That your work, your talent, you… you… you… are epic and amazing. Well, that and knowing you can pay your employees and bills… that feels very good too.
I’m going to start this story a while ago… 2009… when shooting on the Canon 5D mark II was just getting popular (don’t worry, it’s not that long of a story). Vu and I were shooting everything we could. We were shooting promotional videos for photographers, we were shooting a daily comedy show, we were shooting weddings, we would shoot anything. We drove to Los Angeles from Orange County once or twice a week just to meet up with other people making videos and posting them online. We had been doing this since 2005, before YouTube was a place we trusted to upload our videos.
All of this hustle and work and network building was confusing but so so fun. Meeting other like minded people and talking to them for hours and hours was one of the best feelings I ever had. But I never knew how it would actually benefit me. I just knew I liked it.
What did I actually like? I liked shooting, I liked talking about shooting, I liked showing people some cool tricks I learned or some new way to encode videos that saved time or bandwidth, I liked meeting someone then shooting with them and making something awesome but then going and shooting something else with someone new right after!
I was a slut.
I would shoot anything, with anyone for anything. But aren’t we all told to find a core team and help each other succeed, share secrets and work together? Yes… but I think that worked before everyone had access to all the same tools, all the same knowledge, all the same product reviews and same gear. I still like to work with my core team, and I do work with them a lot. But something magical happens when you work with new people.
And that brings me to the Brit I met in 2009. I’m not going to drop names in this blog post (if you dig hard enough you’ll find him), so to sum him up, my favorite thing he has said is “… onwards, and upwards …” while sitting on the edge of his bed in Tuscany preparing himself for the long days of shooting we had ahead of us. I heard this from down the hallway, it is something I still tease him about.
So, in 2009, we met at a conference. A few of us went for dinner and drink after and we talked about taking over the world and all that kind of stuff. Like working on projects together and shooting amazing and cool things. As you do when you are eating and drinking… but over the next few months it became a reality. We actually started shooting things.
We shot a few projects together and became friends and we both kept going, kept meeting new people, kept shooting, kept talking. Then, after a while of not working together, I got a call from a company he works with a lot. A big company. An international-everyone-knows-them why are they calling me… company (again, no name dropping but if you are motivated you can find out who).
Then began the pitch… if you have never pitched a big project before (I’m totally willing to share my pitches if anyone is interested) it is scary. I thought about the days where I was starting out and couldn’t even bring myself to charge people. I wasn’t worth charging any money so I would shoot for free. Then I was worth $100 a day… then $500… then more and more… then I’m pitching for an international advertising campaign where I can’t see any line item less than a couple thousand dollars?!?!!??! CRAZY!!!
It is humbling to send off a $100,000 quote. The second that send button is pressed, you want to take it back. It’s not Mad Men, it’s not walking on fluffy clouds of awesome, it’s sweaty palms and wondering if you are actually right for the job… no matter how right you actually are or how competent you are… it is terror.
And it would never have been possible without meeting that Brit, him telling that huge company about me and then them asking me to do work for them. This isn’t the only time that has happened… all of my big jobs came from me meeting new people, they don’t come from my core group. I might know what it is like to work with them and be comfortable, but comfort doesn’t make you grow by leaps and bounds.
Well, this post was supposed to tell you how to book that first $100,000 job. I went around and around… but here it is as simply as I can put it:
Collaborate with as many people as you can… this will make you better and more valuable. It will increase your chances of meeting those people you can make magic with. Then, before you know it, you are there.
PS, I was serious about sharing my pitches and pricing and stuff like that if anyone is interested.