Anthony Q. Artis, author & filmmaker continues to serve in the film and TV industry, not only as a filmmaker, but also as an educator at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. He's been involved in the industry for over 19 years and counting. He’s the author of the #1 documentary filmmaking book on Amazon.com titled “The Shut Up and Shoot Documentary Guide” and has now released his follow up gem “The Shut Up and Shoot Freelance Video Guide.”
I spent over an hour talking with Mr. Artis, discussing his 2nd book “The Shut Up and Shoot Freelance Video Guide”. This amazing book covers vital topics that are instrumental to the success of the freelance videographer / filmmaker no matter what their experience level. It’s truly empowering and covers more than just production strategies. What I observed while talking with Anthony is that he can certainly back up his words with years of experience. He’s a seasoned pro who’s humble enough to say that he’s still learning and generous enough to share what he’s already learned, which is pretty rare in this industry. Unlike many of the books out there in the same genre, we usually find bits and pieces of information shared over a variety of different books and not at all like “The Shut Up and Shoot Freelance Video Guide”. This book contains a very well-balanced blueprint that can lead the beginner to success, as well as, refreshing the minds of the advanced filmmaker. His tell all, gorilla style, filmmaking cookbook is sure to inspire many filmmakers with a fun, fresh and insightful approach on the art of filmmaking. I was able to ask Anthony a wide variety of questions including his experience as a freelance videographer and filmmaker.
Production for the following interview was provided by Soaring Dreams Productions a division of Soaring Dreams Entertainment in Los Angeles, CA. This interview has been edited for print purposes.
Before Anthony Q. Artis got into filmmaking, he was in college pursuing law. It was during that time that he took his first film class as an elective. It was from that point on that Anthony never looked back. He took a leap of faith, despite his fear of pursuing a career in one of the hardest industries to break into. It was that challenge that drove him hard, but more importantly; he discovered that filmmaking was his passion.
Sandoval: What continues to drive your passion?
Artis: Filmmaking is something you can never nail down; it’s a life long process and it’s really challenging. If I learn something and become great at it, I can get bored. Filmmaking is like an ongoing high that drives me to succeed. It’s hard even having years of experience and you have your hits and misses.
Sandoval: Do you think it’s necessary to enroll in a film school to become a successful filmmaker / videographer?
Artis: Absolutely not. And it’s not a bad thing either. Film schools do have a lot to offer. Besides the networking, you have a bit of a safety net and it’s a bit more forgiving. However, there are filmmakers who have never set foot in a classroom who have revolutionized the film industry.
Sandoval: Do you think as a filmmaker, you must know how to edit, operate sound, set up lighting and operate the camera? And if so, why?
Artis: I like to, though I don’t know how to edit yet, but I do roll sound, set up lighting and shoot camera for many reasons. Let’s say you set up a scene and you don’t have your sound guy, camera operator, or someone to set up the lighting, you have to be able to jump in and get the job done. And besides that, you might be the best and most qualified person to do it. The show must go on.
Sandoval: How do go about choosing your crew?
Artis: Word of mouth and personal contact. All the people I bring on set or hire are either people I have worked with in the past or have come highly recommended. This is such a high stakes game; you just can’t bring in anyone. No one gets on my set unless I personally know him or her. If you do have to post an ad, you should at least interview the person face-to-face, don’t hire them over email if you can help it. The crew holds a very high percentage in the success rate of your film and you don’t need anyone poisoning your crew. If you hire the right people, you’re going to get encouragement and support from a crew who’s committed to your best interest.
Sandoval: Should I purchase my own camera first before making a film, or shooting an event?
Artis: You don’t have to own your own camera. You just need access to one. In-fact I don’t even own my own camera. That’s another great reason with film school, you have an arsenal of cameras and if you’re not enrolled in a school, but resourceful, you will find a camera to use. Maybe it’s your local church’s video department, maybe it’s your neighbor. If you just take a step of faith and start looking you just might know someone who has a camera you can borrow. Remember, its not always about the type of camera you use or end up with, it’s about your skills and how you use those skills to express your vision through the lens of any camera.
Sandoval: Do you think shooting corporate videos and weddings helps you become a better filmmaker?
Artis: Absolutely, filmmaking at the end of the day is really one of those things you’re really going learn by just doing, getting out there shooting and of course combining it with a good book like “The Shut Up And Shoot Freelance Video Guide.” There’s a lot to learn from it and if you can avoid some of those mistakes I’ve made, it makes it all worthwhile and will help you tremendously on your set or event.
Sandoval: Do you think it’s important and beneficial to help out other filmmakers / videographers?
Artis: Most definitely, I talk about this in both of my books. I talk about doing favors and helping out other filmmakers. You have to be building up a network, that’s part of where that film school experience helps. But, even if you’re not in film school you need to be always doing things to help out, doing favors for other filmmakers; meaning did you help your buddy out when he needed a sound guy? Did you volunteer to help out as PA? Did you loan so and so your camera? This will help you gain favor with the likes of other filmmakers and crew who will then in turn look out for you, providing you favors, crews, or just willing to help you out when the time comes and that help can come in a variety of different ways too. It’s a huge tenet to me to always be helping other filmmakers. We can’t do any of this alone! You’re going to need help. So, you’d better be helping people along the way, if you want them to help you.
Sandoval: Why do you care so much about helping people become better filmmakers?
Artis: Wow, that’s a great question, honestly, its like video therapy, anybody can tell you who has done this for years, without having many resources it’s very difficult to learn. A lot of that stuff I write in every book. Everything I’ve learned I’ve learned the hard way. I’ve done it wrong, this is how I know that this is the right way to do it. If I can share my experiences that I have learned along the way, then I can help the next person that much more and help them avoid those mistakes that I have made. It helps sharing those negative experiences I had at that time and it makes it all worthwhile to share. I also want people to know that filmmaking is accessible, you can learn and if I can free up some time for the filmmaker to concentrate on his story, while eliminating most of the common pit falls, which is what I think people are responding to, more people are just going out there and doing it. Because of this, I find myself teaching more often than making films, which is ok, because I enjoy teaching.
Sandoval: Do you think it’s a good idea for a new filmmaker to make a short?
Artis: Absolutely, it’s not only a good idea it’s insane idea to not do short films or some form of shorter film making before you do features. Features might seem like it’s the same thing and anybody whose done features and shorts will tell you that its not, it’s not just the same thing but bigger. It really is a whole other animal unto itself and it’s a big beast. Before you can even have the confidence to make it all the way through a feature, I think you do have to make some type of short and it doesn’t necessarily have to be short film. It should be ideally a shorter version of whatever genre you’re in. So, if it’s narrative feature, I recommend you do narrative shorts but you could also do things like the corporate work I talk about, its also great experience. Even though it’s just shooting a wedding your still getting all kinds of experience in terms of how the audio works, how the video works, how you can do different camera moves. All these types of things your learning along the way. I say shoot much as often as possible, no matter what it is and you’ll gain more experience, but I will definitely say, you should make a short before you go out and attempt to make a feature.
Sandoval: Have you ever thought about giving up on your dream?
Artis: If you feel like you need to give up on your dream and you see someone else achieving that dream, it’s an achievable dream. You need to be studying that person because I guarantee you there are things they are doing that you're not. I guarantee you instead of one draft they did ten drafts, instead of going out the gate after one short, they did ten shorts, maybe they worked at a TV station first and got x amount of experience. It is rarely just pure natural talent. There are things those people did along the way. There are things that people are doing that set them apart that allow them to rise to those heights. So, that’s why I study people around me, this is why I do my podcast with other filmmakers, because I am learning, and what I have discovered is that they are doing a whole lot of things that I am not doing along the way, which is allowing them to have the success. So, to answer your question, I don’t know. I haven’t quit my dream!
Sandoval: If someone says to you, Anthony I’m quitting my job and going into filmmaking. What would you say?
Artis: I’d tell you that you have a chance, but I wouldn’t tell you to quit your job; I would start with one foot in. I don’t think it’s something that you leap into, I would find way to maybe do both and that’s a lot of what of this freelancing guide is all about, its kind of a way to help you test the waters of filmmaking on the nights, or weekends and see if that’s something for you. I wouldn’t encourage anybody to quit their regular paying job to go into filmmaking and especially not if your established along the way and have a family. Certainly, something I would first try and maybe after I had success with a short or if you had financial means to support yourself beyond that, by all means do it, but I think that would be an irresponsible thing to do. Even people that are good at it sometimes have a hard time making a living at it. So, if you’re starting from scratch to quit your job to do this full time, I don’t know. Maybe quitting your job to work on set to get into the film industry. Not necessarily to be a director, maybe quitting your job to work your way up, while having a plan and a realistic model.
Sandoval: Would you say that it’s important to have a supportive family pursuing filmmaking as a career?
Artis: Yes, your family, spouse or even your girlfriend because it’s a tough business. They have to understand, if they’re not, you’re almost again, dead in the water. The person you’re with has to understand what it entails, because it can be and almost always is an all-consuming thing. And if you’re talking about a feature film, well, that is going to be your life or your life for a very long time. So, you need to have somebody who’s supportive and understanding with the trials and tribulations you will endure. You also have to make it clear as part of your job, of what they are getting themselves into. A lot of couples jump right into this without knowing what they’re getting into. Make sure your spouse is on board. There is a reason why there is a high divorce rate. It’s not fair to do that to somebody who doesn’t know what they’re signing up for.
Sandoval: What would you say to those aspiring filmmakers out there who have no experience?
Artis: Hook up with other filmmakers, if you have the gear get out and start filming. It keeps your juices flowing and you’re building up experience. Work on a web series; film a wedding or whatever you can do. Just go out and do it and don’t procrastinate. Eventually you’ll find yourself with a reel that will help you book more jobs and provide you greater opportunities down the road. Also check out my book “The Shut Up and Shoot Freelance Video guide." It’s loaded with valuable information that will help you succeed in your journey as a filmmaker / videoographer.
If you’re interested to know more about Anthony, or to purchase one of his books, or products, please visit his website at www.downanddirtydv.com