Your Worth as a Filmmaker Isn’t Measured by What Camera You Own

Don’t Play the If Only Game

What camera should I buy? That’s the number one question I get asked when it comes to nature and wildlife cinematography. The second most asked question I get asked is what camera do you use?

While I’m humbled that other nature and wildlife cinematographers think highly enough about my work that they want to get the same results that I get, the camera doesn’t make the filmmaker.

So many filmmakers play the “if only” game. If only I had this camera, if only I had this tripod, if only…”
There’s no doubt that better gear can oftentimes get you a better image but it doesn’t nothing to make you a better filmmaker.

I think a lot of it has to do with peer pressure and “keeping up with the Jones’s” You see everyone else going to 4k so you feel that you have to as well in order to keep up with everyone else. Everyone else is shooting with a DSLR so you have to ditch your video camera and get one too.

Course, then you have the tech snobs that feel if you don’t have the same or better than you are beneath them and not worth their time.

mushroomI’ve never ever worried about the tech snobs. Most can’t shoot their way out of a paper bag. Anyone that thinks I am beneath them because of the gear I shoot isn’t anyone I’d want to be associated with and neither should you. The next time a tech snob looks down on you for the gear you shoot, remind them that one of the breakout films at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival, Tangerine, was shot on an iPhone 5s. Yep, not a Red, Not an Alexia or even a Canon DSLR but an iPhone. Imagine if the filmmaker had worried what other filmmakers were going to think?

The “I have to get one because everyone else has one” mentality is a lot harder to deal with. A lot of people are shooting with DSLR’s or moving up to 4k video cameras.

I remember when I had a restored ’69 Mach 1 Mustang I saw Mustangs all over the place. It’s like everyone had one. When I bought a ’84 Z28 Camaro, it seemed that everyone else had one too. Now I drive a Toyota Tundra. Guess what I see all the time now?

It’s a similar thing when the next generation of cameras come out. It seems like they are everywhere even though they really aren’t. Because you have 4k cameras in your head and they are the cameras everyone is reviewing and talking about you think you’re the only one that doesn’t have one. Not true.
There are far more nature and wildlife cinematographers out there making money and creating great films with standard HD video cameras than there are with 4k video cameras.

Instead of Film Gear, What Should I Get Instead?

Two things I think you can never have enough of are batteries and recoding media. Nothing worse than being out in the field and running out of recording space or your last battery dying just as that big whitetail buck steps out of the shadows. Trust me, I’ve encountered both and it will be the hardest thing you’ve ever done to walk away from a great situation simply because your battery is dead or you have no more space on your cards to film anything else.

I’ve actually had to delete good clips in the field because I was out of space on my P2 cards and I knew if I stuck around long enough, this dew covered dragonfly would eventually take flight.

It worked out in this case but what if it hadn’t? I would have thrown away good clips for nothing.

Buy Books and Field Guides

The more you know about your nature and wildlife subjects, the better your chances of finding them and getting some amazing video footage of them.

Spring is still several months away but I’m already combing field guides for wildflowers, insects and other animals that can be found in my area and learning about their behavior, what they like to eat and where they like to spend their day.

dropletj_630Mourning Cloak butterflies are found near my house at Indian Creek Nature Center. I’ve never been able to film them. I picked up a book on butterflies to learn more about Mourning Cloak habitat, diet etc. When the weather warms up, I’ll be much more prepared to find them and film them.
By the way, did you know that Mourning Cloaks don’t migrate? They’ve even been spotted on warm winter days.

Pick up some travel guides to future destinations. It always helps to know what’s off the beaten path before you go.

There are numerous photography guides to National Parks and natural areas.
I picked up a book called Yellowstone’s Treasures that breaks down the park by mile markers along the roads and what features can be found there. A place like Yellowstone is so huge with such diversity you really need to plan your trip well in advance to get the most out of it.

Save For Your Bucket List Destinations

I was fortunate to have Panasonic send me to Africa to shoot some test footage with one of their new cameras several years back. Next year I’m looking to possibly go to Norway to meet some fellow filmmakers and film the amazing scenery and wildlife found in Norway.

I took a quick peek at airfare and it’s over $1000 just to fly to Norway, That doesn’t include lodging, transportation and meals once I get there.

webj_630Instead of laying down your hard-earned cash for expensive gear, why not sock it away and travel to amazing destinations? Remember DVD’s are still only standard definition and Blu-Ray is just standard HD. Sure there are advantages to shooting 4k but in the end is it really going to tell your story any better? Me? I’d rather be able to travel to great destinations, film amazing nature and wildlife and tell a story that makes a difference than to have the latest and greatest. How about you?

Let me know what your opinion on this is. Do you think it’s more important to be happy that you have the latest and greatest or is filmmaking about the story and not so much the resolution? I’d really appreciate it if you left a comment below and let’s start a discussion on this topic.
And as always, shoot the ordinary and make it extraordinary!

Kevin J Railsback is a wildlife and nature filmmaker

By | 2016-11-06T09:39:01+00:00 February 2nd, 2015|Categories: Filmmaking Naturally News|13 Comments

About the Author:

Award-winning filmmaker Kevin J Railsback has traveled as far as Africa to test HD cameras for Panasonic. His stunning nature and wildlife footage has appeared in productions on National Geographic, Animal Planet, Discovery Channel as well as in commercials for such corporate giants as AT&T.

13 Comments

  1. andy February 15, 2015 at 3:43 pm - Reply

    Thanks for the article. I have a consumer camcorder. It still shoots HD. Everybody wants the newest, most expensive thing. I feel better after reading this.

    • Kevin Railsback February 16, 2015 at 9:38 am - Reply

      Andy,

      Thanks for the comment I really appreciate it!

      Everyone wants new gear the latest and greatest but how often do you hear about people wanting to tell a better story?
      We’ve created this mindset that if we only had this new camera we could make great films.
      Well, you may be able to make better looking films but certainly not better films if you don’t work on telling a better story.

      I was thinking about the effect the film Blackfish has had on people. Would it be a better film if it were shot on a Red? Would it be a worse film if it were shot on standard definition?

      It’s all about the story. I’m not sure how we all started thinking that it’s the gear that makes the film and not it’s content.

      Glad this helped you feel better realizing that you don’t need to have the best to make a great film.

      Thanks again for the comment! I really appreciate it!!

  2. Nicola Gaughan February 17, 2015 at 10:39 am - Reply

    That’s so true Kevin, once your mind is keyed into a particular thing, you see it everywhere.

    • Kevin Railsback February 17, 2015 at 10:51 am - Reply

      Thankfully I’m keyed into nature so I see that everywhere I look. 🙂

      So many people focus on the gear, thinking that’s what they need to make a great film.

      When was the last time you heard anyone talk about telling a better story?

  3. Wendy Tomlinson
    Twitter:
    February 18, 2015 at 5:03 am - Reply

    Hi Kevin, I found this post really interesting. On my own bucket list I have “A photo a day that inspires”. My plan is to simply get out and about and take photo’s of things that bring me happiness and inspire me and share them on a blog. I have an old rubbishy camera but it works and you’ve inspired me to get out there and start practicing. Thanks.
    Wendy Tomlinson invites you to read…Are you Lucky or Unlucky? What story are you telling yourself?My Profile

    • Kevin J Railsback February 18, 2015 at 6:06 am - Reply

      Thanks for the comment Wendy, I really appreciate it!

      I think the photo a day that inspires idea is a great one!
      Are you going to post them to your blog? There are so many things that inspire us! I bet after a year and you look back at all the photos you’ll be amazed how many things bring inspiration.

      I wonder if I could do something like that with filming nature? My problem is that I can’t get out every day even though I would love to.

      Let me now if you need any help with this!

      `Kevin

      • Wendy Tomlinson
        Twitter:
        February 19, 2015 at 5:02 am - Reply

        Hi Kevin, I’d always thought I would create a new blog but actually I had a lightbulb moment when I read your reply. I could combine it with my existing coaching blog as it would hopefully inspire others. Maybe I could start off with a photo a week that inspires me. At the moment apart from a dog walk, my view is mostly of the computer at the moment.

        Wendy
        Wendy Tomlinson invites you to read…Are you Lucky or Unlucky? What story are you telling yourself?My Profile

  4. Kevin Byrne
    Twitter:
    February 25, 2015 at 7:28 am - Reply

    Hello Kevin,
    Well said, it is impossible to keep up with the latest in Photography and Video unless you are very rich or are sponsored.

    I remember hearing someone say this one day,
    “Make the most of what you have and watch it grow”

    Having said that, all donations of Broadcast 6K video Cameras and interchangeable lens’s,Pro Tripods,Video Heads and thousands of TB’s of suitable recording media gratefully accepted.

    Thanks for your site, Kevin.

    • Kevin Railsback March 2, 2015 at 10:23 am - Reply

      Hey Kevin,

      Thanks for the comment! I really appreciate it!!

      It’s hard not to get caught up in the gear wars with everytone telling you that you’re not a filmmaker unless you have this or that.
      Most of those saying that can’t create a good film to save their life’s and I’m sure they think if they can just get the Super Dragon upgrade to their camera then they will be a great filmmaker.

      Filmmaking is all about telling a story, period. That’s it. If of have an iPhone, you can make a film. If you have a Red One, you can make a film. It’s all about you and the passion you have inside to tell the story.

      I wish more people understood this. I guess I need to start entering some festivals and such and see if I can add some bling to my collection. Seems that’s the only way you can shut the gear trolls up! 🙂

      Keep me posted in what you’re working on. I’m always interested in what other filmmakers are doing!
      -Kevin

  5. Sandra Lynn
    Twitter:
    June 3, 2015 at 10:06 pm - Reply

    Hi Kevin,

    I found you via Trish at Almost Sexy Mommy – loved your comment on her latest (your gf from hell and now you have an AWEsome one, ,YAY YOU). I’m here because I saw this post and was intrigued; my husband makes documentaries. Then when I got here, I saw where you’d been featured some. You may know friend of his, Pete Nenortas of Satronen Sound (sp) – anyway, small world. Okay, it’s late and this is random but that’s how these things happen. 😉

    Cheers,
    Sandra Lynn

    PS: You are right, your worth is NOT determined by your gear. Oh, but the passion…just MAKE 🙂
    Sandra Lynn invites you to read…The Artfully Arranged Tween Bookcase – Keep it Neat!My Profile

    • Kevin J Railsback June 3, 2015 at 10:32 pm - Reply

      Hi Sandra Lynn,

      Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment, I really appreciate it!!

      Love Trish’s blog and although my girlfriend and I are only going on fiver months, it’s been so wonderful that we can’t imagine a time when we weren’t in each others lives anymore.

      What kind of documentaries does your husband make? My friends at Fourth Wall Films(http://www.fourthwallfilms.com) do historical documentaries. They tapped me to shoot their film Sons & daughters of Thunder which will premiere next year.

      Pete’s company sound familiar but I’ve never worked with him. Does your husband know Glenn Scott Lacey? Fantastic composer.

      I keep trying to tell people it’s not the camera but who’s behind it that matter but I don’t think a lot of people believe me. 🙂

      Kevin

      • Sandra Lynn
        Twitter:
        June 4, 2015 at 1:31 am - Reply

        Hi Kevin,

        Oh, I know that feeling – not remembering the before – many blessings for you two for all your lives 🙂

        The Hubs does so many things, he just finished a short doc called “Raising Ali…” and is gearing up to do another full length (mum’s the word on that for now) – you can go see about him @ http://whitedogarts.com – we LOVE historical docs so now I’ll have to stalk…errr…follow you around to keep updated on that 😉 Congrats! I don’t know if he knows Glenn Scott Lacey but I’ll ask him. We are based out of Portland, Maine and he does make use of the incredible talent here; though I know he goes far and wide if needed (for whatever).

        And yes. Who is TELLING the story. No matter the medium. The person responsible for getting folks engaged in (whatever) is only as good as his or her ability to share it. 😉

        Cheers 🙂
        Sandra Lynn invites you to read…The Artfully Arranged Tween Bookcase – Keep it Neat!My Profile

        • Kevin J Railsback June 4, 2015 at 8:51 am - Reply

          Hey Sandra Lynn,

          Glenn lives in the Pacific Northwest but in this day in age he could be in Kenya and we could still work with him as long as he has Internet. 🙂

          I’ve met so many great people that I never would have if we couldn’t reach out through the Internet.

          Fourth Wall Films does great work. They’ve been nominated for an Emmy so hopefully one of these days they’ll bring one home!

          I’m gearing up for a Kickstarter campaign for a short doc on the tallgrass prairie. I’ve spent the last three years really spending a lot of time in the prairies and have only scratched the surface.
          What amazing ecosystems!

          I’ll check out your hubbies website!

          Thanks for the comment and reply! I love having conversations about this stuff! 🙂

          -Kevin

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