Freelance VJ sites

The blessing and bane of being a VJ is getting paid to do what you love. If you’re lucky, you have a staff job with an understanding news director or editor who knows that you will give your all if s/he treats you right. That means a living wage and a reasonable amount of time to do stories you love mixed in with the day-to-day assignments.

But that’s not the reality for most current and aspiring VJs. Love is one thing. Earning an income is another.

I’ve been checking out some sites that purport to channel VJ videos into potential cash flows. Although most cater to breaking news, there is room for other types of stories too. Read carefully and check each out yourself before leaping on board.

And while you’re checking out the organizations, also be aware that some charge a commission – a flat fee or percentage – on your sales while others pay a flat rate to you and others may have different ways to make money.

Cont3nt.com_First up is cont3nt.com. Founded by former National Geographic employee Anton Gelman, cont3nt.com is the new kid on the block. Like most of the sites below, its emphasis is on breaking news…getting your just-shot breakers up on the site and out marketed to a global market. He has a variety of contracts from short-term limited to total buyout. Nice part is that if you have current clients he won’t horn in on them…but he does open up new market potential. All business is transacted directly by the freelancer and the client…cont3nt.com does not get involved in anything beyond providing the platform and collecting a small fee per transaction. They do require (as most do) that you sign an ethics statement. cont3nt.com also has a ratings system for their VJs…the more experience you have and the more and higher quality stories you provide, the higher your ranking.

logo-948b00716f43ff028c8b37a7840ffb62

CrowdMedia specializes in sifting through twitter feeds, looking for photographs at news events and venues. You can’t apply – and rates are low by professional standards unless the event is major (see below).

CEO Martin Roldan has this to say about his site:

Our marketplace is only for photos right now. Contact is made through our platform directly, with images coming from Twitter. Direct upload will be open as soon as our unique “Authenticity Detection” will be fully operational. This is to make sure we only get photos depicting real events and that people uploading them are the rightful owners.

Since we are focusing on the value of real-time events, images are at a fixed rate of $20 during the first 48 hours and $5 after that time. A photo of a major event could be purchased more than 1000 times.

ELANCE-NEW-LOGO eLance seems to be a meeting place on steroids for those seeking temporary workers and freelancers of all ilks, not just videographers. Potential employers post a job then view the matched freelancers. They have to deposit the full amount of the quote from the freelancer plus the commission to eLance…freelancer paid either when the job is done or when milestones are reached. Not just a VJ site though you may find the occasional gig there.

emphasis empahs.is is a crowdfunding platform for visual journalists. You have to provide the usual: a short proposal of two or three sentences, one page proposal outlining the scope/relevance of said project, your personal (short) bio, links to your work and a video pitch. Offhand this looks more like a still visual storyteller site…but check it out and let us know what you find out.

spacer

gothamist-logo Geothamist serves hyperlocal major metropolitan areas around the world…if you live in or near one of those listed there may be opportunities for you.

Newsmodo, again, has a similar platform to most of the others.

According to Managing Editor Ryan Jones, Newsmodo is a free global platform for freelance journalists. newsmodo He says, “We offer journalists around the world the opportunity to work for big and small international media companies. They set assignments for you to pitch to OR you pitch unsolicited and they commission.”

305549_980 reportersunited is not just for the word folks…it’s actually targeting VJs. Like cont3nt.com it seeks breaking stories, but also wants good factual features. And I’ve worked with their team just enough to know they will seek clients if you have a good idea…and they act as an intermediary between VJ and client to ensure the story fits the need. What else you need to know: independent video news agency, adherence to journalism standards of facts/conduct/ethics, global distribution (all of these sites provide that).

storyhunter5 storyhunter was founded by VJs and although you can provide story ideas, they also provide assignments you can sign up for. They do screen, so no newbies here. Their emphasis is serious work and breakers for working VJs.

ttm_tumblr_profile transterramedia is another global site that accepts pitches from VJs and matches them up with clients. They do breaking news but accept hard-hitting general news and features. They do screen before allowing VJs on board and do work closely with their contributors (this from experience).

vourno_logo Vourno is fresh off the press…came out less than two weeks ago. It is a crowdsourcing platform aimed at “Vournos” or video journos. They solicit “pubs” to provide support and funding for projects you propose. The VJ owns the rights to their work…what Vourno does is provide exposure for VJs and their story ideas to a public willing to pay to see a story through. This is not an income stream where you are paid to work…your story is funded for what it will cost to produce and then you are free to market it to clients once it has appeared on the Vourno site for a specified amount of time.

Realize that I’ve vastly condensed the information and approach each of the above sites is taking…but the bottom line is they are potential money-makers if you have the skills, ideas, and commitment to follow through and provide what you promised.

In addition to these there are job/gig websites, including staffmeup, productionhub, mandy, mediamatch, journalismjobs. You can find others by doing a web search with the type of job you’re interested in and “job board.” These offer short and long-term gigs and even full-time jobs. Pay ranges from (what else) free to union scale. (I’ll be updating this list and adding urls over the next few months.)

And Facebook has opened up some possibilities, although with disclaimers. Many gigs are in conflict zones on pages like “Find a journalist…around the world.” Other sites are mainly for discussion with the occasional gig – videojournalist, Global VJs and TV Freelancers. In many cases you have to ask to be added because they are closed groups and you may even be screened to ensure you are a professional.

So as bleak as the full-time staff market may be…if you are enterprising and industrious you may be able to make your passion a paying profession.

hostwriterWhile the following site is not a job site per se, it is an important tool for VJs and other journos.  hostwriter is a site for collaboration and sharing and helping each other.  Plus, it has a Code of Ethics you must abide by in order to be a member…to both protect yourself as well as those you collaborate with.

Invisible work…

Videojournalism or reporting visually can make you highly visible.  There ya are:  camera in hand, mike out.  You’re gathering news to put up…somewhere.  On the web, on TV, whatever.

So folks see you with that gear and think, “Hey, I can do THAT!”  Piece of cake.

That’s the visible part of your job.

The invisible part, kind of like an iceberg, is 80 or 90 percent submerged where no one can see it.

Like:  how do you choose a story, an angle, which questions to ask/which to keep and consider asking.  Which shots to get.  What you DON’T shoot.

And…editing.

The invisible part of the job.

From what I’ve experienced, shooting can be the flashy easy part.  And for every hour put in shooting, you may have another hour (or more) piecing together those random clips into something cohesive.

And (to the uninitiated) there are more layers.

Typical assignment.

  1. Get assignment and figure out your angle
  2. Make calls/email and set up interviews/b-roll
  3. Shoot
  4. Log – transcribe NATs and interviews
  5. Write script
  6. Edit

1-2-3 might take three or four or more hours.  Four and five maybe another hour.  And poor old editing gets whatever is left.  If you’re working with a reporter, pray that they remember to toss you enough time to edit the story together properly.  If you’re a one man band, don’t box yourself in.  Allow time to edit.

And for those who think it all comes together miraculously…think again.  An iceberg is a pretty thing, but can be deadly.  Especially come deadline time.

Time traveler…

I pulled into the parking lot and the first memory hit.  A bunch of drunken fishermen just before the 11 o’clock show pushing the buzzer non-stop.  They’d caught a 6 foot sturgeon and they wanted it on TV.  Now.

Second memory as I got out of the car.  Being walked to my vehicle after the eleven many nights by the custodian.  Homeless men on their way to the shelter often got tired and would crawl into any car that wasn’t locked in hopes of spending the night in relative warmth and safety.

1974.  KXTV.  Channel 10.  My first gig in news.

And my oh my how things have changed.  The tiny lobby is now bigger than the old newsroom.  The hallway that ended a bit beyond the newsroom goes on and on and twists around in a building that seems four times the size of the old station.

And the technology.

I was visiting today to check out the weather sets (aka greenscreens or chroma key sets) to see how they’re lit to help out in a similar but vastly smaller setup at the Stockton Children’s Museum.  Here’s what that looks like right now.

SAMSUNG CSC

Stockton Children’s Museum Channel 10 Room

You can see the hot spots…something we’ve been battling.  The lights are in strips…maybe a dozen LED bulbs.  We’ve tried diffusing and blackwrap to control them but it kept coming back to intensity and positioning.  Too much in some areas and not enough on the bottom.  Kind of figured out we needed softer lights, thus the visit to the present news set in Sacto.

Now I’m gonna toss a bunch of photos of their set up so my electrical guys can see how it looks.

Simple solution.  Fluorescents and we can work in the tight space at the museum…don’t even need the high studio ceilings to make it work.  And they use the same lights pretty much for the chroma wall and talent.  Three big grids front and center…placed as far back as our wall.  They also hung a couple of smaller lights to hit the lower corners of the screen.  Plus some lights coming in over the back of the wall to backlight the talent.

Fortunately I have a bunch of old shop lights I can experiment with to see if it will work…then can let the electricians get to work and do their magic.

But now back to memory lane.

Ward Koppel (morning show producer) lead me around the building through the news sets, newsroom, photographers’ room, edit bays, control room and master control.  Where bodies used to thrive and work as a team, much has been automated from robotic cameras to a reduction of maybe 8 people in the control room to two now.

Shooters are pretty much Videojournalists/MMJs now using camcorders they can dock directly in the edit bays.  TVU units make live shots both a challenge and more spontaneous.  There’s a GoPro locker and each shooter has their own locker for gear.

Photos in order of appearance.  Control room, newsroom, newsroom small set, another newsroom view with assignment desk, larger newsroom set.

And since my former nickname was “Scanner Mama” a new toy – a scanner that can handle the trunk system and can be programmed to recognize signals whenever you change locations.  Mmmmm!

20160321_084625

Gonna finish this up now with a dive into the deep past.  Apparently Channel 10 celebrated 60 years on air last year and there are photos that tell the tale of its history posted all over.

Some of it recognizable.  First up – Bruce McCormick, followed by my first reporter Rich Iberra.  The cluster of photos has only one person I worked with – Creighton Sanders, sports director in the 70s.  And my first and favorite anchor, Dick Cable.

20160321_090004

A somewhat shaky shot from before my time of Governor Pat Brown.

More photos with folks I knew and worked with or against (other stations) over the years.

And the mystery photos.  Who is that lady?  Why is that cameraman rappelling?  And who the heck is the cowboy who apparently was in a lot of photos way back when connected with the station.

It’s been a good day.  I learned a lot, reminisced a lot…

…and now on with life.

Drifting with the current…

Over the past decade I’ve been toying with making fiction stories…not news, but actual films.  It began when I was teaching high school broadcasting and had my students team up to enter the 48 Hour Film Project 48 Hour Film Project.

Then after I retired from teaching I joined up with some talented teams as a crew member.

This year for the first time since leading my students I was Team Leader for a film done at the San Jose 2015 48 Hour Film Project…which took city winner honors. Which is why this week is being spent in Atlanta at the international 48 film festival – Filmapalooza.

Enjoy the trailer and movie. And let me know what you think. Our chops are no where near good enough to take any prizes here but still I’m proud of the cast and crew.

 

And so it ends…and so it begins

CyndyMemorial.2 I began this blog way back in 2006 as a creative vent and educational site. Over the years I’ve seen the VJ model go from the original OMB (one man band) working in a bureau and overloaded with film or tape camera, sending in their raw media via bus or driving it up to the main station for editing…to the first intrepid souls who ventured out with a laptop and dinky handycam…to today’s full blown VJs working in markets from miniscule to major.

What was once a necessity to get news from far flung regions has become a staple part of the news scene. You can argue the good, bad and ugly of the model…and trust me there are good VJs, really really bad VJs and downright don’t wanna look at their stuff ugly ones. But you can’t push back the tide. And VJs being lighter and faster are riding the waves into the future.

So this is a kind of warm farewell. I’ve said about everything I need to…although it is possible from time to time another posting may appear. Thanks for hanging in there with me. Take care.

If I were teaching the basics…

…these days, I’d change out my old lessons plans a bit.

Used to be I’d review the camera, assign the seven basic shots, move on to a short stop action assignment, then an autobiography.  Each of these took the beginning student from nowhere through working with the camera and editing program on to more complex assignments (full bio included interviews, narration, on-camera segment, mixing music with narration).

There were mini-lessons between each of these assignments…lectures and demonstrations to edge the students towards good habits.  And I turned out some pretty darn good shooters and editors.

But now I’m out of the education game and back to working the occasional gig, in talking to producers and others on the pro side, I’m hearing (as discussed in past posts) some talk about a lack of knowledge of some of the other basics.  Plus I’m seeing an awful lot of folks searching this site for some help…it appears they know they need to learn more but aren’t sure what it is.  So here’s the new game plan…were I to be fool enough to go back to work.

One.  Always review gear before allowing students to use it.  Review and test.  What is aperture?  Where’s the lockdown on the tripod plate and how do you release it?  What’s the difference between optical and digital zoom?   Point to and name each of the manual controls on the camera.

Two.  The seven basic shots (wide, medium, close-up, extreme close-up, pan, tilt, zoom) with a kick:  require that these shots be done to create a sequence.  A sequence is a series of shots that creates a mini-scene or action in a movie or news story.  So the sequence might work like this:

  • Wide shot of students sitting in a classroom
  • Medium shot as one student stands up
  • Pan following student walking to the door
  • Extreme close-up of hand grasping doorknob
  • Shot from outside of door – close-up of student’s head as door opens and reveals him
  • Zoom out from inside classroom showing student exiting and door closing
  • Tilt down from open sky to student walking away

As with the original seven basic shots, when edited the assignment must have a title, each shot must be labelled with a short description, and there must be closing credits.

Sequencing is a critical skill…one that should be early embedded and always with the student for all future shoots.

Animation would be skipped entirely or left as an extra credit assignment once all others are done.

Three.  Now I’d add in a combination audio/lighting assignment.  Again, these were included as mini-lessons in my original teaching scheme…but again, I’m finding out that they are skills that are not always present in the newly emerging group of wanna-be videographers.  The light shots are pulled from a photography class I taught after retiring – but they apply to video as well.

  • Two shots from what I call The Hand Tip, which shows how to find the best light.
  • Then shoot ten seconds of each of the following:
    • Subject with full sun on face
    • Subject with sun coming over back (backlit)
    • Subject backlit with fill from a reflector (or white board)
    • Subject in open shade
    • Bad lighting (flare, exposure issues, whatever)
  • Test your camera for audio, as follows.  In each shot, have your subject count to five in an even, clear voice.  You can either do this outside or inside, preferably in a quiet environment.
    • Reach out and touch subject on shoulder – that is how close you will stand to them.  Shoot head shot with audio.
    • Walk back two paces or to around six feet and shoot countdown again.
    • Walk back two paces to around ten feet and shoot countdown again.
    • Finally, walk back to around 15 feet and shoot countdown.
    • Now attach a mike to subject and shoot from 15 feet.
  • Edit as follows:
    • Title page:  Light and Audio Assignment
    • Shot of hand as it reflects the sun.  When the two best lighting points are hit, put up a title that indicates the sweet spots.
    • Shot of person walking around camera, showing light changes.  When the two best lighting points hit, put up a quick title indicating sweet spots.
    • Label and place the five shots of subject in different lighting situations.  Choose one and place title explaining why you think it is best.
    • Label and place five shots with audio test.  Label with distance for each shot, then choose one and place title explaining why you choose it.
    • Closing credits

I’ve found with students that I can lecture and lecture and talk til I’m purple…but if I let THEM make all of the mistakes I made years ago, then they can see for themselves the difference between the good, the bad and the downright ugly.

Where would I go next?  Well, that all  depends on where they want to do or what you’re teaching.  Production, videojournalism, filmmaking…they all begin with the same foundation and then take divergent paths.

Four.  Sticking with videojournalism, I’d assign as follows:

  1. VO – the everyday “voice over” video story.  Cover an event such as a parade or street fair and shoot and edit a thirty-second video that allows the audience to get a feel for the sights and sounds.
  2. SOT – sound on tap.  This can either be an interview or a NATS (natural sound) story.  Keep it to a minute or less with the driving force the sound.  If an interview, it must have two segments with a cutaway shot to cover the jump cut.  NATS could be a band, ducks in a pond…an so on.
  3. VOTSOT – combines the two.  Use a combination of visuals and either an interview or NATS.  Ten seconds of VO, fifteen or twenty of SOT and another twenty of VO.
  4. PKG – the whole enchillada…the full scale package with narration, interviews, stand-up (piece to the camera), and NATS.  Telling a story in a precise and clear manner.

Students would have to adhere to the requirement of NOT directing action or characters at all.  In news you shoot what’s there and don’t direct people.  It’s real life.

I’m not getting into the details of each of the above much at this point…but if you’ve watched enough news or taken a basic class or two, you know what these are.  Maybe at some point in the future if I slow down enough to write another post there’ll be more.

And with that, I’m back into retirement and back on the road.

The lies you tell yourself…they lies they tell themselves…

As House infamously says, “Everybody lies.”

One of the “lies” of journalism is that journos are neutral – they don’t take sides.  They are objective.

Realistically objectivity is bullshit.

The difference between a professional journalist and a crazed blogger on a rant is a sense of their own weaknesses and an attempt to be fair.  

Think about it – when you tell a story.  When you delve deep into an interview to discover your character’s thoughts…you are doing it from the template of your own experiences and life.  So your questions are pre-formulated, based on your life experience and what you think your audience wants to or needs to hear.

And from the other side – if you let THEM control the story, you will get their personal take on who they are and what they do – and all the lies they tell themselves.

So a person you see as quiet and mature, may think that they are timid and inept.  Or someone you look up to as forceful and decisive may be brutally sadistic, but hide it. And others may see you as what you know you are not…it swings both ways.

Something to mull over as you head out on that next political story or while you’re shooting a rally. How much do you impose your will on reality…

Slowing down and speeding up…

Kind of contradictory terms up there. But such is life. While the metamorphosis of all things journalistic continues at a hippedy hop pace, I’ve pulled back into blissful retirement.

Too many years of wandering, searching, seeking and pushing…now is the time to take off and enjoy traveling the open roads with my life partner and love…my husband Ron.

And as we travel I’ll continue posting from time to time about our journeys or about whatever catches my interest. Life is too short to spend on a keyboard.