FULL CIRCLE: The Seasonal Nature of Outdoor Media Creation
(Truck Vault - Promotional Roadtrip, behind the scenes during sunrise)
It’s almost an out-of-body experience. Every morning, the alarm clock comes early. Indeed, through blurred vision, immediate to-do lists meet gray matter and the day is abruptly underway. In REVOL Entertainment Clint Easley’s world, that list is long, varied, and differs greatly depending on the time of year. The same can be said for his whole team.
The outdoor videography business requires a full-circle approach, no matter what you call the starting point. In a nutshell, it involves seeking and securing clients and brainstorming…lots of brainstorming. Ultimately, it ends with putting creativity in motion in support of outdoor product and media companies, outfitters, and other industry brands. However, there is a whole lot in between.
While many aspiring outdoor creators constantly seek to make connections with hopes of ultimately spring-boarding themselves into the outdoor television market, this only scratches the surface. The playing field has changed dramatically over the last couple of decades. On top of the traditional television market, there are other popular venues for visual content in the outdoor arena, not the least of which is YouTube and social media.
Being an outdoor industry videographer means much more than snapping images, shooting videos, and reveling in outdoor spaces. To be successful, means navigating a cyclical set of annual tasks; and a lot of organization and structure.
What does this structure-filled hustle involve?
To go into great detail on all aspects of this lifestyle would require a veritable book. With that, here is a stem to stern, yet high-level idea of the life of the camera-toting outdoor creator.
Trade Show Season
Henry Ford once said, “Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success”. This flexible axiom has always been one of my favorites. The social aspects of running an outdoor videography business loom large. Here, self-promotion and relationship-building are a delicate balancing act.
The calendar year starts in the hunting booth jungle – in vast auditorium floors teeming with diehard sportsmen; consumers and brands, alike. Opportunity meets the captive audience.
Ultimately, prospective clients are prospective friends and trade show season represents a great chance to plant new seeds of collaboration – and hopefully, establish joint relationships. Annual events like the SHOT Show in Las Vegas are ripe for new business. Mostly taking place in January and February, they’re also great chances to reinforce established relationships with outdoor industry businesses. From archery product companies to big game outfitters and lodges, digital outdoor creators can’t afford to miss such events. With them comes an array of expenses, not the least of which are costs associated with admission and travel. Of course, there are the constant walking and elevator speeches. Let’s face it, putting your best foot forward for hours upon end can be grueling. I can verity this fact, as I’ve done my share of hosting tradeshow booths and walking the never-ending auditorium floor gauntlets.
(Outdoor Trade Shows like the annual SHOT Show in Las Vegas are ripe for networking.
They also make for busy days.)
It’s a wearisome undertaking for sure, even for the casual visitor. To get an idea of this relevant mini-season, you have to multiply it by two or more to understand this step for the outdoor media creator.
It's worth it though. Scratch that, it’s necessary.
“Trade show season starts off our calendar year. They’re a grind, but we can’t afford to not have a presence for at least a couple of them”, said Easley.
Next up is the process of formalizing contracts for new clients and projects - and renewing them for established ones. Fresh off of trade show season, newly-formed relationships meet fresh scopes of work. While not necessarily a fun task, it’s an exciting time as it marks the onset of fresh creative projects for the new year – the aspects visual creators cherish the most in the first place. At the end of the day, contract season chisels company deliverables in stone. In due course, they will keep the lights on.
February through the springtime brings on the necessary task of truing up video shoot scheduling and content creation related to client work, as well as self-branding. It’s more than scribbling events on calendars though. This vital step sets the stage for structure throughout the remainder of the year. While it’s exciting, it can also be an exhausting endeavor; Establishing shoot dates, travel itineraries, and contingency plans is serious business. After all, it will determine just how turnkey future pursuits will be.
“I feel like we’re planning all the time, but adding a solid foundation goes a long way towards success, especially during this phase leading up to the various hunting seasons.”, said Easley.
So, with the actionable effort that even Stephen Covey would appreciate, productive outdoor media company staff tenaciously come together, devising optimal plans for the coming year. To flourish, it’s a must. This in turn leads to seamless and effective on-location shoots later in the year; and when it does, it screams professionalism.
Said Easley, “I call it camouflaging stress. It’s about managing competing priorities and ensuring that the current client has our our undivided attention”.
That’s right, editing has its own season. While editing happens throughout the year, summertime is a particularly crucial time for this stage. For outdoor visual creators, this phase is necessary for editing prior-year filming sessions. Creators in this niche are always telling a story – at least the good ones. As such, fine-tuning everything from kill shots, treks to the stand, and fire pit camaraderie is necessary. Indeed, establishing good visual transition and flow is paramount to its storytelling ability. It’s an art form that’s both rewarding and taxing.
(Outdoor video creators accumulate a horde of camera footage, making for hours of editing. Photo by: Tony Ellersick Washington Backcountry)
“You’d be surprised how much footage we accumulate across shoots. While I work on it every chance I get, it’s crucial to push hard during the summer before the barrage of new footage is created”, said REVOL Editing Director, Kyle Martin.
On the Hunt
While many outdoor creators don’t collaborate only with hunting brands, hunting trips represent a common (and awesome) culmination to the annual labor of love that is boots-on-the-ground video creation. It should come as no surprise, as hunting often takes creators back to their outdoor roots.
“Everything associated with hunting is special to me and today, that usually means capturing it. It takes me back to my younger days when my dad took me hunting and fishing”, said Easley.
(Effectively capturing the hunt has much to do with up-front planning - Harteis Ranch)
In many ways hunting excursions mark the last major phase of visual creators in the outdoor space. Stretching from late summer through January, documenting hunts and other similar events has a bevy of moving parts, often including ambitious travel, little sleep, and heavy workloads and schedules.
It represents a very rewarding part of the process, as it’s not only the final phase, it’s a time that outdoor creators get to wet their creative whistles and make their partners shine.
Outdoor media creators are outdoorsmen too and these precious engagements mean the likes of sunrises and sunsets, big skies, stalks, and ultimately the harvesting of game animals. There is no doubt, no better opportunity for storytelling than on the vast hunting grounds of North America; storytelling that will likely unfold on outdoor television channels. Capturing these moments is arguably as gratifying as sending a bullet or arrow.
Said Easley, “There’s so much legwork leading up to filmed hunts. Planning and executing these hunts from a filming standpoint is crucial. If we have planned adequately, these trips are particularly fun."
There is a reward for the organization on and leading up to such events.
He continued, "We always look forward to the adventure and bonding that takes place on hunting shoots."
Why All the Fuss?
For this special type of creator, their work is a labor of love. To do it professionally is a whole different can of worms. In the end, true success means you constantly establish and nurture relationships with outdoor brands. The structure is the key to conquering the annual phases of the year. This means more than maintaining a calendar. Indeed, it entails many things the layperson does not see; optimal packing methods, airport pickups, and drop-offs, and a lot of zone defense. As for the latter, the ability to divide and conquer across both tasks and clients is ideal.
(Building authentic relationships and effective collaborations is one of the keystones for successful outdoor media companies. - Ryan Gaither @steepandsolo left & Shane Vander Giessen @lonegoatmedia right shaking hands after a successful bear hunt in western Washington)
“We owe our clients effective authentic content and we simply can’t achieve that unless we have our ducks in a row. It’s particularly ideal when we can split up to tackle everything that needs attention”, said Easley.
Today, when I find myself gawking at a hunting show, I can see beyond blood trails and tree stand high fives. There are so many behind-the-scenes tasks and challenges for an outdoor media company. At the end of the day, the polished video we see on outdoor television shows, YouTube channels, and ads tells a story. What’s hidden are the stories, bloopers, and subplots accumulated by the videographers and photographers. Stay tuned for some of those because the well is deep.
So, what’s the next step for professional video creators?
That’s simple. Rinse and repeat. That last grip-and-grin image or deer approach likely marks the beginning of the next tradeshow season. There is no rest for the weary for this unique bunch that calls themselves outdoor video creators. Full circle indeed.