Today, we hear from Jordy Vandeput, owner of video production education site Cinecom, about his journey as a filmmaker and how he started his own video production company. It’s a great roadmap for those starting videography and learning how to advance their careers.
Jordy’s story is different to most people who went to film school and I feel it’s a strong example of a different track that one can take after they graduate.
Let’s hear from Jordy!
Life After Film School
It’s the summer of 2012, in a few days I will graduate from the film school of Brussels, Belgium. Everyone talks about their future job. Some have already been hired, other people have got an eye on a production company, and you have graduates who will be doing some more internships.
We were trained to join the TV or film industry, a big world for fresh graduated filmmakers. Or that’s what they call us at film school. Once in the industry, I believe we’ll be called “coffee makers.”
Yes, that last title scared me. Three years of intensive cinematography training. We were the directors, the cinematographers, the writers, the camera operators. But what will we be now?
The idea of being a pion within a big organisation scared me. I started to realise this through our last year. At some points I was even considering just heading in a completely new direction and become a woodcrafter or something.
During our last year we also had to follow an internship. While everyone was looking at TV or film organisations, I was looking at a small production company. I wanted to handle the camera, the lighting and be part of the creative input. So I came across a one man band production company. He didn’t make films nor TV shows. He made something I’ve never heard about in our education: corporate films.
The man gave me a great feeling about his work and so I was his first intern. Like I hoped for, I was handling the camera, the lighting, the sound. Everything. I had never felt so creative before and able to make my own decisions.
Production of a commercial video
Charting New Territory — Small Budget Corporate Films
I had finally found my future: making small budget corporate films.
However, school thought different about this. They rejected my idea of making a corporate film for my final work. So I made what I was told: a documentary about a subject that I didn’t care about. Welcome to school I guess?
The internship was going great and I was learning two new things:
- marketing and
- managing a business.
The videos we made always had a specific purpose: to sell the service or product of a client. At first, I had some trouble with this, but once I became more familiar with the techniques, I started being creative with video marketing.
And then there’s managing a business. Every time we had to drive a while to the next client, a lot of the conversations were about prospects, bookkeeping, marketing. A whole new world was opening for me. I just wanted to finish film school as soon as I could and join his company as an associate.
Graduating Film School — The Next Act
Back to summer 2012. Time to chose our paths.
The idea of becoming an associate at the company where I did my internship was still there, but because of some bookkeeping issues we decided I would freelance for the first months. So I registered myself as a sole proprietorship and every time I helped on a project, I would send an invoice.
Things were really going great but as I wasn’t an associate yet, I couldn’t work for him every day. There had to be projects where at least two crew members were needed. I was actually working part-time or even less.
But I’m not the kind of person who just sits back and waits for work to arrive. I’m an entrepreneur, I always have been.
At the age of fourteen, I started my own internet show in the form of entertainment and tutorial videos. When I was eighteen, I started my own nonprofit production company with four other friends. At our peak, we managed to produce a short film with an organised crew of more than 20 people.
Production of short film, “Can you hear me”
With a background in making online video tutorials, I managed to get into Envato only two months after I began working on my own. This was huge as I had to deliver a new course every month. With having two big clients, I had my days filled and the cash was rolling in.
As time passed, I was starting to get more and more clients of my own. The idea of joining the production company where I did my internship was slowly fading. Having Envato as my biggest client was a huge reason for this.
Me teaching in a self build studio at my sister’s place
Going Completely Independent
It’s 2014 and I’ve been working for more than a year now. In the meantime, I’ve also been going to networking events, which enabled me to get in contact with more clients.
I was learning more and more about how to run a business. And one of those things was that I needed a bookkeeper. I had to focus more on my business and not the bookkeeping.
Sitting together for the first time with a bookkeeper, he mentioned to quit my sole proprietorship and register a company. My income was too high and I could have avoided the high taxes in a corporation form. This would be a big step for me, which I took with much excitement.
I was no longer Jordy Vandeput the freelancer. I was now the owner of Cinecom Belgium BVBA. I made new business cards, a new website, rented an office and made my own corporate film.
This last one was huge and something I’ve been thinking through for a long time. Having a full service production company, I wanted to look bigger. My relationship with the man I did my internship with was still going great, so we decided to co-operate, bundle our film equipment and split the costs to make this movie:
This corporate film was the best thing I have done yet. It got me a new client; BMW, which I still work for today. If anyone asks me how to get clients when starting a video production company, I say: make your own corporate film. And I don’t mean a compilation of your best work. Clients are not interested in how awesome your shots are. They are interested in the complete picture: the story.
Making your own corporate film is the only time you may work for free. Don’t see it as a video you’re making for a brand or company, but see it as your own corporate video. You’re the director and you chose what will be filmed. It’s important you make that clear to the company you approach. That’s the condition in exchange for a free video.
Picking out a company which you shall make a promo video for has to be a commercial choice not a personal one. The BMW franchise has a huge network in our city and they have a large marketing budget. This means we could use their name as a reference and if they’re happy with the result, they will come back for real jobs.
Every year we produce between one and three videos for the BMW franchise. And I was able to convince dozens of prospect to become my client as a result of the BMW testimonial.
When looking back at 2012, I would have never guessed to be where I stand today. I’m not a big production company, but I wake up every day with a huge smile on my face. I get into my car and ride to my playground. And that’s the most important thing in life.
My best advice: Don’t do what others tell you to do, but do what you wanna do!
I hope this article by Jordy has made you think about starting your career in videography. He’s given a vibrant account of starting out in this industry and there’s lots of helpful information here. If you have comments, questions or thoughts, we’d love to read them in the comments section below.
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Great writeup Jordy! Really cool to hear your full story.
I have a bit of a question, well series of questions:
1) What would you say is the best idea for getting started for someone who’s an older person (I’m 46 years old)?
2) Also, does it help to have your own gear for using on shoots when you’re freelancer?
Thanks in advance!