Feature image public domain.
I love hearing stories of how people get into their line of creative work; whether it be filmmaking, photographer, music, what have you. I frequent a Facebook group that is chock full of brave souls entering the wild and crazy world of film and video production. One of the souls who has been making great progress and in-roads in her new career as a filmmaker is Jennifer Parlanti of Paper Box Media, based in Melbourne, Australia.
A few months ago Jennifer shared a promo film she produced for a local brewery. For someone who is new to this craft, I felt this film showed such a good eye for storytelling and editing. So I asked Jennifer some questions about her journey from photography to filmmaking. I hope you find her story inspiring. But first, the promo film.
What kind of Photography do you do?
I was a wedding and portrait photographer before moving to video. I am also a lifetime fine artist. Painting in sumi ink mainly, first studying in Japan, where I lived for 8 years. My paintings have been sold worldwide, and truly resonate with film making…I will explain…
When I am shooting video, I use a lot of movement, I move with my camera as if I am painting or brushing in a scene, the movement comes naturally to me, as I was taught to paint with my whole body, not just my hand or arm. I love still shots as well. I would like to stop more often to appreciate what a well framed still shot can do for my films and the viewers.
What got you started in video?
I had just had my third ankle reconstruction surgery. Yep. third. Anyway, whilst recovering, I was watching a Sue Bryce class on CL, as I intended to make Glamour Portraiture my main field. I could not shoot weddings anymore.
When I saw Hailey Bartholomew’s class come up, I was immediately excited by it. I watched it day and night, and knew I had to try this–the Promo reel.
I begged artist friend Jamie Cooper to let me create a film around his painting of the New York Yankees dream team. I convinced him, and it was the best time I had ever had. I had found my niche and became a novice filmmaker.
What was the greatest challenge for you learning video?
Well, I felt very comfortable with the camera, and shooting completely manual. I had started in film and manual lenses 35 years ago, and learning about video rules came easily enough. Technology was my greatest challenge. As someone who works in fine art using tactile materials, the technology needed to create a film was a learning curve. I chose to use FCPX for editing, as I use Mac computers, but it took intensive effort to learn the program, as well as grading. However, I love the storytelling aspect, so cutting a film is an adventure I look forward to every time.
What has been the greatest challenge adding video as a business?
I had decided I wanted to make brand films for artisan businesses and only artisan businesses. People that create a living from their talents. With only one film to my name, I had to convince others that they needed a brand film, and that I was the one to do it. Finding those businesses and having them trust me was the biggest challenge. At first I offered photography with video, but soon found it difficult to include, as I had ‘video brain’ and ‘photo brain’, and they did not play well together. I no longer offer photography, a happy decision. I was very fortunate to have been trusted by these businesses.
Tell us about this job, how did you get it?
I asked for it, plain and simple. It took a lot of convincing, and I had to fight for it! So very glad I did, I loved the experience and had an amazing time shooting the film. It did take months to shoot, as the Brewery was new and I had to fit into the schedule. But when it was brew day or bottling day, I had to be available, I had to go with the flow, so this was very much shot run and gun. I was given time during some parts of the process however, and was able to set up a few shots to my liking.
Let’s geek out. What equipment did you use? Camera? Lenses? Audio.
I shoot with Nikon, so I used a D800 for the whole shoot and a D750 for the last shot actually, it was just new. I used the 28mm 1.8G, 50mm 1.4G, and the 105mm macro lenses. I used a Manfrotto video monopod most of the time. Benro tripod, Kessler pocket slider. I did a few shots with the BMPCC on the interview, however, didn’t use them. Rode Video Mic Pro and the Zoom H4n for recording interview.
I used Nattress curves for grading. Also Colour Finale and Colourista 3 depending on what I am working on. I also add LUTS when appropriate.
What was the greatest challenge of this shoot?
The greatest challenge of this shoot was coordinating it to be honest. I had a ball shooting it!
How did you price it?
As this shoot was in fact portfolio building, I did not charge full price for it. I did let them know the full cost of a project like this however. I was very excited by this shoot and hope it is a great marketing tool for La Sirene also. My unofficial price was built up from the amount of days and shoots needed to capture the entire process, the pre-production, writing and post production. It was a great exercise for estimating future projects like this.
What’s next for you in the world of video?
I have been kept very busy since releasing La Sirene. It cemented my desire to stick to my niche market of artisan businesses, and I have been creating brand films for many photographers, and other businesses, with wonderful opportunities on the horizon.
What tips would you give photogs entering the world of video?
Play with your cameras in video mode, make it fun..shoot everything, play with fps, shutter speeds, buy a variable ND filter, MOVE yourself, find different angles, and heights, try different apertures, watch movies you like over and over to learn a myriad of techniques. Learn lighting for video, learn audio..big one!! Ask questions, people like Ron are very generous with helping out. ☺ Thank you Ron! [Editor’s note: Ha! You’re welcome Jenn. Your check is in the mail. 😉 ]
Who’s your favorite filmmaker and why?
There are many of course. Ridley Scott for one. Blade Runner is an all time favourite. However, I love Akira Kurosawa. His use of motion is what I love. Whether it is in the frame as weather elements, masses of people running from here to there, a woman dropping to her knees, the speed of a sword, each character’s quirky trait. The camera moves that tell a story in one shot.
I love movement, too much and to the point that I can overdo it, so my challenge is to stop moving all the time and be still and allow the movement to come from within the frame. Having studied Japanese Sho-do (calligraphy), movement is the most natural of things to me.
It doesn’t help that I lived in Japan for 8 years. I often stayed in Kurosawa’s favourite Inn for storyboarding a film in Kyoto. He was quite superstitious apparently and stayed often. His screwed up failed drawings are hanging on the walls of the inn. I see a film in the making there, his presence was felt! ☺ I didn’t know I would be moved by his methods years later in creating my own small films.
I grew up in Melboune, Australia, and so far have led a life of sport, art and travel. I found out early that art and sport don’t play well. However, art and travel do! I spent 8 years in Tokyo, Japan, learning Sho-do, exhibiting my paintings, photographing everything and raising two beautiful kids, talented in their own right. I have been a photographer, painter, maker of anything crafty, and now small business film maker. I have always worked for myself and love every minute of this film making journey, it is incredible, the people I am meeting and working with and the amount I am learning. I am living the dream right now!
[Editor’s Note: Given Jennifer’s love of Kurasawa and his use of movement, I couldn’t help but throw this video in as a bonus.]