Life in Media
by Steve Roe
To live purely off of social media is a dream job, an activity that most people do every day except now you're getting paid for it. But, it has to be one of the hardest new age professions to succeed in, because there are millions of people doing what you do. However, standing out from the crowd, being different, creating engaging content and drawing up a fan base is a sure-fire way to start seeing a daily activity, turn in to a career. Andy Burgess is a vertical film maker. That means he is creating films every day from his smart phone held 'the wrong way up'. Conventional film-making 101 would have us believe that films can only be recorded in landscape, well that was before our devices flipped that on its head. Andy has managed to turn what was once his hobby of making short Snapchat stories in to an actual profession, one where he gets paid to travel around the world and just keep doing what he loves doing. It's no walk in the park though, to have a career in social media requires a lot more than your typical 8 hour shift, but if it's something you love doing, rolling out of bed on Monday morning has never been easier. So how did Andy do it? We asked him everything we wanted to know about how to become a professional Snapchat story maker.
First of all, let’s talk equipment, what do you use to shoot with?
So right now I shoot all my stories on a Sony A7II with a Zeiss 4/16-70 lens, on a Joby 3K Gorillapod with a Rode Microphone.
My second camera is my iPhone 7 Plus. If I’m using it as my main shooter I’m using a Joby 3K Gorillapod with GripTight Pro Mount and a Rode Micro. The main reason I like to gravitate back to my iPhone is because I love shooting at 120fps.
I also use a DJI OSMO Mobile for smooth iPhone shots.
And I’ve just brought a DJI Mavic Air to get some sweet drone shots!
How did you get started in the world of Snapchat and when did it start to become serious for you?
So I started making stories on Snapchat at the start of 2016 and I noticed people weren’t telling stories on stories… and I always wanted to make films but didn’t know how to use or have a camera, but I had my phone so I just started with that and tried to hack how I was using that app and to try and make my snaps as cinematic as possible.
I then moved to New York City in January of 2017 and collaborated with NASDAQ who put my Snapcode up on the big screen in Time Square and I think it was after that that I knew this was something I could make in to a career.
How do you make a living from Snapchat and what does a typical day look like for you?
So their are two ways I make money from Snapchat and Instagram stories
1. Is a straight up brand deals, a brand come to you and ask you to promote their product to your audience for a fee. I don’t really enjoy doing these deals that much unless it’s a brand who I really feel fits with what I do on my stories.
2. I create or consult on making stories for brands to share on their socials. I definitely love this way because I get to share my work to a larger audience and it gives me a lot of room to be creative and try different styles of storytelling than what I wouldn’t normally do on my account.
Do you edit whilst on the go or do you do it the day after?
So in 2017 I produced a story every day and I used to edit every day on the go on my iPhone using iMovie and Perfect Video. In 2018 I have started editing stories on my MacBook using Adobe Premiere Pro and I now post the next day. It gives me more room to build out the story, and I can colour grade and make my stories look much better.
You travel all over the world now too it seems, what’s been one of the most exciting places you’ve been to recently?
My heart is in New York, I’m so grateful that I get to travel back there so often but traveling to Melbourne, Australia to speak at VidCon was pretty special!
Why Snapchat and not something like YouTube to record daily vlogs?
I’m super torn on whether to jump onto YouTube or not… I feel like I would only want to start on YouTube if I could bring something new to the game as I feel it’s super oversaturated right now. The vertical space is something that is still pretty new to filmmakers, it feels odd and is a completely different way of approaching storytelling so that really excited me, for the rest of the year I’m looking at going all in on Instagram and will see about YouTube… maybe Facebook Watch?
You were also a finalist at the Shorty Awards, how was the whole ceremony for you and what did it feel like to be nominated?
Oh man, being nominated for a Shorty Award was the biggest honour, it was super humbling to find out that an organisation like the Shorty Awards noticed the work I was doing on Snapchat and considered it good enough to nominate me as Snapchatter of the Year up against people like Chrissy Tegan and Amanda Cerny. The ceremony was so much fun, it was 300+ creators all together in a room in New York City celebrating social media and mingling with each other. It was very, very cool!
Are there any plans in place to take the Snapchat stories further, perhaps even YouTube?
So as I mentioned Instagram is going to be my next big focus but I am making a YouTube Video in the coming weeks about how I make my stories but I definitely want to move into traditional filmmaking, I’m just trying to find out the type of story I want to tell in that format.
Any advice to those hoping to start down this path?
Just enjoy it, and create stories around what you know and love. Don’t worry about the numbers, followers or views. That’s a very short term game and if you get caught up in playing that game it will burn you out. If you're creating work that you love and keep at it you're going to get better and better and you will be noticed!
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