How Photography and Storytelling Experience Helped Chris Floyd Break in to Video
May 6, 2016
For the launch of Esquire’s iPad edition, the magazine commissioned Floyd to make two videos on artist Ralph Steadman.
Floyd is represented by Pointblank, whose CEO Martha Greene liked his photographic eye and his ability to build a coherent narrative while working in motion.
The soundtrack for the videos features Steadman’s ukulele playing and a beat made from the sound of his pen on paper.
Photographers-turned-directors who want to get their work in front of potential clients have a variety of decisions to make: Which social media platform works best? Should your portfolio show multiple projects, or combine clips in a single reel of your best work? How do you reach new audiences, and get busy art buyers or creative directors to view your work? We asked five successful directors to discuss how they’ve built their portfolios and marketed their videos. We learned how feedback from clients has shaped their approach, and the steps they took to win the trust of clients.
London-based photographer/director Chris Floyd built his portfolio of motion work slowly at first, shooting small personal projects and piggybacking on still assignments to create videos to which there “was no real risk” attached. Landing an assignment for the men’s clothing retailer Mr. Porter to create 25 video profiles of stylish men, and then representation from video and stills production company Pointblank, however, lifted his career as a director. “[Pointblank] started putting me up for things that were proper jobs…and then suddenly it becomes serious,” he recalls. He’s since done work for Anthropologie, Procter & Gamble, Avis and Nissan.
Floyd didn’t actively pitch himself to Pointblank. A rep for the company saw him speak at an industry event in 2013 and invited him in for a meeting. The company’s executive producer and CEO, Martha Greene, responded to his photographer’s eye and his ability to tell a story, he recalls. “She said, ‘The problem we’re having with photographers who are coming into motion is they know how to compose the shots, but they don’t know how to link them together into a coherent narrative.’”
An avid reader and writer, Floyd valued storytelling from a young age. His grandfather “was an amazing raconteur,” he says, and his ability to captivate an audience made an impression on Floyd. He began shooting motion as other photographers have, creating videos that were “nothing more than moving portraits.” When London’s Sunday Times Style Magazine hired him to photograph a story about how fashionable men dress, he sold the editor on a companion video project. “I worked out how to have cutaways and reverse shots and close-ups, and all the little tricks that you have in order to stitch together a visual story,” he recalls. He brought the video to Jeremy Langmead, brand director at Mr. Porter, and pitched a similar series of videos. Langmead commissioned six videos at first. That number eventually grew to 25 videos over the course of two and a half years. “I certainly know how to make a film of a guy putting his clothes on,” Floyd laughs.
An uneasy self-promoter, Floyd says his relationship with Pointblank has been key to his career as a director because they not only put him up for jobs, but they also have “a whole team of people who are brought to bear” on the process of pitching assignment work. The company cut together an “anthology” of his Mr. Porter videos, which they’ve used to market him. Floyd also promotes his motion work on Instagram, Twitter, Vimeo and on his blog. When he shares new work, he tries to say something substantial about the project to readers, a lot of whom are in the creative business. “I try to give away behind-the-scenes stuff about how we did this shot or why we did it,” he explains. “Then what happens is people retweet it or repost it, and then it gets a bit of a life of it’s own. It goes out into the world.”
One of the things Floyd appreciates about filmmaking is the collaboration. “I love being on a film set and having a DP and a gaffer and grips and all that, because you don’t get that in a stills environment,” he says. He’s realized, however, that part of what makes his perspective unique is his eye and his photographic techniques. “Once you get around film crews, you could very quickly have all that very lovely creative energy and freshness that you bring knocked out of you within weeks,” he explains, by crews “who’ve done the same stuff their way for years and years. And as a director they find your techniques annoying.” But, he adds, it’s important to be confident in his perspective. “I might not have tons of film technique, but I’ve got photographic technique, and a lot of that is valid in [filmmaking].”
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