Best way to get there from here?


-Documentary camera work, or small, independent projects, preferably global/traveling.
-News photography (never in-front-of-the-camera work though)
-I would also be happy producing this type of video for nonprofits.
-able to support myself doing this work

-Restarting video business after the other one didn't do well. This time, weddings. Have equipment. It's okay, just not what I want to do long term and better than what I have to do now (not video-related). But my heart is only partially in it.
-Trying to get a strategy to put together a workable demo for documentaries or news (want to start over with new work, not happy with my old stuff).
- Afraid of getting trapped doing the wrong work (here) and not getting to (there).
-News experience roughly 20 years ago, helpful but not that relevant to now - but enough to know that news is what I love. (Experience is studio only).
-Willing to start small but don't have supplemental income, so anything undertaken would need to support me.

I'm nearing 50 so time is of the essence - it has made me more determined and impatient. No more waiting.
What's the quickest path from here to there?
Thank you.
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Well-known member first question is do you have some kind of retirement plan. Also...if your heart isn't in it, make sure that does not affect your end product. You have to love what you're doing or it may drag your work down. has a way of sinking into your bones and never letting go. But (take it from one who knows and it a good decade older than you) older shooters are often passed over for younger ones...especially if your news experience was not in the field.

I gave running my own biz a shot for a year and found I didn't like it at all. My true love is shooting followed by editing. No selling myself to clients...not dealing with client problems...not the business end. There are some great folks out there who excel in all areas, but I'm not one of them. You need to know yourself well enough to know what you can and cannot/will and will not be able to handle.

You seem to be adrift though...and that is not a good business plan. I'd guess you need some more thinking time and also talking time with friends in the biz to help you sort through your thoughts. It is a dog eat dog eat dinosaur world out there. Wish I could help and good luck.


Thank you Cyndy,
I suppose I am adrift - and am hoping you guys can give some clarity to the path.
I guess my retirement plan was to get a business going - one that is viable enough to finance some kind of retirement.
I could be somewhat happy doing weddings and corporate. I don't hate it, i could be content, and maybe it would finance some other things. I'm a little afraid of getting trapped there but it's the most viable option.
But the other part of that retirement plan is that my passion lies elsewhere and I'm wondering if there's a way to make the documentary thing work.

I do love news first and foremost and would be wiling to move to a smaller market for awhile but true, it is a very young business. There are probably not that many pure shooters left I would guess also, mostly OMBs especially in that market. And at this point I don't even have a saleable demo for news.

Another approach might be to somehow position myself where news is and tell stories through some other means - as in doing docs for nonprofits or organizations or somehow through my own projects. The dilemma is how to finance such an animal. Or perhaps with companies - but I'm sure it's probably impossible to get from (here) to PBS or Discovery. I"d love to be out filming the next Planet Earth, but that's not likely to happen and my work is also not at that level (yet).

I could do weddings for a year at most, but would prefer to find a way to make this other thing happen, now. It's really not optional at this point, just a question of how.

The adrift thing seems to be that there's a huge gap between here and there that I don't know how to fill in. There is a sense that i am heading in the wrong direction even with my attempts to re-enter the field.

>>"Those who lose dreaming are lost." << Yup.


Hey there GPS. I'm kinda doing the same thing. Only difference is I have a day job to pay the bills, which is a must these days because starting a business is often a losing proposition for the first year or two. But I *love* shooting news - always have. What I do know from last time I did it is that it takes a while to establish yourself with the stations and get them to pay you for the footage, especially if you're not using pro gear. I gave out freebies for a couple months to get them used to me.

One thing the internet has done since then though is make it possible for you to make money taking a picture of just about anything so long as you're a competent photographer and are shooting on decent gear. There are plenty of stock footage sites out there and I know at least one (shutterstock) is taking video now. I'm going to be using my new camera mainly for this purpose and then also shoot news footage for fun and a little extra coin. I'm also going to be chasing the summer storms out here and may even take a trip out to the midwest every spring to get some tornado footage to sell.

The good news is you don't need to do much to start out shooting news footage as a stringer. You need a car, a scanner, a phone and a camera. That's it. Hear something on the scanner, get in the car, shoot it with the camera and call the stations on the phone. That's all there is to it. And it is a BLAST. I loved every minute of it and have missed it ever since I sold the big news camera and went back to an office job. But it takes some time to get established and until you do, you'll have to prove yourself to the stations day in and day out. Do it long enough and well enough though, and you can make a decent living on it. I did.

Good luck! Let us know how you make out.


Thank you CSpotNews,
I wasn't aware that stations used freelancers? Is this common? I was under the impression that pretty much all shooters were staff (except maybe for tornado chasers - that's pretty brave).
I don't know if it's okay to ask this, but what would be an appropriate charge for that in a medium market?
WHen you show up with a camera to an emergency and are not from an official news station, how do you explain your presence?
I also never thought of shooting stock, thanks for the idea.


So what's the best approach? Right now the goal is, 1) build a general video business or 2) move for a news job, and then definitely within two years, be making documentaries. I guess I should start with a demo...


Well-known member
GPS...before you even begin to establish a business you need to assess your skills as a producer, shooter, editor, and businessperson. Do it on a scale of one to ten...with one being "I know what that is" and ten being the person who is at the summit of their career in that category.

If you have too many 3s or 4s or even 5s this may be a dream but you most likely need to work on the areas you are weak in while working a job that pays the bills. Become a weekend warrior and push your passion and learning in your off hours. Because frankly there are a lot of folks who have this dream and no abilities or desire to work to become better...the field is overcrowded and people are willing to cut prices just to get gigs.

And documentaries? That is everyone's dream...that area is not impossible but improbably unless you have connections or at the top of your game.

If all of your news work twenty years ago was inside...not outside...think about what it was that you did. (Actually that was a question I had for you - what DID you do in news?) How do those skills relate to what you want to do now. And twenty years? Are those skills even relevant now?

The demo is, as you said, key. But making the demo requires you to decide what field it will be in. If weddings, shoot a few free weddings. If'll probably need to both string and find a reporter or student willing to do some spec shoots on stories with you on your own time/dime. Even at that you'll have to head to an under 100 market. And documentaries (see above) are a work of passion and dedication but generally not one that pays or pays well enough to support you.

That's the reality and my take on it. I don't mean to depress you, but if you can realistically assess yourself and take steps to improve and do the demo reel and keep plugging you may well make it. I wish you well.


Hmmm... good questions Cyndy.

it's hard to rate yourself, but I'll give it a shot.

producer 7
shooter 6 with the potential for 10 (I am working on a lot of shooting issues now and improving things that weren't working)
editor 6
businessperson 8

I did just shoot two free weddings, and am in the process of editing them now to get the demos up. The other demos, I'd like to have documentary-style/storytelling and also maybe do some creative shooting to showcase also. So there would be a variety to show. I guess I put documentaries and news in sort of the same category - same style, one is just longer. I'd actually love to work for a station in a small market for some experience learning to tell a story. Not sure though if there are even any jobs left that don't include being on-camera/OMB.
Really, if you were to sum it up, what I love is the storytelling. Seems like there must be a way to get out there and put some things together and do that, to get some demos up to even shop to a news station.

The old news experience was just basic studio - camera, some graphics, occasional floor directing etc. It's not that relevant to where I'm going now except for the understanding of the business it provided.

Necktie Boy

Well-known member

I don't want to rain on your parade, but it seems most of your experience is in the studio. And that sounds limited. Usually, if you work in the studio setting, Production Tech, the way is via the control room. Moving up to run the sound board, graphics, playback, directing, being the TD, or the Production Manager.

If you wanted to be a news shooter or editor, you had your foot in the door. You were halfway there. You could have asked the news director or Photo Chief to give you a chance to out in the field. Now, you are on the outside, trying to get back inside.

I used to do weddings as the b-cam. Pay wasn't that great, but my arrangement was good. I didn't get rich, but it did pay some bills. But I didn't live by wedding along. I did shoot other video projects to pay the bills.

I don't understand how your first video business went sour? What type of video production were you trying to do? My buddy's company did do weddings on the weekends, but he doing the week, he did corporate, commercials, and other video projects. He didn't specialized in one type of production.

I like Cyndy suggestion about rating yourself. I think 8 for business is tad high since your first business tanked. Same deal for the producer rating. Producers work the money, or when I was producing, manage the money. Can't comment of editing or shooting since it would be unfair to judge without seeing your work.

I am a little surprised that you don't know about stringers? Not all markets have them, but they are around, and depends on market.

Finally, it seems that you are trying to take one giant step instead on baby steps. I may be wrong, but the way you have presented yourself, doesn't show 20 years of experience.


Thanks Necktie Boy,
The first business went sour I believe more because of the product demand than my marketing. I was trying to do life stories and and tributes and it was difficult to find people who were willing to pay for the time involved in putting something like that together. It was also a luxury item at the time of the economic crash in 2007-8. But you learn from everything, even a tanked business. So it is not wasted.

I rated 8 as a businessperson mostly because I am comfortable being independent, taking the initiative, marketing. I have been self employed most of my life. I did not rate a 10 because I struggle with networking and am a tad shy around it, and that needs to improve.

The other ratings were low based on lack of experience. I do believe the ability is there and I am in the process of looking at former work I didn't care for and improving upon the issues that need attention, and also increasing skills (i.e. Avid).
As for producing, that was interpreted as my ability to manage aspects of a project as an independent, not experience in a newsroom - I did not do any producing in the newsroom. Just was a low level production person. And yes, I blew it by leaving - water under the bridge, but a big regret in hindsight. I didn't really aspire to being in the control room - always wanted to get either into the editing suite or out in the field. My real love is shooting, editing, learning to tell a story, and graphics - not directing,news producing or TDing - and I really was not suited to those positions and knew it.

So that's what I don't have. What DO i have? I'm independent right now, I'm a free agent, I do have usable equipment and skills, some business experience, the ability to move if necessary, a computer to look for grants, jobs, etc, the ability to write, shoot, and edit, even if ti's not Planet Earth, I'm not afraid of the ups and downs of self employment, tenacity, perseverance, I do have some issues with an elderly parent but for the time being am unbound to circumstances, mortgage, family, although that could change.

What's still missing (but in progress) : Concrete things to market. Demos (wedding demos are in progress but documentary demos are still missing), skills are passable but can still be improved , money, Avid, After Effects, networking (needs to be rebuilt), a degree to really get even more knowledgeable about history, science, world events etc (but that is a long-term goal). And my plan needs to be more concrete (hence this thread).
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Necktie Boy

Well-known member

Thanks for giving us more information. I know it hard to do what you are doing.

Yes, you do learn from your mistakes. You did find out what most of us know, "difficult to find people who were willing to pay for the time involved in putting something like that together." The CraigList of full on them.

I never produced a news cast. I had to co-produce a half hour weekly sport show for the station I worked for. Produced projects at my city position, and produced freelance projects. I had to manage time and money within the given limits. As you can see, I had my hand in plenty of different projects.

Why didn't you jump departments when you were at the station? At my first entertainment job, it was an entry level position, and we all knew that it was the stepping stone to better things. But everyone knew in the company, and helps us out.

There was a very good article in VideoMaker on how to gain experience in the television field. If you have a public access or government channel, they may need volunteers, or even pay to learn. It may sound like a big step back, but you would be able to improve your shooting and editing since projects vary. You could go out a news story one day. The next day do a football game. If you have a junior college around that offers video classes, another way to learn and improve. I went back and learn PhotoShop, Shake, and After Effects that way.

You mentioned that you are not happy with your current demo's. I don't think anyone is really happy with their demo's. You should have some useable footage from the life stories? Other projects that you did. I took Cyndy's advice and create a web site. Word of mouth wasn't working for me. Now, I have site with information about me and demo's. I am updating my site since I hate my demo's....hehehe

If you really willing to move to find a job in small market, they are out there. I did work in a small market, but I did encounter some resistance since I did have some experience.

Just do your homework by checking their sites, and see what is available.


So what's the best approach? Right now the goal is, 1) build a general video business or 2) move for a news job, and then definitely within two years, be making documentaries. I guess I should start with a demo...
If shooting a documentary is your ultimate goal, then why spend a ton of time and money on something else first? I recommend taking a look at You'll need to create a trailer for your idea and come up with various rewards you can provide in addition to the finished product, but other than that, the world can be your oyster (and your funding source for the project). Here's an example:
I think you should definitely look into it if shooting a documentary is what you ultimately want to do. That might give you a fast track to go right into what you want to be doing instead of hoping someday you'll have a business that can pay the bills AND run itself without you AND pay for documentary films too. That sounds like a pretty tall order to me and it sounds like it would be several years (if ever) before you could shoot your first documentary.

Again, good luck! Keep us posted on your progress.


Well-known member
Have fun with that kickstarter campaign. If you are producing a documentary you'll need a strong video and some b-roll of your topic.

F4 Fan

Well-known member
How's it going?

I know this is an older thread and I'm just curious as to how your journey is going?

There is some fantastic, practical advice here. If you may, let me offer a few other suggestions. As has been mentioned, try volunteering at the local public access or community television station. Use to be there were all sorts of folks who had ideas for documentary style shows - and they always needed an extra hand shooting, running audio or setting up lights.

Contact local video/production companies in your area. DO NOT offer to work for free for these businesses. They are getting paid by a client and so should you. Yes you may do weddings or events but you can gain a lot of experience quickly, and hone both your shooting and editing skills. I have seen some beautiful work done on wedding videos - study these when you can. The web is full of examples.

You will not survive doing documentaries - especially as an independent. I work for a large, well known network - I've worked on our docs. A tremendous amount of work goes into a 60 minutes show that may win some awards but generally only airs a handful of times with a decreasing audience at each showing. And those Discovery Channel/National Geo docs - sometimes done by staff, but generally shot by freelancers using their own equipment worth hundred of thousands of dollars. As satisfying as it may sound to be a "documentary film-maker" it rarely pays the bills.

It is important to scratch the itch you have but sometimes the best stories are the ones in your own backyard.