Interior Designer

Finding Familiarity in the Design Process

Last week, I discussed how pleased I’ve been with my interior design course and the amount of depth we’re going into on the actual process of working with a client. In fact, for our final project — which we will work on throughout the entire semester — we are tasked with choosing someone in our life to be a fake client and then working with them on redesigning the room of their choice.

My brother-in-law and sister-in-law, Rory and Melanie, have agreed to be my fake clients. They moved into a new apartment a couple of months ago, and it’s still very much a blank slate. When working with an interior design client, one of the first steps is meeting with them and asking a lot of questions to understand more about their lifestyle, how the room will be used, design styles and preferences, etc.

This past weekend, I met with Rory and Melanie in their apartment to find out more about what they’re looking for in their redesigned room. I had prepared a number of questions, but I also knew that other questions would naturally come up throughout the conversation.

The discussion came easy and was really enjoyable. It was fun getting to know them and their style a bit more. And it was satisfying when I brought up points they hadn’t even thought of.

Floor plan sketch and notes
It all starts with identifying needs

I’m sure a lot of the ease I felt during this first meeting stemmed from my familiarity with this stage of the process. Before I worked in marketing at Facebook, I was in business development at an advertising agency. In that role, I performed what’s often termed ‘consultative sales’ — I worked with clients to understand their specific needs and then put together a custom advertising plan for them. So, as you can see, very similar to the interior design process!

My meeting with Rory and Melanie brought back memories of this former role and how much I loved that part of the job. It was the phase where I got to build rapport with my client; I got to ask the right questions and listen; and, like a puzzle or code, I got to interpret and surface the needs. I got particular satisfaction from working with clients who weren’t very good at articulating what exactly they were looking for, which forced me to really work hard asking the right questions and sometimes reading between the lines in order to uncover the heart of their problem or need.

During this phase of the process, there is often a spirit of collaboration, inspiration, and creativity. No matter what career path I end up choosing, I can see myself craving this type of needs interpretation & analysis and the creative problem-solving that follows.

As I continue with this class project, it will be interesting to see how much of the design process mirrors my past client management experiences. It’s nice to realize that although I may be new to the interior design field, I’m already ahead of the curve when it comes to the skills exercised when working with clients.

Interior Designer

The Business of Interior Design

I’m three weeks into my Introduction to Interior Design class and have been pleasantly surprised with how much we’re focusing on the actual business side of the profession. From first meeting with a client and discussing their needs to figuring out your fee schedule and how you’ll bill, the course has provided great insights into the day-to-day of a interior designer.

This has brought up an interesting question — if I decide to pursue a career in interior design, will I want to work for a design firm or run my own business?

For years, I’ve dabbled with the idea of being an entrepreneur. There’s something alluring about being able to set your own schedule and choose your own work. Of course, I’m sure part of that is more romantic fantasy rather than brutal reality. I know that running your own business can mean working longer hours and constantly trying to drum up new work. But there’s also such a feeling of accomplishment I see from business owners.

Independent Designer vs. Design Firm

Woman holding up floor plan
To own or not to own?

Looking at the entire design process, there are a number of differences between running your own interior design business and working in a design firm.

First, there is finding the client. Working in a firm, I imagine that clients are typically assigned to you. Yes, you may have the opportunity to bring in your own clients, but I’m not sure if there is the responsibility to do so. Related to that, I imagine large firms have an entire marketing team dedicated to promoting the business. As a business owner, marketing and sales would all fall to me, and especially in the beginning, I imagine this would take up a big part of my time. I think as an independent interior designer, you ideally get to the point where referrals alone fill up your schedule, and you can spend much more of your time on actual design work.

Second is meeting with the client and understanding their needs. This is a stage where I’m sure the process is pretty much the same. Whether you’re working as an independent designer or part of a design firm, this is the step where you will be asking the client questions about their lifestyle, their needs for the room(s) they’re looking to design, their style preferences, etc. This is also the meeting where you would typically start by presenting and reviewing the Letter of Agreement/contract, which outlines the services that will be provided and how the project will be billed. While a designer in a firm probably has a legal department to prepare at least the template for this document, an independent business owner will need to put together this document on their own, including setting their own fees.

The rest of the design process is probably similar between the two work environments. The designer needs to make initial sketches, research furniture and furnishing solutions, have renderings prepared, and present their design proposal to the client. Some of the work during this phase — such as furniture floor plans or 3D renderings — may often be completed by a specialist. Working in a firm that specialist is likely just a different department within the firm, while an independent interior designer would need to outsource that work or do it themselves. However, one big thing in common between the two designers is the importance of tracking their hours. Whether you hire a design firm or an independent designer, it’s likely that most of the work will be billed hourly, so detailed time-tracking is imperative for a designer.

Execution of the design follows the approval of the proposed solution. Implementation of a interior design (e.g. painting, light installation, furniture placement, or even wall removal) will always be done by a contractor. As an independent interior designer, you will make it clear in your Letter of Agreement that the contractor needs to be hired directly by the client. A designer can give recommendations, but it is ultimately up to the client to select and hire the contractor. The interior designer will not oversee the contractor but will sporadically pop by to make sure the design is being executed according to plan. If something is amiss, the designer will report that to the client, not the contractor, since it is the client that has the business relationship with the contractor. Some large firms will have a team in charge of execution of the design, so I imagine that there could be a freer flow of communication between the designer and contractor.

Once the design is complete, there is the post-occupancy evaluation. Whether you are an independent interior designer or work in a design firm, you will typically visit the client a few weeks after the execution of the design is complete in order to check in on how the new space is working. This is also a good time to ask the client permission to photograph the room for inclusion in a portfolio or as part of promotional materials. While a design firm would have a marketing department to take care of this photoshoot, an independent designer would need to hire the photographer themselves.

Throughout this entire process, there is also billing. A design firm probably has a billing department who can handle reminding clients of their next payment, while an independent designer would need to manage that themselves.

So, what’ll it be?

It’s clear that running my own interior design business could offer maximum flexibility with the type of projects I want to take on and how much I want to work. But it would also mean a lot more of my time might be dedicated to administrative tasks vs. designing.

There’s also the start-up costs of running a business — getting a business license, creating business cards, setting up a website, etc. One option is working for a firm to get experience, make connections and build a portfolio and then branching off to start my own business.

I’m going to keep both options open and try to interview different people working in the field to get more understanding of their experiences.

Content Creator

Further Thoughts on Content Creation

Over the last few months, I’ve had the opportunity to work on a number of content projects, from the writing to podcasts to video. I’ve worked both independently and as part of a team.

There have been some interesting learnings surrounding the process of creating content, as well as a number of revelations with regards to the types and parts of content creation that I’ve found most energizing and fulfilling.

Medium

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, when I first added ‘Content Creator’ to my list of careers to explore, I was mostly inspired by my favorite YouTube channels; thus, I had the medium of video in mind. It’s the type of content that I consume most often, so when I put myself in the creator’s shoes, it only seemed natural that I’d gravitate toward video. However, I’ve also worked on other content formats.

Video

I’ve had the opportunity to be part of the crew for a number of short films, and I always find those days invigorating and great learning experience. I’ve even tried my hand at producing a couple of videos myself. However, I got stalled during the editing phase and haven’t found myself compelled to finish.

This has me a little surprised. Am I not passionate about video creation? Am I hitting a mental roadblock because it’s so new to me? I want to see my independent video projects through to the end and assess once I look at the final product. But I also need to prepare myself for the fact that video may just not be my preferred medium.

I’ve worked on the crew of larger film projects as well as worked independently on my on videos.

Podcasts

Podcasting was not a content format I expected to explore. While I listen to podcasts, I’ve never seriously pursued making one myself. It was really by chance that I got involved with my friends’ podcast.

And it’s been so fun to work on! I think it’s a really interesting medium — a great way to reach a wide audience and a compelling storytelling and entertainment mechanism. I’m not in a hurry to create and host my own podcast, but I really enjoy working as a larger team to produce one.

Working as a producer for the podcast involves a lot of planning and organizing, and it’s so fun seeing it all come together.

Writing

What has been so unexpected during this sabbatical is how energizing and fulfilling writing has been.

Those who know me well might be surprised by that statement. “But Laura, you’ve always been such a good writer!” Yes, I agree that I have a talent for writing. In fact, a lot of my former jobs involved a lot of writing.

But I always felt like writing was such a drawn out and laborious process for me. It took me a long time to even get started on each writing assignment. I obsessed over the right wording. I second guessed whether the final product was good enough.

However, throughout this sabbatical, I’ve had the opportunity to do true creative writing. I get to own the topic. I get to choose the style. Essentially, my writing during this time has reflected my true self. And the words have just flowed.

I never expected to get into script-writing but it’s a form of creative writing and storytelling that I really enjoy.

Independent vs. Team

My initial vision of the career Content Creator was a very solitary, independent role. I imagined conceiving, planning, filming and editing original videos all on my own. It’s not that I prefer to work alone; quite the opposite — in my past jobs, I always relished team projects. But I assumed I would gravitate toward solo content projects for the complete creative control it offers.

In practice, however, I’ve had a lot of revelations when it comes to the team dynamic with content creation. First, media like video and podcasts are almost impossible to do 100% alone. For my videos, for example, while I planned, scripted, organized and even edited on my own, when it came to filming, I needed to enlist Ryan as my cameraman. Of course, there are certain styles of videos I could do alone, but more sophisticated videos require some sort of crew.

But more than what can or cannot be done alone, there’s also the question of how I enjoy working. And in general, I feel like I’ve had a lot more fun working on content projects as part of a team. The podcast has been an absolute thrill to work on. We all have our separate specialties but aren’t so strict with the duties, and we all come together to get the work done.

I think one exception to this dynamic is writing. Maybe because there are a lot less moving pieces, but for the writing projects I’ve done, I find it easier to work alone.

Parts of the Process

Content projects like videos and podcasts have a lot of steps in the process, and I’ve had exposure to all of those phases. So, it’s been interesting to reflect on the aspects I’ve found most fulfilling to work on.

And I almost begrudgingly admit that I actually really enjoy … the planning process!

It’s probably the least sexy, driest part of content creation, so I assumed this would be stage I enjoyed the least. But I get such satisfaction out of finding order in the many things that need to get done. I’ve always been good at organizing and putting together plan, and it’s been interesting to realize how energizing I find it.

Moving Forward

Given my fulfillment from planning and the energy I get from working with a team, I think I will seek out more opportunities to work as a producer on creative projects.

Additionally, whether or not it ends up being a career, I want to continue to explore writing. Maybe a feature-length script is in my future. Or even a book!

Interior Designer

Interior Design Careers

I’m one week into my interior design courses, and my eyes have already been opened to a much bigger world than I expected. When people think about interior designers, they might just picture professionals picking out pretty furniture and accessories for the home. And yes, residential design is an avenue one can go down. But the field includes a plethora of positions, including many interesting specialties.

Here are a just a few of the many careers one can pursue after studying interior design:

Kitchen & Bath Specialist

kitchen
Kitchen and bath design requires special technical knowledge.

With plumbing, ventilation, and gas needs, kitchen and baths are rooms that require special technical knowledge when it comes to design. That is why you will have find interiors designers who specialize in kitchens and/or baths.

In fact, there is a separate professional organization dedicated to this speciality, the National Kitchen & Bath Association (NKBA). This organization administers their own exam, which paired with professional experience, distinguishes someone as a Certified Kitchen Designer (CKD), Certified Bath Design (CBD) or both (CKBD). Cañada College offers a special Kitchen and Bath Design Certificate.

Kitchens are probably one of, if not the most renovated room in a home, so I can see the advantage of specializing in that area of design.

Home Stager

Staged home
Home staging often gives real estate a competitive advantage.

Home stagers furnish properties that are on the market so that potential buyers can better picture themselves in the home. Because it needs to appeal to a wide variety of people, these designs are often less personal than traditional residential design.

With real estate so hot in the Bay Area market, the home staging business is booming. My professor informed us that she has a lot of home staging companies reaching out looking for new hires.

Cañada College offers a special Home Staging Certificate.

Color Consultant

Color can have a huge impact in a room.

For those with a really good eye for color, there is an opportunity to specialize in color design. Some interior designers enlist the services of a separate color consultant to find just the right hues for their project.

Color consultants can also work directly with clients looking to, say, repaint their home but who are having a hard time deciding on the right color. Color consultants might also work on the home decor or furniture supplier side, specializing in textiles.

Lighting Designer

lighting
Lighting is an important element in the home.

Requiring both aesthetic instinct and electrical knowledge, it’s no surprise that lighting design is a separate specialty. Lighting designers can keep up with the latest trends and technologies, bringing expert knowledge to this essential element in the home.

Aesthetically and viscerally, lighting design can help distinguish spaces, highlight areas of focus, and set the mood for a space. On the more practical side, lighting design which employs the most up-to-date technologies can also help curb energy costs for a homeowner.

Space Planner

floorplan of office
Offices and other commercial spaces require thoughtful space planning for optimal utility.

A space planner is responsible for diagramming how an interior space should be organized to create an optimal balance of space and utility. Their services are particularly sought out for office and retail spaces, rather than residential spaces.

Sometimes a space planner’s job is done after the drafting is complete, and they do not need to oversee the actual execution of the plan.

Commercial Designer

restaurant interior
From restaurants to medical facilities, commercial design is a booming field.

This is an umbrella term for interior design for businesses (so essentially, non-residential design). Professionals in this area will almost always work for a design firm. And often, these design firms will specialize in an area within commercial design, such as:

  • Hospitality design – hotels, cruise ships, restaurants
  • Medical facilities – hospitals, clinics, other care facilities
  • Retail – boutiques, department stores, shopping malls
  • Office design

Because these spaces are used by a wide variety of people, designs are often less personal, which some designers may find creatively stifling. It also requires a lot more knowledge of codes, particularly for things like accessibility.

And unlike residential design, this area of interior design almost always requires working with a large number of stakeholders, which can be a little frustrating.

However, there is huge opportunity in this arena and it can be an area of interior design that is quite lucrative.

Keeping my options open

As I continue with my courses this semester, I want to continue to explore these various paths within the interior design field. Luckily, if I decide to continue with Cañada College’s Interior Design certificate program, there are a number of classes which provide a deep dive into many of these specialities.

If I do decide to pursue interior design, it will be interesting to see if there is an area that I find particularly fulfilling and want to specialize in, or if I would prefer being more of a generalist. Only time will tell!

Interior Designer

Back to School

My textbooks are packed, my outfit picked out. That’s right — it’s the first day of school!

textbooks
Textbooks are just as expensive as ever.

This winter and spring, I am taking a couple of introductory interior design courses to learn more about the career. I hope to not only get an overview of the ins and outs of being an interior designer, but also get some insights into the various ways to make a living in this field.

I have been interested in interior design for years. I grew up on home improvement and design shows. As an art history major, I learned to appreciate the beauty and thoughtfulness in space design. More than anything, I love that interior design is not just about picking out pretty things; it’s about creating an environmental experience.

Find the right learning resource

A few years ago, my interest in interior design had grown enough that I started researching certificate programs. As with any design field, experience and a portfolio is key, and I figured that a structured program would provide not only the education, but an opportunity to build up a portfolio through sample projects.

A quick online search of “interior design certificate programs bay area” quickly netted me this San Francisco Chronicle article titled “So you want to be an interior designer”. The article gives an overview of a number of academic institutions throughout the Bay area that offer interior design education. That’s how I found Cañada College’s interior design program.

At a fraction of the cost of, say, UC Berkeley Extension’s interior design certificate, completion of Cañada’s program fulfills the educational requirement for the IDEX exam to become a Certified Interior Designer (CID) in California. And according to the article, a typical student as Cañada College is “older, often with a degree in another field, and often with an already established career.” Indeed, that is reflected in their class schedule — most classes are just one day a week for three hours, with many courses having an evening option.

My classes

I decided to start with two introductory classes as part of Cañada’s interior design certificate program. I thought this would allow me to get a good overview of the field while not committing too much time or money. And if I do decide this is a career I want to pursue, I can go on to complete the certificate program through Cañada College and already have two classes under my belt.

Introduction to Interior Design

Examination of the interior built environment with emphasis on residential design. The elements and principles of design along with historical and cultural influences are examined as they relate to the functional and aesthetic aspects of interior spaces. Students develop skills in critical analysis of interiors and create individual solutions through design projects.

Interior Architectural Drafting

Introduction to the tools and techniques for drafting interior spaces. Emphasis is on creating a set of architectural drawings using hand drafting standards and techniques as related to producing interior architectural drawings.

New for the sabbatical

In addition to moving on to a new career as part of this exploration process, I am also trying a new approach to my research. It will be interesting to see if I get more out of this very structured learning, as I delve into a new field. I’ll report back within the next few weeks with my first impressions on the classes.

Content Creator, Video Producer

Making a Video, Part 4: The Trials and Tribulations of Editing

We’re back with another update on the saga of producing my own video!

After planning out my script and shots and then shooting all of the footage, my video project was stalled while I waited for my computer to be upgraded with enough memory to download the editing program and handle all of the video files. In the meantime, I did take the opportunity to film a second video, using a lot of learnings from my initial shoot.

Well, my computer finally got upgraded and I was able to dive into editing.

Syncing video and audio

After waiting so long to get started on post-production, once my computer was upgraded, I was raring to go … and immediately hit a snag.

Because my camera doesn’t have an audio input (it only has the option to use the built-in microphone) but I wanted to use a better microphone, we ended up recording audio on a separate device as the video. That meant, in post-production, one of the first steps was sync up those video and audio files.

I am using Adobe Premiere to edit the video. When I inserted a video file and audio file into the editing bay to line them up, I ran into issues with getting a true sync on some clips because when I would drag, say, the audio file to try to match the video, it would snap to a grid and not be completely lined up.

You can drag your audio and video lines separately, but it’s hard to make a small movement because it snaps to the grid up top.

My husband ended up synching all of the video and audio files on his computer using Logic and then transferred the new clips to my machine. Some of the original clips I left as-is because there is no accompanying audio, but rather, I will be adding voiceover or music in those sections.

Adjusting file formats

With the video and audio synced, I was ready to jump back into editing … and once again stumbled.

When I added the freshly synced clips to the video project in Premiere, the video would not play back, and instead all I saw was a green screen. The clips that were not altered played back just fine. All clips were .mov files, so it was a little perplexing why I would have the issue with the synced clips but not the unsynced clips.

A friend suggested that working with mp4 files was probably better. I converted one of the synced clips into an mp4 file, and that solved the video playback issue. Then I had to go through the slow process of converting all of the files to the new format.

I used VLC to convert my files from MOV to mp4.

It’s like the starting pistol had gone off only to discover my running shoes were stuck in tar.

Dealing with playback lag

Audio and video synced … check.

Formats displaying properly in the editor … check.

With my shoes unstuck from the tar, I was ready to sprint to the editing finish line … only to trip over the first hurdle.

Using Adobe Premiere is pretty easy and relatively user-friendly. You start by adding your media (clips) to your project.

Add your media files from your computer or directly from your camera.

Your uploaded clips are now in your project assets, and then it’s as simple as dragging and dropping the clip you want to work with into the editing bay.

Drag clips from the Project Assets folder into your desired location in the video timeline.

Once placed in the timeline, you can play your clip and decide where you want to cut it. Making cuts is as easy as dragging from either ends of the clip.

Drag from either end of the video clip to trim to your desired length.

But this is where I’ve run into some issues. Once I edit a clip, suddenly the playback is very choppy, with lags in the video. This makes it close to impossible to see if I actually like the way I’ve edited the clip.

I’m still trying to troubleshoot this issue, but in the meantime, I’m powering through. However, it’ll probably be a long process.

Good learnings despite technology issues

Sometimes shorter is better

Just as a picture is worth a thousand words, a 1-2 second video clip can go a long way. When we shot our original footage, particularly the B-roll that will be used under voiceover, we did these long shots. Once I got into editing, I realized that I only needed a few seconds of each clip to create my visual narrative.

Plan your edits like you plan your shots

One thing the playback lag has forced me to do is be a little more thoughtful in my editing plan. Because I can’t easily just trim and test, I’ve had to view my original clips in a separate video player and then make notes of sections I might want to include, and what I would want to cut away to in between those sections. It’s been a good exercise in trying to visualize ahead of time the final product I’m looking for.

The magic of storytelling is editing

Creative editing and combinations of clips has opened up what I can do with my visual narrative. For example, for the food video, we set up the camera and just let it run while I ate the meal and gave natural commentary. There are some good bits, but taken as a whole, there are lot of awkward silences throughout the video. However, by taking the clips that work and splicing in cuts from other footage, suddenly I have a snappy storyline.

I cut different sections of the “Laura Eats” clip and combined it with cuts from other clips.

Next Steps

I’m going to trying editing in a different program, like iMovie, to see if I have better luck with the preview playback. If I still run into issues, I’ll have to go through the long arduous process of troubleshooting.

It’s been a little frustrating that technology has been such a barrier to this phase of the filmmaking process. I feel like I have the artistic vision in mind, but I’m handcuffed by technical issues.

I hope to be back with more updates once the technical issues are resolved!

Content Creator

We’re Making a Podcast!

A couple of months ago, I wrote about being brought on as the producer for my friends’ new podcast, Bring Your Own Movie. After working with them to understand their ideas and goals for the podcast, I set out to create a detailed project plan that would get us from concept to launch.

We then spent the next two months preparing and getting things in order to record our first few episodes:

  • Confirming the episode format
  • Obtaining the necessary recording equipment
  • Selecting and scheduling the first few guests
  • Creating our episode prep checklist and assigning duties

Well, this past Sunday, we recorded our first official episode!

Armed with Belvedere martinis, the crew discusses The Shining with guest Carla Lee.

The concept for the podcast: Each episode, co-hosts Tonya Narvaez and Sam Bertken, along with audio engineer and permanent guest host (and my husband) Ryan Lee Short, invite a guest to talk about their favorite movie. For this episode, the crew discussed The Shining with guest Carla Lee, producer and head writer for sketch comedy company Nice Tan.

Oh, and there’s drinking involved, of course. Over drinks, the group talks about the featured movie, their impressions, and any personal connection they have to the film. And there’s also a rousing (and alcohol-laden) round of trivia.

In preparation for each episode, the entire team does background research on the film — when it was released, who directed and starred, reactions from critics and audiences, and interesting facts. As producer, I also research and come up with all the trivia questions, which I then share with that episode’s trivia master. Oh, and of course, we all watch the movie being featured, noting our own thoughts and reactions.

On the logistical side, for each episode, we secure a recording location and schedule the guest. We also purchase the alcohol (in addition to their favorite movie, the guest also tells us their favorite alcoholic drink) and snacks (key during the sobering up phase).

I am happy to report that our first recording went incredibly smoothly!

Toasting to a successful first episode!
From left to right: audio engineer Ryan Lee Short, guest Carla Lee, co-host Sam Bertken and co-host Tonya Narvaez.

During the recording, I took notes of points where we might want to make cuts to the episodes. I also noted areas of improvement for the subsequent episodes. Next steps for the episode are recording a voiceover for the intro and editing the episode.

With our first episode recorded and the recording process and checklist ironed out, I can now move on to tackling the items we need to address for the public launch, such as:

  • Choosing a media hosting service
  • Setting up our website
  • Creating the cover art
  • Putting together a social media strategy and promotion plan

Our plan is to record three more episodes so we have them queued up and ready to go when we officially launch around the time of the Oscars. This podcast is going to be hilarious and entertaining, and I’m so excited for the launch next month!

Career Exploration, Reflections

Year-End Review

It's been a busy year!

With 2018 coming to a close, it seemed like a good time to look back on the first 2 ½ months of my sabbatical and reflect on what I’ve experienced and learned.

This fall, I mainly focused on careers related to the online and digital space:

  • Web Developer
  • Video Producer
  • Content Creator

My exploration was mainly self-led, relying on free online resources, as well as training from friends. I enjoyed having the flexibility to own my schedule and to jump between the different career areas. However, I did find there were certain weeks where I wasn’t as productive as I’d hoped.

Here are some highlights:

Web Development

I started my sabbatical exploring web development, through FreeCodeCamp, a website with free online lessons. I breezed through the lessons, enjoying the interactive element to each lesson.

I completed all of the lessons in the Responsive Web Design certification area. However, when it came to the sample projects, I had a hard time getting through them. I found I hadn’t retained that much information and constantly had to go look up how to do things. But more than that, I just didn’t find the projects very fulfilling to work on. I found myself just doing the bare minimum requirements to get the project done and wasn’t inspired to go above and beyond with set-up or styling.

I do think it’s useful to have basic web development knowledge, and I could see myself doing some part-time web development work. However, I don’t think I would get enough creative fulfillment out of being a fulltime web developer.

Video Producer

I had the chance to work on a film shoot, as well as try my hand as producing my own video. I also got a great filmmaking 101 lesson, where I learned everything from pre-production and planning to using a camera and editing.

It’s been interesting — and at times surprising — to see which elements of the video production process I’ve particularly enjoyed. For example, I found that I have a talent for and really like script-writing; since the Four Points Film Project (for which I helped write lyrics), I’ve written two short-film scripts. I also loved set dressing, which I suppose shouldn’t have been that surprising since I do have interior design as a career area of interest.

I definitely need more hands-on experience, and I’m excited to continue to explore video production, even if it ends up being just a hobby. My next steps here are to continue to get more production experience and to build up a portfolio.

Content Creation

This has been the area of career exploration that has been the most varied because there are so many different outlets and media for content creation.

When I first listed this career, I was focused on video content creation, so obviously there’s a huge overlap with my exploration into being a video producer. I analyzed my favorite YouTube channels, picking out elements that I particularly liked and would want to include in my own videos. I even started working on my very own video, which is currently on hold as I wait to upgrade the storage on my computer so that I can start editing. And I’ve created a plan for a whole series of food-related videos, the first of which I’ll be shooting this weekend.

I also worked on a content medium I didn’t expect to when I first started this journey – podcasting. After volunteering to help a couple of friends produce their new movie-themed podcast, I learned a lot about putting together and managing a project plan for the podcast launch. In fact, we are recording our first episodes starting in January, aiming for a launch around the Oscars. I’ve really enjoyed working with a team on this creative project.

Finally, I’ve kept up this blog! I’m proud that I’ve been able to regularly post two times each week. There have definitely been a lot of learnings and a lot that I could do better. But at the very least, I’ve reaffirmed how much I really do enjoy writing, when it’s a topic I’m passionate about.

Even if I don’t end up being a fulltime, paid content creator, I think this will be an element or at least a side project of any career I pursue. For example, if I end of being an interior designer, I could see myself also having a blog or video series about home decor and design tips.

What’s Next?

I will continue to explore video production and content creation because, as I mentioned above, even if those don’t end up being careers, they are hobbies I really enjoy.

However, this winter, I see myself shifting into the home-related careers:

  • Interior Designer
  • Furniture Upcycler
  • Real Estate Agent

I’ve signed up for a couple of courses through Cañada College’s Interior Design Certificate Program, and I’ll be starting classes in mid-January. I’m excited to go back to school again! This will be a much more structured approach to career exploration, and I’m interested to see if I get more out of it.

For furniture upcycler, I’ll probably try my hand at giving new life to existing pieces we have or free furniture we find. I think this could also be a good overlap with video production and/or content creation, as I can create a video or write a blog about the upcycling process.

I’ll need to do a little research about the best way to get a taste of the real estate world. This may be a career area where interviewing people in the field could be the most fruitful first step.

And that’s actually a good segue for another big sabbatical goal in 2019: connect with and interview more people who work in the various career areas I’m interested in.

It’s been a great first few months. I’ve learned a lot — not just about the careers I’m exploring, but also about what I really want to prioritize in life and what fulfills me. I’m excited to continue this journey in the new year!

Actor, Video Producer

The Other Side of the Camera

For the last couple of months, I’ve been doing a lot of exploration into video production: planning a shoot, learning about the different equipment needed, editing the video. I’ve even had the opportunity to work on a full film shoot and try my hand at putting together my own video content.

Well, this past Sunday I found myself in another position – in front of the camera. I booked a small acting gig filming a training video to be used by the Stanford School of Law. I played a woman being interviewed for a job.

When you think about pursuing acting as a career, you probably think of three major outlets: feature film, television or theater. But in many cities — especially the Bay Area — there is a lot of opportunity for corporate or training videos.

About the gig

The process of booking this job was pretty easy. I’m a member of a number of Facebook groups where auditions are posted. These are mostly theater auditions, but you’ll occasionally see film auditions, as well. It was in one of these groups, that I saw a post about this video.

From there, I emailed the contact with my headshot and resume; eventually, it would be good to put together a reel of my on-screen work.

About a week later, the contact from the video production team reached out to those actors they were interested in with a script and asked us to film ourselves saying the lines so that the client (in this case, Stanford School of Law) could review and choose who they’d like cast. I’ve been on the other side of this when I helped manage some video production at Facebook; I remember listening to submissions for voiceover artists and choosing my favorites.

And then, a week after that video audition, I learned I was cast!

It was a short, two-page script, and it only required about 2.5 hours of my time. It paid $200, which is a decent rate. I’m not sure if these type of gigs pop up enough to make a full living from it, but it’s a good way to make some extra cash and could pair well with another part-time job.

Pursuing future gigs

I want to research more outlets for finding these types of video gigs. I’ll explore more Facebook groups for free postings. I know there is also SF Casting, which requires a paid membership.

It’s also good just to network and keep in contact with people you’ve worked with before. For this video shoot, the production team was really impressed with me (for most of my shots, we only had to do one take). I told them to keep in touch and let me know if they work on future videos where I might fit one of the roles.

I also want to set up my website and put together a reel, which will help when submitting myself for castings.

Learning more about video production

Though I was there as an actor, it was interesting doing a little reconnaissance from the video production standpoint. It was a pretty small production team — just three people. In addition to the shoot, the team was also in charge of putting together the script and working with the client to get approval. And I saw that they had also created storyboards, which I assume they also reviewed with the client.

For the equipment, they just had a DSLR camera with tripod (and different lenses), a shotgun mic hooked up to a recorder, and a couple of box lights. The cost of equipment does seem to be a barrier when starting your own video production company, so it was comforting to see that they were working with equipment that isn’t too expensive.

It was nice that this gig allowed me to explore two of the careers on my list — actor and video producer. Maybe my future path will see me on both sides of the camera!

Content Creator, Uncategorized, Video Producer

Making a Video, Part 2: Shooting

I'm ready for my close-up!

This past Sunday, my husband Ryan and I shot the first part of my DIY project video, featuring the handmade Christmas gifts we are making this year. Armed with the draft script and shot list I had put together earlier in the week, along with some basic equipment, we were ready to go!

Filming in workshop
I’m ready for my close-up!

Equipment

Since this is my first video shoot running on my own, and it was just two of us working on it, I kept the equipment pretty simple.

Nikon D3400 DSLR Camera

Nikon D3400 DSLR Camera

RØDE VideoMic

RØDE VideoMic

Tascam DR-07 Digital Recorder

TASCAM DR-07 Digital Recorder

Vidpro LED-330X Light

Vidpro LED-330X Light

Tripod

Vista Explorer Tripod

Organizing the shoot

We started with an overhead shot, featuring all of the supplies needed for the project. As you can see, this definitely required a lot of Macguyver-ing, as we didn’t have an overhead camera support, so we had to attach the camera to the tripod and then secure the tripod legs to a ladder.

Setting up overhead shot
Sometimes you have to get a little creative when setting up your shots.

From there, we shot the actual steps of completing the DIY project. Ryan had done a prototype of the project and talked me through steps, which is how I was able to write the initial script and create my shot list. Once in the actual space, I had Ryan walk through the actual motion of each step in order to figure the best angle to shoot and to light the shot.

While the narration of the video will be a voiceover and can thus be recorded separately, I did want to capture sounds of the tools, so we also recorded sound for those shots.

Learnings

This first project was a lot of fun. It definitely took longer than I expected, and we hit a few snags, but that all resulted in a lot of great lessons for my next video project

#1: Do a test project first

While I had a basic understanding of the steps in the DIY project before the video shoot, I wasn’t familiar with all the tools and how they worked. That meant setting up each shot took a long time, as I needed to first see the action and then decide on the best angle.

If I do future DIY videos, I’ll want to complete a test project before even writing the script so that I can prepare a more specific shot list and make the filming day go more quickly.

#2: Prioritize the video shoot (or accept that it will take longer)

The DIY project I’m featuring in this video is for actual Christmas gifts, and we are making ten of these items. So, obviously, that made the process longer because for each step, we worked on all ten. If I wanted to focus on just getting the video done, I could have gone through and made one item first and filmed that.

#3: Figure out where you can simplify

Another factor that slowed down the shooting process what that I was obsessing over all the details – getting exactly the right angle, setting the perfect lighting, trying to capture the sound of the tools, and getting multiple shots for certain actions to give myself options during the editing process.

It’s not necessarily a bad thing to care about those little details, but with this being my first video, I could have scaled back and really put my energy into one thing. Toward the end of our first shooting day, for example, we ended up ditching the Vidpro LED light and just used the existing environmental light. And I also scaled back on the amount of shots I captured per action.

#4: Embrace the things you didn’t plan for

No matter how much you prepare and how much you plan, something unexpected is bound to come up. Instead of beating yourself up over it, it’s better to just pivot and make the best out of it.

Our shooting day started off with one of these unexpected moments when I realized I left a key supply for the DIY project at home and we had to drive all the way back to get it, significantly delaying our start time. Instead of bemoaning my mistake and how much time I’d wasted, we actually decided to feature the mishap in our video, infusing a lot of humor and personality that I think was missing in the first draft.

So, what’s next?

Laura at computer
Checking my shot list

I’m hoping to finish shooting by the end of the weekend. And then it’s on to editing, which I know is going to be a loooooooooong process because I have some pretty fun, but time-consuming, ideas of how I want to cut together the footage. I’ll definitely be able to use a lot of these learnings from the first day of shooting as I film the rest of the video. And my mind is already abuzz with even more video ideas!

Be sure to check back here for more updates on this video project. And if you missed it, you can go back and read Part 1 of this series, where I talk about writing the script and preparing my shot list.