The Pro Event Media Producers Vs. Amateurs Dilemma

The professional or the amateur dilemma. The truth is in the middle.

Let's be honest for a moment. Every time technology goes from behind the scenes to  rampant availability to anyone with hopes and dreams, the professional [insert vocation here] convention gets all up in arms and begins spewing to anyone who will listen, that everyone else is a hack and they are not and the way it's being done is wrong and on and on and on...

You may never hire an amateur plumber. No matter how available pipe wrenches are, you always call a pro when sh... uh... stuff is going wrong... you know... in the newspaper reading cubicle.

I'm about to do that. Just kidding.

I started my career in video at the digital age (miniDV and Digital Hi-8 tapes... whew, good times). I had to listen to those who came before me bemoan and belittle my newness in their hallowed field of expertise. While I don't discount their experience, professionalism, or value, I was also somewhat amused in their inability to see the value of the propagation of the availability of their expertise to such a broad audience, supported by a more immediate "shoot-to-edit" process.

I was a little late to the photography / DSLR game, but as I began to toy with my first baby DSLR (Canon Rebel that replaced my Film Rebel), but there too, as I progressed in both skill and equipment, I began to hear the same song from the pioneers who paved the way for me (apparently paving by accident rather than intent).

And now, a field I have been enjoying for a little while, event media production and streaming. That's right. The thing you can do with just about every social media platform, video hosting service, and offered by every back alley Dr. Feelgood out there. 

Now, it's me. I've done it. I am one of those who paved the way. Yes, inadvertently, but no. I will not bemoan all the hacks who have entered this space... here's why:

Top 5 Reasons I Won't Talk Poorly of New Event Media Producers.

5 - Because it's not their fault we made it seem so cool

Hey! Seriously. We have been amazing at holding the secrets and marketing it's awesomeness for a long time. Not once disclosing that, while expensive from service to hardware, it's also not as complex as we MAY have made it out to be. We are good at marketing and that should be our takeaway. We'll need it as you will see in my following reasons.

4 - Because competition is a GOOD thing

Having new competition is a good thing on two fronts. First, it encourages you to evaluate what you are doing as you evaluate what they are doing. This is a great way to learn what those upstart whipper-snappers are doing so your old bones can keep up. I've learned more from interns than I think they've ever learned from me. Invaluable experience every time.

Secondly, It gives you an opportunity to escalate your rank in a field of expertise that comes with a sticker price you are in fact worth. If you are in this field then at some level you are an entrepreneur. Most entrepreneurs try many many things. Some they give up on, others become their passion. Imagine all the things you gave up on being a necessary part of your business.

3 - Because not everything needs to be perfect 

What did he just say? Did he ju... no... he wouldn't... this guy isn't even a pro...

Sigh, you judgy judgy people... Alright... Can I please be completely honest for one moment? Please, just hear me out.

I neither want to do every job that comes my way, nor should I have to include a PITA tax (Pain in the A**) on boring jobs just to make it worth my while. Not everything needs to be produced like a talk show... There are valid cases where big business can and should go low budget for the external-facing live-audience. When we say no to a job because their budget doesn't match what they want to do, this is a clear case that frees up our weekday drafting estimates on jobs that don't have the value to the company that they do to us. It's also a great opportunity for those scrappy upstarts to gain some experience. The same experience we got, the same way we got it, I might add.

2 - Because availability drives the market

Sorry to say this, folks, but if you are good at what you do, having more people interested in having it done is not a bad thing. The truth here is that what we do does get better over time. Experience. Knowledge. Tacit knowledge, specifically. What was your first live show like? Was it GREAT? Nope. Lots to learn, yes?

Streaming... in particular live, streaming, is becoming an expectation now rather than a nice to have. Customers expect it. Partners need it. Everyone wants it. You provide a quality level of it that folks want their customers and partners to see. So, what is your new competition doing, how are they doing it cheaper, faster and for less to their customers? What can you learn from that?

1 - Because it's time to let information truly be free

Back to the topic of interns for just one moment. I will never forget one intern who was slightly aware of a programming language I was deeply involved in. I was blown away at how quick they were able to develop code more complex than I'd been led to understand they were capable of. On further questioning about the specifics of their code, they began to falter in explaining it.

It turns out their program was built leveraging code discovered via google, and revised using their familiarity with the language structure.

Now, was I a better programmer? Sure. Was he faster because he was thinking outside of the box? You bet. Who was better?

IMHO, I believe he was. While that assessment is purely based on the absolute cost of time (and not an inherent self-deprecating model of living), it's also based off of a new model of thinking I adopted back in 1997. Information is free. I believe we should freely share what we know. Only the most motivated will ever do anything with it anyway, and we are our own competition, not the other way around. The moment we get complacent, is the moment we've lost.

I encourage anyone who wants to begin to produce event media live or recorded, to reach out to me if you have any questions. I'm happy to share what I know. I sincerely hope my peers will adopt this philosophy also.

Rusty Worden

Rusty is an award-winning pioneer in designing media for CD-ROM (what's that?), smart devices (before they were called smart devices), and the web. Even the once-ubiquitous Macromedia Flash Video Player was his playground as he worked with Macromedia to Beta test it's evolutionary solution that, in part, helped launch YouTube. While he has been story-telling his entire professional career, he's steadfastly refused to seek work outside of the corporate environment. Instead, he enjoys learning about new technology and innovation as he works to craft compelling stories designed to achieve the intended outcomes of the project. Rusty founded Simply Interactive (a media creative services company based out of San Francisco, CA), and quickly grew it to self-sustaining levels before opting to focus on his family and move to North Carolina. Rusty and his wife, Desirae, decided in 2010 that his career at Cisco as a Manager of Learning and Development was not creative enough and began to set the stage for RockerDown Studios, a name chosen because it was Rusty's own nickname. RockerDown has shown impressive growth for a small company without investors and Rusty continues to lead RockerDown with a singleness of focus that our real job is to make the person who hired us look good to the people that matter to them. "I honestly believe that when people meet us and our passion for what we do shines through, that opens the door. But when our clients experience how we work with them... how we make our primary focus about helping them succeed... that keeps the door open, and creates RockerDown fans that promote us everywhere they go. We don't market publicly. all of our growth stems from great relationships." - Rusty Worden