Do What You Love and Love What You Do

I owe much of my career to music videos. When I was younger, I wanted to be a rock star and even toured our great nation as a drummer in bands who opened for acts like Stone Temple Pilots, The Black Crowes and Lenny Kravitz. But as I grew older and needed to think about my future, dreams of becoming a rock star were replaced by those of becoming a filmmaker. I know, I know, that’s a classic case of jumping out of the frying pan into the fire. I’ll admit, I never wanted to direct, let alone shoot camera – I didn’t have the desire and frankly didn’t want to make myself a target of criticism. Producing, editing, and writing were enough for me until Bret Michaels asked if I’d shoot some footage for his first single as a solo artist during Poison’s hiatus. The footage we shot looked good, so we went to The Panavision Stages and added his performance to the video. Upon its release, the song Raine became a hit single – and so did our music video that got a lot of coveted airtime and yours truly decided to put the all-encompassing filmmaker hat on once and for all.  

I should mention at this point the music video business was quite grim. MTV and even VH1 were no longer making them a focal point on their networks and YouTube wasn’t even yet on the radar, so labels were putting their resources into other forms of marketing to push their artists. In the early 2000’s, I would get the occasional call from a record label to do a video, however, they weren’t paying much of anything. In fact, a major label attached to one of the movie studios asked if I would re-shoot (as in completely re-do) a music video for the title track to one of their biggest film franchises and had the nerve after two creative meetings and getting the job they weren’t paying a dime. Heck, I wasn’t the guy who botched up the first video, (which had a budget of $50,000) but work for free? I’ll save that for another blog down the road…Oh, and to add insult to injury, the film went on to make over $230M – domestic.

Fortunately, music videos have made quite the comeback. But let’s face it; unless your working with artists such as Taylor Swift, Imagine Dragons or Drake, it’s for the love of the craft, not the love of the cash that we do them. By enlarge low budget videos are the norm which have become tools to help drive up a band’s social media presence, a tour or iTunes sales. I do in part blame that annoying (yet, brilliant) treadmill video by OK Go – as it really killed it for so many of us who made a living producing videos with budgets and proved that so often less is more by going viral way before going viral was even a thing. I mean we were doing videos for bands you’ve never heard of (or ever will) for $25-50 grand and after that, $1,500 became the standard.

Recently, I had the itch to do a music video. Blame the failed rock star in me but the heart wants what the heart wants. It had been almost a decade since my last torrid romp in videoville, (not including a concert I filmed for Cheap Trick in Chicago) but I really missed shooting a band with no restrictions, no rules and in that let’s go kick some ass and blow the lid off it’ type of way. You know, the kind of videos momma used to make? I got wind heavy metal heartthrobs Vixen was gearing up to release a live album with a few studio tracks and were heading out on tour to support it. I went into action, reached out to the band and said, “Let’s do a video! Just show up to the designated venue and I’ll handle the rest.” Long story short, I couldn’t be happier with the results. As you know from my previous blogs and what I drive home in my book, What You Don’t Learn in Film School, it’s about staying busy (or relevant) and doing what you love. Once I got the go-ahead from the band, their management and record label, I wrangled three great cameramen and we went to work capturing the band’s sold-out show in Los Angeles.

A month later, on July 26th, Vixen’s video for “You Ought To Know By Now” debuted and had over 50,000 hits in the first day of its release – and the numbers keep climbing. I cannot stress enough the importance of getting out, putting your skills and recourses to use. When you’re done with that, go shoot something else and afterward do it again and so on and so on. Dream projects are great but there’s no reason not to be an active and busy filmmaker. But if you’re anything like me, you become passionate about every project you set your hands to and look at every gig as an audition or opportunity for the next. Oh, and speaking of that, a top management firm who reps over two dozen well-known bands saw the new video and reached out offering me to handle videos for their entire roster. Why? Because I got off my ass and generated content. It’s as simple as that! 

Thank you Vixen for your trust and here’s to a summer of prosperity to us all!

Keep Rockin’ and happy shooting kids!



Director with Camera


Patience may be a virtue but it gets nothing accomplished

One thing I’ve always believed is if you have a camera and a subject, you’re good to go. Come on, think about it…Sure, it’d be nice to have a soundman, hair and makeup department and production designers along with a handful of other people and honey wagons supporting your mission but when the rubber meets the road, how much of that is really necessary to telling a story? Don’t get me wrong, I am proponent of having a capable crew on hand (especially a crack soundman) and value each and every one of them but this blog isn’t about the crew, it’s about you, the ever encompassing filmmaker telling the story you want – better yet – need to tell.

I recently attended Outfest at the Directors Guild of America here in Los Angeles and had the pleasure of seeing the motion picture מונטנה (that’s “Montana” for those who don’t read Hebrew) and upon hearing the Q&A with filmmaker Limor Shmila, I was reminded of something I preach constantly: “Don’t wait for anyone to give you the go-ahead to tell your story, just tell it.” Limor’s film was very well done on a shoestring budget and filmed in just thirteen days. It was also selected for the Toronto International Film Festival–in case you’re wondering if it’s worth seeing. Of course, there are films that require huge budgets (and crew) to get done properly but I am not talking about those; I’m talking about telling stories that touch the human heart and can launch new filmmakers into the stratosphere. You know, old school storytelling!

Some of the most impacting films I saw as a kid while trying to find my way were ones that just consisted of human beings captured on camera doing extraordinary things. Academy Award nominated films like Mike Hoover’s Solo and Skaterdater, which launched Noel Black’s career had huge influences on my desire to become a filmmaker and proved you don’t need a ton of money or large crews to achieve it. Nowadays when you can pick up your iPhone (or a DSLR at Costco), a laptop to edit on and have the World Wide Web at your fingertips as a distribution platform, there is no stopping you.

Director and crew on set

Shane, cast, and crew on set.

Recently I had the pleasure of filming some segments for a cool project called Southern Decadence with producer Gina Rugolo. For my scenes, I wanted a skeleton crew and got my wish – a cast of two and a crew of three – not including the picture car owner. I’m very pleased with the end results and would proudly put our work up against any film within a mid six-figure budget and frankly, couldn’t have enjoyed the experience more. In fact, I’m already digging through my script archives to see what I can do next for little to no money. As I mention in my book, there’s making movies and there’s talking about making movies. Personally, I would rather make ‘em, and the only person getting in the way of doing that is you.

Happy Shooting!


Camera Dollies vs. Sliders

When deciding on a portable camera dolly system, there are more options for filmmakers now than ever. With crew sizes shrinking and people favoring to drive compact eco-friendly cars, this makes traditional dollies less practical, especially when transporting them from location-to-location. The production value a ‘slider’ can add is similar in ways to a dolly without the hassle of needing a small army to manage it. One person can easily assemble a slider, and simply ‘dolly’ the camera while shooting with very little effort, often avoiding a communication relay during time-sensitive or subtle movements – especially for the less experienced or micro crew.

As someone who loves a ready, willing, and able JL Fisher handy, at times production restraints have forced me to opt for alternative tools like sliders, especially when traveling to shoot commercials or film music videos in tight spaces with little to no support in the camera department. When in a pinch, I choose Dana Dolly, which can easily withstand the weight of an Arri or Red with all of the bells and whistles as well as any DSLR setup you can possibly concoct. Because of its solid design, with Dana Dolly you won’t get herky-jerky camera moves when using it to tell your story, even while executing the subtlest creep-ins as you can with some of the other brands. They also make curved rails and hi-hat conversions that really set them apart from the competition.


Traveling with the Dana Dolly is a breeze. You can use the case available on their website or by packing everything into a small suitcase and buying speed rail (conduit pipe) at various lengths at any hardware store upon arriving at your destination. Since rails are cheap, throwing them out or donating them to a local filmmaker won’t break the bank when you leave to return home.