Kevin - Basic Filmmaker

How the basic filmmaker built a filmmaking university from tutorial videos.

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May 15, 2021

Who are you and what kind of content do you create?

I started the Basic FIlmmaker YouTube channel almost 8 years ago that I thought would help others starting out - the basics - hence, the Basic FIlmmaker. I had no idea the channel would blow up to now 125,000 subscribers and counting.

It was about a year and a half ago I ditched all clients and jobs, and with the blessing of my wife, jumped into YouTube full-time, and have never looked back. I also created Basic Filmmaker University to offer free and low-cost courses to those interested (the university handles thousands of members) and do weekly livestreams a second YouTube channel titled Basic Filmmaker Unscripted where I offer advice, host guest appearances, and generally get together with a bunch of other people and just have fun.

I have other channels and even a podcast channel, but those have been on hold until I figure out how to magically create more time. It’s NOT easy as I do everything and I work a LOT! But, I absolutely love creating videos and courses, and more so, I like to help other people. I love to work and consider it more “play” than anything - I’m definitely not the guy you want to push the current fad of, “You’re working too hard and need to take a break!” thing on.

As far as a brand name, it originally started out as “The Basic Filmmaker” back when YouTube brand names were all the rage. I wrote down about 100 different names until something finally clicked, and I knew that was what represented my purpose and the types of videos I would be creating. In later years I changed it to “Kevin - Basic Filmmaker'' as more and more people liked having a personalized name attached to YouTube.

In fact, my silly avatar was changed just this year as one of my university students thought it was a great representation of what I’m all about - silly and fun.

Let's go down memory lane, tell us your backstory! 

I caught the filmmaking bug a long time ago when I was eleven-years old filming squirrels on a family vacation with my Dad’s 8mm camera. It was awful, but I learned how to edit using a film cutter. Very old school.

This is not the actual photo but it looked somewhat like this.

I eventually ended up being mentored by some great people and landed clients and jobs that paid me very well to create corporate, fundraising, and commercial properties. That led to my career as a “consultant.” I say “consultant” as the real job was being hired to fix failing commercials and films which I was very good at. I simply ignored and stripped away the apparent “reasons” for failure, went back to the basics, slammed those in HARD, and got a reputation for getting results.

So the leap from that into full-time YouTuber was scary as hell financially, but I knew over the past many years that is where I wanted to go, as I had been creating videos for quite some time, saw other YouTubers successfully doing it, and I figured, “What the hell - what’s the worst that can happen?”

I learned long ago that following what you are passionate about is job #1 - the money will follow later. Going after the money as the #1 thing in most cases is a recipe for failure. No matter what happens, if I love what I do and keep the “you might fail” people out of my life - I eventually win. If you really want to achieve something that has a good purpose behind it, nothing can stop you as long as you never give up despite all invitations to do so.

How do you brainstorm ideas for your content and your advice in getting the creative juice flowing.

Maybe I’m a genius or incredibly stupid, but I don’t get people who “run out of ideas.” There’s always someone who doesn't know what you don’t know, and if you’re willing to show them, they’ll listen and learn. I don’t “wait” for some inspiration to suddenly occur to me. I know what I know and I know there are literally millions of people out there who don’t. There’s also a ton of other people who know something I don’t know.

I’m not a fan of this fad everyone is selling called “mental blocks” or “creator burnout.” The more you agree to that, the more you get blocked and burned out. What's the secret? GO CREATE SOMETHING - ANYTHING - NOW. That’s what opens up the floodgates and gets you back creating, not putting all your attention on what you CAN’T. You can ALWAYS DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT. In other words, quit buying into your own or someone else’s B.S., and get to work.

Me? I’ve made some really great videos, and some that really suck. So what?! Keep creating is ALWAYS the answer. I think people spend WAY too much time thinking about past failures instead of looking at future possibilities. I have this saying I constantly hammer my University students with - “The worst video ever made was the one that wasn’t.” I even made a mug. LOL!

This always makes people mad who are looking for excuses, but really, the only way to make that next video (or anything for that matter) is to just ignore all the blah-blah-blah and go make it.

What are the tools and platforms you use to help with your brand?

I’ve been using Premiere Pro as my video editor of choice for decades. That doesn’t mean it is right for everyone, and I am the first person to say, “Use what you’ve got or what works for you.” Another current fad I am NOT a fan of is, “You should use THIS video editor, or THIS camera, or THIS [insert anything] and what you use sucks.”  If what you are using is getting the job done THEN USE IT. 

In my opinion, way too many people fall for this instead of really learning to use the tools they have at their disposal and that includes cameras, lighting, computers, microphone, software, and on and on. As far as other tools, I am a HUGE fan of TubeBuddy for YouTube SEO management, Genius Link for the best affiliate link management on the planet, and OBS for not only live streaming but creating YouTube tutorials - I even made an entire course on this over at Basic Filmmaker University.

Social Media? I can only speak for myself which is pretty much YouTube and Twitter. I’m on Facebook, Instagram, Twitch, Pinterest, and many others, but found it just spreads me way too thin (I’m the only guy running this “business”) and my time is better spent...wait for it...just making more videos and courses.

What were your fears starting out? How did you handle it? 

I wish I did have some fear starting out, as my first videos wouldn’t have, well, sucked. I thought, “Been doing this for years, how hard can it be to walk from behind the camera to the front, and do what I know?” Being behind the camera and doing your thing in front of the camera are two entirely different disciplines, and it can take years to get comfortable doing it, although it doesn’t have to. I took me awhile to fall on what every creator says over and over about this - JUST BE YOURSELF.

However, I was not prepared for the intense negativity that some people left as comments on my video - really harsh and nasty. I am renowned for answering every comment on every video no matter how many years old the video is, 30,000 and counting. Oddly enough, that gives me a leg up as I have a very engaged audience, and after so many years have the “analytics” to know these hateful people are such a SMALL percentage of viewers and don’t warrant a single thought on your part.

Now I just laugh, delete, and move along. Too many creators get wrapped up in hateful comments by a handful or miscreants, when in fact, they deserve NONE of your attention whatsoever, and that is the game they are playing - to wrap you around a telephone pole so YOU don’t create, as they can’t. Just don’t play their game and keep creating.

The other thing I see people get wrapped up with is HOW GOOD the video (or whatever you are doing) is going to be, spending way too much time trying to get it perfect, and never getting anywhere. You don’t learn by NOT doing something - you learn by doing it over and over and over, making mistakes, getting better, and doing the next one. That’s how everyone on the planet has learned how to do anything - videos, music, painting, writing, even driving a car.

When I finally said, “To hell with it! Just create!” - that’s when I continued to get better at everything, and will continue to do so. I meet weekly with my University students who have enrolled in my YouTube Academy Course, and it has become a saying with all of us - “Just make videos!”

How did you build your brand to where it is now, take us through your process.

I started YouTube expecting maybe I would get some people watching who were interested. To be honest, many of my first videos were so I didn’t have to keep explaining the same basic things to new people under my employ. I could just tell them to watch this or that video. I had no idea that channel would grow to what it did.

Since I assumed my audience was new and beginning filmmakers, I started with a very old model DSLR and cheap microphone/recorder, and invested nearly nothing in gear. The one thing I did NOT want is to do fancy-schmancy filmmaking effects using high-end gear, as I wanted my audience to walk away saying, “I can do that!” and not the other way around.

YouTube growth (like any growth) is not some overnight success thing, and it can take years. You need a lot of patience, as your growth will usually occur in spurts - 100 subs, then it seems to stall out. You hang in there sometimes for months or even a year, and BAM! You hit 1,000 sub and celebrate. Then you stall again and wonder why you're doing it.

This has been the case for EVERY subscriber milestone over the years, and even now, I’m “stalled” at 125,000 subscribers, though I know the next “BAM!” is right around the corner - it may be weeks, months, maybe even a year. The key is playing the long game, not getting distracted, being patient, and above all else - wait for it...keep making videos!

I have to say that although I am a solo creator and do all the work, most don’t realize this is NOT a solo activity. There have been other very generous companies, creators, and viewers much too long to list here, that have offered advice, support, assistance, and much more. They know who they are and are greatly appreciated. That set a really great example for me as a creator that I have a responsibility to not only do well myself, but help others in the process too.

Do not, repeat, do not continually reach out to other creators saying, “Help me! Sub to me! Support me!” It is far better to create your brand and channel and continue to do well (make videos!). Creators like myself have very limited time on their hands, but at some point, one or more of them will notice you and help you out. These guys are more than willing to recognize and help out other creators that ARE WORKING HARD AND CREATING like they are. 

And like me, they have ALL been there - working hard as a creator while working a day job, raising a family, and more - and despite everything made it go right despite all invitations to do otherwise. The VERY few will make things happen quickly, but for most, it’s a long haul, lots of work, and figuring out what works and what doesn’t. As of today, I have a very loyal following both on my YouTube channel and at the University, and that was built with each course, each video, and treating each new person as a potential friend.

Some look up to me with envy, but I’d rather they look at me and say, “I can do that too!” It’s the same as I look up to other creators who are much larger, and know that one day I can achieve the same, and in the end, have helped many more people than I already have. There will be odd boosts as you go along, and some you won’t know how or why. For example, I have one video about green screens that got about 2,000 views for the first YEAR and just sat there. All of a sudden, three years ago, it took off and is now reaching towards one million views. 

Another video I made for a company where I was training their very green and new voiceover people, so I made a video called 25 Voiceover Tips and Tricks that is now approaching nearly half a million views. I had no idea these videos would perform well, and I have other videos that I think are some of the best content I’ve created that haven’t even hit 2,000 views over many years.

That’s the biggest hurdle I had to overcome - trying to “plan” an awesome video that would perform well, or, not waiting long enough for a video to “take,” or, thinking I created something awesome and it continues to gain no traction whatsoever. So...just keep making videos - you don’t know what is going to happen nor when.

For someone who wants to get into content creation, what is your advice?

If this is truly something you are passionate about:

Never give up - never surrender, and CREATE, CREATE, CREATE!

If I could go back in time and give myself advice, that would be it. Don’t get distracted by SQUIRRELS! That includes views, subscribers, money, comments, who is doing better than you, who got something you didn’t, who’s videos look or sound better than yours, why someone got some brand deal and you didn’t, why company “X” seems to support some creator and not you, ALL the advice offered by other “experts” who tell you to chase this or that thing, all the negative people you may have around you saying you might fail - oh the list so very long - JUST CREATE!!

It’s easy with rear view mirrors to say that, but it’s true. In February 2021 my YouTube channels were hacked and shut down for a MONTH, and I didn’t know if I would ever get them back. Talk about getting blindsided and losing all income! The thing that kept me going above all else, was knowing I could ALWAYS create that thing I created again, and to just carry on and make videos. 

Really, no matter what you are doing, the answer is to use that superpower we have all been endowed with - the ability to create. Yes, improve your content as you go along, but priority #1 is just keep on creating. Really, my biggest “life hack” is I treat myself, my channel, my creativity, my life, my “world” as my HOUSE. People who are anti-Kevin are NOT welcome in my “house.” 

That’s ANYONE who does not respect religious beliefs (or none), race, sex, national origin, sexual preference, nationality, and on and on. I love GOOD people, and anyone who is against people in general are not welcome in my “house.” When that comes to myself or others who are creators, that goes double. If you’re experiencing this, I suggest you take stock of those around you or those you are being affected by, and clean house. It can be really hard, but as a creator, surround yourself with the good folks and getting rid of the bad folks will change your game drastically.

There is one caveat: Make sure YOU aren’t the one creating the trouble with the “bad” folks in your life. It’s really easy to blame someone else for your real or imagined troubles, when in fact you’re the one that keep pouring gasoline on the fire.

How did you finally commit to X platform rather than your regular day job?

Kind of answered all this I think?

Tell us your best milestones in being a content creator.

I’ve had a ton of milestones since I started, but none of them compare to the volumes of people who simply said, “Thank you!” One example was a guy who said he watched every video I made and applied everything he could in each video to the best of his ability. He went on to say he was in a 10-year dead-end job with no hope for the future. Due to my videos, he was able to get a new job for a large company in their video department based on his ability to now do filmmaking. WOW!

Another was someone who just off-the-cuff mentioned, “Oh yeah. In film school we had to watch many of your videos.” Say what??!! I have thousands of these from just doing my YouTube videos and courses over at Basic Filmmaker University, and they trump all other “milestones” including my 100,000 subscriber YouTube plaque award.

Your simple video may have brought a smile to someone who is going through a terrible time in their life. It may have helped someone struggling with something. It may have taught them something they didn’t know how to do before. Your simple video may have been just the thing to get someone else to think, “I can do it too!” Subscriber count milestones, a video that went “viral,” and getting better “known” is all good, but there is NOTHING better than knowing that in some way, shape, or form, you’re doing something to change people’s lives.

I could speak volumes on this with story after story, but let me say this - when you create something, and you continue to create something, you are changing someone’s life for the better whether you know it or not.

What are your marketing strategies to grow your brand?

My marketing strategy is (drum roll) make more videos and engage with those who watch and comment on your videos - consider them friends until proven otherwise. Really, I should quantify that as “Make more videos for YOUR audience” whomever that may be. You can social media yourself and your videos, connect up with other creators, and do all the things you know you should probably do. BUT, if that keeps you from doing your job, then stop and make more videos (or hire someone to do all that marketing for you).

Over everything else, remember to be yourself, be honest, and don’t EVER do something unethical because someone (or you) thinks that’s a good idea to grow your following, your channel, or anything else. Once, very early in my gear “review” career, I accepted a product and it turned out to be, well, not good. I was new at the “review” thing and felt the pressure to review the product anyway - BIG MISTAKE!

I hated the product, and more importantly MYSELF, for not keeping my own integrity which haunted me for a long time. That video no longer exists, and I since made an excruciating long document post for any company asking me for a review, which you can read here. If you treat others as you yourself would like to be treated (answering emails and comments and questions) and not doing anything that might make you lose your personal integrity in any way, that will be the best “marketing strategy” you can adopt.

Following that, you will get noticed, you will get others sharing your content, you will get collabs with other creators, and so on, as long as you keep your “business nose clean” and be true to yourself and your audience. I know I sound very “preachy” but really, I’ve seen more creators fail from the things mentioned here than I can shake a stick at.

Mentions are great. I’ve had quite a few of these and they definitely help. Collabs are also great. I’ve done maybe a dozen of these and they do get you more followers and views, but most likely not what you’re thinking they do. If you keep making videos (or whatever it is you create), eventually someone will notice, will want to collab, will want to interview you for their blog, and so on.

How do you handle brand deals and sponsorships? 

I’m not a “brand deal and sponsorship” kind of guy. I dabbled in this for a little bit as an experiment for my YouTube Academy Members to see if the work involved was worth it or not. It’s a lot of work, the sponsor wants control over your content and what is said, they almost NEVER pay you enough to make it worth your time, and I don’t see it being a good deal at all for the creator.

At first you're like, “Woohoo! Brand deal! They’re going to pay me $XX dollars and right now I'm not making anything at all!” I once did a brand review deal thinking at the time I was lucky. It took me two weeks to shoot and edit, continued modifications, and the final video got over 50,000 views, and is still there in perpetuity (for the rest of forever) still getting their product promoted. They paid me $500. Yikes!

It’s also an integrity thing as mentioned earlier. If I started “selling” sunglasses to my filmmaking audience, they would not like it, and neither would I. I am not suggesting brand deals are bad. This idea that a creator should not make money is one of the stupidest things ever forwarded by people who would scream bloody murder if THEY didn’t get paid for their work.

If Company X that I liked (and the product was applicable to my channel) offered me a deal where I could make good money promoting their product (assuming it is a GOOD product) would I do it? I would certainly consider it, as long as *I* remained in control of the content. Otherwise - no.

There is no more valuable asset to me than my channel and my audience. Without those, I have nothing. Trust me, I’ve had PLENTY of offers to do a brand deal video or shoutout for a lot of money from companies pushing sunglasses, candy bars, water bottles, shoes, and even once was approached from a women’s underwear company! I just delete and move on.

None of these are even close to what my audience needs or wants from me, and that trumps everything else. There are many that are not legit, and it’s pretty easy to see which ones as they will tie up your time on what THEY want and offer you a stupid low figure when all is done. I would LOVE to have some of my favorite companies offer me an equitable brand deal, and yes, I would jump at it if I had the chance, but I don’t seek these out. Of course, your channel may be different. If you’re doing travel videos and some sunglasses company reaches out to you for a sweet deal, go for it.

I would also beware of these “peddlers” that come to you as a go-between to get you hooked up with “Brand X.” In my experience, they almost always say they are working for you, when in fact they are working for “Brand X,” will talk you down as far as they can go, and are charging the “Brand X” company a lot more as that’s how they make their profit. I’m not an expert in this area, so if you get a brand deal, go for it, learn what you learn, and make your own decisions after that.



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