Hello friends and strangers of the internet!
My name is Michael of “LifeAnyone Media.” I’m a filmmaker, writer, and in general, a lover of stories. From spoken word to paperbacks, to movies, and to games, I am an absolute sucker for a good story. So naturally, being a storyphile, (which if it isn’t a real word, it totally should be) I like putting my own stories out into the world. This led to me going to film school, getting jobs, creating hundreds of hours of video content, filming all over the world, and putting some of my work online to YouTube. One of the videos I posted, a training I made to be shown at a creative arts camp in June of 2016, ended up blowing up way more than I ever thought it would. Currently, it has more than 350,000 views and people are still watching it. So now I have a small channel with over 4,000 subscribers.
I know my impact isn’t huge but I love hearing from people who have found my video helpful. I’ve gotten comments and emails from young creators asking me to give feedback on their work or just asking for advice. I love that I can be a resource for someone else, even if it’s just in a small way. One of the things that got me interested in filmmaking was reaching out to the director of a project I was interested in and him writing me back. So any chance I can help someone else find their path forward with telling stories, I’m keen on taking it. This is why I hope to make my channel a resource for telling good stories. From creating more 101/how-to style videos to sharing stories that I think are worth telling. And just to generally have fun with it.
Watch Live Camera Switching 101 here: Live Camera Switching 101
I grew up in a small town in central Florida. Like one stoplight small. We had an elementary school, a small park, and about a dozen churches. Most people who’ve visited our town were just driving through to somewhere else. But it was a nice place to grow up and the kind of place you really appreciated coming home to after being away.
When I was about eight, my family moved to the outskirts of town right off of a state forest. This was both a blessing and a curse in some ways. My siblings and I were pretty much free to ride our bikes in our neighborhood but there were very few kids in the neighborhood my age and I was the youngest by five years. So I learned to entertain myself and spend time in my head. I would act out grand storylines with toys or spend time looking out into the backyard imagining dinosaurs migrating across it.
When I got a little older, I asked my parents if we could get a family video camera. We’d had one of those large ones that filmed on full VHS tapes when I was little but at some point it’d gotten left put up in an attic somewhere and forgotten about. Then, right around 2002 or 2003, we got a sony handy camcorder from Santa Claus. I picked up the camera and hardly put it down from there. I didn’t have any neighborhood friends to film so I made videos with my toys and on rare occasions, with my older brother. YouTube and social media didn’t exist until a few years later so the videos we took were simply for us, just for fun. We didn’t know about exposure or framing. We just made videos that made us laugh or recounted a family trip.
When I was in high school I still liked making videos but did so less frequently. I didn’t have access to any professional software to edit videos on so I used Windows Movie Maker. Often these were just cheesy lyric videos with images set to songs. But they taught me editing to beat and the limited functions of premier caused me to learn to be flexible and get creative with what I could do, something that’s key for any storytellers out there.
In 2007, a video store in my small town went out of business. Being a movie lover (and slight hoarder of DVDs), I spent a lot of my allowance there buying up really cheap pre-owned movies. This is where I discovered Return of the Living Dead: Necropolis. If you haven’t seen this cinematic tour de force, that currently sits at a staggering 16% on Rotten Tomatoes, you’re probably one of the lucky ones. It was awful. Both as a zombie movie and as a movie movie. But it made me realize that making movies, even bad ones, is something people get paid to do. Making movies could be a career. And it also got me thinking that I could write and make a way better film. So I got to work.
I reached out to all my friends who said they were in. I checked out Max Brooks’ Zombie Survival Guide from the library and read through it as if it were some sacred text. I scouted locations, watched hours of Indy Mogul on YouTube, and typed up a 64-page word document that would serve as a script. I even had a friend who told me his girlfriend’s dad could get us the leftovers from a slaughterhouse we could use for that extra level of authenticity. My family got in on it too and for my birthday that year (which was right after Halloween) I was gifted gallons of discounted fake blood. It was an awesome time to be alive for sure.
My aspirations for this project were admittedly a little high. I’d written a lot into the script that I felt was doable but as the reality of filming sunk in I got a little worried about what things would cost. It didn’t make sense to me how a movie like Necropolis had gotten people to invest in it. Or how they could afford explosions, cool weapons, or the dad from A Walk To Remember. So I stewed on the idea and tried fruitlessly to get a job or save up towards some sort of budget. I commented on YouTube videos and asked kids who knew other kids who worked on the school morning show. Just about every lead I could think of ended up not working out and I came to the realization that it just probably wouldn’t happen.
Around the same time, my sister worked with a woman who had a son in Georgia who had just gotten to be in a zombie movie that was filmed in his hometown. After getting the name of the movie, Dance of the Dead, and googling it thoroughly I did what any kid in the late 2000s would do. I messaged the movie’s Myspace page. To my surprise and amazement, the director of the movie, a guy named Gregg Bishop, wrote me back.
He was nice and supportive and he did not shoot me down. He actually gave me some solid advice and suggested we just go ahead and make the movie. He said it’d be a lot more fun that way and give us something to show to get funding for future projects. He suggested I read Robert Rodreguiz’s Rebel Without a Crew and wished me luck. Needless to say I was over the moon. I felt noticed and like I’d been seen by a kindred spirit or some sort of coconspirator to me wanting to be a filmmaker. I still have that message printed out inside the DVD box of my copy of Dance of the Dead (which is WAAAAY better than Necropolis). After that I didn’t know how, but I knew I wanted to be a filmmaker.
Unfortunately, my high school zombie movie was never made but that doesn’t mean it was a waste. I learned so much from that entire experience and it left me feeling like I could do just about anything. That’s without mentioning how it eventually led me to studying film in college and seeking a career in content creation. Everything I’ve done or will do in film stems back to that.
For me, ideas come from asking questions and living a life that is somewhat curious. I like to hear the “why” behind things and like to hear what people have to say. I find the more stories we take in, the better our stories tend to become. Be it a cautionary tale where we hear what not to do or a success story that gives us hope and maybe even first steps to take. I think the best explanation would be a glass of drink. You can’t pour from your glass unless it has something in it. I think it’s why authors tell aspiring writers that they need to be reading. You need an intake so you can have a better outtake so be a sponge. Read, listen to podcasts, watch movies, ask your dad about his childhood. Be curious and don’t let your cup run low.
I also try to write ideas down as soon as I can. I sometimes carry a small pocket sized notebook where I can scribble out notes but mainly, I use my phone since it’s pretty much always with me. It helps to put down thoughts or sometimes even lines to paper. Some notes are just concepts and some are actual quotes I like and want to use someday. If I don’t write it down, I tend to forget. I know it seems like a pain at times but I find I’ve forgotten a lot of good ideas but never regretted having notes to look at later if needed. Plus these notes can also help whenever I need a refresher on what I was thinking or if I’m having some sort of mental block.
I mainly use Adobe Premiere Pro and Photoshop for the media content I create. Google Documents helps a lot too as it’s very convenient to have access to files wherever you are and it makes collaboration with others just by sharing a link. However, I think it is important to find what works best for you and your situation so that particular part of the process doesn’t have to take any space in your head. I find software works best when you don’t have to think too hard about it and it can just be an extension of you.
And an often neglected tool that I use that really helps me is a paper based planner. There I can write events and things that are coming up as well as scheduled out reminders and specific content based around the time of year. It’s always handy to know that you’d be posting a video on a certain holiday and it can give you ideas for content to create (especially days like National Talk Like A Pirate Day). I say paper-based because it helps to be physical and seen often as opposed to just adding things to a digital calendar that you don’t open often. Digital Calendars are helpful for giving you pop up reminders though.
When I would tell people I was going to school for filmmaking a lot of responses were less than positive. I got a lot of, “That’s a nice hobby, but how can you live off that?” or “Good luck in that industry.” I don’t get all the negativity surrounding being a content creator especially with how supportive a community it often can be. It isn’t an industry where you can work 50 years, get a gold watch and retire and there aren’t any guarantees per say. Bad things can happen; Projects fizzle out, freelancing dries up, a global pandemic hits. But that could happen no matter the industry and fear of the unknown shouldn't keep us from trying. Videos will always need to be made and stories will always need to be told no matter the state of the world. We may have to change up our methods, figure something out for health insurance, or take up a job while we figure things out for a while. But we don’t have to stop trying and we don’t have to have it all planned out in front of us. All we need to do is look for that next right step, and figure the best course for taking it. Taking that step is life.
I still don’t feel as though I’ve figured out what my brand is yet but I’m working on it. People seem to enjoy my 101 style video regarding filmmaking so I think that’s what I’ll continue focusing on mainly as I grow.
Watch Filming Basics 101 here: Filming Basics 101
If you’re just starting out it’s important to know that it’s a marathon and not a sprint and to understand your motives on why you want to do this. There’s the small sliver of a chance that you’ll make something that goes viral and is immediately loved and quoted by everyone. However, there is a massively more likely chance that the first few things you put out into the world are seen by your mom, your close friends, and a few people that found your post accidentally. It can take time to get viewers but it’s important to realize this isn’t a bad thing. It gives you time to figure out who you want to be as a creator and how you want to do it. Often our first tries at something aren’t our best but we can always improve and hone our craft.
I would also say it’s not a great idea to make content for the sole purpose of getting views. Trying to make a viral video isn’t bad in itself but you still need to enjoy what you're making.
“If you don’t love what you’re doing, even if you’re super successful, it’s not really the greatest way to live.
If we can find a way to make content that we enjoy we can be set even without the views. We can’t let views or what’s trending change who we are as a content creator or as a person.
I’m still working on this one. Hopefully one day soon. I’d love to be a full-time content creator.
Hitting 1000 subs was surprising and somewhat of an unreal feeling. And more so when it somehow kept going up fairly fast from there. I’m excited about where I am now and the milestones hopefully to come. The potential of what could be is exciting.
So far I don’t really have any strategies other than just being me. I do watch a lot of content and trainings to help make myself better. As I mentioned before I think that’s key for anyone starting out or going forward.
I have not yet done any, unless this counts? I’ve been contacted about offering potential links but haven’t done much with those because I’m not familiar with the brand. I think I would only want to promote or work with products or companies I used, really liked what they did, or believed in. Or any company that’s willing to throw obscenely gratuitous amounts of money in my general direction. Joking about the last part. Mostly.