Pushing Film

How Creating YouTube Videos Makes Me a Fulfilled Film Photographer.

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September 4, 2020

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

My name is Hashem, and I’m a freelance photographer based in Melbourne, Australia. I also casually teach photography workshops, and I run a Youtube channel called “Pushing Film” in my spare time. Currently, my channel is not at a place where it could pay the bills as a full-time job. But, it is steadily growing, and more importantly, I really enjoy creating content for it and sharing it with the film photography community. 

The channel started as a passion project with my friend Nick, who always had a full-time job and his own business, and shortly after starting the channel, he became too busy to dedicate time to the project. I wanted to keep it going, however, so I took over and became a one-man team!

The name Pushing Film came from our vision to “Push” our love of film photography onto others, especially the new and curious crowd. It was quite a fun little brainstorming session, which took place over a bowl of Udon (and finding out that so many other names were already taken!) But I’m glad they were because I love the name we went with. 

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

The content creation path for me was definitely not born out of much intention to go anywhere with it, but just “kinda happened” somewhere into the journey. It’s been almost 4 years now. Somewhere around 1 year into the project, when I took over and started making the videos on my own, there was a big turning point after making a video where I tried to show beginners how to correctly load film in a camera. This idea was born purely out of having done that so much in real life at my old job in a camera store, and realising that I could really help a lot more people by using the power of Youtube. That video now has more than half a million views since, and the feedback from it was so fulfilling that it drove me to really pour more passion and effort into becoming more intentional with the channel.

In the very beginning, we knew nothing about proper production quality and you can really see the difference in that department in the earlier videos. Over a few coffees, we would jot down notes about potential ideas for future content. One early video for example was an interview with the street photographer Eric Kim (which I shot really poorly!) while he was in town for his “conquer your fears” workshop in our city. Perhaps that theme of his added to our early motivation and he was always quite encouraging and helpful in conversations with us since he had his own large following on Youtube too.

Another source of inspiration was from the other film-related content creators we would watch on Youtube. We admired what guys like Matt Day, John Free and Ted Forbes were doing in that space, and wanted to have our own outlet here in Australia. At the time, there weren't many film photography Youtube channels yet, let alone any Australian ones. So that was another motivating factor for us to “just do it” and start the channel.

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

I think I get my inspiration from all over the place. Undeniably, one source is all the other great content creators out there in the world. The fact that you don't need to be anyone special and can just start a project like this from your bedroom really is amazing. I’ve subscribed to and watch so many more creators now since starting Pushing Film, and I really love the community aspect of it all.

In terms of coming up with content, I’ve never really struggled too much with that part of it. Generally, I try to apply something that relates to my own photography journey, or situations I encounter and realise “not many other people know about this” or could use the help. A lot of it is just what’s on my mind. For example, I’ll think about a certain aspect of photography one day and say “hey, that would make a good discussion for a video”, so I’ll write in my notebook, or add it to a Google doc or something similar. Sometimes I get ideas at the weirdest of times, and other times I’ll just be discovering something or someone myself and then decide to share that on the channel. 

I don't really get mental-block, fortunately! Because if I feel that block approaching or that the ideation process is getting draining, I just get away from it all and change gears to something else. That always inevitably leads to something arising organically and coming back into the project refreshed. It helps that I don’t post as consistently as other creators or do it full-time. But my best advice would be to try and put out what you’re passionate about, share your solutions to problems you’ve encountered in the field, be yourself, and think about what you would like to see out there because other people will most likely appreciate it too.

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

I had always used Adobe Premiere to edit the videos and recently started to use Davinci Resolve over the past couple of months. I’ve learned so much about producing videos throughout this journey... When we started the project, I was the only one with (rather minimal!) experience with video-work from my university days. Therefore, I took on the job of doing the production and editing of our first videos. We eventually enlisted the help of our good friend Matthew for a few episodes. However, there came a point where I had to become proficient in creating a video from start to finish. 

Another thing I’ve tried to improve is the online presence of the brand. This meant making an Instagram page, Facebook page, Twitter, and most recently a blog on my own website to talk about projects related to both Pushing Film and my own personal stuff. I’m constantly battling to try and post more often. A dedicated Pushing Film website is the next logical step, and we’ve always had the domain… but that's a whole other project!

I don't use many other tools to streamline my productivity, although I am slowly learning about ways to do so. I take most of my notes in a Moleskine weekly notebook, or on Google Keep and Docs using my phone. 

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

My main fear starting out as being in front of the camera, and what people would think. Neither of us was fully comfortable, so we just both did it. And of course, there were nasty comments… sometimes even racist to my friend Nick, and of course critical things like saying the production quality sucked! Even though this really got to me early on, I’ve since become so much more resilient when something like that happens. 99% of the feedback is so good that I’ve learned you can't please everyone and there's no point trying! People are also quick to be judgemental online so now I don't pay attention to that minority.

Additionally, the quality has slowly improved a lot! This is part of the journey and I think people appreciate seeing that growth and realistic perspective.

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

When it came to putting out new content, it’s always been rather inconsistent. When we started there would sometimes be months between videos, since it was born purely out of passion as a little side-project. Even though now I see it as a somewhat dedicated side-hustle, it’s still not a full-time thing. I now try to post multiple times a month, and having all this extra time due to the current pandemic situation has really helped in that regard. Some of my videos are just me talking to the camera, and some are more dynamic; like travel vlogs or interviews with other artists. These involve a lot of work especially in terms of footage, audio, and editing.

I’ve always been lucky to have the help and support of my partner Sarah from the beginning. Even though sometimes it’s a challenge making the videos it always feels rewarding once it’s uploaded. Sometimes I need to do many takes before I manage to say something correctly enough! But despite that, it’s actually been pretty smooth sailing, and the channel has gained a lot of subscribers over a steady period of time. It’s still nothing big in the context of other Youtube channels, but to me, it’s a huge achievement. 

I think the trick was that I never tried too hard or worried about the numbers or where it would go, and rather just focused on putting out content I was passionate about or thought people would benefit from. In that respect, the video I mentioned earlier on loading a camera, and others based on tips for beginners, or tutorials have been the most successful videos on the channel and really helped it gain traction more than any review, vlog, interview, or discussion-based video. 

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

If I was to give advice to others it would mainly relate to the importance of putting out something you’re really interested in and passionate about. Don't do something just because it’s trending. I would also say if I could go back to the beginning, I would have learned a little bit more about some of the technicalities like audio, video, structure, and editing. However, you can learn that as you go if you’re willing to. 

Think about what you would like to see and remember that people like to relate to someone who is authentic and relatable, rather than putting on a character for the show. It is also worth putting effort into your content to make sure it’s easy to watch or consume, and that like-minded person will find it enjoyable.

Always, ALWAYS be learning and looking to grow, never rest on your laurels!

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

I did quit my day job a couple of years ago, with the main motivation to focus more on my freelance work, which is as a photographer and freelance teacher. I always had the longer sight, however, to see where I could take Pushing Film, and eventually run my own workshops through that community. I have started to do so recently!  Lately, I’m starting to think more seriously about where I can take the channel as a viable source of income, or at the very least a great tool for networking, brand collaboration, and personal growth.

Tell us your best milestones in being a content creator.

The best milestones in this “content creation” journey are when I first started to have people come up to me and say they watched the channel and really found the tips videos helpful! I was still at my camera store job at the time, so naturally, I was more likely to encounter photographers who watched my stuff. It felt really weird and confronting at first bridging that gap between the Youtube and real-world connections but I eventually found it so fulfilling. Since those early days, I’ve been randomly confronted on the street or out and about, by other film photographers who’ve complimented my videos and said they really like the channel or found something helpful. I also receive messages online regularly to a similar effect! To me, these things are really important and it’s what keeps me creating.

Another nice milestone was when I first started to be reached out to by brands like Lomography who I’d always been a fan of and got asked to review their products. This is something that was initially a pipedream, but now I regularly have similar conversations with other brands. It was also great when I started to have regular communication with some of the other Youtube creators whom I always admired, and became part of a super-friendly little community which I’m so thankful for!

What are your marketing strategies to grow your brand?

It’s quite funny how much the channel grew despite the lack of consistent posting or production quality. Our earlier videos make me cringe sometimes because I’ve learned so much about audio and video quality, and feeling more comfortable in front of the camera. But it still grew so much! To me, that shows that the content is what’s most important. The “Tips for your first Film Camera” and “Beginner Tips for Loading Film” showed really big viewership because they filled a gap that I knew needed to be addressed at the time.

Even though there were sometimes months between new posts, people kept subscribing which shows that there is an appreciation for quality content that people find helpful. I was also really bad at marketing the videos at first (and am still not that great!) But recently, I’ve started to put more effort into things like Instagram and cross-promoting the content. I try and take photos and text posts every now and then to put on Instagram or Twitter. These are still lagging far behind the channel, but I plan to keep working on them.

So, for Pushing Film the growth was organic, but still, it has taken over 3 years! I never got promoted by any other huge channels. But, I have had the pleasure of meeting other content creators and doing collaborations, which is absolutely one of the best things about all this!

How do you handle brand deals and sponsorships? 

I often get random emails (as I'm sure many other creators do) with offers to review or look at products/services. Unfortunately, I have to say no to most of them. For one reason, they are usually not relevant enough to the niche of my channel. Or they aren’t something that I feel would be worthwhile or interesting enough for me to spend the time and effort to make a video. But there have been products I have been approached about which I’ve said yes to. I have also reached out to other brands when it is something that I am genuinely interested in. Sometimes it has resulted in a great collaboration, and sometimes they just don't reply. But the way I see it, you have to at least try!

When it comes to things I say yes to, I want it to at least be relevant to the interests of my channel’s audience. That is, mainly film photography. Sometimes I get approached by services like “online education” or about general photography and tech products, and I say no. It’s not worth always making a whole video or something just to get a free product, and I want to have some integrity to the channel in that I only take on deals that are things that actually interest me or I believe they are good products. I’ve never had any proper “sponsorships” for the channel yet, but if the right brand comes along I would be open to it. At the end of the day, I pour a lot of time and effort into what I do for Pushing Film, so it would be good to see it payback in some way that is better than the amounts derived through advertisements and affiliate marketing! 

At a certain point, you start to realise that there is space to treat it all like a business (which it is!) But, you also can’t lose passion for just creating what you believe in and want other people to see.

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