Video Editing, Motion Design

The Film Butler

How He Turned His Childhood Aspiration Of Becoming A Video Editor Into Reality By Learning And Doing

Video Editing, Motion Design
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May 24, 2022

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

Hi there, my name is Chris Butler, otherwise known as The Film Butler. I’ve been creating and editing professionally for 12 years, as well as a lot of fun personal projects even before that. My main day job is corporate commercials for a variety of different companies, but I also have fun in a variety of different weekend projects ranging from concert visuals to NFTs as a side hustle. 

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

My love for technology and video editing started very early. I was in 7th grade when I opened Windows Movie Maker for the first time and made a slideshow of our family’s pig roast to present to everyone. That same year, I began helping out my church’s children's program with their PowerPoint slideshows. They trusted me enough to let me start adding animations like moving and looping backgrounds to the PowerPoint slides and then I started to add videos, too. The day everything changed was when they updated the computer to a Mac laptop and installed Final Cut on it. I was able to take the laptop home and make lyric videos and essentially had a small part-time job in middle school making videos for the church. 

I did that all through high school as well which had me creating 2-4 videos a week for years. I didn’t realize how much I learned until I started making videos with my friend Kyle in High School. We would spend weekends filming videos and practicing visual effects for fun. Lots of corny videos were made pointlessly until my parents said, “you know, you could do this for a job in the future.” That’s when my mind was made, I was going to be an editor!

This was one of my early creations in Instagram back in 2017.

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

As I scroll through Instagram, a lot of the content creators I follow post awesome ideas. I usually save them in a folder to try to recreate later when I see fit. Sometimes, staying aware of plug-ins/effects that have been released that could help you on future projects is a great idea. I’ll store away ideas I have for months and then remember them when a project might call for them. 

When I was first starting, and even still now, sometimes it’s really hard to come up with an idea from scratch. It’s like looking at a blank canvas, you don’t know where to start. A way to conquer this creative block is to recreate ideas from other artists and apply your twist to them. Going frame by frame and seeing how the glitch effect is done, how the text animates on screen, or how the shot is composited together can help you better understand where to start on your blank canvas. 

For example, a brainstorming concept I do is download the preview file for templates and effects I might want to recreate. Then I put them into a timeline to see how my motion graphics project might time out with the music and see if it could work. There might be 10 different videos that I’ll cut down to the best couple and from there I just recreate the effects with my text and branding. This process helps break up two different mindsets, the creative design process and then the actual execution. When being creative, having to take 15 minutes to find an idea you might like interrupts the creative juices in your brain. So I like to spend an hour or two downloading a bunch of different ideas that might work for each project so I can see it all at once. The same process when animating, if I have to take 10 minutes to find the correct font or what happens next in my animation, I lose my focus. 

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

I’ve been using Adobe’s platform for years, especially After Effects. My first job out of college was working for an automotive ad agency making two commercials a day. That intense workflow made me super efficient at After Effects. I’ve also been learning Cinema4d for a better 3D experience. Cinema4d is intense and reminds me of when I was first starting and scared of opening After Effects.

Some of my favorite, non-editing platforms to use are Frame.io to help with client revisions and Monday.com to help with scheduling and to-do lists. Frame.io has an amazing UI and makes asking for revisions from clients super easy for both parties. Rather than having to type up an email with timecodes and hard-to-understand revisions, this website helps clients leave their comments in the correct timecode and even has a plugin for Adobe that works great. It also makes you look very professional when you present links to clients to review.

Monday.com is another resource for essentially glorified task lists and timekeeping. It has another great UI to help keep me focused on the weekly goals. 

How did you build your brand to where it is now? Take us through your process.

Honestly, I didn’t build my brand myself. It took years from friends helping me, bosses guiding me, and online mentors directing me in the right direction. There is a lot of work to do, but taking it one video at a time is the best way forward. My brand right now isn’t a large entity, it’s me. It’s a compilation of some of the cool things I’ve done over the years from networking, corporate jobs, and a constant desire to learn. I like to post some of the things I’m learning as I go and hope that some people are interested in my journey. Putting the progress of my career helps motivate me to keep progressing. It also helps clients see who they will be working with. 

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

Anyone who wants to get into content creation will most likely hear the same thing from many other content creators…

The best way to learn is to do it.

The first videos you make will not be good. Looking back at my previous videos still makes me cringe, but that’s ok. It’s ok because you learned something while making the content. You learn a little something new every time. Maybe it’s a new shortcut that helps you edit faster, maybe it’s a new setting on your camera, or maybe it’s a mistake you made which will help you remember to never make that mistake again. There’s always something new to learn and the best way is to just do it. Start the edit, begin to write that script, and set up the photo shoot. Whatever your craft is, you need to start practicing.

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

In high school, I knew I wanted to do something with editing. I just didn’t know what. I went to film school to try and find it, majoring in cinema/television studies with a minor in business. But as I was overworking myself to get that business minor, I knew that minor wasn’t right for me so I dropped it and focused solely on my major. Although scary, I knew that was it. There’s going to come to a point where you have to take that scary leap of faith and just go for it. I don’t regret it and am happy I did, but it did require a lot of focus and work ethic. 

Out of college, I started full-time as an editor for an ad agency and that’s when I fell in love with the commercial side of editing. It’s a little more fast-paced than feature film editing which I enjoyed.  Eventually, I began freelance editing on the side and started my Film Butler business. Upwork.com was where I got most of my clients and then word of mouth from previous clients was when it started to become very successful. I committed to working full-time for a while as a freelancer during Covid and although successful, I did miss working with a team at an ad agency which is why I went back to a full-time job at Lionstar Films in Atlanta.

Tell us the biggest obstacles you have experienced in your content creation journey. And how did you bounce back?

My biggest obstacle starting, and still is my biggest hurdle sometimes, is less about video editing and more about pitching and sales. For us artists to be able to get paid, you need to get a client. This is where sales tactics and the business side of things come into play. When I first started, I was working for companies that had lots of clients and I always wondered how they were able to get them. As I moved to smaller companies, I worked with the salespeople directly and learned some of their tips and tricks. A lot of the work for videos requires pre-production to be able to pitch to the clients your ideas and creativity. Most times, that means you need to design three different logo animations for them to choose from or spend days storyboarding your ideas out for them. Oftentimes, it seems pointless to the artist to have to make all that extra work, but in return, you will get happy clients who will often come back. 

Some of the best advice I learned along the way was not just from my fellow video editors, but also from the CEOs, Creative Directors, and Salespeople who were on the front lines, taking care of the clients. They knew how to handle tackling challenges when it came to running a business and it helped me a lot while freelancing and handling some of my clients.

Tell us your best milestones in being a content creator.

I’ve had a lot of cool milestones, but my favorite one has to be when I networked and collaborated with Leah Culver. She’s a fantastic DJ and she had me create some visuals for her show at the Image Music Festival in Atlanta. The best part though was that I got to help run the screen for the visuals on the main stage at a huge festival. It was such an amazing experience to see people dancing and reacting to the music and visuals real-time. 

Once I also went to Haiti for two weeks and filmed a documentary there with a production company. This was my first film and edit documentary experience and it was such an incredible opportunity.

Another one of my achievements is making connections with some developers I knew from previous jobs. I’ve been helping their company Null Ref Labs make some NFTs for a cool game they are developing. The process of working on these NFTs has been fun because it’s challenging my 3d skills while also being on the ground floor of the cutting-edge Web3.0. 

What are your marketing strategies to grow your brand?

I’ll say this, the best way to keep clients coming is by word of mouth and references. You can run ads and market yourself and your work to bring in new customers/clients, that’s great and should be done. But a lot of companies and people will come back for more work if you did a great job for them. So don’t forget to go above and beyond for your clients. They will notice and recommend you to others. A recommendation from someone in the business is better than any targeted ad or marketing. Also spend the extra time to make sure you have a great, eye-catching video reel. It works wonders! 

Check out my Instagram Reel for 2020!

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