The First Six
It is now a bit just over six months since I have opened this little business Sutro Studios. It's been an incredible journey, where I learned a lot from other people, from the projects, from my mistakes. And there's lots of those.
One of my favorite things in life is to be honest and genuine about everything that I go through. Not only do I feel it's a great resource to myself, since I can have a record of what I've been through and what I learned from it, but also to all my clients, readers, friends, family, or simply anyone who might be interested in learning from someone else.
One of the most powerful things you can do in your life is teach. And I decided my business was missing that side of things, where I can just lay it out there in simple and plain words, the stuff that I go through in this crazy adventure of trying to make my own films, commercials, video, photos, and everything else.
As a first post, I just wanted to throw out there some general things that I keep thinking of during this first half of my company.
First of all, I had zero background in any kind of business related issues. Finance, budgeting, legal, marketing, all the stuff that you need to deal with when opening a company become immediately a huge challenge to an artist filmmaker/photographer like myself. But there's one thing of immense value that I have, which is, I like learning new things. I will read books and books and more books until I start understanding how to do some of the legal stuff I need to do to properly write a contract, a proposal, terms of service, set up an LLC. I will read blogs, read comments to the blogs, ask questions on forums, absorb conversations on Twitter or Facebook, and read articles and more articles on all other cases of production companies that started in similar ways.
You need to know what to expect. How much money it takes to just even keep the business alive legally, with the State of California in my case, with the city of San Francisco. There are taxes, registration fees, and I now have an amazing CPA and a bookkeeper that have been an invaluable resource to all my needs, and questions and more questions.
Fortunately, the actual product and services that I offer through Sutro Studios have been basically my whole life. It's my passion. What I love doing. The reason I called it Studios, instead of Films, is because I never want to stop doing photography. I love film, and I love storytelling through film, but I also love being able to offer the same kind of powerful imagery through stills. It's something I want to grow on as an artist. And of course, collaborating with other talented film and photography people so that we can tackle more complex projects as time goes on. I have a huge network of friends and colleagues, who I would immediately tap on if needed to always deliver the best results, the best films, the best photos.
It does feel like you are working 24/7 when you create your own business and you leave the corporate world. I worked at Pixar Animation Studios for seven whole years, almost a year at DreamWorks, and another chunk of time at Framestore and live action when I was living in London many years ago. I have worked in Oscar-winning feature films, short films, animation, live-action, theme park rides, commercials, music videos, trailers, everything really. But the amazing thing that I love about this world is that no matter what project I dive into, it always seems like I am just starting. It's all a big unknown. A huge task. An impossible mission. But surrounding yourself by quality people, collaborating with others, opening yourself to mistakes, working hard and giving your best, I have always managed to deliver an outstanding result.
The first six months have been incredible. I sold photographs, I licensed photographs for publicity use, I collaborated with great people in films and commercials, I filmed and created insanely successful Kickstarter campaigns, and I even managed to indirectly help build a whole new daycare school in Haiti to give medical and educational access to impoverished children. All through the power of a little film.
There are times when no work comes in. And those are the scary parts, the lulls in the business. Everyone says it takes about three years for a new business to be profitable, to have a regular steady income, and I believe that. But I have been fortunate enough these past few months to be able to grow my business slowly in a steady way, while being careful of course in what I invest in, equipment, gear, and other matters that go into growing a company slowly. You have to be smart, but you have to be fearless. And when the lulls happen, I use that free time for education, to learn new skills, to challenge myself and try new things, to look for more work. I see the lulls as an opportunity to expand my horizons, to write, to try things that I never had time to try before. And you can't ever give up. The first three years are the hardest of them all, as you build your brand, you get your clients and create a good enough portfolio that shows what you bring to the table.
I have nearly fifteen years now of working in the film industry, so my eye for composition, color, lighting and cinematography is pretty outstanding. When you get our services at Sutro Studios, you are actually getting that artistic sensibility that only comes with years and years of experience. You are getting a true collaborative team of either 1-person, or multiple people, who all come together because we are passionate about telling your story, selling your idea, creating an emotion, a feeling and a mood.
Filmmaking, and photography, are magic to me. I always say that life is too short, and it is, but perhaps that is why I am so into this whole recording things visually in a way that inspires people in some way.
I don't know what the future will bring. What the next six months will bring. But I am sure that whatever it is, I will always look back at this experience of building this brand as one of the most valuable and unforgettable moments of my life. No matter what happens, it's already been worth it.
To all the people who have worked with me already, thank you. I learned from you so much. To all the clients who have hired me already, thank you. I am humbled to have been able to bring your idea to life.
And to the future? I'm here for you.
Stay tuned for many updates on this blog. I've done so many things already this year, that I want to be able to share everything I have learned throughout the process. If you have ideas, suggestions questions, never hesitate to post a comment, or email me, and I will be sure to address it at some point.