Meet Christophe, a creative filmmaker living in Mechelen, Belgium! Christophe started as a creator at a very young age, at a time when the internet was rapidly becoming popular. “Already almost twenty years ago, I was still a student and was asked by Combell, a well-known Flemish internet provider and web hosting company for which I started doing programming. I then also took care of the graphics such as the photos and animations that the website needed. And I found that I actually really liked that!”.
This is Christophe, filmmaker from Mechelen, Flanders. After studying computer science, he studied communication sciences where he learned about how to convey a message for a company in the best possible way.
Because the creative aspect of this continued to attract him, Christophe started a four-year course in directing at the film school. Here he learned to tell stories through film directing. During that time he also started working as a cameraman.
“I am actually much more of a generalist than a specialist. I am not ‘the best’ at anything, but I do want to be the best at ‘being able to do a little bit of everything’.
Christophe continues: “After graduating, I continued to work part-time for a while. After about a year starting for myself as a freelance filmmaker, I had enough income from my own company. During my studies I already built up a relationship with a number of clients. That helped me a lot to start my own business“.
The customer comes first
“I see it as a privilege to be able to be creative. A gift to create beautiful things.”
“My goal as a filmmaker is not so much to produce the most spectacularly beautiful film with which I will win prizes. Of course, making beautiful work is important, but my goal is: how do I best convey my customer’s message? This can be a commercial message, but sometimes it can also be a social theme”.
“The product or concept that I advise the customer is not the one I am best at myself, but above all the one that best suits my customer. My clients now select me on this basis because they know that they have little work to do with the briefing and discussing the assignment. That click with my customer is very important. So I ask them: what are your ideas? And does video as a form fit best with those ideas?”
There are companies I’d rather not work for, even if the job itself is lucrative. For example, if a company does something that is harmful to our society, think of tobacco brands. One of my customers is IKEA, with them I can clearly sense a desire to improve things in society.”
Think along in all stages
“I try to think along with my customers in all phases of a production. This prevents valuable input from being lost, between the client, the director, the cameraman and the editor.”
“A film can be very beautiful from a cinematic point of view, but still not convey the message that the customer had in mind, explains Christophe. “I once made a video that opened the eyes of my client: the film was ultimately not used in their communication because they saw that what they wanted to explain with the video was ‘too complicated’. For example, my work has contributed to the fact that they have subsequently greatly simplified their processes. In the end, that paid off for the company more than they would just deploy the video and leave their processes unchanged. Actually, my film served as a mirror to them! And this company has been a very good customer of mine to this day.”
“Because I am involved in different phases, my work is different every day. One day I have a meeting, the next I film, make animations or edit. A nice variation!”
Christophe also knows his limitations, if he indicates that he cannot do everything himself or it takes too much time from him. That is why he has gathered a permanent team around him to be able to call on. Animators, voice-overs, MUAs, cameramen and actors. “What I do find important is that they also want to pursue the best for the customer and not so much want to lay their own creative egg.” adds Christophe.
Inspired by ‘BOOS’
“I get my inspiration from work by all kinds of other makers, for example on Youtube. One of the makers I really like lately is Tim Hofman from (Dutch Youtube channel) BOOS. How these episodes are made is really fantastic. Very different from a TV program, much looser in concept and edit. They just loosely place a text on the screen if they do something wrong in the shot, for example an overexposed shot. Fantastic! The fun of making something like this really shines through. At the same time, it can mean something in society, making people aware of something. Images can really set something huge in motion. My dream is to make something that triggers something like this.”
Learning new skills during COVID 19
When the lockdown began, Christophe still had a number of projects to complete so that he was not immediately out of work. But when that was done, he started doing something new for him: advising corporate clients on how to create their own video content. “One of my customers provides training to their clients, but they were no longer able to do this physically due to the lockdown. So I helped them set up a small film studio with which they could record live streams and instructional videos themselves. That also gave me work. These images also had to be edited”.
“This showed me that video content is actually ‘the new text’ content” Christophe adds. “In many cases, video is much more efficient at leaving a message, because you can add more dimensions to the message, such as emotions. More and more of my customers are convinced of that. And they wonder how they can create simple video content in-house. I help them with that, for example to make the look of their live stream more professional with good use of lighting equipment.”
“Actually, this is how I create the content together with the customer. I now also try to distinguish myself in comparison with other videographers around me.”
“A lot of things I didn’t know before and I still had to find out. As a result, I initially earned a little less with that assignment, but by acquiring that new knowledge I was able to get more revenue from it afterwards.”
Gift and responsibility
“I see it as a privilege to be able to be creative. It is actually a gift to create beautiful things.” But according to Christophe it also becomes a responsibility to do the right things with that talent. “Not just in making movies, but in other areas of life as well. Creativity allows me to discover new worlds.”
“As a filmmaker, photographer or other maker”, Christophe points out, “you don’t just have to rely on your technical abilities. The most important thing is that you are creative.” That’s what he looks for in everyone he works with.
“Creativity helps me a lot, especially in uncertain times like corona, to find the right solutions and discover new things.”
Christophe doesn’t really care what he works with in terms of equipment. But still, Sony is a brand that he regularly shoots with. For example a Sony FS7, already a bit older but a workhorse for him. “I also recently bought a Sony A7S3, which matches very nicely with the FS7 in terms of image. The A7S3 gives me a lot of flexibility, partly because of the super good autofocus. Very nice for shooting live-action images.”
“In terms of light, I like to work with my Nanlite Forza 60, which is a compact and lightweight set to mimic beautiful daylight. And what I occasionally need, I rent on Gearbooker.”
Christophe adds: “My autocue teleprompter is also very useful for interviews. By the way, I also rented out a lot on Gearbooker and almost earned it back, which is very nice!”
Few rental houses nearby
A year or two ago, when Christophe needed some equipment of his own, he came across Gearbooker. He already experienced it as an interesting concept, to be able to rent stuff from other makers. “I live in Mechelen and there are actually few good rental companies there, so I usually have to go to Antwerp, Leuven or Brussels. Gearbooker is very useful in that.”
“What I really like about it is that everything is well arranged, such as the insurance. And if I want to rent something myself, I like that placing bookings is so easy, online you can see availability, the total costs, et cetera. I really think that ease and overview is a big advantage compared to some official rental companies.”
“Most of my stuff lies unused in my house 95% of the time,” Christophe explains. “That’s why I took the time to offer some of my gear on the platform for rent. And after a while the booking requests for that started coming in.”
“I like the idea of contributing to a sharing economy and getting to know other makers who can put my stuff to good use. Some of my tenants do really nice assignments and that inspires me when I look at that work.”
A college for media and journalism is located near Christophe. “At one point, those students were looking for a 360-degree camera for a study assignment, so I was able to rent out my Insta360 camera to them a number of times,” he says.
“The money I earn from renting out is of course a plus, but expanding my network is perhaps just as nice. And participating in a world where things can be shared instead of always bought and consumed.”
Check out Christophe’s profile on Gearbooker!