When I first started out on Hourly America, I knew absolutely nothing about filming a documentary. (Then again, I knew nothing about any of the jobs I'd be working across the country either!) I'd watched documentaries before, even watched my best friend film one in college. But I had no idea how to film one on my own.
As I worked through each state, people often asked if my wife and I had backgrounds in film or if it was something we studied in college. They were always shocked to find that we knew nothing about cameras or videography before starting on this adventure across the country. To be honest, I've always wanted to film a documentary. It's been on my bucket list for a few years. I always thought it would be cool, but I didn't think it was something I could actually ever achieve.
While I struggled through the first month of jobs and filming, in Portland we hit our big break when we met Wes and Tera Wages. The couple from Alabama owns their own videography company and was in town filming a conference. I met them through a friend of a friend and we stayed in Portland for a week working with them and learning from them.
Wes and Tera gave my wife and I confidence in our ability to film this documentary, despite our lack of knowledge and experience. So it was only fitting when I made it Florence, AL that I work for WesWages.com as a cameraman.
Since I work all of the jobs, my wife usually does most of the filming. I try to film as much as possible, and I wanted to put my experience to the test to help Wes with his website. On Wes' site, he teaches video basics to young videographers like me. Before Wes, I didn't know much about aperture or focal length or what the mm on a camera lens really meant. His tutorial videos helped me learn on the road.
As I stood in the studio behind the camera filming one of Wes' videos with him--with a cold by the way--something dawned on me. Wes asked me some question about my camera and I knew the answer. I don't remember what the question was now, but I felt this sudden burst of confidence answering his question.
You see, for the first six months of Hourly America, I felt like I was faking it. I was just a guy, working these jobs for a day, pretending to know what I was doing. I was filming this documentary pretending to be a videographer, but not having any of the technical knowledge film requires.
As I talked to Wes, I realized just how much I'd learned in the past six months about film and I suddenly saw my dream of filming a documentary coming to fruition. I wasn't pretending anymore. Somewhere along the way, I became a documentary filmmaker.
I might have never tried to film a documentary if it weren't for my wife and my friends at Snagajob. I might never have finished Hourly America if it weren't for Wes, mentoring me and sharing his knowledge with me along the way. It could be just another dream on a bucket list that gathered dust waiting for me to gather the courage to jump in.
There are goals that you have in life that may seem impossible. For me, that goal was filming a documentary when I knew nothing about film and the only camera I owned was an iPhone. There is no single key or secret shortcut to achieving this goal. I wish there was, so that I could tell you and help you reach your dream. But I can give you some advice. Something that finally hit me while filming Wes in Alabama.
Even if you don't know where to start, even if you don't know how you'll finish or if you ever will, even if you don't have the money, the knowledge, the time, the skills or the bravery to do it, do it anyway.