chris-elder-haus-party-music-video
Dream Industry Jobs Q&A, Filmmakers

So You Want To Be A Videographer? Meet Chris Elder

Haus Party’s Chris Elder is a professional videographer, photographer and music video creator – a bloke who gets to be hyper-creative for a living. He shares with The Void the story of how this came to be his livelihood, how best to approach pros to get your foot in the door, and some of the wild adventures the gig has led him through.

Name, Age: Chris Elder, 28.
Location: South Sydney, Australia.
Current Gig: Full-time photographer/videographer.
Vimeo: vimeo.com/hausparty
Website: hausparty.com.au
Instagram: instagram.com/elderlad OR instagram.com/hauspartyau

How did you get into your line of work?
It all began with my desire to capture hobby-based experiences. First it was bird watching, then it was car racing, then skateboarding, then music… I felt compelled to document each and every hobby of mine through the lens. Combine that with supportive parents, and a love for telling stories, and you’ve got yourself a career.

Who do you work with and how did you come together? How important is collaboration?
I work with some of my best friends, who essentially sub-contract for Haus Party, but I also work closely with the client. As far as my production team go, I’ve got a network of people that I often call on. Pierre Duyker and Ed Reiss are probably the two main people that I collaborate with in my work. Pierre and I went to the same high school, so we dabbled in joint projects then. Ed and I got in touch after we saw each other’s first music videos. Everybody is pretty friendly in the Australian music scene, so the majority of photographers and filmmakers get along nicely – often providing feedback, and supporting each others projects.

Collaboration is definitely important. There’s a reason why movie credits aren’t made up of just one person! When you’re working with so many artists on a daily basis – collaboration with the client is important too. To completely discredit their artistic input would be an insult to their intelligence. More importantly, it is our job is to represent the client – who knows the client better than themselves?

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What was your first job and how long did it take you to get into doing what you do now?
My first ever job was delivering the local newspaper after school. It took me about 10 years from that point before I went full-time in my current line of work. My first ever paid camera job was photographing my mates car. It paid me $80, and I was stoked!

Did you have a mentor, someone you knew that you looked up to?
My older brother was definitely my biggest mentor, and my biggest critic. He’s currently working as an animator on feature films over in the UK. So even until this very day he puts my industry efforts to shame haha … but his success is probably the main reason why I felt confident enough to pursue a career in the artistic industry.

Did you have a lightbulb moment where you knew this is what you wanted to do?
I can’t say that I ever had a “lightbulb” moment. Towards the end of high school I was still a bit lost with what I wanted to pursue. I think a lot of teenagers are in a similar position; it’s quite daunting to try and think of a career that you will pursuit for the rest of your life. Luckily for me, my parents encouraged me to follow my passions, and I applied for some film and photography studies post-high school. Funnily enough I didn’t get accepted into two of the video-based courses I applied for, due to not fulfilling their application requirements (which had nothing to do with your portfolio of work). I was eventually accepted into a photography course, which lead me to where I am today. “What I want to do” is constantly evolving – I think that it’s important to embrace change, as you can never predict the future. As change is the one constant in life, you might as well appreciate it for what it is.

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What do you think are the personal qualities of a great video creator?
Passion, focus, determination, and an open mind.

How important is it to specialise?
There’s a saying that goes along the lines of “jack of all trades, master of none.” Many argue the point that you must specialise in order to succeed in your field. If you want to get a job on a proper film set, you’ll need to specialise in a specific discipline. So much so, that it is often discouraged for you to even speak to anybody that is outside of your department, unless absolutely necessary.

I don’t really like to work under that hierarchy mentality. I personally feel that diversity is more important to me, particularly as I run with smaller teams than normal film sets. This approach to work has probably held me back in some areas, but for the time being, I’d much rather work in an environment that thrives off positive vibes and encouragement, where skills and creativity are free flowing. Recent business trends have also seen an increase in demand for multi-talented workers. So in many cases, video projects are created entirely by one person. In this case, having the ability to transfer your skills across multiple disciplines might just get you the job.

How much has your gig changed over the years for you?
The biggest change I’ve seen is that the majority of my work has gone from photo-based media to video content. With smart phones allowing people to watch video from just about anywhere in the world, people will quite often search for music videos to discover a band, rather than searching for the music itself.

Furthermore, the photography and film industry is heavily influenced by technological changes – especially when a manufacturer creates a new product that offers a cinematic quality at an affordable price point. People are generally looking to utilise techniques that give the impression of high production value. Staying up to date with the latest technology seems to be a common enabler of this. Funnily enough, it is this realisation that stopped me buying more gear. I now rent the majority of my gear, which allows me to tailor my equipment list to the specific project requirements.

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What have been your proudest works that you’ve been a part of creating?
It’s really hard for me to pick out my proudest works, as each project typically serves a specific budget and purpose. I love conceptual work, so any narrative pieces that speak from the heart are usually a favourite of mine. You can find some here. But on a more personal level, some of the most satisfying work that I’ve done to date would be the photographs that I upload on to Instagram. It has allowed me to express my thoughts in a much more detailed manner; delving further into the conceptual world by giving context to my perspective, rather than just relying on the image to tell a story.

Who have been your favourite artists to work with?
It’s always a casual working environment when you’re working with musicians – so much so, that I’ve become good mates with quite a few of the artists that I work with. A huge tick of approval goes out to any of the artists that are brave enough to hang with me after hours – you know who you are!

What’s the best way to approach a video director you admire if you want to get into the business as an assistant first? What should you NEVER do?
In the proper film industry where they work on big sets, you’re probably better off talking to a producer rather than a director as they’re the person that organises the crew. Alternatively, you’re probably better off talking to the head of the department that you want to work in.
I’d recommend doing a bit of research about the field you wish to enter. The more knowledge you have on set, the more use you’ll be as an assistant. Also, it’s pretty important to have your licence and access to a car, as more often than not, the entry level position will be as a runner.
For me personally, I appreciate it when people email me with a bit of information about what their areas of interest are, where they reside, what their availability is, what equipment they own or can offer to the production, and any relative previous experience or samples of work.

In your opinion, what is the best first question a production assistant should ask on their first day?
“What can I do to help?” is a pretty broad question that usually works.

What is the worst thing you could do on your first day?
The worst thing you could do on your first day is give up. If it’s something you really want to do, don’t let obstacles stop you from chasing that goal. Everybody starts somewhere, and the people that you are working with will surely be realistic about what you’re capable of doing on your first day.

What are the three most important lessons you’ve learned so far?
– Communication is key
– Ensure you have a wet-weather backup plan
– Always have a concept and maintain clarity of this concept from start to finish
The fourth lesson is most important though – enjoy yourself!

What’s been your best “pinch yourself” moment so far?
It’s difficult for me to pinpoint a single “pinch myself” moment.
The last two years have seen me travel with my camera to every state in Australia (except for WA), and to Thailand three times. Each one of these trips would have to be a “pinch myself” moment.

What’s been the most unintentionally hilarious day so far?
Most definitely the first night I had in Thailand, whilst working on the Muay Thai TV series “Warriors of the Mongkon”.

I made the horrible mistake of losing the director in a crowd at night, which meant I had to try and find the hotel by myself. This would prove to be quite an adventure – I had no idea what the name of our hotel was, and it was definitely a decent drive from my current location … so, based off the very little memory I had of where it was, I began walking.
After walking for a solid half an hour, I knew I was lost. I spotted some people gathered on a nearby beach, so I decided to approach them in an attempt to find my bearings. Instead, I found theirs. For anybody that has travelled to Thailand before, you’ll know that the presence of ladyboys is very much engrained within the local culture – pepped up on all sorts of hormones, they can actually be quite dangerous if you upset them. It turns out that I had approached a ladyboy volleyball party, and they were keen for me to join. After numerous offers to be paid for sex with them, I politely declined before leaving – but not before one of them managed to plant a wet kiss on my neck.

I spotted a 7-11 and figured it would be my best chance to make contact with the western world. Unfortunately I was wrong. None of the staff spoke English, but one of them kindly offered to come off her shift to play taxi for me on her scooter in an attempt to find my hotel.
After about 15 minutes of riding around town, she gave up, and approached somebody on the street that spoke good English – another ladyboy. The ladyboy demanded that I pay the girl some money for her troubles, before offering to ride with me around town in a second attempt to locate the hotel. At this point I was getting pretty desperate, and didn’t have any other options, so I agreed. We set off, and it wasn’t long before he/she figured that my close proximity was the perfect opportunity to advertise his/her “massage” services. Yet again, I politely declined, except this time the response was a little different. He/she took advantage of my vulnerable position on the back of the speeding scooter, by taking one of my hands that was holding onto his/her waist, and pushed it straight into his/her top, onto the bare (and very fake) boob.

I clearly recall shaking my head and laughing when this happened, thinking “only in Thailand” would my vulnerability in a helmet-less scooter ride be taken advantage of like this. We eventually found my hotel, and he/she somehow convinced me to give him/her all of the money in my wallet in return for her taxi services. All in all, I was just glad to be in my bed, completely alone, with my anus intact.

What’s your ultimate goal, ultimate band, ultimate project? Has it already happened?
The main goal I have right now is a project that I’ve had in mind for a while now – a couple of years ago, my daily driver was taken off the road. I kept it with the mindset that I’m going to blow it up (literally).
Luckily for me, I’ve discussed this with a good friend of mine, who also happens to be a professional pyro-technician/theatrical armourer.
It’s still in the early stages of planning, but I’ll certainly be going all out on this project when the time comes.

What’s the biggest misconception in your opinion about creating music videos?
I think the biggest misconception is how quick it is to make changes in the editing stage. Time spent in post-production is not normally witnessed by the client, so it’s difficult for them to gauge how much effort goes into this part of the production. Something as simple as a spelling mistake can add a day to the turn-around of a job.

What’s the hardest part of the job, in your opinion?
Anything to do with money – it’s such a mood killer. I’d much rather be focusing ideas rather than the dollars, but I suppose that’s part of being in business.

What’s the best part of the job?
The wonderful people you get to work with – being given the opportunity to work with such brilliant, creative people on a daily basis is an absolute blessing.

How important is the phrase “what happens on tour, stays on tour”?
I think this phrase has different meanings to different people. For some people it’s about relationship loyalty, for others it’s about the ridiculous shenanigans that they partake in. Regardless of how you interpret it, your secrets are bound to come out eventually; just think about how many people own camera phones! Why do I know this? Because the last time I was interstate with a band, I lost a bet, got naked, and it some how ended up on Facebook. Who would have thought?

For a young aspiring Australian creative (or a fan dreaming of being one) what would you recommend they do first?
Stop judging yourself by comparing your own achievements to others. You must realise that your individual perspective is priceless. It is irreplaceable – 100% unique. The moment you realise that this unique perspective of yours is your greatest asset, is the moment you can truly harness your strengths, and expand even further with your work.
Delve deep into the practice of creative expression. Don’t stop dreaming. Follow your passions, or whatever it is that gives you the drive to live. Dream to stay awake!

Please share a link to 3 music videos for bands (your own or others) that you dearly love, and tell us why. 
They’re not all bands, but they’re the first three music videos I have on my mind:

Kendrick Lamar – Alright
It speaks volumes. Politically and artistically.

Korn – Freak on a Leash
This was the first thing I watched that truly showed me the power of a music video.

The Hills – The Weeknd
Because it’s recent, and I love the cinematography.

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