Fighting Off the Downward Spiral

Last week was a slow one and I'm blaming the upcoming July 4th holiday. Down time usually means questioning every life choice I've ever made and making sure my wife doesn't hear me crying myself to sleep. So in fighting the downward spiral this past week I worked on filling the creative bucket that never seems to get enough attention.

There's honestly no shortage of inspiration here. You've got your pick of world class museums, fantastic people watching, and those random ideas that get to bounce into each other and spark something else. Oh, plus Netflix released Paul Thomas Anderson's short film ”Anima" as a partner piece to the new Thom Yorke album.

The Brooklyn Museum is walking distance from our place in Park Slope; The Met is a bit of a hike, but I made it out there too this past week. It's not like I head out to a museum looking for something specific. I'm literally out there looking for something that'll get my attention and keep it. If whatever I find – imagery, idea, feeling – leads me to something else I consider that a productive day. If that visual idea or feeling sticks around and leads to a project, even better.

Another part of literally "trying to do the thing" is intentionally roaming around with a camera. I had an early afternoon meeting near Wall Street Thursday and spent the rest of the working day shooting shadows for the most part. Not a big fan of that mid- to early afternoon light on people's faces (plus I'm still nervous AF about getting up in people's business to shoot a more traditional portrait).

This Week and Staying Organized

This past week was spent trying to catch up after being out of town the week before.

Monday was mostly spent traveling home from Los Angeles.
Tuesday had our older boy "Graduating" from Kindergarten and me in a meeting with an agency guy I'd just met.
Wednesday had me taking all the public transits (subway, train, bus) out to Long Island to shoot second camera on a lacrosse tutorial with a professional athlete.
Thursday was pretty much an exhausted blur and I apologize again to Saint Anne the Wife for falling asleep on the couch around 8pm.
Friday was pretty great seeing as how I recently got connected with a local Lululemon store. I was in a couple weeks ago to buy some work clothes and ended up having a conversation with one of the staffers about what I did for a living plus how I used their clothes. They ended up thinking all that nonsense was interesting enough to invite me back in for an additional shirt, pair of pants, and socks at no cost and no strings attached short of just staying in touch and letting them know how I'm continuing to use their clothing for work. Freakin' rad way to build customer loyalty.

In addition to all this nonsense I learned some new spreadsheet formulas to help automate some business related issues – super interesting obviously...

In keeping track of my time editing, I'd always tracked my hours in a simple spreadsheet. I'd plug in my start and end times, but never had the spreadsheet do the math for me. Some of my recent shooting jobs have had us going over the agreed on 10 hour days and I found myself digging through callsheets and any kind of digital record (text messages, Instagram DMs, etc.) to try and remember start and stop times. Turns out I've been missing out on some unpaid overtime.

With that in mind I ended up built out a somewhat souped up timecard spreadsheet. After plugging in my call and wrap times, the spreadsheet would automatically do the math and calculate overtime based on the day duration. I'm still working on cleaning it up and adding the options that'll automatically account for day rates as well as travel days, but that shouldn't too difficult.

  • The HOURS column calculates the total hours worked that day.

    • =END '06/22/19'−START '06/22/19'
  • The next column calculates if the day was less than or equal to the amount of agreed on hours – in this case, a 10 hour day. If it's over, the text "OT" shows up in the following column; if not, it's a blank cell.

    • =IF(STRIPDURATION(HOURS '06/22/19')≤F$2÷24,"","OT")
  • The OT column calculates if there is overtime and how much; if none, it's a blank cell.

    • =IF('Hours:' '06/22/19'="OT",(HOURS '06/22/19'−F$2),"")
  • Finally the TOTAL OVER TIME is calculated by adding up the values in the OT column.

    • =SUM(F6:F9)

Another means of keeping my nonsense organized has me screenshoting images and/or taking photos then taking those images into the GoodNotes app on my iPad so I can make any handwritten notes as needed. Here's a couple rough notes from walking around and a quick visit to the Brooklyn Museum this past week.

Reggie Furrz - Space Magic

New stuff with Mr. David Bizzaro. It started out over coffee awhile back with David wanting to do a project with a new music track he'd written for his Reggie Furrz puppet. Fast forward to late April and we were in the studio shooting this magical bag of sparkles.

PRODUCER: Cassie Bizzaro
DP: Me
AC: Christiana Lopez
VFX & EDIT: David Bizzaro

Putting Money Back into the Business

My working world bounces between three specific circles: business, financial, and creative. It's embarrassing knowing how much time I spend staring at spreadsheets and analyzing how things are going business-wise. Still, it's that time analyzing details and planning ahead that affords me getting to sneak into the creative pool more than if I wasn't putting in that "non-creative" work.

While I'm making more money here in NY, the cost of living and doing business is considerably more. The way I'm making money here – at least at the moment – is quite a bit different too. My camera operator/DP numbers are way up and there's solid uptick in my stock footage sales. My numbers as a production company though – a combination of above and below the line roles and hiring crew as needed – have dropped dramatically. By no means am I doing major long term planning based solely on my 2019 numbers, but surely there's some insight from these last six or so months combined with my other financials and work records.


I feel like understanding the health of my revenue streams gives better idea on how to re-invest my profits. There's always an incentive to dump money back into the company to help lower my yearly taxes, but it's hard to justify dumping money into something that's not promising a healthy return on the investment.

Last week I spent three days as b-cam op on a slick Alexa Mini setup with one of those Angenieux EZ 1 zoom lenses, an Oconnor 2560 fluid head, and a fancy pants Odyssey monitor that let you switch between the two cameras.

When you're working on gear that helps you do your job better you have fewer excuses to suck at what you do. Yes, by all means my heart was happy working with this camera package. And yes, I checked into the pricing and quickly started working through how to justify the purchases "for the business." Oh, and the sound mixer had one of those nice blue Schoeps CMIT5U microphones. Then the adult in me kicked in.

Looking at my current revenue streams why on earth would I dump that much money into an area that's not growing? Would this be a fantastic camera package? Yes. Would it get me hired more and grow this revenue stream? Not necessarily. Would my overhead go up? Absolutely.

It's a weird feeling having to switch gears in terms of how I'm putting money back into my freelance work. It's still early – just over six months – in my professional experience in this new market to seriously consider making major capital investments. But man, those Oconnor fluid heads are so freakin' nice to shoot on.

Horrible Short-Term Memory

It's that magical time of year when work seems to slow down and you're absolutely sure you're finished. That no more work – meaningful or not – will ever come your way. Feast or famine. Thank goodness I’m that guy who keeps records, journals, and other nonsense to help remember what's happened before.

It's been helpful looking back at financial records for an objective view of money coming through the door. Over the years my work typically slows down during the summertime, tends to see a big swing into the fall, and then drunk toddlers into the winter.

There's also the thing about having kept a weekly blog for a decent amount of time. There were a handful of projects I'd posted around this time last year that I was proud of and it's helpful for me to go back and reflect on those times, look at what I'd been doing, and remember why I was happy with what I'd been putting out. There's still something to be said about being intentional and not "waiting for inspiration."

Obviously circumstances have changed over the last year or so, but it's helpful to remember slow seasons don't last. Surely there's wisdom in spending less time comparing my work to others and actually being intentional about putting the work in myself. Not exactly sure what that looks like, but I still like the idea that "it's easier to steer a boat that's moving."

Facebook Portal "Real Stories"

One of the New York connections I've made the last couple years is with a DP named Dave Adams. He's a stud, also Filmsupply contributor, and has thrown me more than a couple jobs these last few months. One of those jobs was as a 3rd Unit DP on a project for Facebook. Crazy excited to see a couple of these edits starting to come out.

DIRECTOR: Peter Jordan
CLIENT: Facebook
DP: Jeremy Snell
2nd Unit DP: Dave Adams
3rd Unit DP: Tanner Herriott

Freakin' ton of moving parts on this one and I was no question the littlest fish in the pond. By far the heavy lifting was already done by DP Jeremy Snell and the fantastic Chicago based crew. I literally flew in the night before, shot a full day on a beast of an Alexa Mini package with Panavision lenses, and flew back to NYC the next morning. Bonus points too for working with a local AC named John Waterman who I actually worked with waaay back during our OPUBCO/NewsOK days in Oklahoma City.

The first unit was in Chicago and helmed by Director Peter Jordan and DP Jeremy Snell. Dave Adams was shooting simultaneously with a second unit in Atlanta, while I was going at it with the third crew in another part of Chicago. Only a couple of my shots made the edit but good grief I'm stoked I was even invited to the party.

Six Months In

This week marks six months since I’ve been in Brooklyn. I’ve met and worked with creative heroes who’s work I’ve followed for years. I’ve shot on projects for major brands that everyone would know. I’m getting close to where we need to be financially to continue living here as a family of four on one income.

It’s still hard AF to live here, especially with small kids, but I’m glad we made the move. The opportunities here are very real but you’re by all means paying for them financially, emotionally, and physically.

With all the changes these last six months there's still things that don’t change. Moving to New York didn't add more hours to the day and I feel like the time I do have is even more sparse. It's incredible how quickly these past six months have gone. I’ve been working a ton the last few months and I still constantly fight the urge to just spend incoming revenue on new gear instead of aggressively paying off business debt and building an even deeper financial cushion. Trying to be a good husband and parent for sure isn't any easier.

I'm a Guest

There's still a good deal of "Hi, it's good to meet you. My name's Tanner." going on nearly six months into living here in NY. I'm constantly meeting new people via work stuff, friends of friends and new friends, and tons of people/parents and orbiting my kids' worlds. Saint Anne the Wife is still driving the boat with the social circles outside my work stuff and she's by far the lead in those relationships.

With that in mind, I desperate try to live out that "I'm a guest" attitude just about wherever I am: our rented apartment, whatever mode of transportation I'm using, the coffee shops I frequent, etc. Focusing in on work stuff I want to say that I approach each client, job, and set I'm on like I would as if I were a guest – because I am.

““When you are invited to a wedding feast, don’t sit in the seat of honor. What if someone who is more distinguished than you has also been invited? The host will come and say, ‘Give this person your seat.’ Then you will be embarrassed, and you will have to take whatever seat is left at the foot of the table! “Instead, take the lowest place at the foot of the table. Then when your host sees you, he will come and say, ‘Friend, we have a better place for you!’ Then you will be honored in front of all the other guests. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”” - Luke 14:8-11 NLT

Clients with paid work and collaborators with passion projects have reached out to me to do the thing, so I'm basically there because they invited me. I like to think that keeping the "I'm a guest" attitude helps to not be an all around turd.

"You're a guest," so that means not being a jerk or a headache to the other people on set. Do what you're supposed to be doing. Go out of your way to be helpful. Don't suck all the air out of the room by trying to be the most important person there.

"You're a guest," so that means you're not treating their gear or the rental gear like trash. I'm very intentional in how I treat my own gear because it's valuable to me. I spent good money on it and want the return on my investment to last as long as possible. Surely I can treat other's gear with the same respect.

"You're a guest," so that means act in a way that will potentially lead to them inviting you back. That being said, I'm not saying you have to answer their call the next time if they were a dumpster fire and not worth working for again. Still, don't forget that dumpster fire may know people you don't and could help you land your next client/job/project.

(Politely) Saying "No"

"Hey! I'm a person/organization/business offering you money for the thing you do. Would you like to do the thing and me pay you?"

Easily one of the best things to hear as a freelancer. Good grief thankfully I've been hearing that a lot lately. There's much more cinematography work here in New York and one of the major reasons for uprooting and moving our family across the country.

Coming from a smaller market like Oklahoma City I said "yes" to just about everything coming through the door – I had to to keep the financials where I wanted them for my business and our family. Here in New York I've had outlier days where multiple paid job offers come literally minutes to seconds apart.

Please know this isn't meant to be boasting. At this point I've got years of freelancing behind me and ABSOLUTELY know that this line of work is feast or famine. Landing work here in New York came much quicker than I expected so there's no reason for me to believe that it can't just as quickly go to some other hungry hustler doing the same thing. That's the terrifying thing about saying "no" to paid and even some unpaid work. People, organizations, and businesses are literally offering to pay you actual money you can use to pay bills and cover your responsibilities to do the thing you do and you're telling them "no." There's also the thing about during down work and the very real possibility that the person/organization/business falls in love with the next person they call and they never call you back – and tell other people/organizations/businesses to not call you either. That's absolutely terrifying and no question keeps me up at night.

In being transparent about all this nonsense and in the interest of other priorities I have at the moment I'm literally saying "no" to going into how and why I decide to turn down paid work and passion projects. I've for sure got my reasons and could go into how priorities help me make the decision, but that'll need to wait for another time.

Am I doing it right? Again, no clue but I sure hope so.