Breaking Into The Travel Industry As A Filmmaker

by Mathilda de Villiers

Today, the industry of videography has many players. The competition is fierce. The creativity and quality levels are at an all-time high. So if you’re wanting to start a career in filmmaking, whether it’s commercial work or a dedicated YouTube channel, how do you make sure that you stand out? How do you make your mark? Do you cower away and run? Or do you step up to the challenge?

Ten years ago, if you yearned to learn about filmmaking, video editing or anything related, you probably chose to attend a college or course. Today, all you have to do is click on the search bar in Google or YouTube. There isn’t much that you can’t learn online anymore. This, of course, has its pros and it has its cons. Sitting next to another human being is sometimes a better way of learning a new skill. Getting critical feedback is crucial to developing as an artist. But if you don’t have the funds to invest in years of studying, the gift of YouTube can take you very far. In the end, it really does boil down to personal preference, where your life has landed you and most of all – whether you have the true drive behind what you’re aiming to achieve.

I sat down with two highly successful filmmakers based out of Cape Town, South Africa, to hear their stories and what they had to say about starting a fresh career today compared to when they first started. In the last decade the game has changed, the gear being used is far beyond the scope of average and the creators out there are operating at a very high skill level. But don’t let this demotivate you – there is still a lot of space for new players in this world. There are just a few key things that will be needed to make you into a successful contender. Bryn and Naude share their knowledge and their insights into what will make you stand out.

Bryn North, originally from Zimbabwe, started his career roughly seven years ago. He has been living in Cape Town for roughly a decade and even though his work usually takes him over international waters, he still keeps Southern Africa as his base. Through his tangible passion for his craft, he made his mark as an incredibly talented filmmaker and has traveled and worked with other creatives such as Sam Kolder. But it didn’t always look so clear and simple for him. It took a life event where he injured his ankle to catapult him into learning how to become a multi-talented filmmaker through teaching himself through the vast expanse of YouTube. And back when he clicked, searched and watched, the world of YouTube hardly looked as full-bodied as it does today.

Naude Heunis’ career has taken him to many locations around the globe, but his work has mostly been focused on Africa, and he has worked for large corporations and brands as a filmmaker and photographer, including Rhino Africa, PolarPro and National Geographic. He has spent many years learning how to navigate the African wild and recently co-founded Behind The Scenes of Nature(*LINK), an organization dedicated to telling the stories that might otherwise get missed through dedicating time and resources into less-established communities affected by the global climate crisis.
Bryn never went to film school. Naude attended a film school in Cape Town. Today, they are friends and they have also worked together on projects with one another. They are both highly passionate about what they do as individuals, which is the first key to making it a success in this day age, according to Bryn – no matter how you learned your craft.

Be passionate

“If you’re passionate about something then you don’t mind the hard work. The hard work will come naturally. When things feel hard and you give up then you’re not truly passionate about it,” Bryn says.
Otherwise, you’ll never want to put in the work required to make a mark in this industry. It takes hours upon hours working on his videos and on projects for clients. And it’s not always easy, he says. It might not always be easy work, but if you’re enjoying what you’re doing and you’re passionate about it, the time you spend won’t ever feel like a lot of work in any case.

Passion projects

These are what keeps those fires burning – the passion that ignites the work. Sometimes when a passion becomes a job, you can get caught up in the end game and let the journey of creating slip away. For Bryn, passion projects are a big part of what he does because it allows him to at times take his own path, step out of the norm and show off his skills in the exact way that he chooses to.

Don’t let social media calculate your worth

“Starting out…if your video or your post on Instagram doesn’t do well, it doesn’t mean it’s not good. So look past that,” Bryn says.
You have to remember that you’re starting now. No matter who else you’re looking at on social media, know that it probably took them about 4 to 5 years to master their craft. It doesn’t happen overnight.
“It’s so hard to not get defeated because we have access to everyone and everyone’s lives. But only the good,” Bryn says. No one is showing you the horrible side of things. So it’s so easy to compare yourself when everyone is putting up these amazing things when no one showing you how hard it is or the hours that they’ve put in.

Master your craft

This doesn’t mean just enjoying what you do and doing it well. Choose a part of your medium and do it really, really well. This, according to Naude, will set you apart and will make people notice you.
When Naude first started out as a filmmaker, he was at the forefront when drones first came out. He picked one up, knew that there weren’t a lot of people out there doing it and he decided to run with it. He became really good at flying and shooting with a drone that bigger clients started noticing him.
In the same breath, however, he said that it’s equally as important to understand every part of your medium and how it works. For instance, if you want to become a cinematographer, you need to know how to not only be behind the camera, but also how to direct, how to produce and how to edit.
For instance, if you don’t know how editing works, while you’re out there shooting, you might miss many shots that you’ll need once the editing process begins.
“[It’s] not necessary [to] be good at all those things but dabble in it so that you know what it takes to do all those things,” Naude says.

Take risks and get uncomfortable

Naude and Bryn’s paths might be paved differently, but the way they lay their foundations is clear. They weren’t scared to risk it in order to make it. They weren’t afraid of the unknown – they allowed their ignited passions to guide their way forward.
There’s a saying that goes, “you’ll never know unless you try.” After speaking to both of them, I noticed that there was a common thread. They are both rooted in what they do. They have passion and they know their own self-worth.

Find your unique style

It’s easy to look towards others and do as they do. It’s another thing to look, learn and make that style your own. This is just as important, according to Naude. He says that he learned a lot from his mentor over the years, but eventually he took the knowledge he gained and turned it into his own unique style.
And that’s what allows you to stand out above the rest – the value that your work will give to your clients. And whatever you do for or with clients, make sure that you do it to the absolute best of your ability. Because if you impress a client once, chances are they’ll dial your number again for future jobs.

Through all the hard work, the failures and the successes, these two creatives have found their footing in the industry and they have made it their own. To do so, one thing rang true – if it’s a true passion, everything else will follow.
So if you’re sitting there, still wanting to take this world on, you should be filled with hope and not despair. It’s easy to get demotivated and intimidated, but it’s important to put all of that aside and run with what truly ignites the fire inside. Yes, the industry might be saturated. Yes, the talent pool is large and the players are strong. But this doesn’t mean that the work that you put out isn’t good. It doesn’t mean that there is no space for new talent.
This world of filmmaking is exciting, it’s more alive than ever and it’s an incredible feeling to break into something as rich as digital storytelling. Let the passion come alive and allow that fuel to carry you through to your goals.

Bryn North

Naude Heunis