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Why you shouldn't buy your kid an expensive camera.

The most common conversation I have on social media is people asking me my advice on purchasing a camera. Usually for a child that is showing interests in the arts. 

It usually goes something like this: 

Hey Melissa, My kid is interested in photography or filmmaking and I want to buy a camera for them. I am looking at, insert the top of the line camera, and I want to know if it’s worth the money. What should I get?


SIDE NOTE

Have you ever seen Back to the Future? You know that character Biff? He wrote a wonderful song called “Questions,” that I want to adapt for myself, but insert camera tech lingo and camera advice into.

Since most people know him as Biff from the movie, he put together a song of the same questions he gets over and over.

I’ll just leave that here. It’s funny. 


CAMERAS ARE BEAUTIFUL TOOLS.

This is my long winded and likely more than you bargained for but it’s my honest opinion:

I will be the first to admit that I LOVE playing with expensive cameras. I ALWAYS have camera envy because the technology is changing so fast. Truth: My current kit, costs as much as a years salary and it took me 8 years to save for. It’s already outdated and I’m working on saving for that next level up. Gear envy in my industry is a never ending cycle and keeping my prices competitive enough to keep up is a real challenge. But I stand by my advice below. A camera does not make the artist as much as a paint brush does not make a painter.

Creativity is fostered, its earned. With experimentation, budget limits and repetition. If your young ones are showing interest in the arts, the best thing you can do is fan the flame with opportunity to learn. To “make a living,” as a filmmaker or photographer your kid is going to need a whole lot more than an expensive camera. They are going to need the skills to both create and sell their art. They are going to need a network of people. They are going to need grit. LOTS of it. 

Working in the arts is a hustle. School isn’t going to teach that. Not even college. I am still learning how to make money selling my skills to clients. It’s taken me years to build a career that feeds me. That journey took people. That journey didn’t start with an expensive camera. It started with my dad’s left-overs. My first camera, was an old 8mm video camera that my dad stopped using. My first photography camera was a hand me down. They weren’t top of the line. They were sitting in a box, collecting dust. I picked them up and started playing with them. Because they were old, I could experiment without fear of ruining them. When they broke, I took them apart to fix them. I learned how they worked. My first edit bay was made up of old VHS players. It wasn’t a top of the line computer, even though they were available at the time. My first films were lit by lights I bought at Home Depot for 10 bucks. I eventually upgraded to real gear, that all came later but only after I proved I was serious.

It’s not about the camera. Its about intent.

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If your kid has the intent to learn, they will learn on whatever they have available to them. It won’t matter how much you spend. Let them earn newer technology by creating work. I upgraded as the years went by and will admit, I had help to get my first “real,” camera. As an adult, that made a huge difference in my ability to get a job. But when I was learning, it didn’t matter what camera I had. I wanted to make work, so I figured it out.

I made films with my cousins, I took all kinds of pictures, I borrowed all my families VHS decks to create an edit space for myself and spent hours making music montages.

My parents did the best thing they could have for me, they created the space for me to create and fostered that creativity. It lead to me forging a career that I am really proud of.

That all started with a hand-me-down used camera.


Here is my advice: 

  1. Create with what you have first. Experiment. Inspire your youth to use the tools they have in front of them to create. Teach them that it’s about the person behind the camera and their vision, not the camera itself. Go to thrift store and pick up an old camera. Ask people for a hand-me-down. Take it apart, see how it works. Make a pin hole camera out of a cardboard box.

  2. My cell phone camera is my favorite camera. Seriously. It’s compact, fits in my pocket, shoots great quality and forces me to see the world and interact with it differently. I still use it to shoot for clients. I did just last week.

  3. People and network is what builds a career. Instead of buying the gear, find them a mentor. Pay for a 24 hour film festival and get them on a crew. All of us start from the bottom, the sooner your kid can start that journey the better. I still use mentors to move myself forward. Make sure they can motivate them, it’s important. Mentors who inspire growth will help kids to soar in the arts.

  4. Inspire with vision. Budget limitations force creativity. Use that. Steven Sotebrg just shot an ENTIRE Netflix film on his iPhone. The iMovie app costs $4. They can shoot and edit a short film all on one device. What if, the tool they needed was already in their hands?

  5. Teach them how to accept critique and develop ideas with a growth mindset. The first films they make will be crap. Teach them to suck. Teach them to suck and push through it. Set out to make the crappiest film ever. Have a sense of humor about how bad it is and then use that to inspire them to refine their skills. If failure is fun and seen as experimentation it fosters growth.

  6. Set a goal for entering a contest. Youth festivals and art shows are amazing resources. That resource goes away after the age of 21. Take advantage of every program and contest out there for youth in the arts. As an adult it becomes harder to play in this space without funding. Use the free programs while you can. Find programs that can offer access to gear and computers.

  7. Inspire with diversity. Take your kid to museums with art by minorities. Take them to a local art show, to see old movies in the park, get them outside their routines. Help keep their eyes open to different points of view. With free days at museums and art festivals, it doesn’t cost much.

  8. Teach them how to make money selling their work right away. Forget Girl Scout cookies - give them a budget to print work and sell a show. Market on instagram. Take a portfolio into a gallery and ask for feedback. Help them design a package for a local business and sell it. Figure out how to hang work in a coffee house. Host a fundraiser for a project. Whatever it takes. Do it together. This was the skill I needed most in the working world. 

  9. Help them find their voice and hold that value. What do they want to bring to the world? What stories do they want to tell? What is unique about them and what they create? Help put them in situations where they have to tell those stories in front of audiences. It’s vulnerable to talk about my work but I have to push through that to move forward. That grit keeps me fueled with opportunity among rejection.

  10. Make work. Lots of it. Repetition and variety over quality is the only way to get stronger and develop an eye.

  11. Lastly, encourage the shit out of them. Especially when its hard. I’ve had so many set backs in my career but I still have a career because I stuck with it. I kept working, no matter what. It’s still hard. But I have LOTS of cheerleaders. From friends, family, old teachers, new mentors and now even clients. I still need encouragement. Making work is hard, making money creating work is hard. Encouragement goes a long way to creating resilient minds. They are going to need that muscle to work through rejection and maintain a healthy self worth.  

Even if after all that, if they decide not to go into the arts, they will have learned valuable skills for adult life and it won’t be about the camera. It will be about their self worth, problem solving and grit. An expensive camera, isn’t going to teach that. Do the above and you’ll ensure that by the time they get their hands on those flashy tools, they will know how to wield them toward their goals.

There you have it. My long winded advice for what seems to be a simple question. I wasn’t able to buy my own gear till I was 32 years old. It took me that long to work and save up. I made hundreds of films for clients without one, before that. Through internships, friends, grants, programs, rentals and mentors I was able to work and create work. It’s about intent to create.

Also, here is a cute photo of me as a kid playing “kitchen.”




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Ghost Ranch; New Mexico at Sunset

GHOST RANCH @ GOLDEN HOUR

Every sunrise and sunset that I missed on our trip to New Mexico felt like a tragedy. As an artist, I know the value of good light. It literally hurts my soul when I travel to a beautiful land and can’t sit and watch that magical golden hour. I comically explain this concept to my husband, who as a musician understands only slightly. He’ll indulge me when I wake him up at 4 in the morning to drag him out on the road in Iceland or will put up with driving late at night to come back from a sunset scout. After dinner near Ghost Ranch, I asked if we could turn around and drive back for golden hour. I am so glad we did. I was able to grab these images with enough color detail to hand paint in the vibrancy we saw in person. So gorgeous!

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Being?

I don’t know how to be a question mark. 

Nor can I take up space. 

For its place used to be a period, 

but a comma took its face. 

I don’t know how to be a question mark. 

A point I can exclaim. 

I’m not sure how to BE in the this moment. 

Tense is present; past tense all the same. 

I’m used to picking a direction; 

writing betwixt the dark. 

But I can’t even find my apostrophes, 

So how can I be a question mark? 

An obscure place in my sentence, 

has no answer to start.

So I bash the words together, nay 

And curse that question mark. 

That period oh, she mocks me.  

So certain in its end. 

No matter which direction I push,

the exclamation point won’t bend. 

I tired to finish this story

All dashes and ampersands, 

but I still don’t know how to be a question mark,

and that is where I stand. 

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In the works ...

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In the works ...

My calendar is a beautiful color coded hot mess of appointments, meetings, deadlines, and productions. I repeat to myself that I am fueled and nourished by my clients, subjects, and films that I get to create. This helps me push through the next round of work. 

I keep going back to a visualization I had while having my aura read about ten years ago. I was told that my energy was grounded and I am delightfully and magically making the world move about me as I move through it. As a director, I loved that image. Right now, I am in it. The world is swirling around me and I am slowly stepping through it. 

From the inside, it is a thrilling and scary place to be. I am questioning my work, what I have to say and what I have created thus far. I am feeling pulled toward my new age. I feel a new transformation bubbling underneath all this activity and I am not sure where it is leading me quite yet. 

I've come here to update. But really, I think I just needed a minute to put some thoughts on paper. I am feeling ready for my next artistic iteration, my reinvention or emergence. I know it is happening underneath the surface, but I have yet to give this new found "thing" a voice.

That's all I have for the moment. I have lots of cool new work to share. Which is the source of all this activity. I've been keeping my instagram updated, come join me there: @melissafoxmedia

 

 

  

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The Ladies Three

I am obsessed with eyes. I remember they were the first doodles I ever made. It seems to be popping up more and more in my portrait sessions as of late. I think the eyes tell us so much. This was a quick test of a new lens with the interns of fig media inc. Loved how they turned out! 

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Creative Blocks

 

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I know the feeling. The one I get after booking a cool project. The money is in, contracts are signed and now it is time to get to work. I pour myself a hot cut of tea and look over my notes. I read interviews, creative briefs and brand statements. When I think I am ready, I open up a new document and get ready for the genius to flow. 

The cursor then sits there. It blinks in defiance. It begs me to put down an idea. I am stuck.  This happens to me at every project. Be it a painting or a script I am writing. I am both thrilled and daunted by the blank page. 

 "Just start," I tell myself. Even if I have the intention to throw it out later, at least it will be a beginning. So I start. I fall in love with my first few ideas and then pat myself on the back for being so clever. The words are flowing out of me until they hit a brink wall with the weight of a thousand caffinated hang overs. At this point I hate myself. I hate my ideas. My genius is stupid. I give up and walk away for an hour. No use forcing work. 

I end up sleeping on it and come back to the computer renewed. This process happens a million times over the course of a project. I both fall in love my work and loathe it at every stage. That part of my work never goes away.  

Editing is the worst. Watching footage can be painful. It may be my best work to date. But it might not match the high standards I have set for myself. The footage represents all the choices made on a set. Editing is the process of wrestling with those choices while still seeing the big picture. I have to let go of what could be and focus on what is. I make little happy discoveries as I go. One minute I adore it the next I curse it as rubbish.  

At some point I call the work finished. I come to the conclusion that I have done the best with what I have. Months or maybe a year later I watch my work and finally aprreciate it. Creating is vulnerable. I don't think that will ever go away. I often call the same process: wrestling the beast. A blog for another day. 

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