So what are ‘Chill Sessions…’ all about?
Yo! Thanks for tuning in to my 2nd new blog!
The main focus of this blog is going to be around ‘Chill Sessions’; explaining what they are, the intention behind it and why I first started filming them.
‘Chill Sessions’ are a personal project I started back up 2015, around 6 months after I got my camera. I initially just used my camera to take photos, I kept wondering round the city of London staring at these amazing structures and never really felt the iPhone ever complimented the lines or lighting (I’ll explain more about that in another blog). One thing to led to another and before I knew it, I was trying to make my own videos and it all of a sudden hit me how much I was enjoying filming, even if it was just bits of nature, people or life etc. Often set to music that made me follow my gut instinct and visualise particular images.
I spend pretty much 90% of the day with my headphones in, listening for the latest and freshest tunes. Hours spent scrolling through Soundcloud looking for new kinds of music, different styles and artists. Over time I became extremely bored of main stream music. Don’t get me wrong, there are some amazing artists out there on the big stage but I feel the music is quite ‘samey’ these days. My favourite style of music is a fusion of Jazz and hip hop, lofi or chillhop music, I do also love classical soundtracks, violin, acoustic guitar/piano and you can’t go wrong with a bit of rock/indie, pretty much a bit of everything. Anything that gets the creative buzz going!
However Jazzhop/lofi are genres of music that were extremely hard to come by 3 years ago, you could only really find with thorough searches on Soundcloud or YouTube. The only page that I found which regularly posted this sort of music was ’Chillhop Music’, a social media platform on Soundcloud and Youtube that shared new upcoming Jazz/hop and Lofi artists. Initially it only had around 350 subscribers when I first started listening, but on YouTube now they have over 1,000,000 subscribers!!! Absolutely insane. I loved everything they are about, to follow them from such an early stage has been awesome. If you don’t know chillhop music, you should definitely go check them out, beautiful music!
Anyway, I used to listen to all these things thinking, how amazing would it be to have just some sort of freestyle to this song; filmed in a beautiful location, really simple, really chill and most of all, original. Exactly like the music.
The music channel that shared this music inspired me, and like them, I wanted to help young aspiring artists to be exposed for the creative talent they are. Which eventually brought about ‘Chill Sessions…’.
It seemed to click all of a sudden about the fact I went to a professional dance college (it’d only been 2 years lol!). I’m around all these incredibly talented dancers everyday, I now have a camera and a vision… I need to get out there and start filming some of these guys!
One thing you’ll definitely learn if your just starting out as a videographer, is that the best way to get good.. is practice! I know this is such a cliche but I’ve done 4 years of musical theatre training, where again dedicated practice is absolutely essential, but I still believe the practice needed for film is on a different scale, mainly because of the things that are out of your control. Everything from the lighting, cameras, lenses, timing, shutter speed, stabilising equipment and sound to other things such as intention, focus, angles, continuity, weather, memory, storage, and battery power etc; All of it needs to be executed to absolute perfection and all of them can make life really difficult. It takes real patience and an open mind to just give yourself the time to make mistakes and fail. It may take you hours, days or weeks to get the shot you want. In most cases, especially in your early days, it won’t be perfection. You’ll mess up, a lot!
I still do regularly… very regularly in fact! But I wouldn’t be where I wanted to be, only 3 years into my journey, without all those failures. Hence why ‘Chill Sessions’ was the perfect tool to help me build my skills in film, directing, lighting, concepts, cinematography and much more.
Create and be you
I’ll be honest with you guys, I initially wanted to charge for ‘Chill Sessions’, I was going to do a couple for free as a buisness and marketing tool, then move on to offering cheap services for filming of a 1 minute freestyle; yet again I felt that this was thinking more with a business mind and I wanted ‘Chill Sessions’ to be more about being part of something creative. So I quickly back fired on those thoughts and decided almost straight after that they were going to be a free service, to help give something back this industry that I love so much and as I slowly designed out the project more and more over the next few months, it all started to finally come together.
‘Chillhop music’ offers all the music on their page as royalty free, which in this day and age is insane, but it helps the artists looking for exposure if people like… you guessed it… me, are wanting to use it. I initially approached just close friends and gave them a small idea of the concept but I just explained more about the fact it was an opportunity to get some footage and have a little play around with some ideas. Side note, to all videographers out there, be prepared to do lots of free work, it’s not easy but it’s a way of being able to collaborate equally with people on projects, treat it like a creative gym.
As I headed into Vol. 9/10, they were starting to look a bit more professional and I began to really become invested in these volumes more and more. Even though I’d already started the project and thought I had planned it all out, I was still learning more and more every time, allowing the initial idea to grow, both with the concepts and cinematography.
One thing I praise most about in life is the freedom to create. Create and be you. I wanted ‘Chill Sessions’ to be exactly that, to be about your individuality, your aura, your style of movement or talent, this idea of quite a inward performance but in an expressive way. Just like I’ve walked past in you in the street, caught you freestyling alone in a world that is not this world we live on. Some people have asked, why does it have to be a freestyle? I personally believe because it keeps it real. It keeps it raw and original, your not likely gunna do the exact same freestyle twice, which means there is room for something to grow, something different to happen or something that you maybe never even expected of yourself.
It’s something I love personally as a director, as I don’t know what to expect, I’ve never seen the freestyle before, I’ve only planned the location and the song to help fit a vision of your movement in a space. Besides that I am just completely reacting (just like an actor would), to whatever is happening in front of me. Whether it’s something the artist does different themselves, or something I change up with the camera movement or maybe somebody walks past the shot without registering the camera or the freestyler… it’ll hopefully never be the same. Which is exciting! Most of all though, it’s a creative challenge, to not be satisfied with one way of doing something or repeating over and over again the same movement. I always ask my freestyling artists to just bring themselves, the fresh original and raw individual that they are, like I’ve stripped everything away and all your left with is the music and your talent.
Overtime I understood more about how I wanted it to be focused on each individual, how I believed the the music I chose for them, would represent them at their best. It goes back to the songs I listen to all the time, and my training as a dancer. Those songs I kept in my playlists knowing I could put it into a video one day, and while I was not the most talented dancer as some of the amazing guys around me; I believe I had a vision of how great they would look moving to a song I had in those playlists. I used to just sit there and visualise the location, camera movement, the certain accents in the music I’m wanting them to highlight along with the freestyle they bring. Sometimes they provide a song themselves that really fits into the style of ‘Chill sessions’, it makes them feel more comfortable but I push as often as possible to be open and challenge themselves.
Finally the next phase, as I got to Volume 13/14, was to research into how I could improve the image quality and also how I could improve my cinematography to be more clear about my own intention. In the end I chose to sell more of my cameras to replace them with a much better standard of image quality, one that I envisioned all the way back when I was first planning them out. I also made a clearer choice to use the same intention as I tell the artists, to keep it fresh, raw and simple. So I opted to use really still and subtle camera movements, again quite internal, that would really put the focus on the subject and the aesthetic of the movement. For the videographers reading this, I couldn’t stress how cameras really aren’t the end all and be all. Yes, they are important, but trust your vision first, don’t put yourself in debt paying for all the best stuff and then not know what to do with it. Trust in yourself, your vision, use what you can afford and look to build it through the strength of your work rather than the look of it.
You’ll find that big camera movement is used loads in dance videos, just for the sake of big camera movement, this is pants. I’m sorry, but it is. People need to slow down, breathe and focus on the individual(s); let the movement talk, not the camera. Use the camera to highlight, rather than steal the show.
In essence, I knew if I worked hard on providing an opportunity for dancers to come and freestyle to a tune that is helping another artist (the musician), whilst also working together on a fresh video that can help further develop their own skills and mine, means I would be learning this craft in a positive, helpful and creative way. It’s also giving something for the artists to walk away with, a thanks for coming to work with me; a professional video that they can add to there showreel or portfolio. After all, I’m not the only one providing a free service, most of the dancers I’ve been privileged to work with are hard working dancers looking to find their own career in this industry. I hope maybe that some experience of working in front of a camera, freestyling in a public location and pushing themselves with a new freestyle would of helped them improve as an artist.
Deep down, if I am true to myself and positive about my direction and intention, along with the talented artists I work with; I’d be able to steadily grow it along with a vision of the kind of work I want to produce and direct all the time. Not only that, but if ‘Chill Sessions’ can continue to grow by gaining a good following, I can hopefully actually help young aspiring artists to be exposed on the large powerful tool that is Social media.
Long behold, visually, so far we are looking exactly how I had hoped at Volume 23, however there is still a lot of work to do and a long way to go before I meet the standards I expect of Volume 50.. And 100 (EEK!). I would like to continue to evolve ‘Chill Sessions’; evolve it into something that doesn’t just concentrate on dance but into live performances by artists who play classical instruments or bands, rap artists and poets. But hey, we’ll take it one step at a time!
There’s a lot more I could of discussed about with ‘Chill Sessions’, but my hands are about to drop off. I’m sure your eyes are too! I’m going to talk more and more about my processes with some of the artists I’ve already done volumes with. Some great stories, such as Will West literally meeting me on the same day I asked him to do it, neither of us had a speaker and we all know how dope that freestyle turned out! So keep in touch with these blogs, coming weekly and hopefully I can share with you more about how to work more creatively with other artists.
(If your interested in being apart of ‘Chill Sessions…’ drop me a email on my contact page. I will send you a biography that I send everyone to explain more about how you could work with me on a collaboration)