10 thoughts from a visual content production start-up

Posted by Remco Merbis on 08.11.16

Pixillion’s Remco Merbis was one of the 10 local design heroes’ invited to speak at the event on the theme of 10 at our 10th Birthday event. Remco gave a talk about 10 things he’s learned in the couple of years since Pixillion changed from being a typical digital agency for a decade-and-a-half, to a visual content production company. Here’s a breakdown of what he covered.

1. Passion

Without passion and a healthy level of obsession it’s impossible to get really good at anything. A true creative career is not a nine to five, it’s a twenty four seven. Work never stops but that’s ok because if the passion is there, work isn’t just work.

2. Collaboration

You can’t know it all. You can’t do it all. So, one of the things Pixillion has learnt is the strength in teaming up with other people. Work with people that are better than you, get their input, let them do their thing. You learn so much and it’s more fun too.

3. The importance of story

Making a video isn’t very hard. Pick up a camera, point it at something and press record. But this isn’t what makes people watch. People connect with stories and good video content is driven by a good story.

4. The importance of music

So you’ve got the story right, the shots look good, but music and sound design are often overlooked. Even on a low budget, if you pick your music and effects carefully, a film can go to whole new level.

5. Do self-initiated projects you’d like to do for clients

If you’d like to work for a big sports brand start making work that they might want to see. This allows you to hone your skills and get relevant work out there. They won’t know who you are or what you do without you showing them.

6. Steal from other people’s work

Of course stealing is bad. What we mean is: think about who’s work you admire. Study it. How did they do what they did. Can you copy it? And if you can, what can you learn from it and what can you do to make it your own? You’ll really surprise yourself. All creatives use references of what came before. It’s all about influences, no matter what the source.

07. Be inventive: No money, no problem!

A DIY mentality forces you to be creative and sometimes you get far better results than if you’d just thrown money at the problem. On some projects we got a cinematic look using a fifty quid school disco smoke machine and a single light. This DIY mentality means you can still make the films you want to make on a shoestring budget and show off what you can do.

08. Learn new skills — dive straight in.

Prepare as well as you can, but nothing will make you learn faster than when you’re thrown in the deep end on real projects. The stakes are higher, so you’ll learn things faster and better. Learning new skills is an important part of creative work which you should embrace, not shy away from.

9. Be authentic

Most people’s bullshit radars are pretty well tuned, so tell real stories about real people and audiences love them. Clients can be a bit scared of emotional stories, but those often resonate the longest.

10.Take control, but don’t be afraid to see where things may go on their own.

From Timber To Tide is generally our most loved film. It was made a Vimeo Staff Pick and at the time of writing it has over 142,000 plays. Was this film completely pre-planned? Not even close. We only knew a little bit about Ben before we arrived; we knew how he lived and where we could shoot. But the rest we figured out when we were there. The story and the poetry came from him and the setting we were in. Sometimes it’s about using what you are presented with and letting that lead. There are so many stories waiting to be told!