Michal Dzierza
film | photography

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Film. Photography. Journalism.

Side projects and paragliders

This is my latest video.

It’s also my latest side project.

It was never planned. I was driving to Beachy Head in East Sussex on a sunny Sunday morning and spotted a bunch of paragliders on the side of a hill.

I stopped the car, asked a farmer whether it’s ok to use his field for a bit and filmed them for about 15-20 minutes. I only had one zoom lens on me and not much else.

Then I spent a good few hours editing it. And that’s when it gets serious.

This might be a side project, but I treated it like a regular paid assignment:

- I made sure the quality is as good as possible even though the original footage was shot without any preparation or planning;

- I edited it the way I would if I was commissioned by a client;

- I went back and reedited it until I got what I thought worked.

“You never know..”

A side project can often be your business card. Your opportunity to attract a new client. Your chance to show the world the skills you often cannot show, because of the nature of the work you normally do for clients.

For example, you may specialise in corporate videos, because that’s where the money is, but deep inside you want to shoot music videos. Or documentaries. Or cooking videos.

Then spend your free time doing just that. Get a taste for what it’s like to shoot a music video, get some new skills, hone your craft and then show the world what you’ve done. As my friend says, “you never know who is watching”. And indeed, they might be your next client.

It does happen. I was commissioned to shoot a video for a London charity based on one of my side projects, an old mini-documentary I did a few years ago. The client wanted a similar video for their campaign.

At a personal level, side projects allow you to test new waters, get out of your comfort zone and test new approaches that you can later use in your work. (This video, which I shot on my old iPhone while shopping at London’s Borough Market, also got me a paid commission.)

And yes, sometimes side projects can be time-consuming. But it’s time well-spent.

Don’t waste it.

Originally published on Medium as Side projects are crucial.