Going Global: Travel Filmmaking Opportunities and Advice
Have you ever wanted to travel the world to make films and tell stories? That idea may seem like a dream, but it is attainable.
Just look at Scott Martin: a self-taught filmmaker, Scott now oversees film production for Princess Cruise Lines, Holland America, Seabourn, and P&O Australia. You better believe that he goes to a lot of cool places—and captures stunning footage while he’s there. From Alaska to Italy to the Caribbean, Scott works hard to find stories that are both authentic and great for business (and he's looking for two amazing storytellers to join his team—read on below to learn how you can apply).
Diving in head first
Scott didn’t ease into filmmaking, he dove in head first. After turning a few post-college videos into a reel, he sent that reel to Princess Cruises. Shortly thereafter, he was signed on to make videos on a ship working 13 hour days, 7 days a week, for a 6 month stint. And you thought your production schedule was difficult!
But Scott flourished in this fast-paced environment, considering it an educational accelerator. “I was bright-eyed, bushy-tailed, and ready for everything, so I really loved it,” he says. 10 years later, he’s still with Princess Cruises, but is now the manager of video production for their parent company, Holland America Group. Yeah, we’re impressed.
During his tenure, Scott has progressed from smaller projects to longer-form pieces, building his pre-production development process and learning more about locations as he revisits them. He’s also developed a keen sense for stories that will help him grow creatively while meeting the needs of his clients.
Thriving in the grey areas
Scott says that he isn’t in the film world for the paycheck. “I really am in this to do great work,” he emphasizes. A love of travel has propelled him forward. “I grew up in Central Illinois in a town of 800,” he says. “When I started traveling, I thought some things were black and white. Travel has taught me to live in the grey areas and be super comfortable with being uncomfortable. That's something that has kept me in the travel market.”
So what kinds of stories does Scott produce, and how does he balance his creativity with creating a solid product for the cruise line?
Local connections, destination-based content
After a few years shooting destinations while aboard the ship, Scott started seeking projects with multiple days on location to really get a feel for a place and its inhabitants. Now, he consistently goes off the ship to tell stories. An upcoming project he’s excited to launch is called “Local Connections,” in which Scott interviews local people about their passion for their cities, towns, or countries. The pieces blend interviews with beautiful local footage, truly giving viewers a sense of a destination.
Scott has also ventured into feature-length territory, producing an hour long piece on Alaska, one of his favorite spots around the world. Made for Princess Cruises, the piece captures the spirit of some of the state’s diverse, tenacious characters, along with sweeping views of glaciers, forests, and the ocean.
Getting down to business
Scott studies the business side of filmmaking, and believes that the ability to budget and pitch is crucial to success. He learned from countless failures, and has since gotten more and more opportunities. Especially because he works within a corporation, Scott knows that he needs to show his clients—in this case, the cruise line—what their return on investment will be. What are his tips for other filmmakers looking to follow suit and land sweet projects?
“Number one, make a detailed project scope to over-communicate to clients,” he says. “Number two, make a budget that you can speak confidently about. Once I started to do research on what rates are in Los Angeles and what a budget looks like on a movie or TV show, then I created a value proposition for the executives.”
Confidence is key, too; Scott makes sure that his clients know what they’ll get out of a project. “I do my development in pre-production so I can confidently say, ‘Hey, you're going to get so much value out of this.’”
A philosophy of customer service also drives Scott. “I really do think that if there’s a distinction from the travel industry versus the film industry, it’s that customers are first in the travel world,” says Scott. “I make sure that no matter what, when I am talking to clients, they know our team is serving their goals.”
Building a team
Throughout his time with the cruise line, Scott has mainly worked alone, hiring additional crew when needed and when budget allowed. But he regrets not accounting for more team members in his budgets earlier, noting the power of collaboration. At first, he hired DPs and ACs, then quickly realized that he needed team members who excelled in other fields, like audio and producing.
How does he find good teammates? “Every single person that I've worked with I’ve found through word of mouth,” he says. “I think if there's one thing I regret not doing earlier, it’s going into collaboration mode sooner to say to myself, ‘All right. Put your vision out there. Be passionate, and people are going to follow that passion.’”
Speaking of building a team, Scott is in fact seeking some people to permanently join him: a producer and an editor. What qualities is he looking for in candidates? “People that really care about making authentic content,” he says. “They're going to have to understand at the end of the day that this is a business, but if we run the business well, we're going to be able to do some pretty awesome stuff.” Plus, a mindset of customer service—a crucial philosophy in the travel industry that he mentioned previously.
Why is Scott so excited to collaborate with Story & Heart filmmakers, and why does he continue to be an active member of the the Academy of Storytellers community? “I feel like I’m creatively aligned with Story & Heart as opposed to so many other online communities,” he says. “I love what Story & Heart stands for: that authenticity is the key to everything.”
Cheers to that, Scott.
Whether you’re looking to tell stories near or far, Scott’s tips on finding collaborators or balancing your creativity with solid business practices can help. But if you are looking to travel for stories, Scott may have the opportunity for you. Be sure to apply for his two current team openings, producer and editor, and Tweet us @storyandheart to join the conversation!