In this article series I Want That Job! I'm interviewing people from various professions within the climbing world. If you think your job is a dream come true (it has to be climbing related) and if you're willing to be interviewed - then drop me a line. Likewise if you can think of a job that you'd like to have - suggest it in the forums and I'll try and track someone down.
It's the turn of Hotaches film maker Dave Brown. Often found on the headwall of Dumbarton Rock, squinting through a lens - here we pin him down inside and find out what it's really like looking through a video camera at climbers risking life and limb. Is it all Hollywood glitz and glamour? In between filming for his new masterpiece Committed 2, Dave Brown takes some time out to spill the beans...
Name: Dave Brown
Job Title: Film Maker, freelance extreme location cameraman, photographer.
Relevant Qualifications: MSc Logistics. Not relevant, but often it is, actually.
Perks and holidays/time off:
Lots of travel. I get to go to some of the most amazing climbing areas around the world.
In theory I can have as much time off to climb as I want. In reality it never happens, particularly this year. I want to move to North Wales, so all my spare time is focussed on fixing up my place and also my girlfriend's in order to be able to sell up and relocate.
Describe your job:
Along with my colleague Paul Diffley, I run Hot Aches which is an independent production company specialising in climbing films and outdoor sports. In addition to this we work for corporate clients in the outdoor industry and also as freelance extreme location cameramen for TV productions.
A lot of time is spent travelling and filming but there is also a big time requirement back in the office. Through the summer we spend long hours editing. Then there are all the jobs that people don't really think about; sorting out music rights, graphic design, photography, dealing with sponsors, marketing the films, selling, accounts, TV, newspapers, magazines, websites, tours, film festivals, trailers, writing blogs, VAT returns. It never ends.
I work from an office at home which suits me really well. No commute to work. I often work through the night if I'm editing, so working from home is really handy.
How did you get this job? How long did it take? Any hardships? Did you always want it or did it just happen?
I quit work several years ago and took 2.5 years off to just travel and climb. But you can't keep doing that for ever. At some point you need to earn money.
Paul and I decided to set up our own production business which was a long term investment really. Climbing was our passion, but we had no illusions about there being vast wealth to be made from it. DVD sales don't bring in much money, and a client base also takes time to establish, so for the next two years we had no money. Every penny we earned was ploughed right back into the business. So it is really only now that we are finally able to pay ourselves.
What attracted you to the job in the first place?
Making films about climbing looked like fun. And it is fun. Sure it is hard work and badly paid, but there are so many positives about doing a job that you really enjoy. The money isn't so important. I used to be fascinated by climbing films. When Hard Grit came out it was a complete revelation; unveiling a mythical world that I knew hardly anything about. When The Real Thing came out it prompted me to stop by at Fontainebleau on the way home from the Alps, and I've been back there 20 times.
I had been doing a lot of photography, especially climbing photography for a number of years, and so I just fancied moving into films.
So at the time I was effectively unemployed and unemployable. The decision was quite easy really, to embark on a new career that I knew virtually nothing about.
How long have you been in the job now? How long do you see yourself continuing?
I've been doing this properly for about 3 years.
Making climbing films will always continue to be the core of our business, but we are doing more work in other sports as well. Inevitably we also have to focus more on the type of work that pays the bills. Fortunately we don't have to sell our souls too much for this. Expedition work and TV work should keep us ticking over.
Describe your average day at work? And the average week?
Each day or week is never the same. This is a fairly typical week though. I'm down in Devon for the fourth time this year, once again waiting for good climbing conditions to hopefully arrive. In between the waiting, I'm driving back to Bristol to put the finishing touches on the other films for our new DVD.
Is it how you/other people imagine it to be?
I'm not sure how others imagine it. I'm too involved now to remember what I originally anticipated. I guess most people realise that it is very hard work. It certainly isn't the sort of work that suits most people. Having no guaranteed income at the end of the month, no security. In Britain a lot of people are scared to take that leap of faith, to quit the job that they moan about, to gamble everything and set up their own business doing something they are interested in.
The best day?
The best day is when you film a truly amazing ascent, something really special. I've witnessed a lot, but the one that stands out perhaps the most was this spring when we filmed Pete Whittaker climb Dynamics Of Change at Burbage South. I was so happy, astounded and relieved. I cannot comprehend how he climbed that, but he did.
The worst day?
Filming Dave MacLeod on Hell and Back for BBC. Too close to the line for my liking.
Why is it great being a film maker, and why is it rubbish?
Being your own boss is fantastic. You have total freedom.
Being your own boss is rubbish. It's all your own fault.
Do you 'love' your job? Why? Why not?
Totally. Climbing was my passion and now film making is equally as much fun.
If a teenager said to you 'I want to be a film-maker, like you' – what would you say? Recommend it? Warn them off? Laugh?!
You have two choices: Either make films as an expensive hobby, keep up your day job and have fun. Else you need to set up a proper business and bolster your income from other work. That means becoming a proper cameraman / editor or whatever, which is a training process that shouldn't be underestimated. There is a lot of training available. Going to film school is quite common.
Bear in mind also that making 'good' films is only half the battle. You then need to make money from your masterpiece. There is a long list of business skills (nothing to do with film making) that you need to acquire in order to turn your efforts into hard cash.
There are only 3 other companies in the world who make a reasonable income from climbing films. Josh Lowell, Pete Mortimer and Al Lee are all extremely talented and experienced film makers, but even for them success has taken a long time to come. And even for these people, climbing DVDs are only a small part of what pays the bills.
Any tips and advice on how to get to where you've got to?
Be completely obsessed, single minded, and ignore all the doubters who think you are crazy.
Any friends through work?
I met my fiancée, Lynwen on a climbing shoot whist flying in a helicopter over the Cairngorms. Okay, she was in the helicopter before me, sitting next to Al Lee actually, damn him. But I met her when we landed on some bleak, wind-scoured mountain. Lynwen has been a TV camerawoman for 12 years and has shot for us on all the films we are bringing out this year.
Any amazing stories?
That is kind of our job; documenting amazing stories. So yes. See the new DVD.
And finally - What's your dream job? Why?
I have it, for sure.
Press Release from Hotaches:
Committed Volume 2 (sponsored by The North Face) will be released in early November 2008.
It consists of 5 separate films, 100 minutes in total. Featuring James Pearson, Steve McClure, Dave MacLeod, Pete Whittaker and Katy Whittaker.
The films will be shown at Kendal MFF.
Look out for the trailer which will go live later in October.
Hotaches also have two other DVDs due out soon. A film about Sonnie Trotter's hard trad climbs around the world (spring 2009) and a film about a paramotoring expedition (December 2008)
For more I Want That Job! Articles take a look here:
- I Want That Job! Neil Gresham, Climber and Coach
- I Want That Job! Kate Burke - Editor, Climber Magazine
- I Want That Job! Chris Craggs - Guidebook Writer
- I Want That Job! Simon Panton - Guidebook Publisher
- I Want That Job! Dave MacLeod - Professional Climber
- I Want That Job! - Pauline Sanderson - Glenmore Lodge
- I Want That Job! - Lucy Ham - Sales and Marketing: prAna
- I Want That Job! - Sam Whittaker - Climbing Wall Owner
- I want that Job! - Martin Kocsis - Volunteers' Officer at the BMC
- I Want That Job! - Jim Nichols, Director, Entre-Prises
- I Want That Job! - Brendan Kendell - Desert Explorer
- I Want That Job! - Andi Turner - Instructor and Teacher
- I Want That Job! - Maurizio Oviglia, International Climbing Journalist
- I Want That Job! - Tom Randall, Professional Route Setter
- I Want That Job! - Tim Neill, Plas y Brenin