Filmmakers: Stebs Schinnerer

We’re excited to work with the best filmmakers out there, and we want to introduce you to them.  Our first filmmaker interview is with Stebs Schinnerer, who lives the dream — he’s a full-time filmmaker, working with brands, doing narrative and documentary-style work, and producing/directing/shooting/acting in his own feature film.

Stebs went full-time about two years ago, but says it wasn’t lucrative for at least six months.  “That’s six months of literally waking up at 7am and not going to sleep to stop working till about 3am.”  He says he “worked his a$$ off for about a year and a half,” but now he has a producer who helps organize his shoots and speaks to his higher-end clients.  At the beginning he was “constantly sending emails, constantly on the phone,” but now he can focus more on the filmmaking.

In addition to shooting and editing, he spends a lot of his time organizing shoots, reading scripts, etc.  “Every day is different — it’s like reading the funny pages, when you open them you never know what you’re going to get.”

Nowadays Stebs does a lot of work for brands, doing a lot of commercial work.  He does narrative and documentary styles, mostly short form commercials that he gets paid very well for.  Often he is the only person on set aside from the person he is filming, but sometimes he puts together a small crew including an assistant and a sound person.

Stebs doesn’t do a lot of competitions — the only one he has done was when he was DP with Malarkey Films for the National Film Challenge (Malarkey is the film crew I co-produce — that’s how I know Stebs).  But he does think competitions are an amazing way to learn; they teach you to think and work really fast, which is how you have to be in the professional film industry.

I asked Stebs what he thinks helped him become successful so quickly, and the answer he stressed was working for free.  He says that when he first went full-time, he did almost everything for free. He went to small businesses and said, “hey, I’ve got a camera and I’d like to do some artistic work for your business to fine-tune my abilities.”  This allowed him to do whatever he wanted artistically, and to take the time to do it to his standards.  Some of these initial clients led to nothing more than work for his reel, but others became invaluable connections in his network, passing his name to other people that would later be high-paying clients.  “The word ‘free’ should be in your post so many times in this section because filmmakers shouldn’t be afraid to work for free, especially when they’re starting out,” Stebs says.

Most of the people Stebs works closely with are his best friends.  He feels that having close personal and emotional relationships is extremely important to his ability to work with his crew.  He’s currently in pre-production for a feature film that involves his best friends.  They will be both crew and actors, and the script is a pseudo-documentary about Stebs and his friends on a road trip that turns tragic.  They’ll be traveling to Montreal to shoot, crashing a car, and lots of other fun stuff.  He’s organizing a much larger crew than usual, including a makeup artist, boom operator, and other specialty roles to make this happen.  They’re funding it with IndieGoGo and hoping to find other investors.  Stebs thinks production will probably cost anywhere from $50,000 to $100,000.

What’s the future of filmmaking?  There’s an emergence of filmmakers who are making productions with fewer people and for much lower cost. Video is becoming part of how we communicate with people across the globe.  It’s repurposing people from the film industry who used to work on big crews — with modern day hunger for video content, there’s a larger need for filmmakers on smaller productions.


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