The Goat Years
Jason foster | Production Coordinator
I affectionately call my first few years as a freelance filmmaker The Goat Years, and no, not Greatest Of All Time G.O.A.T., I mean the weird eyed, bounding animal that also tastes delicious when curried.
Why The Goat Years? Let me go back to early 2012 when my business partner/best friend David Bear and I both had day jobs. Mine was at Best Buy and his was at a local coffee shop and restaurant. By then our production company, FosterBear Films, had a couple of projects under its belt and folks started to take notice and wanted to hire us. Those, coupled with the fact that David and I were tired of being halfway in the filmmaking game, made us decide to quit our jobs. Looking back on it, relying solely on freelance income especially when trying to get a production company off the ground, probably wasn’t the smartest decision, but nevertheless we embarked on the journey. We had days, weeks and months in which we as a company were prolific, but also times when we couldn’t even book a gig filming a quinceañera to cover a light bill.
One day during a lull in shooting, little money, nagging thoughts of going back to Best Buy, and both of our food stamps being completely tapped out, we cooked some goat (by the way I’m Jamaican and goat is a common dish) that had been in the fridge, then freezer, then back to the fridge, since Christmas. It was July. We salted, seasoned and boiled the meat for about four hours, then put it in the oven for another three because you know if you cook meat long enough, it’s no longer rancid, right? Our shotgun apartment smelled to high heaven and the goat tasted…well it tasted pretty good considering.
That was a little over five years ago, and between many projects and hard days, I now have a full-time job as a filmmaker at the Institute of Women & Ethnic Studies (IWES). FosterBear’s work has always had a foundation in the social justice world, so being hired by IWES wasn’t a stretch by any means in terms of ideology. I shared The Goat Years story because I learned so much during that time and my biggest challenge now is to apply the same hunger and drive that I had as a freelancer to being a gainfully employed individual and also shift from making my own schedule to working 9-5. Cue Dolly Parton.
Here are the most important lessons I’ve learned as a freelancer and one time rancid goat eater that I bring to my position at IWES:
- Know your limits and make sure the client/job does as well. There’s nothing wrong with saying that you’re not able to do something or you don’t know. To me the issue arises when you’re not forthcoming about those things. Skills can be learned, people can be brought in or another route can be taken, but you have to be up front about your limitations.
- Have more than one idea fleshed out when going into a meeting. They might like the first one, but they may love the second.
- Oh, always take the meeting. I can’t tell you how many meetings that I’ve been to with a potential client that never went any further than the coffee we shared. Most of the times folks wanted to pitch their ideas, get a sense of how much a video would cost, etc. More often than not it wouldn’t work out with money and time being the main culprits. QUICK story! About four years ago David and I had a meeting with a local band, Tank and the Bangas, because they wanted to shoot a music video. We met over coffee and hit it off right away, but ultimately the timing wasn’t right and the idea we pitched was out of their budget. Fast-forward to May 2017 when we shot a video for their song, QUICK. So yea, always take that meeting.
- Know why you’re saying no. It’s OK to say no but know why you’re saying no, you know? I attained this skill after I took my fair share of lumps. As a freelancer, I weighed a few things on a sliding scale: time, money, artistic merit, exposure and unique opportunity. Figure out your own scale and go from there.
- No more rancid meat. How do you keep that freelancer spirit alive when you’re no longer “hunting and gathering” for gigs? For me, I’ll say that while my motivations and goals have changed over the years, my foundation has always been to challenge myself, continue to seek knowledge in all facets of life, be open, don’t eat bad meat and maybe all or some of those things will contribute positively to your filmmaking. Plus, and most importantly, I have a wife and two kids and strictly freelancing is definitely not the move.
At the end of the day, you have to figure out what keeps you hungry because (news flash!) everyone is different and what motivates and sustains me probably won’t work for you. Hopefully it won't take questionable dietary choices for you to come to that conclusion but if it does, well... see above.