Guest Blog: Filmmaker Dan Newman
Times will change, let the waves take you.
It’s been a couple years since my last guest blog post, and a couple hundred thousand miles’ traveled in between now and then.
Since speaking last, I’ve traveled the world with musicians, produced over 3,500 videos, produced, directed, and shot a couple documentaries, picked up a full time gig and moved to the city of dreams, New York City.
Sounds like the dream right? Every dream comes with its sacrifice, but it’s all about perspective.
While I may hold a steady full time gig, I will never forget what got me here. I’d attribute my position now to living like I’m scraping for pennies and hustling just as hard as I was when I didn’t know how I’d pay for my next meal. Freelance life gives you a lifestyle of freedom, but a full time gig gives you both a lifestyle of freedom and financial freedom if you look at it from the right perspective.
Opportunity exists for everyone; you just need to be willing to put yourself out there. It most likely won’t be smooth, won’t be easy, but I can promise it will be worth it if you look at everything as an opportunity for growth rather than accepting ‘no’ as defeat and making that your identity.
I’ll give you a brief look into my story since we last spoke and we can pick up where we left off….
I’ll start with the idea that I’ve always lived by as long as I’ve been doing this thing called art.
In order to succeed, you need to approach freelance business with a calculated risk mentality.
Look at things as opportunities to grow, rather than a quick buck or freebie. Be safe, be logical, and play life like a game of chess. Set yourself up for success if you see the window for it.
During the summer of 2016, I was producing a few small projects for musicians and some small businesses (music videos, commercials, tutorials, etc.). These projects weren’t necessarily risks, more of safe plays that paid decently and got me through my next month of expenses.
The first most specific instance of taking a risk came via the world of music.
At the time I was holding down a full time position at a TV station in Tampa, Florida and felt like I wasn’t doing anything truly creative or challenging. So during my time outside of the office – I volunteered myself and my services to a band that had only played a single show.
I put myself on their radar months prior when they reached out to me about sharing a photo that I took. Conversations bloomed and an opportunity arose. I wanted to create and collaborate. All I wanted to do was let my creative juices flow, invest in the music scene that I loved, and support the community around me, with zero expectations of getting anything in return. My mindset at the time was, ‘If it worked, it worked – if not, it would have been a fun experience regardless, so let’s make the most of it.’
This band was ‘connected’ in a few different unique ways, but that never mattered – I just wanted to create, just as they wanted to perform. I offered to drive my car from Tampa to Orlando, Orlando to Atlanta, and Atlanta to Nashville, and back to Tampa (so I could make it back to my full time job on that Monday morning) to capture their first tour all for a grand total of NOTHING.
I spent nearly $300 on travel expenses plus an additional $300 on camera equipment rentals to film and produce the content I wanted to make. We didn’t have a set agreement, just my word and their gift of access to a life behind the scenes of a small touring band. With this given opportunity, I wanted to do everything possible to shine and let them know I was there to do work and share their story.
I proceeded to produce daily recaps of each of the shows, videos that would be shared on their social channels the morning/day after each performance. Along with those videos, I produced a 13-minute behind the scenes mini-doc.
Following the first show, one of the band members approached me with the idea of touring with his other band, Underoath, that following March. He proposed the idea to the rest of the band, shared what I was capturing and creating, and gave me the chance to prove myself with a small social campaign for the band later that fall. I hit the ground running.
The opportunity with Underoath developed into something special and a lot of other opportunities stemmed from that. Every risk you take comes with the opportunity to prove yourself and position yourself for further success; you can take it or leave it. You can just do the job to get it done or you can go the extra mile, exceed expectations, and do far more than what was asked of you in the first place. The biggest opportunity of my career at that point came when Underoath asked me produce, direct, and shoot their in-studio documentary for an album that no one knew they were making.
One tour turned into two tours, which then turned into four tours, which turned into producing and directing that documentary, which then put me on the map with some other artists, creators, and makers, leading to other documentary and freelance opportunities, and my introduction to the world of boxing being one of them.
Hard work and ‘luck’ are not the same.
I can remember the moment vividly, I was standing outside my friends’ coffee shop in St. Petersburg, FL when an email came across my inbox. Pacing around the parking lot, I was tracing this email unsure of how to respond and if I could even do something like what they were asking me.
This email was asking if I was available to film with a boxer the following week and produce a few short bits of social content for an upcoming fight on HBO, needing to have an almost immediate turnaround.
I will say, at this time, I had never been in a boxing gym or had any interest in the sport of boxing. It was a foreign land to me. To me, the idea of this project was something moderately uncomfortable. But you know what they say, if you’re comfortable – you’re not growing. I’ll take an opportunity for growth over staying stagnant any day of the week.
So the following week, I flew to New York City to film with Daniel Jacobs. I delivered six videos for social media and the fight campaign by the day after my shoot was wrapped. I continued to work with Matchroom Boxing on a freelance basis while I toured and moved about the world, making myself available when possible for both fight camp coverage and fight week events. The relationship with Matchroom Boxing turned into a blossoming one. It wasn’t my only consistent gig, but it was definitely one that I could keep coming back to with fresh eyes.
As time went on, I continued to produce content for musicians and had a strong urge to create some documentaries outside of music. My time on the road birthed some relationships that I would not have had otherwise so that’s where I started.
I was a free man at the time of my Amtrak Across America Journey. In fact it was on that trek, on a train between Chicago and Ann Arbor, that I got a phone call from Matchroom about a potential full time position. The birth of an idea of going back into the full time work force. At the time there was talk of opening up HQ in the United States and they wanted me to do what I’ve been doing for them but on a more regular basis and hire me as Head of Digital Content.
My Amtrak Across America trip was a trip of self-reflection and figuring out what I wanted to do next. I took a train across the United States over the course of 26 days. I had been so busy with work and doing stuff for other people that I wanted to do something for myself, and this was it. I wanted time to think, time to process. I had tour offers, music videos, and more documentary ideas, but I needed to weigh things out and see what I was really feeling about the future. Where did I want to go? Where did I want to end up? What was going to be next? Another tour? Something completely different? A new challenge?
Following my first trip out to California to film with LEVO Wine, I moved to New York City. I decided to take the leap and accept the job from Matchroom Boxing. I needed the new challenge. I wanted to face something I’ve never really done before. At this point, I had handled a few fight camps and a couple fight weeks, but I wanted to see what kind of impact I could have in the world of boxing.
I have a different style and take than most. I have a different way of shooting and a different way of editing, especially within the world of boxing. There’s rhythm and rhyme to music and there are some gross similarities to the sport of boxing, if you can connect the dots. Musicians and Boxers both have rhythm, it’s a song and dance. So why not lean into that? I wanted to bring what I felt, energy wise in music, into the boxing gym when I’m with these fighters.
I am nowhere near where I want to be, and there’s still so much I want to do within the world of boxing. This is only the beginning.
Here’s to new challenges and growth within the industry we’re in, wherever that may be. Always seek discomfort, for that is where you will discover what you’re actually capable of.