Joshua VP
BS in Visualization
Business Owner, Film Producer
Portland, Oregon, USA

Describe what you do for work and how you feel about it.

Filming, Editing, Animation, Color, Sound, Producing, Directing—I wear many hats, but I'm usually dp'ing or editing.

How did you get your job? 

After graduating, I looked at my professor, Lester Shen, and said nervously, "Um, now what?" At this point, I had accumulated some debt, struggled with acceptance, was at a low point in my life, and was completely unsure of what lay ahead. Sensing my situation was in disarray, he got me in contact with local e-learning house Allen Interactions, where I landed an internship working under Michael Allen (a co-founder of Macromedia, later bought by Adobe). After six months I was offered a full-time job where I weathered the financial crash of 2008 and paid off a chunk of my school loan debt. While working that nine-to-five gig, I spent nights and weekends freelancing (working on lots of snowboarding companies and friends' startups). 100% of those earnings went directly back to my own small startup in the form of basic camera production gear and computer/editing bays.

During this period, I was directly inspired by David Attenborough's Planet Earth and Ron Fricke's Samsara work. I was blown away by the camera movements and time-lapses. So I teamed up with a close woodworking friend/client, Brian Grabski of Designed and Made, who helped me design and build custom dolly/crane rigs. We personally programmed them and pulled off some replica shots for our portfolios. The DSLR revolution was in full swing at this point, which allowed me—a broke, in debt college kid—the ability to get my hands on a solid camera with interchangeable lenses and have the ability to shoot time-lapse and slow-mo.

Flash forward four years, and I'm still working full-time on top of freelancing nights and weekends. The economy had picked back up, I had a decent breadth of video/animation/development skills, my confidence was growing, and there was some energy behind some of my latest wins. At this time, I put exactly one month of freelancing aside to create a fully immersive, one-of-a-kind, full-screen Flash PaperVision 3D web portfolio. Up until this point, I had always had a weak portfolio, but I gave this one everything I had, all my focus. I wrote it in a scripting language that was self-taught and new (AS3). At the time, this was one of my biggest accomplishments and I'm still proud of "gutting it out." This portfolio not only started opening doors, but it also allowed me some perspective on my situation, namely that 1) I'm a pretty bad developer, and 2) I really love filming/editing/animation.

One evening, while at a happy hour with other MCAD graduates (we stick together), I was introduced to a developer at Colle McVoy. She said they were hiring a mid-level editor and that, "yeah, your dev stuff isn't the best, but your video work really stands out. Send your stuff over and I'll forward it to the right people." Exactly five days later I was given a full-time offer to join the agency. I didn't even negotiate, it was an immediate "YES!" Honestly, I still get a little teary eyed to this day talking about this because I wanted out of my situation so badly and this was the first serious win in my book. There was such amazing talent coming through the doors of Colle Mcvoy (designers, developers, editors, producers) and everyone there was a teammate/family. We worked crazy hard together, took new business wins out until the crack of dawn, and paid the price with all-night marathon business pitches.

After a few years, many sleepless nights, and multiple awards, I was offered a unique opportunity to film a running shoe startup out in Portland. I fell in love with the city, landscape, and surroundings. So I kept my eye on jobs in the area and eventually found a producer/editor/director role, which was a step up the corporate ladder from being a senior editor, so I jumped on it and relocated out west—still spending nights and weekends winning new businesses, building my edit bay, and expanding my gear list further and further.

After a year or so, my freelance work became so out of control, I was able to pay off my school loans, save a bit of money, and look for future ways to invest, grow, and take chances. I built out a red camera and lens package with a massive server farm, stabilization rigs, drones, underwater units, etc, and then I landed my biggest contractor/vendor gig to date: Columbia Sportswear.

That brings me to the present, with film experience in more than twenty-five countries, a small house worth of camera gear, three years of self-employment under my belt, two employees, hundreds of contractors and partners, and tons of breathtaking projects.

In the grand scheme of things, I guess I could have said I got my job via blood, sweat, perseverance, and taking calculated risks—but that doesn't help MCAD students out at all.

Why did you choose the bachelor of science program?

During my junior year, I didn't really have a concrete direction on where I wanted to go with my career. I scheduled meetups with a number of graduates from different programs. I looked closely at the interactive, film, design, furniture, and visualization (editor's note: now entrepreneurial studies) programs. The program, or perhaps person, that really inspired me was a developer, Adam Smith, via the bachelor of science program. His work with Porsche (Carmichael Lynch) was mind-blowing. If I remember right, he was building a microsite that mimicked the look and feel of racing a Porsche around a custom race track. He told me about getting to travel to Germany to race a few of the cars around. That project really stood out to me, because it combined everything: design, development, video, animation, and most importantly, awesome sound. He also had this hilarious chip on his shoulder that I loved (you know, one of those guys that's going to get his hands dirty and figure it out, no matter the task), he seemed to have a solid career path at a really cool, reputable agency, which I felt other graduates out of other programs didn't. Fun fact, I still keep in touch with him. He lives in New York and is still developing and killing it.  

What advice do you have for current MCAD students?

Follow your heart, believe in yourself, and do good work for good people. Do whatever's in your power to get yourself out of debt—then start taking chances. I have a four-point checklist I go through when taking on a new project, and at least two items need to checks in order for me to say yes:

  1. Are they going to pay your hourly rate, day rate, or monthly rate?
  2. How will this client/company look on your resume? 
  3. Is your name tied to the project and can you win awards for it?
  4. What are you learning to better yourself from this project?

If you hit four out of four for every project you take on as a freelancer, you'll only grow your business/name. Also note, if you are broke and need to pay rent and eat, then you must do what you've got to do.

Best thing you ever got/saw on the free shelf?

Someone's amazing photos. They gave up on them, I loved them. 

Did MCAD prepare you for life after graduation? In what way?

It did a good job of getting me going, inspiring me, and giving me a solid ground to start on. I wouldn't have had the mental strength, stamina, focus, perseverance, or courage to get to where I'm at without the learning and mentorships I was provided at MCAD. The facilities were great (especially the film/editing studios), and yet the biggest takeaway was probably the collaboration with small teams. I come from a team-oriented background (I played D1 college baseball before MCAD), but MCAD was the first place I ever teamed up in a professional environment. Some of these teams were great (I met my fiancé, the love of my life, on one team) and others failed in a complete disaster (no comment on those individuals, but they know who they are). Bottom line, MCAD and the BS program probably saved my life—and snapped me into what I'm doing today.

Name your biggest takeaway from the program?

The alumni, professors, and friends I still keep in contact with via social media. I can hit up any of those guys and say, "listen, I'm desperate and need a job," and most of them that are still in the creative field would absolutely do whatever it took to get my resume in front of their bosses or whoever.

Favorite project you worked on for a client?

I've worked on so many projects and they are all so different in size/team/dimension. From filming polar bears in the North Pole to swimming with Giant Trevallies in the Indian Ocean, my line of work has brought me around the world more than once. So to narrow this down to one project is next to impossible, yet there are two projects that really stand out to me, and both are from completely opposite climates.

Cold climate: In November of 2017, Columbia Sportswear asked me to create a tier one commercial showcasing their sponsorship of the US, Canadian, and Russian ski Olympic teams. Originally I didn't think the project would have been that big of a deal, but in the end it was wild, multifaceted, and award-winning. We traveled all over, ate/slept/trained with Olympians, and with the final shoot location being Mineralnye Vody, Russia, we all knew we were rolling the dice. In the end, our crew had a seriously hard time getting Russian Visas while my name was somehow allowed. So I had to go solo, build a team in Russia, and shoot/direct the piece there. It was one of the most interesting things I've ever done. (Fun fact: I'm now on a travel watch because my Russian Visa was so close to the election scandal).

Hot climate: A very close second was a film I created in March 2017 for Columbia Sportswear's PFG (fishing line) called Force 12. This film showcased the current state of sport fishing which forces anglers worldwide to push harder and further into the unknown. We were going for the Art of Flight (a snowboard film shot by Curt Morgan) of fishing films. We threw everything we had at this piece, going as light (mainly just Justin Turkowski and myself) and as far as possible with the world's absolute best film equipment. Locations were shot in Vietnam, Cuba, and the Seychelles. One week, we were swimming through overfished/overnetted/overpolluted/ruined ecosystems in Vietnam, and then next we were closed fist swimming/filming with Giant Trevallies on the tops of volcanoes in the Indian Ocean. It took three plane rides followed by three boat rides to get to these remote locations in the Seychelles. In the end, the experience was absolutely mind-blowing and life-altering.

Why do you do what you do?

If you've ever been on top of a mountain or out at sea, you know what it's like to truly feel alive. To put everything on the line—it's that feeling that has inspired and pushed me for years and I've done everything in my power to capture that.

How do you network yourself and your art?

Networking is tough, but social media is still king. I only post positive social media posts of my work and direction and I only comment positive things on other peoples work/ideas/art/whatever. I do whatever I can to inspire and inform people of what I'm up to—showing behind the scenes of productions and landscapes as well as athletes/friends/whatever—it just has to be inspiring. I'm never going to give you the negative story or the issues I just had. I keep that personal. I'll also never dive into anything that has to do with sex, religion, drugs, politics, or anything else that will send me into one group or another. It's just too touchy of a subject these days. I do whatever I can to stay neutral.

I also do a ton of one-on-one coffee talks and lunches. This is where you can see if someone is bluffing or if they are the real deal. I cold email a lot of people and I ask friends/clients/connections to send out connecting emails for me. Sometimes they won't, sometimes it will open amazing doors or connections you never thought were possible. I will have coffee with everyone before I do any job with them (heck it's so cheap and I'm addicted to caffeine). I try to make these meetings relevant to my field of work, meaning people with experience in the creative game down to entry-level folks just looking for a job—I used to be that guy, with no experience, no direction, and a terrible reel—yet Aaron Draplin still took my email and gave me some advice (buy his latest book, by the way). I also stay connected by doing six-month check-ins with clients. Sometimes, they don't have work or a budget at the moment, but later on, when they do, it comes around and you get an RFP. I keep a Google Sheet of connections and jump over to that whenever I get a little slow (haven't had to jump to it in a while).

I will say that on any job or project, just always stay cool, remain positive, and do good work for solid people. If you give an honest day's work to all your clients and you don't rip them off, they will refer you to their buddies. Some doors will open, some always stay closed (looking at you, WK, and all your cancellations), yet you never know if a door is or isn't going to open unless you try. 

What inspires you/your work?

So many things/people/places inspire my work. This is such a tough question! I work with so many different types of talent/mediums: athletes, celebrities, musicians, anglers, animals, business owners, and more. It's across the board. Out of all the different types of talent I work with, I truly love to work with athletes (considering I used to be one), because let's face it, they really have earned it. Seeing an athlete pushing their ability to the breaking point and laying everything on the line is one of the most inspiring things you can ever capture or be a part of. I was in New Zealand last week capturing Alex Ferrara attempt double and triple corks in the pipe. I was shaking behind the camera. Seeing this level come out of these athletes pushes my filming and editing to that level. We are all teams here, so I never want to let my team down, which, ends up requiring us to leave everything on the line in both production and post.