Creative Somerville Series: Keep Learning, Keep Playing & Keep It Simple

CSS May 2015 Elyse and MiaToday’s post comes from Mia Scharphie, a multidisciplinary designer, researcher and community advocate who works at the intersection of design, entrepreneurship and issues of social equity. Mia co-curates the Creative Somerville Series with me (that’s us pictured at right), is a co-founder of Proactive Practices and founded the Build Yourself+ Workshop. Mia will be sharing her Creative Somerville Series re-caps on the Beat after each event.

In April, Trevor Holmes, videographer for Cambridge-based video hosting start-up Wistia spoke at the Creative Somerville Series and let us in on his quirky sense of humor, his design aesthetic and his path to Wistia and Instagram dog stardom.

Trevor started with this amazing video he put together as his introduction to Wistia, which gave us a sense of his story in the well-styled, off-beat and incredibly personable style that I’ve come to know him for.

I hope you were as charmed as we all were. That video is so well done that I could just leave it at that, but I’ll go on and share a little more of the Trevor Holmes magic.

Keep Learning

Trevor took us back to Pennsylvania where he started out–first to community college where he initially began tinkering with radio and TV production, and then on to Lehigh University where he zeroed in on design arts, specifically on web and graphic design. After graduating he freelanced for a time, working on whatever he could get his hands on, and creating his own projects including a line of snarky greeting cards, a collaboration with his now-wife.

Trevor moved on to a few positions after freelancing that placed him in different roles. “Being adaptable and flexible where the world takes you in every day life let me take my skills from college and turn them into a career that was sort of up and coming at the time,” he said. His first position was for a small web and graphics firm, the second was for a Foodler-like startup, and the third was for a marketing firm, Digital Feast, where he started to move into video. “What I love about video is that it’s the ultimate visual experience,” he said. Wistia first came onto his radar because Digital Feast started using its service for web video hosting with a clean interface.

CSS May Beer

Trevor was good enough to show us one of his early video projects that he made while in school. The assignment was to create something to pair with music, and his piece is a wacky, endearing stop motion romp through some of his rough sketches, that goes along to a song by some friend’s band. When asked what he would say to a younger self in a critique, he said he’d probably say to “tone it down.”

But in these early pieces you can absolutely see a thread emerging–Trevor’s quirky, slightly bouncy and off-beat sense of humor, which comes through in his work. His “cover letter” to Wistia was a Pokémon-themed video in which the Trevor “avatar” visits the office (“Mr. Wistia” greets “Trevor” with wonderfully 1990s pixelated cheer). Yet underlying this sense of fun is also a continually moving process of exploration and learning. Trevor referenced the “taste gap” that Ira Glass talks about–the gap between what you can produce and your taste when you’re first starting out. His advice is essentially the same as Glass’: “Just keep creating. Go into it full steam.”

CSS May Trevor Video

Keep it Simple

A theme that runs through Trevor’s approach to work is to keep it simple. When asked how to create great video without a large production budget he advised the crowd that with basic supplies, purchased for under $100, a white wall (and preferably some natural light) they could make beautiful video. But what about actors? His advice: “I’m not an actor and my co-workers are not actors but you’ll see us in every one of our videos.”

Part of Trevor’s job now is to enable Wistia’s customers to create their own great video that engages customers. To that end, he creates resources, including one on how to get that $100 setup–what he calls the “Down and Dirty Lighting Kit.”

Trevor’s approach to creating a video is to spend much more time on the front end–really understanding what the purpose and idea is before a camera is ever involved. Then, he says, we can “shoot it in a matter of hours, edit it in a day” and have a rough draft.

CSS May Mia Trevor Dog

Keep Playing

We got to spend a little time at the end talking about Rigby, Trevor’s dog, also known as “Motivational Dog.” Trevor (using his $100 lighting setup of course) posts photos of Rigby that are beautifully styled and often themed (Rigby recently celebrated Easter, for example by wearing bunny ears–among other things). Trevor started this project because he wanted more quality time with his dog, and he thinks that no matter how much you love your job “it’s important to have your work and your personal work.”

His parting advice to the crowd connected this sense of personal playfulness to his approach to continued learning: “I still am not an expert. I’m still a learner,” he said. “Do what makes you happy even if it’s taking pictures of your dog. Do what you love to do, even if that’s not at your current job.”

P.S. Tickets are now available to our next Creative Somerville Series talk, Rebuilding the Local Food System, on Wednesday, May 20 with Something GUD founder Colin Davis. The event is free, but the last one sold out well in advance, so get your ticket today to snag a spot!

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