Getting paid to do what he loves, we catch up with a young producer who is definitely going places and proves that it's never too soon to start thinking about what you want to be when you grow up.
One of his shortest projects is an artistic study of a rainy day. Another contemplates the season's first snow. On any given day you might find him working with his sister on their next script. Or, just as likely, writing a new verse for his latest rap parody. He spends long hours at his craft, not because a lucrative paycheck awaits at the completion of the project, but because he loves making videos. And he'll be the first to tell you he's always been passionate about making video. Even when he was young.
Of course, Daniel Hart is still young. 16 years young, but his youth doesn't mean he hasn't had time to accumulate nearly ten years of video producing experience.
Making Video is What He Loves
We first met Daniel when he contributed a Reader's Profile for Videomaker's March 2010 issue. Back then, he reported struggling with his green screen in his home bedroom "studio." Never mind that he was one of the few 14-year-olds we were aware of who had a green screen in his bedroom. At the time, Daniel was excited to have recently gotten a paying job with a local wedding videographer following an internship to prove his skills were up to the task.
Daniel provided us with a good case study of a young person finding his passion early and sticking with it.
We all know kids like this; whether the nascent interest is in baseball, acting, or video production; finding something you love and you're good at when you're young can sometimes provide a launching pad into a rewarding career or a lifelong hobby. As Daniel put it in his Reader's Profile after getting that job with the wedding video producer, "Now I get paid to do something I love." We all hope to be so lucky.
So where is Daniel now? We caught up with him recently to learn what a video enthusiast who shot his first video on his parents' camcorder when he was seven years old is up to. Is he still making video? What gear is he using? What are his goals? When can we expect to see his next project? And how do sibling producers avoid inevitable familial conflict?
The Family Move as Video Inspiration
"My family and I moved to Ft. Wayne, Indiana six months ago after seven years in Eugene, Oregon. We've moved quite a lot, so it's been a pretty easy transition. And, of course, I'm still producing videos with my sister."
In fact, Daniel made a terrific short video about this move titled, Goodbye, Pacific Ocean View. The short film, which is excerpted from a longer piece, is at once an homage to the life he and his family are in the process of leaving behind and at the same time hints at the adventure that the move represents. It's a nicely sophisticated and nuanced piece for a filmmaker of Daniel's age. (A mashup of the original songs Pacific Ocean View and In My Dreams can be viewed in Daniel's straightforward music video recording in which he completes the lyrical story of the move. See it and all of Daniel's work on his YouTube channel, smackwhitz.)
Emphasizing the collaborative nature of making video, Daniel explains that "I'm more into video production, shooting, editing, etc., and my sister, Katie, is more of the actress." The siblings share the scripting tasks, but many of Daniels videos, particularly his short films, emphasize the interplay between music and video. "I like making original music almost as much as making video," says Daniel who plays the guitar and keyboard and who's original scores can be heard on many of his projects. "My first interest is video, but I really like putting video and music together."
Daniel has graduated to a Canon VIXIA HF S10 camera, utilizes a shotgun microphone, GarageBand for the Mac, and he does his editing in Final Cut Pro X.
A Young Videographer Finding an Audience
"I love posting to YouTube. It's great to think of people watching my videos and I do get good feedback almost every week." One of Daniel's pieces was a video parody of a music video from the Disney Channel's Phineas and Ferb titled Squirrels In My Pants (S.I.M.P.). "One of the great things about YouTube, of course, is hearing from people who have seen my videos. I even heard from the producers of Phineas and Ferb after they saw my version. And they said they liked it." It's clear that Daniel and his sister have a great sense of humor and have a knack for light-hearted parody and music video.
In a very recent instance of a videographer reaching a greater audience than he had hoped for, Daniel describes the response he received after posting a parody of a love song by Adele, Someone Like You. In Daniel's version, the object of longing is his family's favorite coffee shop in Eugene, which happens to have been a Dutch Bros. shop (and Dutch Bros. is not currently found in Ft. Wayne, Indiana). Within an hour of posting this video on YouTube, Daniel received a call from the folks at Dutch Bros. and was told that they had viewed his video at company headquarters, the owner of the company himself had seen it, and they all loved it. As Daniel puts it, "another example of how sites like Youtube and Facebook can help get your videos seen by some pretty cool people."
But Daniel also applies his musical talent to more introspective and subtle video projects. His original music plays a significant part in many of his short films. In Our Reality, a video he made about a year ago matching his footage with music from Port Blue, Daniel's camera eye provides an intimate tour of the family's Eugene home. While it's clearly video, displaying deft, but gentle editing and well-timed music synchronicity, Our Reality is a story told in a series of emotionally complex still lifes. It's good, well-crafted shooting.
The Future's So Bright
As for his future plans? "I definitely see myself going to a college with a good film program," Daniel says. We suspect we'll be hearing more from Daniel Hart as the years go on, his talents continue to grow, and his library of terrific video continues to expand. Stay Tuned.
Richard Ober is Videomaker's Executive Editor