I’m a writer. I have always been a writer. I will always be a writer.
But I’m also a video producer.
My career has been a constant struggle between these two, at times mutually exclusive, jobs. At times I’ve favored the video producer job. At other times, the writer job. There have been social and employment pressures in each direction, and being my stubborn self, I have generally stood fast on whatever side I wanted to be on at the time.
When I helped found Polygon.com in 2012, my job description was both. I was to be a writer and a video producer, features editor, and executive producer of Video. And, for a time, this worked out fine for everyone. In those early days of Polygon, I produced what I think are some of my best works in both written and video media. But as the site grew, I inevitably had to choose one path or another. Panic.
When I had the talk with my boss about whether to focus on the video or writing side at Polygon, I remembered a similar situation years before, when I worked at The Escapist. I started there as a writer, and I wrote a lot of stories I was proud of. But then, seemingly out of the blue, video became a big thing in web media. Since I’d worked in television and film, I was asked to build The Escapist’s video program, and I agreed. I had no idea at the time that this would soon overwhelm my life and crowd writing completely out of the picture for the next five years. But it did. I helped create big brands, like Zero Punctuation and Unskippable, and I oversaw the creation of a division that would expand The Escapist’s traffic by 2,000% and help it win numerous awards and make all kinds of money and blah, blah. But in order to do all that, I had to walk away from the writing career I was building and focus exclusively on making and executive-producing videos. It was an exciting time, but I spent a lot of it wishing I could have kept writing.
So when I thought about what to do at Polygon, the question, for me, was simple: I wanted to write. I wanted to see how far I could go with writing the kind of long-form, human-driven stories I favor. I wanted to find my limit. I wanted to find out what kind of writer I wanted to be. What kind of writer I could be. So I stepped aside from video production and focused on writing and editing feature stories. It was the best decision I’ve ever made.
But times change.
Having now moved on from Polygon, I feel I’ve finally proved to myself what I can accomplish as a writer. And I have the drive and energy to pursue writing projects whether they are commercial or not. (More often, they’re not, and that’s just fine with me.) I’m working on a number of projects now, and some of them might get published in magazines or online, and others might just be for myself. Some might start one way and end up the other. Doesn’t matter. I’m writing what I want to write. These days, I’m doing it for me. But having answered the question of what kind of writer I want to be, I find I am now in a place where working in production again feels less cumbersome. More than that, I’m finding I miss it.
The fact is, I’m good at producing video. I’ve been doing it since I was a teenager. I’ve worked with some of the most talented people and helped them do their best work. And I’ve created video products I’m genuinely proud of. I realize, having found my confidence as a writer, that I don’t have to do one or the other. I can do both. And if producing video just happens to be more commercial than writing, so be it.
TL;DR: I’ve founded a production company.
For now the goal is to keep the Flying Saucer Media client list small, working on just a few projects a year. Mostly brand-building or documentary-style consumer films highlighting the humanity behind products or services. We might also work on non-commercial stuff, if we feel like it.
It’s a small thing right now. But it might become a big thing. And I think I’ve found a market niche where my style and reputation for on-time and under-budget production will be in demand.