What’s it like shooting a roll of film every single day for thirty days? Probably not as hard as filming it simultaneously. I’m gearing up to do it again, but let me tell you about the first time…
When my YouTube channel was in its infant stage four years ago, the daily vlog was king. Casey Neistat was the name on everyone’s lips and how he was on his five-hundredth day, or something to that effect, and people were just in awe, and me too for a while. I was hooked just like everyone else, binge-watching him and drooling over drone shots and wondering how the heck he wasn’t creamed by a New York cabbie on that boosted board.
Then came a bunch of, and I mean a metric crap tonne of copycats. Boosted board sales boosted as even the likes of Ted Forbes tried to ride one (and ate pavement doing so). Even more people thought the daily vlog was the way to make a channel successful and I’ll admit, I jumped on that bandwagon, but I wanted to correct a major flaw I saw in these videos: He wasn’t actually doing anything!
I’m embarrassed it probably took me sixty to one hundred videos to realize that, for all the cool (and highly illegal) drone shots it was usually just a) him running errands, or b) story time. By the way I would learn a couple years later that those drone shots were all done on the weekend and peppered into each daily video, kind of lame, but don’t hate the player, hate the game I guess?
No question, Neistat leads an interesting life, but the end goal was to vlog daily, and I thought, the daily vlog should be the vessel to present the real goal, whatever that is.
What did that mean for me as a film photographer and budding Youtuber? A few things. The first was pretty obvious: to add a bunch of content to my channel in a short amount of time while learning to edit fast and efficiently. If I normally made one video a week, and I made thirty in a month, that’s almost seven months of experience crammed into one. The last component, a goal, was the most important because I needed people to actually watch these videos.
It really didn’t take me long to realize that shooting a roll of film every day with a different camera (or at least a different lens) was an interesting angle on the daily vlog.
That’s when I came up with 30 Days of Knight.
I figured a month was a good round figure to start with. Plus the name comes from a vampire movie called 30 Days of Night, and I’m all about the puns.
I started almost immediately. The idea was I would load a different camera every day with some film, take the viewers on my journey around town as I found stuff to photograph and then when I was done, I’d head back to my home darkroom, and develop it. Only at the end of the episode would people see the photos, and I would pull the negatives out of the tank and see them for the first time just like the viewer. So if I buggered them, they’d get my honest (and crushed) reaction. I also used a lot of cameras I hadn’t tested yet, so I often taped up the back to help prevent potential leaks, but light leaks are not the only issue as you probably know.
By some miracle, all my photos turned out. Of course, I had some issues with the developing process and not all the images were winners by any stretch, but that’s not entirely the point. Sometimes you just need to get a camera in your hands and shoot a whole bunch of film to keep that muscle memory going. Also, a lot of the time, a good photo is just about being there to capture something interesting. It’s basic math, if you want to shoot a wonderful sunset, you need to be at every one of them until you get the shot you want.
Shooting a vlog a day while shooting a roll of film a day can really mess with your head. Let me explain.
I would shoot the roll while recording myself doing it, go home, and develop the roll. While the film was drying I’d edit the first half of the episode. Much of the time, the film wouldn’t be ready until the next day, so I was out shooting day two, developing day two, but scanning and editing the rest of day one. Then, on day three, I would be releasing day one to my patrons, editing and scanning day two and shooting and drying day three, and maybe editing some of it as well. On day four, I would release day one to the public, etc., etc., etc…commense, brain melt.
It’s very disorienting, and the only thing I can equate it to is a band on an extended tour and forgetting what city they’re in.
Was it worth it? Totally. Was it expensive? Totally…but with one caveat. I considered it an investment at the time, into the channel.
In the four years since I have been asked a lot if I’ll ever do it again, and the answer has always been “maybe”. I think about the costs involved and I’d at the very least like to break even. Not to mention, I barely saw my wife. Plus, in that time I have discovered minimalism, and have sold or donated dozens of cameras that I held on to but rarely or never shot. If you look in my office, you wouldn’t believe I was a minimalist, but you would if you compared it to some of my old videos and the sheer amount of stuff I had. Funny how it works but I shoot more now with less cameras because I was always paralyzed by choice. I have one camera for each format and everything else now is a keep sake, or waiting to be tested then sold. If you’re ever wondering if you have too many cameras, try this quick equation. Take the number of cameras you have and the number of rolls of film you shoot in a given month and divide. So if you have a hundred cameras and shoot four rolls of film a month it will take you just over two years to get through them all. Assuming you cycle them out every single roll, which is doubtful.
Something to think about, but I digress.
Recently that “maybe” has turned into a “yes”. I decided to do another vlog marathon where I shoot one roll per day, every day, showing everyone the good, and the bad. This time around though, I can’t really do it without the support of viewers, so I launched a Kickstarter.
This time I’m calling it: A FortKnight of Film. As you guessed it’s two weeks. My pun game is still on point. The real goal is a month though, but Kickstarter is an all or nothing service, and I wasn’t sure I’d be able to raise the full months worth of funds so I went with two weeks with a stretch goal.
This time it isn’t different cameras, but different films. Last round I shot a lot of tri-x, but this round it’ll be a different roll of film every single day. 35mm, 120, and instant. Fresh, expired and discontinued. B&W, colour and slide, all developed at home.
I have learned a lot about editing video and photography in the last four years, and I feel this time I can make even more entertaining videos, and better photos. I also have a much cleaner and streamlined darkroom. It’s even Alexa enabled!
My Kickstarter ends on October 1st and if I make my goal, I’ll start shooting that week. My rewards include shout outs, credits and darkroom prints, with a few more perks to come.
Have a look at my first round at this crazy endeavor, I think you’ll find it entertaining.
People tell me they’ve re-watched it, and that it’s a nice escape from reality, especially these days. I can’t argue with that as it was for me as well, and hopefully will be again. If you like it, maybe you’ll help support me in round two.
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