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Increase your Enthusiasm

Ande Schurr.
Barb Ustina (Producer, Discovery Channel), Emma (Rainbow Springs Kiwi Wildlife Park), Brian Marleau (Freelance cameraman for Discovery Channel), Ande.
How Freelancers Can Succeed: Ande Schurr recommends three ways to increase your enthusiasm.

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How Freelancers Can Succeed: Ande Schurr recommends three ways to increase your enthusiasm.

"It will particularly benefit those who are caught in a rut and find it almost impossible to express enthusiasm with their work."

* * *

The piercing sound of cicadas wakes me up. I slide my finger along the screen of my iPhone and they stop.  It's 0600 and I can smell the sulphur.

There are two hours to go before I helicopter out of Rotorua with my Discovery Channel colleagues in pursuit of two volcanologists on White Island as they collect liquid samples and monitor gasses. For almost three weeks, I am travelling around NZ with the Canadian produced 'Daily Planet' show that will be seen by millions across the world. From rockets in space by the Rocket Lab boys, to thunderboat racing, a kitset road-legal racing car called 'Subzilla', native Kiwi and Kakapo recovery programmes, White Island, Codfish Island and much more, this trip is shaping up to be not just an adventure but a real education.

If you would recall your teachers at school, what set apart a great teacher from an ordinary one? I think you would say it is that they were enthused about their subject and couldn’t help but infect those around them with their passion. That is what I have seen with all the talent we have filmed so far. Sure, how they express their enthusiasm differs: for some it is seen in a dogged determination in their eye, for some a little joke they make that pokes fun at themselves, for others it is a more obvious large grin. I used to think that enthusiasm was only expressed as the latter of these. Now, because I am enthused about my job, I find I can see it in others too in many less 'telegraphed' forms.

But the question remains, how do you become this sort of person? Is it only a lucky few who can possess this level of passion? With the change in attitude I will soon describe, I have become even busier; going against the common attitude that we are still in a ‘slump’ (just look at the footer on the emails you get from people who have an MSN account: “Check on MSN NZ Money for a hand. Feeling the financial pinch?”), through a simple change in attitude.

Three ways to increase enthusiasm:

This change in my attitude has resulted in a large increase of work. It will particularly benefit those who are caught in a rut and find it almost impossible to express enthusiasm with their work.

Chances are, being a freelancer, you have to ‘fight’ for your work each day much like our cave-dwelling-brethren had to fight for food – and there is nothing more central to remaining motivated, day in day out, then the necessity to keep work coming in. However, even if you are motivated, you may still be lacking in the essential attitude of enthusiasm.

 This zest for your work is like a bonus emotion. If you don’t have it, chances are you will still do a fair job, and be hired on skill-level alone. Yet, with enthusiasm, you will become a different person and people around you will know it. Allow me to explain:

1. Start to do your job well for the sake of doing it well

Start to do your job well for the sake of doing it well and not to please anybody. This change was something I have been working on with my business coach, David Samuel (www.davidsamuel.net), who suggested this to me when he saw that I would treat the big jobs very seriously - and get stressed - and the smaller jobs more lightly but lacking the same level of respect.

Now I have the attitude that no matter the size or budget of the job, I will do the best I can for the sake of doing the best I can. Basically, because I can do a job well I will do it well. This is a very freeing place to be. It removes all conditions. I don’t care if it’s a free short film, a smaller budget feature film, a high end documentary or large international TV commercial, I will be the same person on each job giving the best I can. Enthusiasm is not based on the content of your work but on the pleasure of performing your skill-set with as much care, thought, and thoroughness that you can muster.

It allows one to become very enthusiastic over the smallest jobs rather than waiting for a special job or script or crew or budget to work with. When I get comments from presenters, camera operators and producers who can say “I know only a few soundies who have your level of passion for a job” then that gives me a little feedback to let me know that I am on the right track.

2. Stop treating your profession like you reluctantly fell into it

Here’s another big clue to fostering this attitude of enthusiasm and I think it comes when you have the feeling that you are at "home" with your particular occupation.

In a way, our work gives meaning to our lives. Just watching Brad Scott, the scientist who keeps tabs on sleeping volcanoes, with his unkempt beard and skin tanned like a sailor, lower himself down into the steaming crater of green liquid to collect samples, showed me that this was the essence of life for him. He showed no large outward signs of excitement - that wasn't his nature - but I could see that he "lived and breathed" his work.

If you analyse my job, Brad's job and your job, you will see it is a very simple set of skills needed to do the relevant task: turn the knobs on the mixer; lower the test tube into the liquid; point the camera and press record – so then why don't we all swap jobs? Because people don't usually hire us for skill alone unless everyone else is booked and we are the only option! Freelancers are hired for their shared enthusiasm and affection for the job and people they work with. We grow to love what we do because we see it is a superior way of living to just merely existing.

I think there are two exceptions to this rule. One is if you have a dream to be in another profession. I recently asked a girl at a supermarket if she loved her job.  She looked around to make sure her superiors were not listening and then said in a relieved voice "thirty days to go". She explained that she was about to start training to be a vet. Exception! The other is if you are surrounded by negative people who depress you. Move away fast on this one.

3. Communicate all the time.

Brian Marleau, described by our producer as the most sought after documentary cameraman in Canada, is the Discovery Channel cameraman I’m working with and he is always keeping everyone in the loop. "I'll be right with you" is his favourite line as he quickly changes lenses.

There is a sense of momentum on this shoot like you wouldn’t believe. Often on shoots we start and stop and then lunch comes and then energy dies in the afternoon. On this shoot there is no such thing. We start and we keep moving - and here is another secret - at the pace of the talent. We don't stop them and make them repeat the sequence over and over – just enough to get the shot. We don't want to lose their attention. On the volcano, we would race ahead of the talent 100 meters or so and then film them tramping up the slope. At the most we would say "wait here while we run ahead". On the audio side of things, I am continually communicating with the talent to make sure his lavaliere mic is still where it should be behind his shirt, that his radio transmitter pack is not uncomfortable and also with Brian to make sure he knows I’m plugged in behind him, or if I need a moment to check some levels.

In conclusion, when you are enthused with your own work then you get eyes that can see the enthusiasm of others. Already, then, you have a lot in common with that person. Find enthusiasm in what you do at all costs and you will have more friends, more work and more satisfaction.

Written by

Ande Schurr

4 May 2010

Corporate video producer and production sound recordist now based in Singapore after a 15-year career in New Zealand. Video clients incl. universities, tech startups, medical clinics and business consulting agencies. Sound clients incl. Netflix, Discovery, BBC, National Geo.