Monday, July 31, 2017

Keeping Up, on Camera - No Longer Just for the Kardashians

This spring, John Henry, a 24-year-old entrepreneur and the founder of a Harlem-based nonprofit, had a very strange first date. The woman he had taken to a SoHo restaurant seemed to know a suspicious amount about the places he’d been in recent weeks and the conversations he’d had. This, Mr. Henry slowly realized, was a byproduct of his recent decision to have a videographer film large swaths of his daily life: his work, travels, lunches and even subway commutes, which Mr. Henry had then posted on Facebook and Instagram.

“It removed so much of the humanity of the conversation, because my life is just a big piece of content now,” he said. “There was literally no element of surprise.”

Digital self-promotion has gone to a new extreme. Perhaps taking a cue from BeyoncĂ©, who has famously recorded almost every single moment of her waking life, Mr. Henry is one of a small but growing number of entrepreneurs who have turned their lives into do-it-yourself reality shows. They pay videographers, editors and producers thousands of dollars a month to shadow them and create content for their social media platforms. They “star” as part motivational speaker, part life coach, as they dispense advice and speak enthusiastically about the hustle. They are earnest to a fault; you’ll find no melodrama here (or even much drama).

But people are watching, sometimes in the hundreds of thousands. “The reach is incredible,” Mr. Henry said. “It’s mind-blowing to me that a regular person can reach a quarter of a million people a month if they put the work in.”

Despite the self-promotional nature of this phenomenon, most of these workaday video protagonists claim altruistic reasons for putting their lives under the microscope.

“I wanted to step up as a role model,” said Gerard Adams, 32, a founder of the website Elite Daily who calls himself the “Millennial Mentor,” a title he has trademarked. “I had to overcome a lot of failure and challenges.” Three videographers take turns filming Mr. Adams at his New Jersey-based business incubator, at the gym, and with his family and friends.

Patrick Bet-David, 38, the chief executive of an insurance company, said he wanted “people to see that you can have a wife and kids, and work out, and stay healthy and manage a business. You can pull it off.”

Just over a third of Mr. Bet-David’s life is captured on camera for his YouTube channel, Valuetainment. He was interviewed for this article over the phone at a restaurant in Dallas, where he was having lunch. As usual, his director of film production, Paul Escarcega, was there, too. Mr. Escarcega used two different cameras — one stationary, one hand-held — to shoot the call. (Of course, the audio only picked up Mr. Bet-David’s side of the conversation.)

“You never know when you could be having a conversation that naturally leads to something that brings value to somebody watching,” Mr. Bet-David said. “You try to catch all the moments.”

Cy Wakeman, 52, the chief executive of a human resources and leadership development company called Reality-Based Leadership, which teaches employees how to “ditch the drama,” is convinced there are professional benefits of having a video team follow her around Omaha, where she lives, to conferences across the country and on vacations to places like Tulum, Mexico.

“If people are distracted at work on their phones, I want to be their distraction,” Ms. Wakeman said. (...)

Hiring a full-time — or even part-time — camera and production crew isn’t cheap. Adam Hamwey, who shoots and produces content for Mr. Henry, said that daily rates ranged from $300 to $500. Mr. Adams said he pays six figures annually for his three-person team. VaynerTalent offers packages starting at $25,000 a month. They work with clients who want a comprehensive personal brand strategy, which means you’re not simply hiring a videographer and producer but also a growth hacker, media strategist and analytics expert. Ms. Wakeman, for instance, has a team of seven people.

by Jennifer Miller, NY Times |  Read more:
Image: Joshua Bright