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Freelancing off grid by Peter Mieras
Freelancing off grid by Peter Mieras
24th April 2020
Film projects on hold, cancelled, or no longer considered, yes, Covid 19 has thrown a wrench in many works and here in Canada things are no different. Most people are in lockdown or self- isolating, and travel is not something that is done lightly. As a freelance (mostly underwater) cameraman and small video production company, my work has stalled and of course with that, any money coming in. In Canada the federal government has offered some amazingly effective financial support to self-employed people including those who work in the “gig economy”. This support is great but doesn’t compare to a full working income.
When I was asked to share the way I am coping with the Covid 19 pandemic and the global impact of it, I wasn’t quite sure I had something useful to say. But I feel that in all of this mayhem, I have some privileges that help me to deal not only with the monetary impact but also the mental challenges that many people feel. So maybe there is something in here that could be helpful.
For almost 17 years I have been living off grid, literally on the border of the ocean in the middle of nature. And since I live extremely remote and have my own boats, compressor, dive and camera gear I can dive and film to my heart’s delight without violating social distancing and self-isolation. Normally we have diving guests and film crews, however currently it is just my wife, a dog, a cat and myself. The only visitors we get these days are the eagles, bears, humpback whales and other transitory wanderers. Of course, we notice them but usually we have too many other priorities on the go to pay much attention. Now however, I find myself running for cameras or delving into textbooks on invertebrates, mammals, birds and fish life in order to add to my knowledge of their behaviour -- behaviour that I not always had the opportunity to observe in detail or document.
For example: female Red rock crabs extrude their egg masses in late autumn and release the developed larvae in spring. This takes place at night during a precise and short window. Having more time than usual this year, I managed to dive 4 nights in a row and film this rarely observed event.
All this activity has led to an increased stock footage library which in time will lead to increased sales and exposure. I have a stock footage channel on Youtube and clips are added as they are filmed. In addition, the new knowledge about species is recorded in my “wildlife diary”. This diary records species, dates, places, behavior and other details that can enhance the effectiveness for future film crews wanting to film targeted species. This diary proved its value last year when we hosted a film crew from Japan that was successful in filming mating ratfish.
Another way I keep myself busy in the industry is by networking. Of course, networking is not an unusual activity, but I use the extra time I have to communicate with the people in my network and expand connections that can be mutually beneficial. Linkedin is a good one for general searches, but specialty organizations such as The Natural History Network and others that concentrate on wildlife, visual research and factual programming have rendered great new connections. As a result, I have sold stock footage to new organizations and I have also been approached to discuss the possibility of being a “remote DOP” for an underwater wildlife program. Given the possible ongoing restrictions on travel this may be part of a new normal.
From a mental health perspective, this pandemic and its worldwide shut down has for many led to concerns and anxieties regarding health, work, financial and other consequences and I am not completely free of those. The slowdown of my life’s speed, being surrounded by nature, and the ability to take the time to look at something as simple as Mason bees flying around or Garter snakes sunbathing has a calming effect. It allows for contemplation and helps me to put things into perspective in relation to other people who do not have these blessings. I have taken it upon myself to mentor a new and aspiring wildlife photographer/ film maker by sharing my experience, knowledge and mistakes. This is not only payback time for the mentorship I received when I started in the industry, but it also gives me positive energy when I can share with others.
With all my privileges, I have built somewhat of a routine which gives my day more structure. The routine can consist of mundane things such as updating and improving my website, e-mail etc., but I also make time to try innovative things. Experimenting with new filming techniques has led to some very beautiful and unusual images. In addition I “force” myself to think of the future and research / write up subjects or projects that I think may come to fruition once this lockdown has ended. It is this push to work at the future with new and creative eyes that really is the backbone of my coping with these odd times we find ourselves in. For me it creates hope. Hope that fuels my creativity and mental well-being.
I realize that my situation is unique and, in a way, very privileged but if you can take a grain of inspiration away from this I will consider myself useful in having accomplished something for someone else.
Stay safe, stay healthy, we will get through this.
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