Interview with Freelance Filmmaker: Caroline J. Phillips

Currently I am a freelance filmmaker located on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. I manage Riverine Creative, a video content business I created to help tell the stories of Maryland and beyond.

What drew you into the world of filmmaking? Specifically cinematography.

When I was younger I had a hard time deciding what I wanted to focus on when I grew up. I was happiest when I was with people and watching TV. When I found out that there were actual people that created television and those were possible jobs, I decided to major in film and media. I went to Messiah College in Harrisburg, PA and grew to love filmmaking even more. I was always drawn to the cinematography of a film and got into cinematography by practicing still photography. Only in the last 5 years have I picked up my own camera and created films. I was an editor first, which enabled me to learn what shots I liked and I didn’t.

Tell us what’s in your filmmaking bag? Now & Then (meaning what did you start off with and what do you have currently)?

I’ve always loved a very simplified bag because I travel a lot and I’m a one man show.

Camera: Canon 5D Mark iii

Lenses: Canon 24-70mm 2.8

Stabilization: Sirui SUP204SR Aluminum-Alloy Photo/Video Monopod

I started off with a Nikon d5100 and it took great video. I mainly used that for photos and wedding videography.

How have you been able to establish yourself as a freelance filmmaker? Especially considering that you aren’t living on the West Coast? Do you believe filmmakers on the east coast have a disadvantage or advantage?

When I graduated from college in 2014, I started working for other freelance filmmakers and photographers by working as their assistants. By being an assistant, I was able to learn how freelance and entrepreneurship works. During those years I also starting taking on my own clients and shooting weddings. When I quit working for a photographer in 2016, I decided to contact my clients and see if I could get some sustaining gigs. I was able to establish long-term relationships with some amazing clients here on the Eastern Shore and I fell in love with telling their stories. I started Riverine Creative about 4 months ago to establish more of a business.

About a year ago I had all intention of moving to the West Coast for film. When I went out there, I had just started working with some clients back East. While I enjoyed the abundance of film and television work out in LA, I realized that there was a huge need for quality media in my hometown. I am the only filmmaker in my town. There is a small network along the Eastern Shore, but there is a void that I am able to fill.

I’m in demand because I’m one of a kind, but sometimes it can be difficult because there are a small amount of brands here that understand they need video content. So it takes a lot of patience but I love educating my community about the power of film. So by being on the East Coast has it’s advantages and disadvantages, but by being freelance I have the power of traveling, so I get to work all over the world.

Take us through you experience of successfully organizing a Kickstarter campaign that raised over $20,000, what would you say were the key takeaways that allowed this campaign to be a success?

When raising money for “Life of An Ingredient,” we had already established our community that we were marketing towards, so once we launched and put our campaign in front of the right people, we were able to raise the money in no time. I think knowing your audience and what they want is a key part of crowdfunding. Also understanding that your audience needs more incentive than, “this is something we are passionate about.” Really ask yourself, why should these people give money? What is in it for them? In this age of crowdfunding, the donor is really going to have to choose between your film and someone else’s.

Also, after working on the Kickstarter, I realized that sometimes raising the money is the easy part. The next step, making the film and producing something your donor expects, is harder.

How do you prepare commercial shoot verses a documentary?

A commercial shoot is about your client. You are working on something that tells their story exclusively and also puts them in the best light, for marketing. A documentary is telling the story, “as is.” I like a documentary-style to my commercial work – meaning that I want tell my client’s story in a documentary way. However, since it is a commercial piece, you have to make sure the story you are helping to craft is marketable.

One tip you would give someone who wants to become better at cinematography?

It’s a lot about perspective as much as it is technical. I would encourage anyone wanting to become a cinematographer to keep looking at the world and your space with new angles. One thing that more of my clients comment on about my work is that it captures something that they didn’t even notice. I notice the light, the space, the allure and try to capture that through my camera.

What are you reading right now and what are you watching?

Watching: I was obsessed with Reed Morano for a few years so when she directed the first three episodes of Handmaids Tale, I was totally into it. It’s breathtaking. I also really enjoyed HBO’s Divorce (the first episode was actually shot by Reed but I didn’t know this until after!). It’s oddly funny and I love the cinematography in that as well. With Fall TV Season in full swing, I’m watching Great News (the best 30 Rock replacement) and of course Will & Grace.

Reading: Presence by Amy Cuddy, Jeffory Tambor’s Memoir: Are you Anybody?


How can we keep in touch with you?

Riverine Creative:

Social media: @riverinecreative

Personal/Editorial Work:

Instagram: @caro_jphillips


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