I spent 12-years at Sportsnet before starting my first video production company. I started as an intern, then once school was done I was hired and worked in the newsroom for a couple years before spending the next 10-years working with the marketing and creative department producing promos, brand campaigns, sales videos.
Sportsnet was only a couple months into the their launch as new national and regional sports channel. They had the construct, the infrastructure, but no identity, no connection to its audience. Everything we did was new.
I wouldn’t be where I am today if it weren’t for those early days. Not only did Sportsnet lack an identity but so did I. In that sense it was a perfect fit. I relied solely on my ideas. Regardless of the outcome, I was going for it.
That’s pretty well all I did at Sportsnet, was experiment. I built enough of a reputation through my creative, innovative, and award winning work that I could create and produce with little to no know direction from the brass. Sometimes I’d produce a promo for a particular team we had a TV deal with and say here you go, put it to air. I wouldn’t ask for approval, I would put it to air myself.
Sure we had campaigns, tag lines, players and teams we had to shoot, graphics and animations we had to use, but more often than not I was given creative control to do what I wanted. Sometimes they’d ask me “can you do something on this?” and I’d say “yes”, then I’d go away for however long I had to work on the project and come back when it was done.
One example is I produced a video for Sportsnet’s 10th Anniversary. It begins with interview clips of the original creators of the channel and top senior brass of today, fades to black, new music track starts and goes into a video symphony of 10-years worth of Sportsnet moments. Think of it, I went through 10-years worth of archived video. From the earliest animations and visuals to the present, I included it all.
I showed my boss the finished draft. We were in an edit suite, just the two of us, he watched, and when it was done he looked at me and had tears in his eyes. Having my work make an emotional connection like that is why I do what I do. That’s how we inspire, create a memorable moment, create trust and loyalty. Everything we do should be to take someone’s breath away.
I was able to create video without the confines of the corporate structure and strict approval process. (Believe me, Sportsnet is a company with a corporate structure).
However I did experience this structure when I worked as a on-air promotions producer/copywriter at the 2010 Winter Olympic Games for a consortium of Canadian media companies.
Although I was brought in to do similar work as I did with Sportsnet, it was a cookie cutter, sausage factory operation of templates and copy and paste. It was built to block any and all innovation or creativity. (I did buck that trend though and still found a way to produce something outside the box….ask me about it and I’ll tell you).
Basically we were told “The promos are going to look like this, and sound like this and scripts will follow this template”. I was bored out of my ass, working long hours on a media assembly line.
So looking back, I must say thank you to Sportsnet, you allowed me to experiment, create and innovate. To try new things, and take risks. And it worked. Not only was my work recognized with industry awards but also recognized and acknowledge by Sportsnet’s brass and viewers.
After the Olympics I started a side hustle producing online videos. Sportsnet is owned by Rogers, and Rogers has a publishing division. I had a friend in publishing who worked for a B2B magazine. She wanted try out video for their magazine’s digital assets. I told her I could do that for her and a couple months later we did. They were straight forward, interview/talking head type stuff but she and her colleagues loved it and ended up hiring me to do similar work for the rest of the year.
In 2011 the same work continued but they also added to the plate and asked me to produce a series of videos (English and French) for a small business research study they were doing for Manulife. Another smash hit. I did the same Manulife project in 2012 and 2013.
Work was going well. I was carving out a steady stream of work with my side hustle and I was also promoted to senior producer at Sportsnet.
All these side hustle gigs really opened my eyes to how easily and frequently companies could produce and publish video. I thought it was a match made in heaven. “Finally” I said. “Corporate doesn’t have to be so corporate”. Companies can now speak to people on a human level, as often as they want.
I wanted to lead the charge. I wanted to help companies realize how important and game changing online video was going to be.
I believed in it so much that in the summer of 2012 I quit my job at Sportsnet and started my video production company, b-Mc creative. b is for my last name Bolan, Mc is for my middle name McCarthy. I thought that was pretty cool. (For a few days anyway).
I built my website, spent a ton on SEO and within a year I was first page on Google. During that time I was still getting work through Rogers Publishing and Manulife, so I didn’t have a sense of urgency or stress during this business development stage.
Lo and behold people are contacting me through my site. I was pretty excited. I’m sending out quotes, making phone calls, and more phone calls, and more quotes. I landed the odd gig here and there. Mostly for small business.
But a reality I wasn’t prepared to face was that most of my proposals, and pitches were rejected. Add to that my expertise in production and creativity was very rarely considered. Prospects and clients had their concepts and even if it didn’t make sense creatively, logistically, or financially it did not matter.
I went from a corporate structure with freedom to create and innovate, to freedom of owning my own business with little freedom to create and innovate.
By 2015 I had lost all my Rogers Publishing and Manulife projects. I’m bidding on shitty, low budget projects. I was getting some work, but it was nothing like I was expecting. It was a tough slog.
In 2017 I came to accept that I’m not going to make an impact as a video production company. I was doing two things wrong. I was trying to please and cater to any business, and I was part of an incredibly saturated market of mostly under qualified production companies.
For the businesses who wanted our services, they really had no idea what to ask for and/or who to hire so it became a competition on price. That’s the death blow. When price trumps all, you’re done.
The worse part was companies were not getting the video content they deserved.
It’s a prefect storm of too many unqualified production companies over promising and under delivering. I’m meeting more and more business people today with negative stories about their video experiences with an outside vendor.
The time had come for me to do something about this. I gutted it all and started over.
First, I got rid of b-Mc creative. I was the only one who knew how to pronounce the damn name. “Hi, are you B-M-C?” or “Hi, can I speak to someone at B-MAC”. So embarrassing. My new business name was going be Bolan Creative. Simple and easy, no fuss no muss.
Second, I’m no longer a video producer, but I’m now a corporate filmmaker. I’m not competing with the red ocean any longer. They can fight over the price only crowd. My corporate films cater to a select clientele that understand and respect the experience and values I bring to the table. And because of this, they actually end up with far better, more engaging films that help their bottom line.
Third, I created DIY with BRY, a series of programs that coach and train small businesses and solopreneurs how to produce and publish their own video. My approach is on the creative and content side, an underserved but very important part of the production process.
Fourth, I’m a speaker. Not only do I speak about video but also about my personal challenges and struggles with mental illness. What you’ve read is from a business experience perspective. But through it all, I dealt with, and continue to deal with today, sometimes manageable and often times debilitating mental health illnesses.
I encourage you to visit other pages of my site. If you are interested in my corporate filmmaking services, you’ll find some great case studies about some of the projects I’ve fortunate to work on. These case studies go deep into the entire production of these projects. From budgets, to turnaround times, to production decisions and more. These case studies are stories about the 90% of what you don’t see when you watch a finished video.
If you want to know more about DIY with BRY, go our the DIY with BRY page and watch my videos on What is DIY with BRY and Why DIY with BRY. That will get you started and then you can watch and discover a ton of content on the programs that I offer, to free tip, tools, and tricks.
If you wish to know more about my speaking go to my contact page and send me an email.