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JECP Future Vision & Values (Avoiding Death)




Do you have what it takes to help save JECP?


Life has been a mixed bag of emotions, and I'm unsure what's next. For now, I'm taking things one play at a time or, more clearly, one month at a time.


I'd like to close out 2024, making some of the best work with good clients/artists/brands that show us trust and that we can help; however, if the cash runway doesn't present itself, I may have to change course sooner than expected.


I'm simplifying our process, making it application-based, and seeing where the interest lies. From the beginning, JECP was built on supporting others, but we're in a season of needing support from our community, past clients, and potential clients. Your support is crucial if we hope to survive and thrive this season.


We are now accepting applications for potential projects. We are spending more time asking questions up front to sort through projects that show absolute confidence and trust and find the right fit. Our goal is not just to hit revenue targets but to create some of the best art we've ever made and provide jobs and experiences for our team and clients.



Before we delve into the business talk, I want to share some history, reflections, and the changes I believe are necessary. These changes affect not just JECP but the industry as a whole. I've noticed specific trends and practices that need to be addressed, and I'm hopeful we can work together to bring about these changes.


History

Before my well-known days as a music video director/producer/DP, I poured myself into any organization or business I worked for. I love learning about others and trying to make my efforts known through hard work, innovation, and inspiring those around me.


Where filmmaking began for me.


I started off being extremely passionate about skateboarding. While I wasn't the best, I did inspire those around me, assemble a community, and give where I could from video, hangouts, and late-night talks with my friends trying to figure out those teenage to early 20s. This stoked the fire for my love of filmmaking, mostly starting as an editor, picking the camera up to shoot other skaters, and eventually creating several less-than-professional skits.


Skateboarding taught me self-expression and personal growth and allowed me to look at the world with creativity. With time, filmmaking entirely took over, but reality dampened the dream for a time.


Around the time for college, I decided I needed to "grow up," putting video to the side and buckling in for three intense years of Engineering focus. I wanted to get the degree. That special piece of paper was toted as the holy grail, but life is a balancing act.


I had a side gig cutting lawns for my old childhood neighborhood along the way. I specialized in overgrown lawns and rugged landscapes, helping older folks manage their homes. It was hard work, but I took pride in doing it faster and more consistently than anyone they ever hired. Huge thanks to my dad for instilling an excellent work ethic in me. Tough love most certainly worked on my Enneagram 1 personality, striving for perfection and seeing work as a way to win admiration.


Simply put, my dad always pushed me to "model the best workers and ensure my customers are happy." I really live by the law of value and see the rewards. I have been cutting lawns since I was 12.


In addition to schooling and the lawn care business, I decided it was time to get a real (not under the table) job. This led me to work for a massive home improvement chain that may or may not have lived by the phrase "never stop improving."


Man, the striver in me loved this mantra, and I lived it. Still do to this day.


I accomplished a lot and grew a ton, and this job gave me more than it ever took, but it started out differently. I was highly introverted and quiet, and being in customer service made me anxious. That mantra really challenged me. I started seeing my weaknesses as things I could overcome. I wasn't charismatic, I hated faking anything and didn't like sucking at my job. Initially, I leaned toward the physical labor side of things, volunteering to do the hard work and do it better than anyone else.


While doing this, I learned as much as possible, asking for advice or feedback from employees, customers, and management. I fell in love with learning so much. I wanted to be a team player, help people I worked with, and serve a great customer experience. It took time, but I got there. The Leadership took notice and saw a way to use me. I started getting shifted from one department to another to build morale and learn more.


Moving departments, I took the same approach, stoking my curiosity and trying to be helpful. This job taught me to build social skills, be kind and curious, and stand my ground respectfully. I still admire and love my time there. I stuck it out for 7+ years there, but along the way, I met friends who were back in filmmaking.


It's time to get back to my true love.


Around the three-year mark, I quit engineering. This was a hard conversation to have with the parents, but guess what? They supported me.


After being encouraged to try, I shifted to the electronic media program (and eventually Leadership). So, working a full-time job, running a lawn care business, taking school seriously, and considering giving filmmaking a shot again, I realized some things needed to shift.


Death to We'd Eat Your Weeds (I'm great with names, I know, haha).


I had to let go of all of my lawn care clients, and it broke my heart. From 12 to 21, I built up a nice list and repeated business, but I needed to figure out where I saw my life heading.


With that extra time, I started making more friends in filmmaking. I established a short-lived business that did everything from baby photos to weddings, senior pictures, live events, music videos, and narrative filmmaking. This was with five friends, and we all had varying interests. Ultimately, I loved the music videos, stopped caring about the other things, and broke off to create JECP.


The all-consuming endeavor.


It was late 2011 when JECP, or J. Emerick Cinema & Photo, was born. It started as a way to make more than pretty music videos. I knew bands. I loved bands. From my high school days, I was deeply immersed in my friend's music projects. While I never played, I loved their passion for chasing the dream and never felt as brave or bold as them. JECP was my way of chasing the dream and supporting a community I knew and loved.


In the beginning, we made lots of mistakes. Building the business, we often offered free photos to share our vision, discuss projects, and see if we could help. This opened so many doors and got us rolling. We also had a different take on it all. Back in the day, it was all about technique. Ross would tag along to manage the conversation, build the relationship, and give me feedback while I focused on delivering the best art we could make and creating the right impression. This paved the way for our operation beyond giving over good deliverables and emphasized that we cared and could help.


One thing that did take hold was meeting like-minded people who wanted to shoot great videos for bands and have a good time hanging out. We weren't traditional filmmakers. We thought less about tools, positions, and credit and more about the energy, feelings, art, emotions, and what it all meant for the bands we worked with. Every job was an opportunity. We were grateful.


In those early years, we had no clue what our value was, what to charge, how to stand our ground, and everything else. The value we had was caring about every project, not measuring by the hours, and seeing everyone on our team give their all to doing great work for every client. Years later, we would start getting more efficient and creating processes. Not to make the videos dull but to make better ideas and healthier relationships bloom from every project.


Time is a great tool. It gives you experience, data, and stories.


Reflections

Over the years, we realized shortcomings and strong points. Around 2017, things declined rapidly. We started putting more and more effort into larger teams and better gear rentals. We created some fantastic projects and did excellent work, but the calls weren't coming suddenly.


Admittedly, I was also dropping the ball on communication. We had recently had our first son, Locke, and I was grasping at being a present father, doing great work, and being a good husband. I was struggling with home life, pouring myself into my work, and making matters worse. I learned a lot in this season.


Pain is a great teacher.


In 2018, I paused to reflect, make some money freelancing as a photo assistant, and ask past clients why they liked working with us. They all shared a similar thing that I didn't expect.


It's the experience.


I made them feel good, taught them our ways, invited them into decisions, and guided them toward creativity together. In the rebuild, I refocused on all of that.


Fast-forward to now. What am I seeing? In the last few years, I have seen creativity and ideas shift in the other direction, focusing only on digital marketing tactics, specifically volume and a massive lack of heart and connection. This makes everything feel boring and uninspiring, contributing to saturation and chasing a never-ending cycle of disappointment.


Over the years, we've been hired to produce more content with smaller budgets, compromising the passionate team and experience that made us stand out. More volume and a smaller budget mean the team has to be stripped back, editing takes longer, and, generally, everyone loses more and more excitement.


As a business leader, it's disappointing to relay to my team that every project has to be simpler and less involved. This has degraded excitement, with many feeling less than stellar about being involved in projects.


The people pleaser in me may have taken over with the pressure to be more of an achiever than an artist. Hitting goals and making money matters but in that process, I've left the crop vulnerable to infestation. Business decisions aren't black and white. Around the time we had our second son, Knox (2021), I was fully supporting our family's income and did so well. My new Northstar was profiting, creating security, and doing the work to survive. I'm proud of those 2.5 years, but along the way, I took more and more bad deals, slowly stripping away what we do best.


What's worse is that the visual quality didn't dip. It's the experience and feeling. Pretty videos aren't enough. That's not what I set out to create.


It's not all bad, but us on our worst day is still pretty damn good. This contributes to not seeing the problem clearly. It was more like an invisible problem lurking in the shadows only to reveal itself far too late in the game.


I have seen the decline, and yes, it's industry-wide, but I also know we built excitement over the years and became a talking point of excellence, and these decisions eroded that. I'm too blamed for letting our clients steer the ship in the wrong direction. Now, the profits are down, the business is at high risk, and the rebuild looks pretty grim.


So what to do?


Take ownership, steer the ship, and lean into our expertise. Our best work happens through my crew's great teamwork, the clients who trust us, and mutual respect.


Things change, and that's okay, but I'm taking a stand to change that back. Not every project needs to be a 10-person crew by any means, but all of them being 2-person high-volume simple videos isn't sustainable either. It's trying to strike a balance between the two where we can bring that charm and passion, develop talented artists, and break up the social media channels with real art.


Change won't happen until the pain of the same is greater than the change.


Change

A change has to happen, not just for me but for the industry as a whole. As creatives, we must assess and stick to what makes us who we are. That's what I intend to do. Competing on price is a losing battle.





A few weeks back, I opened up brutally, and my emotions were displayed. This was for freedom and to uncage myself. The process is more related than I expected, so the call to arms matters. We all have a place in this and can make a difference. The lazy advice of charging more, standing your ground, and enforcing the contract isn't the simple solution. It's conversations, speaking our minds, noticing subtle shifts or slights in respect, and using our voices not to blame but to share feelings and find teachable moments. I'm in a war to save my career. I want it for you, too, if you're a fellow creative. If you're a client, I encourage you to listen deeper and lean toward understanding. Creative service providers are allies, not order-takers. Real artists ship.


Can we survive?


Moving forward, we need two things month after month to keep things going. First, we need clients who trust us and our process and can make decisions. Second, we must hit revenue goals with profit in mind to run the business, put jobs together, and reduce our debts.


Trust is key.


I'm done pitching elaborate proposals that wow my clients only to realize they need to postpone the project or get bids from cheaper options. If you want to work with me, it's for the experience and the way we collaborate, and you share a desire to create art that matters. Conversations speed up decisions. I'm tired of waiting weeks and months for a reply.


Let's work or let's not. Simple.


What is profit? Profit allows a business to grow and support you now and into the future. Why invest your money, time, and energy into a relationship only to have to rebuild that over and over with new people?


When we profit, we can provide the best experiences and bring the right solutions to your project. Discounts steal from your experience.


We have to profit. I'm all for helping and genuinely believe we over-deliver, but discounts are often over the top, and more and more scope creep happens. This ends now. I'm making it simple, killing proposals and only having conversations. If you like me, trust me and my team, and believe we can provide a solution, then great. Let's work.


We are done doing work for free.


This has to change. In 2024 alone, I pitched over 20 projects and only saw 3 close. I spend 6-15 hours on every proposal. That's a lot of free work, and to make matters worse, I have seen some of these proposals get taken to other creatives to execute (don't break my heart). The old way isn't working, and that's my fault. So I'm changing this.


How do you work with us moving forward?

Each project will be application-based. You've either researched us, been given a referral, or found us magically. Ensure you're serious about your project and story before reaching out. We have many ways to engage, from consulting, collaborating, and full service, and we can meet you where you are as long as it respects our process and vision and we align.



The stakes are heavier than ever. I'm aiming to take on 4-6 projects a month starting in July, looking for the right fit and aiming toward a $10k—$20k monthly goal to produce good work, create jobs, cover the monthly bills, and knock down our debts. We can engage in more story-driven projects, deliverables, collaboration, etc.


How can you help?

Tell a friend. Not just that we do great work but that we are counting on great clients. We love our clients. We love our work. We do great work. We are capable and skilled and ready to get to work, but we need you. I rarely ask favors and have figured it out for years, but I'm counting on my community now more than ever. I would love to see JECP stick around as a pillar of the creative community, helping artists, developing great filmmakers, and continuing to inspire others while supporting my family and seeing growth. But a change has to happen.


If you read this, thank you.


I wanted to share a more holistic story, peel back the layers of me and what I set out to build, and share the stakes. As an underdog, it's hard to admit we need help. It's even harder realizing it's mainly due to my mistakes.


All love,


-Josh


P.S. Here's whats next, Damn good stories.


Additional clarity we are following from a favorite playbook, The Win without Pitching Manifesto


The 12 Proclamations

We will specialize.

  • We know music videos and craft the best experiences, hands down.

We will replace presentations with conversations.

  • We are done wasting time on non-serious time-wasters.

We will do with words what we used to do with paper.

  • We will make sure there's a problem to solve and solve it if it makes sense.

We will seek to better understand the client.

  • We will ensure we understand the problems before prescribing solutions by asking better questions and gaining true clarity.

We will build expertise rapidly.

  • We will avoid going broad and trying new things outside our zone of excellence and will instead do what we know best to the best of our abilities.

We will make continuous learning mandatory.

  • Striving and growing keep us engaged in pursuing excellence, giving back, and adding value to ourselves, our team, and our clients.

We will be selective. 

  • We will only work with the right fits on projects with deep expertise and pass bad fits along to other service providers who fit the needs better, growing everyone in the process.

We will not solve problems without being financially engaged.

  • Starting work before clients show they are invested in our team creates dishonesty and kills creative alignment, passion, and drive. We will begin to work when clients show us they are ready to work.

We will address issues of money early.

  • We will stop over-investing our energy into passion before the client signals genuine interest, creating guilt and resentment. Instead, we will ensure both parties feel aligned and sure before starting.

We will refuse to accept work at a loss. 

  • We will accept work we can do and do well, creating confidence in our experience and the client's experience, raising the bar for the creative community, killing buyers' remorse, and ensuring future work for ourselves and less defense for creative service providers and clients.

We will charge more.

  • With time, expertise, better problem-solving, and more robust systems, we will raise prices and charge more, signaling the value we provide experience after experience. Profit creates opportunities to help clients better and more confidently.

We will hold our heads high.

  • Serving our clients will give us pride, create opportunities, and help the community. Additionally, knowing when we aren't fit, we will swiftly connect with better fits and not act in scarcity, showcasing what it means to lead with excellence.

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