5 With: Ben McGinley

December 3, 2014

I'm really excited to share thoughts from my very own spouse for this week's 5 With. I've known Ben for 9 years, so I've been able to watch (up close and personally) as he transitioned from a career in theater (and food service!) to his very first video client, and then to working for himself full-time (just about 4 years ago). I've learned from him that the best way to learn is to do-- that learning curves are inevitable, and only time and practice will make them less agonizing. I've also been reminded of the permission theme that I keep running into. As in, no one is going to give you permission to do anything; you have to give it to yourself. I'm guessing that there were plenty of skeptical people when Ben started his little business, but today he works with some pretty dreamy clients. Want to make something happen? Start.


Describe your creative work and what drives it. How did you come to do this work?
I produce video for arts organizations, public education, and individual performing artists. There are three things that drive my work:  
  • Mission: I’m very lucky to say that 90% of my clients’ missions are ones that I can proudly stand behind. It makes me feel a part of important work, not just a hired hand.  
  • A love of being the producer and making (lots of different) things happenProducing video on this small of a scale allows me to wear many different hats, which is good for my attention span as well as my tendency towards wanting control. I worked as an educational theater actor for the better part of 15 years and grew weary of just being one of the slices of pie; I wanted to be the baker.
  • Money: There’s no getting around it: I need to make a living, and video production is how I do this. I value building a creative life and eating. Luckily, I’m part of a generation of kids who have opted towards entrepreneurializing their passions.
I’ve been making movies since I was 6. It never occurred to me until my mid twenties that I was more passionate about video than I was about live theater. I messed around with a cheap camcorder and iMovie making various short films in my off time. Eventually, someone offered to pay me to do it for them. And I loved it. Video editing, as it turns out, is a fantastic fit for the control freak. I can be anal retentive, fussy, nitpicky and my work is better as a result.

What are your biggest creative challenges?
Challenges for me come in the form of client relations or technical limitations. Though I’ve gotten very good at curating the type of client I like to work with, there have been less-than-idea circumstances that were very negative experiences. Part of it is just having needed to put in my 10,000 hours. I have much more confidence now than I did 4 years ago. As for technical challenges, I’ll spare the details, but the world of video, editing, graphics technology is vast and there are countless tutorials and workflows to be learned, implemented, altered, and mastered. Every day is a Lynda course.

How do you balance running a business with other aspects of life?
  • I know my limits: I don't thrive when I constantly work. I take breaks, big and small. I work at home, so sometimes this means taking a break to do laundry, going to work out or cooking lunch. 
  • I self-advocate: I ask for fair compensation; I over-communicate with clients and set clear boundaries; I take time off for vacations. I've learned over time that I'm the only one who will make these needs a priority.
  • Inspiration: I love movies and I love live performance. I make time to watch both regularly.
Give some advice:
My advice is to get in the driver’s seat and work. Everything I do is self-taught; I have learned and am driven by doing. And don’t let technology get in the way: every $100 problem has a $1 solution. That’s all I’ll say. Get to work.

What's inspiring you right now?
I’m inspired right now by The Verge’s video segments. They are entirely motion graphic based and have given me that old feeling of I don’t know how they did that, but I want to learn how and do it in my next project.

You can find Ben's work here and here, and read more 5 With over here. 

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