What is the appeal that brings individuals into filmmaking? The reality is, it’s different for everyone and sends each artist on their own unique path providing us with an endless variety of content and a multitude of lenses to perceive our world through.

Seth Haley is a filmmaker that lives on the Lake Michigan shoreline, not far from Kessler HQ. We met Seth about a year ago through our geographical connections and through some time spent talking to him about his work, found out that his story, although similar in many ways to the hundreds of filmmakers we connect with each year was unique simply because no one’s story can be exactly replicated. Each artist finds inspiration and motivation in their own way. Seth’s advice, filmmakers should find their unique creative advantage, or skill they excel at, and own it.

KU: What brought you to filmmaking?

Coming from the photography background my filmmaking journey is one that I feel is very common in the post DSLR days. After running a photography business for a number of years photography started losing the challenge it once had. Taking on a portrait session or shooting a wedding no longer scared me, so at that point I knew I wasn’t growing and stretching my skills as much or as fast as I wanted to. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of ways to find new challenges in photography, but I wanted to explore adding motion to all the things I already knew about creating an image, lighting, framing, storytelling, and now adding movement. Filmmaking was my answer – find your answer.

KU: Person in your life that inspires you the most to continue pursuing your art?

As much as I live and breathe video, I watch very few films and follow very few filmmakers. A lot of my inspiration comes from music, sound design, and life experiences. It’s a strange feeling to have seen so few of the movies and shows everyone talks about. For better or for worse that’s my been my life, and we’ll see what the future holds. If I was to pick two current people it would be Khalid Mohtaseb and Diego Contreras


KU: Biggest mistake you made when starting out?

Not putting my projects out there, because the perfectionist in me has a hard time letting go. When you can finally let go and accept the fact that you’ll always be learning is when things become a lot easier.

KU: Most rewarding lesson you’ve learned along the way?

1. Relationships are everything. A number of years ago I realized a common thread that has run through everything I really enjoy, which is helping others meet their goals and seeing them succeed. That has taken shape in various forms but the more time I can invest into the client the better understanding I’ll have of who they are and how I can help them reach their goals.

2. Personal projects ARE worth your time and money. This past winter I spent a lot of time shooting active lifestyle videos that have connected me with people I could have otherwise never connected with, let alone the great response it received through 600,000+ Facebook video views.

KU: What are some practical resources you use to craft your films?

1. Using a Pancake style editing timeline in Adobe premiere has allowed me to drastically decrease my rough-cut editing time. I’d highly recommend experimenting with it if you haven’t already.

2. Lens distortion correction on GoPro footage to remove the fisheye look has been a lifesaver for aerial shots.

3. Rather than buying all my gear, I rent the best camera FOR THE JOB. Borrow Lenses, LensProToGo, and Lens Rentals are all great places.

4. This is a big one for me, I typically have a guy named Zachary Horner compose my scores. There’s something so nice about having a score written specifically for the moods you’re going for, down to the very second. If that’s not an option for the project ‘The Music Bed’ is also a great option.

KU: How have you evolved as a filmmaker?

In my early years of photography I spent my time really focusing on understanding the details of how a camera worked and taking pictures every single day. Now I find myself trying to simply let go of the technical side and just let it flow. You know how using a real camera often makes you think all technical, but taking an iPhone photo is more about what you’re capturing? That’s the difference I’m talking about.

As much as I dislike how the word “story” is a buzzword, it’s true. Think Story. A simply filmed story that draws you in is more powerful than a technically amazing film with no point. I’d also add that if you’re shooting something without a specific story, make sure the shots flow.

I feel very fortunate to have the gift of being able to look at things in a new way and I feel that’s going to play to my advantage in the long run. I’d encourage anyone to figure out what their advantage in the industry is and own it.

KU: What’s the best advice you’ve gotten that’s helped you along the way as a filmmaker and as a person?

I enjoy seeing how minds in other industries think, so most of my advice comes from the business and entrepreneurial world. I once heard someone say something to the effect of, “if you invest the same amount of time, energy, and even money into building your business that you’d invest in college, you’ll be set.” As an entrepreneur, those words are gold. So many times we hear stories and expect things to happen overnight; be diligent, be patient, and things will happen.