Hey there, welcome! We’re thrilled to have you join us. Before we jump into the details of your setup, we’d love to learn more about how you got your start and how your past experiences have guided your journey.
Joshua: I’m a narrative and documentary filmmaker that sometimes makes stop motion animations. I’ve worked across broadcast television and feature films on TV shows for networks like the Discovery channel, National Geographic, SBS, ABC and Foxtel. I’ve worked across narrative, reality, documentary and worked in Europe, Australia and South East Asia. My debut feature documentary ‘The World’s Best Film’ came out a few years ago and screened at over 20 festivals. It follows the pursuits of people around the world striving to be their own personal best at their passions.
In many of my roles and in my own work I’ve worked as a camera assistant, producer, editor, post production manager and assistant editor and conform editor. My first role in anything film related was as an actor doing read throughs for feature films. I then became too old to actually play the characters once the films were funded and slowly started pursuing the idea of being behind the camera and telling my own stories.
I am inspired by filmmakers like Jan Svankmajer, John Cassavetes, Mike Leigh, Werner Herzog, Agnes Varde and other pretentious sounding people – but I promise I actually enjoy their films. Equal to my love of film is my love of the art world and celebrating new and upcoming visual artists. At the end of the day my love of telling stories is the reason I’m always wrangling media and data, whether I’m working for someone else or telling a story that I am directing, filming and editing.
Joshua Filming & The Official Poster for the World’s Best Film
What types of productions do you usually work on? What are the main ways in which they differ from each other?
Joshua: I usually work across documentary projects and more specifically projects where I am also the director and principal filmmaker. When I do data wrangling work I usually do it on broadcast television shows, often on location and sometimes in production offices. I see the process of managing data, organizing it, syncing and troubleshooting intrinsically linked to the creative experience. I see them as facets of the same job of capturing reality, yes various people may work across different tasks but it is quite rewarding when you’re able to understand and appreciate all that is involved to make something happen and tell a story.
And a follow-up question to that, do you have a favorite type of production to work on?
Joshua: My favorite type of production to work on is projects where I am working towards telling an important story or documenting something that nobody else has documented. The reason I became a filmmaker was to put something of myself into everything that I do but also to document the world around me for audiences at large. I love to work on projects where everybody has a wonderful demeanor and an understanding that we are making entertainment.
Now everyone has different preferences and a different cart/workstation set-up, could you tell me about yours?
Joshua: My philosophy of the perfect workstation is a portable and easy to use station, something that another crew member could step in and use if they needed to. I often mentor students and having something complicated that looks difficult to run can sometimes be daunting to up and coming practitioners.
My primary set up is a fully specced Macbook Pro running USB-C Samsung T7 SSDs with the highest speed SD cards, CFASt cards or camera media possible. I always carry back up cables and insist on label maker labels on absolutely everything. Some people say I’m over the top with my mind numbing specificity-but in the data business you kind of have to be!
Whenever I purchase new media I label it with the year, month and day the drive was purchased and try to buy them in pairs. I have a company practice of only buying a few select drives that I trust. I try to update all hard-drives within 3-5 years of purchase but I won’t lie. I have some drives from many years ago that, knock on wood, still fire up if they need to. Anybody reading this, please consider this message the one you were waiting for to update your storage devices.
In the past on TV shows where I’ve been on location we’ve used an HDD dock making 3 simultaneous copies and making sure that each drive is couriered through a reputable courier company back to home base. I always make sure there are copies in more than 2 locations at any possible time. These days as well backing up to the cloud has increasingly become an option when not dealing with poor upload speeds in Australia.
Joshua with his Canon
For those that may just be starting to build their cart/workstation, or are in the early stages of it, what are some pieces of equipment that you consider absolutely essential?
Joshua: These days the price of SSD media has come down considerably. If I was starting out I would first invest in a great workstation, a hackintosh or a portable laptop with plenty of ports. I’ve had bad experiences with USB ports and I always recommend staying away from hubs that don’t also have a power supply. Even the power supply ports can overheat and crash and corrupt the media. My philosophy is definitely based on getting the best tools for the job as early as possible. Losing a day of media is never something you want to go through.
I also believe that ShotPut Pro is essential to any serious production job. Our footage is our product and even deeper than that it is the story and testimony of something special. Having verified copies of the stories we tell is something that certainly makes us sleep a bit safer at night. Other software that I find to be equally important is data cloning software, something like Carbon Copy Cloner, but where possible I always advise crew to make verified copies of the camera’s original media using SPP.
Going along with the previous question, do you have any tips for beginners in the field? What’s something you wish you knew when you were first starting out?
Joshua: My biggest tip for beginners is don’t be afraid to roll your sleeves up and figure things out. Don’t be afraid to ask questions when you are beginning, find a mentor to reach out to on the best tech tips. The technology is constantly evolving and keeping updated on trends in data management and new forms of media is always a great thing to keep in mind. Don’t underestimate the DANGER of simply dragging and dropping Sony or Canon media or older formats like DNGs -these corrupt more times than we’d like to admit so make sure you have a data management plan that is realistic and reliable.
My other big piece of advice is pace yourself, get regular sleep and work smart not too hard, wrangle when the shoot finishes but don’t burn the candle at both ends. If you can get a dual laptop set up with multiple drives/ports for complex multi camera jobs do it to save yourself some sleep. Take advantage of ShotPut Pro’s ability to queue media too, something I did on a recent job which changed my life. Being able to set 4 memory cards to back up one after the other and go and pack down the set at the same time is amazing and such a quality of life improvement.
What resources were most helpful to you when you were first starting out?
Joshua: The resources that were most helpful to me when I started out was a powerful computer that I could test things with as well as my own basic hard-drives. Knowledge of folder structure and file labeling conventions was something that changed my life and work. I could show you a screenshot of a hard-drive from when I started out and one from last week and the difference would haunt your dreams.
Do you have any on-set stories you’d like to share?
Joshua: I was in the field once in SouthEast Asia and a cinematographer’s memory card was corrupted. We’d been backing things up safely but the actual CF card was corrupted. I had to do data recovery on the card in the middle of Thailand and the data recovery was so thorough we managed to recover footage from his trip to the other side of the world in a snow desert. Suffice to say we replaced that memory card after that happened but were pretty chuffed that we’d recovered an entire memory card worth of data, which you guessed it, then got backed up 500 times.
Filming the World’s Best Film in Thailand
Is there anything else you would like to share that was not asked?
Joshua: IF people would like to, they can stream my debut feature documentary about people striving to be the world’s best at their passions now on vimeo on demand. They can also follow me on instagram @finesilvermedia or check out my work at www.finesilver.com.au and www.theworldsbestfilm.com . I am working on a number of upcoming projects and always looking for collaborators near and far.
We can’t thank you enough for joining us today. Your responses have truly provided a unique perspective on where the data management process fits into production and has offered invaluable advice for newcomers. By sharing your wisdom, you’re helping empower countless individuals. Oh, and be sure to check back for other captivating Data Expert Interviews that we have lined up!