Matthew Connell is a video director, content creator and photographer who is now doing the job of his dreams. He has captured great things such as the F1 British GB at Silverstone, the England Senior Squad and Lionesses at St Georges Park and Anthony Joshua’s training camps.
How did you get started?
I started a Media BTEC course at my college near Portsmouth back in 2006, where I first met the co-founder of my production company Fenixx. Following that I did a BA Hons degree at Ravensbourne University, where I thought I wanted to become a live TV director. Upon graduating my first fulltime job was as a Runner at The London Studios for shows like Alan Carr: Chatty Man.
Fast forwarding a bit, I used to borrow my Fenixx co-founder’s Canon 7D DSLR to film low budget music videos and tour diaries in my spare time for mate’s bands till I could afford my own Canon 5D.
Then one day out of the blue we were asked to by a university friend make series of branded football content with Fulham, Tottenham Hotspur, Liverpool and Manchester United at their training grounds which was a life changing break for us and the dream of being a live TV director dramatically changed.
Why did you choose to pursue a career as a video director?
Starting out as Video Director was invigorating because I felt so excited, addicted, embedded with the creative processes. Being able to make a positive impact by collaborating with friends and family and sharing these experiences felt like I was living a dream alternating “work” between my two loves music and football whilst travelling the world.
What is the one thing you wish you knew when you started shooting videos?
One thing which always stuck with me is that University more than ever isn’t a necessity if you choose pursuit a career in content creation. Although I gained a handful of useful professional insights and contacts through uni, I benefitted more from being hands on and learning through my own mistakes and engaging with other creatives through social media.
How do you educate yourself to take create better videos?
I like to pay attention to how the audience emotionally connect with my videos, so I’m always reading all of the comments on Youtube, Instagram or Twitter, especially with behind the scenes/documentary style music content. Music fans always give brutally honest feedback with what they want to see more of, what made them laugh, what moments made them wish they were there. I find that to be incredibly valuable research because the primary cause of this kind of content is to always build a greater connection between fans and artists.
What is the most difficult part of being a video director to you?
Being patient as a freelancer is vital. You have some quiet months and insanely busy months where you wish you could clone yourself. Maintaining a steady workflow and managing the unpredictability of when projects arrive on your table, whilst balancing your personal lives can often be difficult to anticipate.
And what is the most rewarding part of being a video director to you?
For me shooting with my family and best friends is the greatest reward I could possibly ask for. The long drives, the adventures abroad, the chemistry on set is something you cannot exchange or replace.
There are places and people I never thought I’d dream of filming at such as the F1 British GP at Silverstone, the England Senior Squad and Lionesses at St Georges Park, Anthony Joshua’s training camps, filming my friends in the band Nothing But Thieves on mainstages of festivals and arenas, but all of these moments wouldn’t be the same without sharing them with your those closest to you.
How would you describe your video style?
I’m very much your typical ‘run and gun’ shooter, I like to have the camera in my hands and be fluid as possible with that Behind The Scenes/Documentary type feel, aiming to make each video feel personal. I like to engage with talent when they’re at their most comfortable, whilst keeping focus on telling new stories each time you revisit because I treat each filming opportunity as your piece to telling a much larger life story to a new wider audience.
What is the best thing you have ever captured on camera?
One of the videos I’m most proud is of is something I made in 2016 with Youtuber AJ3 (Andy Castell) in Uganda. Andy approached me to help him shoot his 1 million subscriber special working with Tackle Africa to help teach locals about HIV and sexual health through the power of football. It was shot in a mini-documentary style format where we got to collaborate with some of the incredible people I’ve ever met. It was the first time I had filmed in Africa and to this day is one of the most important videos I felt I’ve ever filmed.
What are your career goals?
On a gloriously selfish level I would do anything to film something with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson or Conor McGregor, because why not? It would be insanely entertaining to spend 5 minutes with either of them.
But ultimately, I want to Direct a documentary which I could have on Netflix one day. Who why or what, that I don’t quite know but for now that’s something to aim for.
What is the ultimate tip to making a good video?
Be considerate and aware of how your talent/subject is feeling and behaving on the day. Especially in sport often the last thing any athlete wants to do after training is have a camera shoved in their faces. So, I always aim be personable, clear and transparent with every approach, it means less confusion, less time wasted, and hopefully it always means they’ll look forward to your shoots next time.
What advice would you give all beginning video directors out there?
Just enjoy the journey and never stop learning. You’ll meet incredible people along the way who will support and trust your ideas, so support their ideas too. Before you know it you’ll turn a “job” into a “career” which you’ll eventually find doesn’t even feel like “work”.
For more of Matthew’s work go and check out: http://fenixx.tv