Revealing the Story
Whether on-set or traveling the globe, Dennis Belogorsky is building his own story one film at a time.
“Working for yourself means you get to be yourself. I don’t want to be a fake character, someone I have to create every day. That’s why I left the corporate world.”
As a filmmaker and director, Dennis’ point-of-view is his business. Keeping it sharp is a must.
The founder of San Francisco’s Brand New Films, Dennis approaches his work with a blend of west coast freshness and midwest practicality.
“I’m an only child, so being independent and self-reliant was always ingrained in me. My family also didn’t have much money growing up, so I started working part-time and summer jobs as early as possible to make sure I could get the things I wanted.”
With an undergrad degree and MFA in film Dennis launched his career on sets in Chicago. But the midwest content lanes of ad agency and in-house content production felt stale and limiting—the opposite of creative.
“On the west coast, everything moves faster so everything stays fresh. You can constantly find and create new pathways, new offerings.”
One of Dennis’ latest projects (and greatest, if we may say) is as director and producer for this very campaign, Faces of Collective (that’s us!). Alongside our team, Dennis and his crew have traveled to San Francisco, Washington D.C., and Chicago to capture more than 15 Collective member stories. His keen eye and leadership have helped shape this series into something powerful and deeply meaningful to everyone involved. *Group hug.*
If Dennis were here he’d land a smooth transition. Alas: End shout out. Resume story.
The Story Behind the Storyteller
Dennis’ early inspiration came from both visual arts and music. In fact, a drawing assignment first piqued his creative curiosity.
“I illustrated and designed the cover of my middle school yearbook. Nothing original or amazing, but that opened up creative possibilities. In high school and college I channeled my creative energy into music, playing in bands, writing. When my musical interests outran my abilities I became more intrigued by the possibilities of filmmaking.”
For six years now, it is in those possibilities that Dennis has lived, worked, and played independently.
Alongside his ever-growing team of global collaborators Dennis creates documentary films and, in-between, marketing related videos. Whether it’s a video series for yours truly or a film about air pollution, what ties every piece together is the glue that makes Dennis a thoughtful director and creative.
“We make things with heart. Things people can relate to and feel. Heart and soul is evident in everything we make, even if it’s really subtle.”
That heart element develops in different ways. And, comes from different places.
“I still draw a lot of inspiration from my favorite musicians, like David Bowie and Marvin Gaye. And I can rewatch old films by Kurosawa, Felini, and Scorcese and take away new visual techniques every time.”
While Dennis can play almost any role on-set, from camera to producer to director (director being his preference) he can also edit, a critical skill for great storytelling.
“Knowing how to edit makes you a better director and vice versa. The story you come up with at the beginning of the process might not be the story you want to tell by the end.”
When it comes to good stories, the realer the better. “You can’t be everything to everybody,” is a credo that guides Brand New Films, and that Dennis stresses to his clients. To be real is to be specific—to know your strengths and focus on them.
Pro Perspective on Pricing Your Work
For anyone considering or currently working independently, pricing is a sticky topic.
One of Dennis’ favorite parts of independence is setting his own rates. Here, Dennis shares his take on pricing, an especially valuable perspective for anyone working to establish themselves in independent creative services:
“It’s easy to say yes to a client who says, ‘Here’s my budget, take it or leave it.’ It’s a lot harder to say, ‘I respect your budget constraints, but as a professional, here’s what I recommend, and this is the value in paying for it.’ When you devalue your services by pricing too low, that’s a disservice to yourself and everyone else in the industry. You’re not building a true client partnership. You’re doing the client a favor.”
To Go Independent, Or Not To Go
On top of being deeply creative, Dennis’ years of independent work have filled him with entrepreneurial wisdom and insights. Here, he articulates some advantages he’s discovered while going his own way.
“There are heartbreaks and challenges in working for yourself, but there’s also truth to it. There’s a direct correlation between your input and output, so you don’t have false hope about how things may play out. You understand that you’re only as good, and as well-compensated, to the level that you put work in. You don’t necessarily have that working for somebody else.”
If the layoffs and strikes in recent years have proven anything, it’s that working for an employer and being cared for as a human being are not necessarily mutually exclusive. Dennis breaks it down in his own words:
“You have to start by understanding that nobody is going to care for your personal wellbeing like you do. Companies will use words like family, and community, and all this other stuff, which we know, when chips are down, is all meaningless. Nobody will stand up for you as much as you should stand up for yourself.”
Like all great filmmakers, Dennis gave us his honest perspective, no holding back.
With that, a closing word from the director’s chair for those daydreaming about starting your own thing.
“At the end of the day, working for yourself is not for everybody. But if you’re willing to take responsibility for what you put in, to stand up for yourself, and to get 100% behind what you do—then I think working for yourself is the only way to go.”
Find and follow Dennis Belogorsky below: