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Hidden Gems: Meet Mathew Young of Young One Studio

Today we’d like to introduce you to Mathew Young. 

Hi Mathew, please kick things off for us with an introduction to yourself and your story.

Alongside being an actor in my early teens, I was also trained as a musician from a very young age (going for the whole triple threat angle, just missed the dance classes. Double threat?) I went to an Australian (where I’m originally from) based conservatory (The West Australian Academy of Performing Arts or WAAPA as the locals call it) for music where I studied jazz performance (yes I was a jazz pianist at one pointing my life!) but continued acting on and off with some of the country’s best young performers who were enrolled in the acting course at the same conservatory. I continued this career path into my later life and began gigging and performing almost full time in both theatre and the music world. After building a small home studio I had the means to record voice demos for both my wife and I. After several discussions we decided we could offer this service to our professional colleagues and the original idea of Young One Studio was born.

Taking a step back, I began acting on stage around the age of 14 and got rep soon after. My agent would get me fairly regular commercial TV work and in my spare time I’d take on student short films, indie projects, low or no pay narrative productions to build my portfolio and get screen time. Most of the projects turned out typically just ok, lacking in some area whether it be poor direction, cinematography, audio (always a big one), turnaround time, etc. I think one day I just woke up and it became apparent that I should purchase my own entry-level camera and begin to make my own content (content that shall never see the light of day). And that’s it, as I got better I invested in better gear and the business pivoted from voice demos to acting demos. At this point I should mention that the company is a husband and wife run business with my lovely partner helping me every step of the way. She’s also a creator and an incredible actor and motion capture performer.

Now having the opportunity to create entire scenes from scratch, be it the writing, directing, editing, sound design etc. I found as a performer myself this was a much more rewarding experience than simply recording and directing voice demos. I was suddenly working in a visual medium that allowed for a lot more freedom and expression through every step of the process. I had complete creative control and I loved it. I’d also been working as a director for a Melbourne based theatre company at the time in which I was also an actor. The timing couldn’t have been better. Writing and directing theatre, directing hundreds of actors through their voice demos and now directing every step of the process for individual scenes, it all made for a very natural progression into creating narrative film content.

I’d love to put this in at the top and say thank you to everyone who has bolstered the business and helped me along the way allowing me to achieve several personal goals. Some of which include winning multiple best actor awards, being the cinematographer for a feature film that sold to and is currently airing on HBO Max, and screening films and winning awards for best director and cinematographer at some notable festivals including the New York Film Festival, Paris Cinema Festival, Outfest LA and this is just to mention a few.

We all face challenges, but looking back would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
It was fairly smooth. I think the biggest personal challenge, though it progressed naturally so never seemed to difficult, was learning how to become a cinematographer without any formal training. I love technology, gadgets, information, and numbers so I discovered I loved learning about codecs and formats, lens lengths, framing and light, different techniques and tricks. My natural tech-natured personality helped drive this, and my growing business was the payoff. But honestly, if I think about it in simple terms, Id say I got my lessons the modern way, YouTube, forums and surrounding myself by people much better than myself. Only recently have I begun to read through all the recommended texts on writing, cinematography, and directing. Im discovering that I’ve naturally picked up a lot of what the texts have to say simply by constantly doing over the last few years. It has been great reading about all these legendary film makers, actors, cinematographers and creators and thinking, “hey that’s exactly what I thought / how I would do it / what I’ve been doing” etc. It’s made me realize, yes there are the simple rules and guidelines, but the truth is, there’s no right or wrong way to learn this stuff. Just gather the information anyway you can and constantly apply!

The biggest business challenge was the flooded market and finding a place within it. With digital tech and cameras becoming smaller and cheaper every day it seems like every person and their dog can get amazing media be it with their new mirrorless camera or their new smart phone. Again, I’d say just know your gear, stay on top of new tech, movie making techniques and always strive to have a better product than your neighbor within your price bracket! This is important. You simply cannot compete with such and such around the block with a million dollars worth of grip and gaf equipment and his $70,000 camera rig. Work with those around you at your own level of expertise. Keep going and you’ll slowly work your way up. Know that there will always be people around you better than you! If you are fortunate enough to have them on one of your projects, watch them like a hawk, ask them all the questions and listen to everything they have to say. Once you are capable enough to handle a hundred-thousand-dollar camera or direct that hundred-thousand-dollar indie film you will be handling a hundred-thousand-dollar camera and directing that hundred-thousand-dollar indie film. It’s that simple. If all else fails, charge less until you build such a large library of finished projects you can’t be ignored. And get used to not sleeping. Not kidding.

I’d say, having a strong network when the business was in its infancy was extremely helpful as my wife and I were constantly working with and engaging with performers and actors needing/wanting new media (voice demo reels at the time). This later turned into demo scenes. This slow and steady rotation of clientele is what allowed the business to grow.

Once we pivoted to demo reels and narrative work there were a lot of small wins along the way which helped bolster the confidence in the company and allowed us to keep thinking, you know, this is something that may actually work. An award here and there, lots of constant positive reviews, and a really good word-of-mouth reputation. I’d say that coming from a performance background, my ability to direct and speak to actors as “one of them” gave me a strong edge over the competition. That, and my ever-supportive wife who is just as capable across the board as I am. Though, I definitely have the advantage (if you can call it that) when it comes to running around with big heavy cinema cameras all day long.

Another challenge worth mentioning is tech. I’d say always keep up as best you can with the progression of technology in the cinema world. People talk about smart phone cameras getting better each year well cinema camera sensors and lenses get better every 6 months, cinema audio tech every 4 months, cinema lighting tech every 2 months, post production software every month! The technology moves much faster so keeping up with it and constantly learning is always an ongoing challenge. You have to let it be fun, or make it fun for yourself otherwise you’ll get buried by it. If it’s just not your jam and simply something you can’t enjoy, find someone who can and get them to help you every step of the way as it’s vital in our extremely fast paced digital movie world. When it comes to techniques and knowhow as a film maker or content maker, rule number one, take acting classes even if you’re not an actor! Then research, research, research. Use youtube, read forums, read books, it doesn’t matter, keep learning it all, directing, cameras, audio, editing, writing, then finally get out and actually do! This wasn’t always the case but nowadays every film maker I meet can move between each department of a set and know just enough about everyones job to either be annoying or helpful (sometimes this is one and the same). I had considered going back to college to study film making at one point but realized that I had thrown myself into the thick of it so intensely and surrounded myself with so many knowledgeable and talented people I could already keep up with the lingo, the pace, and the professionals at their own game. Right now, it’s a matter of keeping this pace going and continuously challenging myself with bigger and better projects.

Currently, the business has a very steady flow of work and we are very proud to say that we are consistently bring in awards for every piece of narrative work we create. Personally, I am at a crossroads. Commercial work is financially viable and doesn’t take as much blood sweat and tears as narrative work and more of that is coming our way, but I do want to commit to something narratively incredible and crack one of the big festivals be it Venice, Cannes, or Berlin as a Director/DP. (and of course an acting bit part if I can)

Alright, so let’s switch gears a bit and talk business. What should we know?
So, we do a few things really well. First off, we began with highly affordable demo reel scenes for actors, and at 100 scenes, written, directed, filmed, and edited later we’re pretty darn good at it. We then began creating music videos which really took off once we moved to LA with the huge array of standing sets to hire, the creativity and production value tripled overnight. Then of course, we create short films, any genre, mostly any budget, and these all generally do very well with awards across the board from writing to directing, cinematography to original score. We filmed our first feature last year (written and directed by the owner operators of 2 Hands Productions over in West Hollywood) and that sold to HBO which was an awesome experience.

We are known for our incredibly affordable prices and high-quality products. This is due to the nature of the business mostly being run by my wife and I. We bring in bigger crews when the project demands, but we have learnt to cover almost all aspects of the filmmaking process between the two of us. Yes, the stress is high, but it allows us to keep the costs low and the clients happy.

One thing that sets us apart from the competition at the moment (besides our pricing) is our fast turnaround. Whenever we are asked, “how long do you think it will take to get this to me?” and we reply “within the week”, most people look genuinely stunned. Again, the magical team of my wife and I put in the long nights and get the edits done. Being able to keep it all in-house means turn around can be extremely fast (remember when I said get ready to not sleep?)

Brand wise, at the moment, the awards are speaking for themselves. It’s the nature of the game really, the more narrative projects you make the more awards you want to see coming in as it means someone somewhere thinks you’re doing a good job. Collect enough of those awards from the right festivals and you’ll keep creating better projects. I know it’s not all about those laurels, but it does spark the interests of clients. Clients with bigger budgets, actors with better chops, larger rental house budgets, crews who want to work with you ‘cause they know you can deliver, etc.

I personally love creating demo reel scenes. I get to write in any genre, create these little magical moments out of a larger cinematic context, light it, film it, edit it, deliver it, done. We get a client, we have an adea and we get to create it and have a finished product typically within a few days. On a larger scale, we are hunting at the moment for better scripts. We’re all about the story and I think sometimes we forget that and get caught up in filming whatever comes our way for a dollar and hoping something sparks interest somewhere. We want to see scripts that wow us. If we find that then budget isn’t of the utmost importance. We are making a conscious pivot from “oh yeah, if it pays we’ll film it” to, “oh wow this script is incredible, please let us make this with you”.

As mentioned before, a big win for us last year was filming the feature film “Single Mother by Choice” by Two Hands Productions which is now airing on HBO Max. It was a mishmash of a shoot with covid beginning midway. The lead access was pregnant and that was pivotal to the story, so we kept on keeping on to make it happen. Our involvement with filming ended about halfway due to set limitations, and I had to very quickly teach the director how to own and operate a cinema camera! (I mean, very quickly) To my eye, it is quite evident in the finished product where Young One Studios involvement ends and the director took on cinematography duties, but in the end, the shift in tone and image actually works quite well with the nature of the narrative and it sold to HBO so that was a very unexpected turn of events and one we are very grateful for!

The crisis has affected us all in different ways. How has it affected you and any important lessons or epiphanies you can share with us?
Lots of lessons! Businesses pivot hard in times of crisis and will need new media. A sudden unexpected pivot for a business means they need rebranding and fast. If you can offer affordable services (affordable being key as who’s got spare cash in a crisis?!) then get out there! They’ll need new online promo, new photos, new commercials, etc.

We had a wave of local businesses approach us needing new media as they were brainstorming ways to survive. We jumped right on in and it definitely helped our business stay afloat when Covid was at its peak. Everyone was very respectful, we demanded a minimal set, masks on at all times, no excuses, social distancing on set, etc. and it worked extremely well. We had absolutely 0 cases during any projects.

On a bizarre note, I discovered (was thrown into) the world of influencers during this time. As influencers can work as fairly isolated creatures, they were able to continue their work during covid which meant someone with my skill set came in very handy. I’m not sure what happened. It seemed that perhaps other influencer-based video guys (don’t exactly need a cinematographer to film tiktok) and directors disappeared, or there was some sort of influx of influencers who wanted an outside eye on their media? In all honesty, I think it was as simple as, I filmed on high profile influencer with a fancy camera, better than anything they had, and that was it, they loved the image and wanted more.

It kept me out of complete isolation (whew) and I filmed (not naming any names) people with anywhere from 1-20million followers, racked up an easy combined 100,000,000 views in as little as 6 months, and got to film consistently at a Beverly Hills mega-mansion worth around $100million dollars. It was a crazy time. Not bad for a world in crisis.

Pricing:

  • Demo reels begin at $800 per scene
  • Extended demos (anything up to 3 minutes) $1500 per scene
  • Half-day narrative rate $1400
  • Whole day narrative rate $2000
  • All pricing is flexible depending on the project

Contact Info:

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