Today we’d like to introduce you to Chris Yoder.
So, before we jump into specific questions, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
I first picked up a camera in my teens. I would film skating videos with friends when I was younger and that was my first introduction to using cameras. Throughout high school, I learned to film and edit while making videos with friends. I put the camera down in my college years until my last year of college. My senior year of college, I was all lined up with a job once I graduated to sell insurance for an insurance company. Personally, I had no interest in this job but the pressure of having a job lined up after college made me feel like I had to pick something. I thought my life was over. I was about to graduate and start a job I had no interest in. I decided to pick up a new camera since I had a handful of months left at college and film “my last days” with all my friends that I could look back on. I started really putting time into the videos I shot and edited. One day, I decided to make a “music video” of all our friends messing around, shot it, edited it and put it up on Facebook. It picked up steam, all the local college kids were noticing it until it somehow ended up in the hands of a rap group out of Chicago. This rap group contacted me to shoot music videos for them. The camera I had at the time was not qualified to shoot and deliver what they needed. So in agreement, we settled on the group purchasing new camera equipment for me in return for four music videos.
After shooting and editing the videos that they needed I was beginning to grow as a creative. I started stepping into Chicago nightclubs on the weekends as I commuted 2 hours each way from college and began shooting whatever I could lay my eyes on. Shortly after I met a local resident DJ named Kalendr at a club in Chicago named Spybar. Kalendr shortly after became a mentor figure for the years ahead. Kalendr began connecting with Spybar management, local DJ’s and promoters as well as other venues. I picked up 1-2 shoots a weekend at Spybar as well as anything else that could make me some side cash. As this was happening, my start date at the insurance company was getting closer and I had to make a decision. One day I called the insurance company to let them know that I appreciated their offer but I was going to pursue a career in videography. Thats when it all really settled it and felt real. For a year, I floated around Chicago sleeping on couches of friends and in a recording studio. I started branding all my work as Yoder Productions and really put in time and effort to now only making a name for myself but bettering myself and my skills at shooting and editing video. Fast forward two years of filming and making videos at Spybar and making countless connects, I was then contacted by a company in Chicago called React Presents. React Presents threw countless shows at The MID, Concord Music Hall, Aragon Ballroom, Congress Theater and many more. They also curated their own music festivals in Chicago which still stand as some of the largest electronic music festivals to take place every summer. Festivals include Spring Awakening, North Coast and Mamby. I spent two years working for React Presents making anywhere upwards of 3 videos a weekend at all of their venues and shows.
Over the two years, I created close to 200 recap edits. I then began running crews at their larger festivals which gave me experience in a leadership role in directing shooters and editing festival after movies. Around 2014, an electronic DJ artist named Carnage was playing his 4th show in Chicago that I had covered and edited and we connected. He was making noise in the electronic scene at the time and was looking at having a full-time videographer on the road with him. I truly believe people get to where they are with a lot of hard work but at the same time there some sense of luck. At the time, social media was just becoming a thing, not many electronic artists had touring videographers or photographers and I personally only had 2-3 guys in the scene that I looked up to. Today, almost every touring electronic artist that is in the scene has a videographer/ photographer with them on the road. Me personally, I really entered the scene at an interesting time where social media and recyclable content was becoming a must. Carnage’s management contacted me and before I knew it I was on a flight to ASIA for my first tour ever. I toured the world with Carnage for 2-3 years making content. Since this was a new thing in the scene I didn’t necessarily look at other videographers to copy work but rather did what I thought was cool and unique and in the long run I think that worked out to my benefit. As more and more videographers were beginning to tour I would notice similarity in my videos whether it be certain text, coloring or the way that the content was edited which was pretty cool to see. While branding all my work as Yoder Productions, Carnage influenced me to drop the Productions part and go strictly as Yoder. As I continued to tour with him, meet new faces, artists and management the name Yoder was becoming recognized more by the work that was put out. When you start touring with an artist, you are brought to that inner circle when on the road when it comes to mingling with other artists or management. It’s almost like you are more trusted within the scene. I give a lot of credit and thanks to Carnage for putting me on, trusting me with my vision and allowing me to have free creative control over what we put out.
After two years of touring with Carnage, I found myself being contacted by other artists as well. In 2016 slowly began filling my calendar up on days that I had off from Carnage touring. From there, I began touring with The Chainsmokers, Tiesto, Yellow Claw, Excision, Jauz and many more. When I started touring and creating content for these other artists it was another tag/credit on their socials which was a whole new following of fans, management and possible clients. Fast forward a year later to 2017, I had toured with 21 artists. At this point in my career, I had toured and done shows with over 40 artists. The last two months of 2017, I had filled in on a bus tour with Zedd. Within the first couple of days of touring with Zedd and his team they asked if I would like to come full time. Entering 2018, I had a couple of gigs left with some artists that I had confirmed with but began to clear the rest of my schedule to take on what was a heavy touring schedule with Zedd and his team. Since early 2018 I have been full time with Zedd and his team for the past two years and it has been an awesome experience traveling the world with such an experienced and talented crew.
In the fall of 2018, I had begun realizing that because I had so much touring going on, I was unable to tour or create for other artists that I had worked with in the past. I had over 40 clients, artists and artists management contacting me to take on tours or gigs that I couldn’t cover, where I slowly started placing shooters that I trusted. But, I began realize the amount of time I was putting into connecting creatives with artists and realized the years of work and time I put in making these connections was like handing a golden ticket to these shooters to get their foot in the door. With the amount of time I was spending doing this, I saw it as a business opportunity. At the same time, I had two colleagues of mine in the industry named Joe Larkin and James Winterhalter that were having the same issue. They both have been touring for almost as long as I had and collectively between the 3 of us we had worked and toured with over a 100 artists. We decided to come together to create a business where we could manage and oversee creatives with artists and artist management while touring or putting together projects. Thats where our company KURSZA was born. Once 2019 hit, we launched KURSZA. KURSZA in short is a team of visual counterparts for musicians, festivals and brands. Because myself, Joe and James all have previous relationships with the majority of our clients, artists and artists management, they can trust we will spend the time finding the right videographers and photographers that will best fit not only their personal needs, personalities as well as their creative image. In 2019 as our first year in business, we worked directly with over 60 artists and ran after movie crews with over several festival markets. Some clients include Zedd, Marshmello, Steve Aoki, Florida Georgia Line, Diplo, Dillon Francis, Bassnectar, Rich Brian, KSHMR, Kayzo, and many more. Music genre’s ranging from electronic to rap to country as well as the festival outlets or branding projects with Bumble to Modelo.
Currently, I am still full time with Zedd and anytime spent off the road is dedicated to overseeing and building the KURSZA brand.
Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
Honestly, I would say for the most part it has been smooth. Did I put the “blood, sweat and tears in” Yes. I spent countless nights in venues and nightclubs not sleeping to get deliverables over by the next day. I’ve slept more on planes at times than I did in beds. I’ve spent hours on end learning new things or bettering myself in my craft. I mean, you hear horror stories about creatives in the industry of individuals leaving jobs and finding them self lost in what they were doing or upsetting a client, etc. Did I have some of those experiences, yes. But nothing to the extent where I thought I was going to loose it all. I’ve been stood up on payments in my earlier years, I’ve left artists or clients to further my career which left things on not so great terms and have had a project or two where the client wasn’t happy but I think that’s all normal and it’s going to happen for anyone in a career path of this kind.
I really had a vision of what I wanted to do and I worked really hard at it. But at the same time, I was starting a career that was new. Social media was becoming what it was and there wasn’t much direction to follow. I remember before FB uploaded videos we would just post everything directly to YouTube. That was it. It was a whole new world when Instagram began allowing you to upload content. Personally, I just created what felt best all while trying to keep cool around artists and management that I saw for years as the top before I really started touring directly with an artist.
Tell us more about you. What do you do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
I first started Yoder Productions, I would say back in 2011. Thats what I branded all my work in the Chicago scene and where I devoted all my time in the nightclubs and local venues making a name. When I started touring with Carnage, I dropped the Productions and went strictly Yoder making it a more personal brand that stuck with me. Personally, I provide videography, photography and editing to touring artists as well as music festivals or brands. All content created is typically uploaded to social media accounts (Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc.) The content created is for artists to put out and let their fans connect with. Shows their fans where they are, who they are, what they are doing and where they will be.
Currently today, while maintaining a full tour schedule with Zedd I am a partner in a company called KURSZA. KURSZA is a team of visual counterparts for musicians, brands and festivals. Myself as well as my two business partners Joe Larkin and James Winterhalter help manage and over see multiple videographers and photographers while on the road with clients and artists that we have collectively toured with over the years. On top of the touring side we also run film crews at festivals and put together promotional videos for brands.
I think something that sets us apart from others is our relationships that we have built over the years. In the electronic music scene, myself as well as Joe and James were some of the first guys to tour with these artists. When you tour with an artist, you build relationships that are so unique compared to some of the relationships you may build in other career paths. You are with this artist/individual almost 24/7. For instance, if you are on a bus tour with an artist for two months. Your spending almost every moment of the day with them. From the minute you wake up on a bus, following that artist around throughout the day with a camera, till the minute they take stage, throughout the show and then follow them off stage back onto the bus where you sleep and continue onto the next city. You really get to know that artist inside and out and thats what makes these working relationships so special. When you build a relationship like that the artist and artist management is really going to trust you when you recommend or take the time to find the right fit for a videographer/photographer to join them on the road because at the end of the day we are some of the people that know them best and how they navigate while on tour.
What is “success” or “successful” for you?
For me, defining success comes from whether or not a client is happy. If I can go into a tour and create content for an artist with minimal revisions on projects while keeping them happy and having fun. Thats success. I think success also lies within how you manage yourself and how you are trying to stay out on top. Putting in hours throughout your day knowing you did your best or spent that extra time on something that needed more attention given to.
- Website: www.kursza.com
- Email: Yoder@kursza.com
- Instagram: @chrisyoder @kursza