Goh Iromoto is a self-taught director, filmmaker and cinematographer who brings his visual narrative style to the world of marketing and advertising through his work. He shares how he got started working in his medium and the industry, as well as the challenges he's faced in his career over the last year. Goh gives insight into the balance between creating and everything else that goes along with being self-employed-like marketing yourself and communicating with clients. His honesty and passion for the work he does is inspiring, enjoy.
Tell us a little bit about what you do.
I'm a director / cinematographer and I do some photography as well. I specifically work in the marketing and advertising field as opposed to television or long format filmmaking. What that means is I specialize in the art of filmmaking specifically for commercials. The commercial realm today isn’t just TV like it used to be, it has broadened out to cover mediums like the web. The web allows for a variety of story formats, not just the 30-second commercial. It includes things like 12-minute short films that have a completely different narrative. Web-based commercials are not a product-selling tool like traditional 30-second TV spots are. For example, the commercials can be short stories about surviving in the wilderness that indirectly promotes a region of Ontario. That’s what I’ve done a few times for Ontario Tourism. It's a really neat market to be in. It's definitely something that's relevant to our day and age. This new commercial format didn't exist 10 years ago when I started in the industry.
What was your path to becoming a filmmaker/cinematographer?
I didn't go to film school; I was very much self-taught. I guess the journey began when I was a kid. My mom and dad were journalists and they were a part of a Toronto community newspaper, so I had cameras around me all the time. My dad would always have different video cameras, not just for work but to shoot home movies as well. My parents were, by no means, artistic filmmakers but they had the equipment and I think that had a big influence on me.
When I was in university I got involved in a freediving community–which is where you dive underwater and hold your breath instead of using oxygen tanks. One summer before my paying job started I volunteered my time to create a promo video for a diving organization. They gave me about 50 hours of tapes they had lying around and I edited the best parts into a 3 to 4-minute promo video. That video was really well received in the diving community and because of it I was asked to cover the freediving world championships. I ended up filming the competition by day and then editing at night so that a video was out by the next morning. The following spring the freedivers funded me to do my first short documentary. It was about 60 minutes long and was shot in the Cayman Islands for about 2 and a half months. Every day I was filming and editing and I was only about 19 at the time. Kirk Krack–who is still a good friend of mine–was the world championship free diving coach and he treated his staff very intensively. He had high expectations and high demands and I was just like any other athlete to him. I definitely wanted to please him and meet or beat his expectations. I probably slept very little during that time. [laughs]
Closer to the end of that summer, I got an internship at a downtown advertising post house called School Editing. That company had a similar expectation level as Kirk. I still remember my first day as an assistant editor, I ended up pulling an all-nighter at the office. At the time I thought that type of work schedule was normal. Maybe the standards were a bit different, but I didn't think that was abnormal. The way I was working was definitely getting attention. I saw myself getting praised, moving up quick in the company, and what not. It was a grind though.