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Ways We Work

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Matt Shore

Photographer & Producer of Filler Podcast

From Toronto, Canada and now living in London, Matt is a photographer and creative producer. Inspired by innovation, design and people with really great stories to tell, he is always keen to sit down for a coffee and explore topics from politics, to architecture, to SpaceX's latest launch. In addition to photography, Matt co­hosts and produces Filler, a creative industries podcast. One day he hopes to ride a motorcycle from Wales to India.

Tell me more about what you're doing?

That’s always a tough question to answer. In our industry, in creative industries in general, especially for people in our generation, the idea of becoming complacent and sticking to one thing doesn’t sit well. My attention span is so short and I fall out of love with projects so quickly, that I feel like I have to be working on a bunch of different things at once to stay in love with all of the projects I’m working on if that makes sense. I would say if I was going to give myself a title I would say "media producer", that feels odd to say. Photography, producing and I guess podcaster now.

What does your role look like in all the things you're working on currently?

I’d say that a majority of my income from freelance work comes from photography. Mostly it’s corporate work, so a little bit of product photography, work for Instagram and working on campaigns with companies - I’ve done a bunch of those lately - which is exciting. A few commissioned projects where they’ll send me out to either document a place, which is a bit more travel oriented. I’ve worked with companies like American Express, Roots, Intel and Microsoft. So it’s been a good mix of corporate as well as some more interesting and “desirable" projects that are more up my alley. That’s that for photography.

For producing and podcasting, currently I'm working on a podcast called Filler, which is going really well. Twelve weeks ago, we started the project. We had no website, no guests lined up, had nothing really going for us, we just had this idea. Podcasts were becoming increasingly popular but also lucrative so we knew there was opportunity to squeeze ourselves in. I got together with my friend Harry Hitchens and we sat down for a few hours and crunched out the idea for Filler. It morphed into a creative industries podcast where we just sit down and talk to top-tier, cream-of-the-crop, established creatives who have been through the hoops. People who understand how it works and have produced fantastic work. We talk to them about their past, how they grew up, how that's influenced their work, and their creative process. We also offer our audience tips and advice for how to establish yourself in your respective industry. For that, I produce it, so I wrangle the talent and get sponsors together and also co-host it.

From a logistics side of thing, I mean you guys do the podcast from a coffee shop in London, I'm curious if you ever have any challenges in getting people to come to record?

I think that's probably one of the main differences I see between Toronto and London, as great as Toronto and trust me I do love it a lot. London seems to just be more of a healthy breeding ground for creativity and collaboration. Here you send an email and get a reply, if not the same day then a day later and if people can come on they're really excited to come on the podcast. If they can't make it they'll tell us to consider them for a future date. I guess people are just a little bit less cynical and aren't as focused on themselves. They're happy to lend their skills and lend their advice and time, which is fantastic. In Toronto, you'll definitely find people who are awesome and doing great things, like you, clearly. (I'm from Waterloo - technically.) Just from my experience from four years of school and living in Toronto I feel like it's a whole different ball game than it is here.

That true for our guests, it was so easy to reach out and line up 10 really fantastic guests and then for getting a hold of the coffee shop to broadcast out of that was easy too. When you think about it we're sitting down at a table, we're likely taking around 50 pounds or 100 pounds a week of sales or hypothetical sales away from them. Yet they were so open to taking a shot in the dark with us and open to this creative collaboration immediately. I guess because it lined up with their brand and their mission statement. It was virtually painless. A couple of emails and in-person meetings and within a week or so we had 4 or 5 of our guests lined up, we had the location down, and sponsors weren't too far off.

Do you pick people that are only in London or nearby or have you or a guest travelled at all to come record?

Yes, so for Season One since we didn't have too, too much budget to work with. We did have great sponsorship from Contiki (they're a travel company) but it wasn't an overwhelming amount - just enough to cover our costs. So 9 out of 10 guests were based out of London. Our 9th episode was with Rosa Park who's the editor of Cereal magazine - you should listen to that episode by the way, it's my favourite - we travelled to Bath to record with her which was fantastic. We took the podcast on tour for a day, which was awesome.

So Season One was all with London people and for Season Two we'll definitely have a majority of our guests from London but we're thinking and we're trying as hard as we can to get to some other places. Maybe New York, maybe some other places in Europe - we're still working on it but we don't want borders or flights to limit the scale that Filler can get to. We have some really cool sponsors lined up for our second season and we're definitely going to invest some of that money into making Season Two as good as possible.

So when did you start doing the creative work that you do, like the photography, professionally? What was that process like?

That's a good question. I believe it was around second year of University, so I was around 18 or 19. Through high school and even near the end of elementary school I was definitely interested in photography and video and visual mediums. I guess I just didn't know how to apply myself and I didn't realize that I could be doing it myself. Second year of high school I created a Photography club with a couple of friends and really got into it. I was probably to be honest quite shit. Through high school and first year of University I developed some of my skills a bit more. By second year of University, I was lucky to have some referrals and started shooting a little bit for Roots for some sporadic projects. I also did some work for Intel and Microsoft. At that age you don't expect to be paid, whether it's that you don't think you're good enough or you're too young, but I'm a big believer in that work speaks for itself. I was lucky in that I was referred to these companies. I know a lot of people have more strenuous experiences trying to break into the industry and get paid to do their work, so I'm lucky in that it came very easily to me. It was a nice surprise that people were happy to pay for some random 19-20 year olds work. Not that they were paying so much but still. It was smooth.

You've built a significant audience on Instagram and I'm curious to know how that's impacted your work or jobs you've gotten and what that's been like?

It's definitely had a major impact, both on my photography career but also just on my social life. I'll start with the career aspect, it's brought me work. For a while I was probably doing more paid Instagram photography work than I was "real" photography, which is equal parts terrifying but also exciting. To be honest, it's good money. It's helped me pay my bills a couple of months.

In terms of socially, last year I travelled around Europe for about 6 weeks or so and I visited about 11 different countries. In every country I made a point of reaching out to people on Instagram and trying to connect with them and see if they wanted to meet up. It's weird because I think on Twitter or Facebook or 99% of other social networks that'd be really sketchy and kind of dangerous. I think because you have look at people's profiles and make sure you're not meeting up with someone who's going to do bad things to you. Also there's that mutual point of interest in photography so that when you meet up with these people it's not awkward at all. You can talk about photography, Instagram and then you can get into deeper topics and then you go shoot photos. It was absolutely incredible. I made some great friends, a couple who were originally from Toronto and are now living in London who I met in Iceland while I was travelling. We still meet up once in a while over here. It's opened doors, both socially and from a monetary standpoint.

What do you find most rewarding about what you're doing?

Definitely the people that I get to work with on a regular basis. That was why I moved to London in the first place because I knew there was a great network of people out here who I had collaborated with online in the past. The fact that I get to see them in person on a regular basis, either working on projects together or just sitting down for coffee and talking about our aspirations, that's incredibly rewarding. From a more technical or artistic standpoint, I started shooting film a lot more and I'm looking to get into shooting film on commission projects more. It's really unlike anything else when you get a film of medium format film back from the developers. After you take a shot you kind of instantly know if it was the one. When you get that film back from the developers and you see that you got that shot and it's everything that you put into it, it's incredibly satisfying and totally rewarding. I love that feeling, and I guess that's why photography is always going to be something that grounds me I guess and I'll always come back to.

What do you currently find is the most challenging about what you're doing?

I almost want to say weekends because I hate not having people reply to my emails because it's the weekend. Weekends are the worst. Especially towards the end of the year when there's a ton of holidays bunched together it's like you have to wait a month for a reply sometimes.

More seriously - and this is something I've had to grapple with over the last six months since I got here - since I've collaborated on a lot more projects than I have in the past, I find letting go of responsibility and delegating tasks and trusting the people that I'm working with challenging. This might sound like a bit of a stock answer but I think it's super, super important for any team from the get-go, to establish what everyone's best at and let those people deal with those responsibilities. That was something that I struggled with over the last few months but I've found some amazing people to work with and we all know exactly what we're best and we all mesh really well now.

What does a typical day look like for you?

Lots of coffee. I usually wake up around 7:30-8am and then I will get ready, have a little breakfast, usually some granola with some oat milk. Do you guys have a brand called Oatly? Anyway it's oat milk, fantastic company out of Denmark, anyhow.

Then a plus side of being self-employed is I can go out and just work at a coffee shop for hours at a time. First half of my day is kind of catch up, calendar, emails, Skype calls if I have any, I always try to schedule those as early as possible because I feel like I'm most alert. I'm usually more alert in the morning.

Probably 4 or 5 times a week I'll have a meeting in Central London, whether it's with people I'm working with or with clients. So I'll spend a few hours in Central London and mosey on back to make some delicious vegan dinner and maybe have another coffee and then try and wind down and listen to some podcasts.

What are some of your favourite tools that you use regularly?

This is the part I love talking about. For photography, my main go to for film is my Hasselblad, it is a medium-format camera, really beautiful and shoots at a 6 x 6 aspect ratio, love that guy. For digital I shoot with a Sony A7.

Tools:

Slack - My best friend.

Illustrator & Photoshop - I use these on a very regular basis of course.

Premiere - I use that for video editing.

Lightroom - For editing photos as well.

Adobe Audition - For cutting audio and editing the podcast.

Adobe Muse - Something I recently discovered that I totally overlooked before I really got into it was Adobe Muse. It's an incredibly powerful tool. Doesn't produce the nicest looking code but the things you can do with Muse - I've built 3 or 4 websites with it now. It's made that so much easier.

I try to keep as few things on me as possible at any given time. Whatever camera or whatever tool you have on you is your best tool, which I think for the most part holds true.

What's the best career advice you've ever been given?

My friend Zack Simone, one of my good friends. He was living in Toronto and is now living in Los Angeles because he's just taking over and doing such awesome work. Essentially he used to work at Much Music doing brand partnerships and now he works at Fox in Los Angeles. About 5 years ago I'd say, we were sitting at Little Nicky's coffee shop in Downtown Toronto and we're talking and I told him all these ambitions I had and where I wanted to be in 5 years. He said he was just like me and had all of these ideas and ambitions but didn't really know what the next step was. He told me that the best thing you can do is just email people and reach out however you can to people you admire. Not necessarily with the intention of taking advantage or asking for a job, but being genuinely interested in them. Ask them out for coffee and pick their brain and so whether that's a producer in Toronto or emailing someone from across the world, don't be afraid to reach out. People more often than not, regardless of how big a name they are, will want to talk to you.

That's how I ended up in London. It's kind of a cool story - I think. A couple of weeks after I had that chat with Zack I sent an email to a couple of guys who run a YouTube channel out here in London. They run a channel called Jacks Gap, these guys Finn and Jack Harries. They have these beautiful travel-oriented films that they upload to their YouTube channel and they do a lot of work with charities. I've admired their work for a long time now. This was at a point where YouTube was just getting really hot and was taking over television and everyone wanted a piece of these guys. I genuinely wanted to be friends with them because their work was so amazing and I admired what they were doing. I guessed their emails and a few weeks later they got back to me saying, "thanks for reaching out, totally appreciate the kind words!" I had mocked up this awful piece of graphic design, that basically said "let me do work for you, let me write for your blog, let me do something to get involved!"

A couple of days later they managed to get me involved by setting up an account for their blog so I could start writing. That never ended up working out but I made friends with them, ended up visiting them in London. They came back to Toronto for a YouTube conference last October and we hung out for a little while and a couple months after that I was chatting with Jack and mentioned that I was thinking about moving to London. He was super supportive and helped me with getting my Visa in order, he acted as a reference essentially. A few months later I was in London and having awesome conversations with those guys on a regular basis just about how to push yourself further as a creative. It's all come full circle. It all stemmed from that advice from Zack. Just don't be afraid to reach out to people that you admire and good things will happen.

Who would you want to see on Ways We Work?

I'm going to go ahead and say Stefan Sagmeister.