Having first started out as a freelancer, Sebastian Whyte's path into the industry wasn't an easy one. But he still managed to work his way up and through the industry, slowly but surely shaping his own style, unique in the way it makes filmmaking breathable and spacious.
Sebastian makes an argument for removing all the 'isms' from the industry: it doesn't matter what age you are or where you come from, the best way to see real creativity is to open the industry up to everyone.
In this Member Spotlight, we are learning more about Sebastian's collaborative process and what it means to be a Black photographer in London.
How did you get into the industry?
I was freelancing as a photographer. I was finding it difficult to earn a living as a Black photographer in London at the time as it was down to who you knew. Film was the natural progression from photography, so I decided to go for jobs as a runner at first on sets then in post production as that was more stable. From there I worked my way up and through the industry, learning as much as possible about how films are made (from production to post).
Where are you based now and who do you work for?
I am based in London and I freelance.
If you weren’t in your current industry, what would you be doing?
I initially studied Urban Design so I guess I would be in that universe, possibly interior design.
Can you explain your creative process? What makes it unique?
I wouldn’t necessarily say my process is unique. Research and the pre-production process are very important and lay the foundation for a smoother filming process. Each project is different, some projects require knowledge about specific characters, others require a greater level of empathy for the audience.
Filmmaking is very collaborative so there is a lot of discussion with the crew.
How would you describe your style?
I try not to. I would say I’m a fan of space (and the spaces between us and what we do/happens or does not happen in these spaces) and allowing moments to breathe. Pace is important to me, and even though some of my edits have many cuts I like to think there’s an element of illusion as they don’t always speed up the overall pace.
What tips would you give to aspiring creatives looking for work?
Create work, even if you’re not getting paid to do it, make your own stuff (it will be one of the few times that you have complete creative freedom!). Build a good body of work and then be fearless. Don’t let knock backs hold you back. Reach out to as many people as you can, while you continue to hone your skills. Look for mentors, shadow people, and aim to get into the environment that you want to be part of. Be present and proactive - I’ve seen camera assistants, runners and interns deep in their phones during takes - I don’t get that! Pay attention and soak up as much as you can.
What tips would you give to other professionals to get more clients?
It sounds cliche, but networking and perseverance are key. Whether it’s pushing your website, making calls or meeting in person, get your work out there. Take some risks too. When I was younger, I’d go into newsagents, note down all the art directors’ numbers in the magazines I liked, then ring them up.
What kind of tools/kit/software could you not do without?
A camera usually comes in quite handy when making films!
All jokes aside, I think my phone is now a must have tool as a filmmaker. Not to film on (although there’s now no excuse not to make a film if you have one!) but for all the things like recce photos, checking lens sizes and LUTs, voice notes, sending emergency emails and/or calling your producer!
What’s your secret to staying inspired and motivated?
Be nice to yourself, celebrate your wins , don’t get stuck on your losses and provide your own validation. Also actively stay hungry, see what other people are doing, talk and share with other creatives. The common misconception is “ everyone is after your idea”, so then you end up clamming up with an idea and getting no feedback.
What’s the work achievement you’re most proud of?
In terms of my career it’s usually the last thing that I’ve released. I am constantly seeking to learn and improve.
What is the one thing that you would change about the industry?
I’d remove the ‘isms’ (racism, sexism, elitism, nepotism etc) and open the industry up properly rather than just paying lip service until the trending topic dies down for another few years. It’s the best way to see real creativity, empathy and social change spread into the wider communities, as communication is the basis of our industry.
Any websites, books or resources you would recommend?
I love Vimeo and follow loads of filmmakers (directors, cinematographers, etc) on Instagram, other sources include: D&AD, production company websites, photography books (too many to mention) and of course probably my main source of inspiration comes from watching films. I try to watch something new every week.