We had the good fortune of connecting with Neal Barenblat and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Neal, we’d love to hear more about how you thought about starting your own business?
Having gone through a string of layoffs at every large company that I’d previously worked for, I came to the conclusion that stability could only truly exist by taking control of my own situation. Video production in corporate environments clearly seemed to be more dispensable than I was comfortable with, so I decided to gather my contacts and pursue the life of a freelancer and a small business owner.
What should our readers know about your business?
I opened my business, Road Not Taken Films, after experiencing several layoffs throughout my career at various large companies. It became apparent to me that, for the video industry, independently running my own operation was the key to stability.
Fortunately, I’d made plenty of contacts throughout the years having worked for GoPro, Amazon, Dolby Labs, and from having previously been a freelancer. These contacts – especially those from GoPro – have allowed me not only to pursue video and filmmaking independently, but also working on the kinds of projects that I was personally interested in building a company around.
When I worked for GoPro, I “got the bug”. Adventure, travel and extreme outdoors filmmaking was and continues to be addicting.
In 2018, I was hired by two former GoPro managers of mine, at the time working for BeAlive, to travel to Peru and film a teenage mountaineer acclimatize at Macchu Picchu and climb a perilous 20,000 foot peak. My filming partner was also a former GoPro employee. I then did all post, and the film was screened at several film festivals around the US. In 2019, I travelled to Mexico for GoPro to film a series of videos and mentor Mexican filmmakers on how to better create content according to GoPro’s brand.
In between these mega-projects are lots of smaller corporate and commercial work, as well as some other adventure and lifestyle edits. 2020 definitely accelerated this aspect of my business, which has created the challenge of balancing work that pays bills vs. work that can be used to acquire more work.
Now I live in Chile – I came here to be with my fiancé, and I operate completely from here. I frequently collaborate with my contacts across the US with editing, animation, and producing, to essentially work as a team on a project-by-project basis.
A few takeaways from my experience so far:
– Contacts are everything
– Find help for social media (RNT Films as a company has suffered an extreme lack of attention to having a good social media presence)
– Remote work WORKS for our industry, and it works well
MY BRAND AND PHILOSOPHY
While my brand specializes in lifestyle content, the reality is that we do everything, and are always trying to expand. One of my first video employers in Memphis, TN taught me the power of being open to any kind of project. Even more importantly, I try to do whatever it takes to create availability – whether it’s prioritizing time better or finding the right person to help, I don’t believe in not being available for a client.
I also don’t believe that being a creative allows me to have an ego. The mission of my business is to lend my expertise in order to fulfill my clients’ visions. My ideas are only as good as a given client’s happiness, so ego just doesn’t belong here.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
As I’m currently living in Santiago, Chile, there are so many places I can take someone and show them a new world.
First we hit up the best empanada joints, Tomas Moro being my absolute favorite. An hour away we stroll into Valparaiso and have a Pisco Sour on the beach, and then roam around the colorful and winding town. We can drive the other way, into the Andes, and go on some great desert hikes. If my friend were to come in the winter, we could easily reach the snow on a day hike and have a view of the entirety of Santiago. We might want a drink after that, so we’d drive down to the wine country about an hour south of the city.
And this is just the Santiago metro area. When the pandemic hit, I spent 6 months (working remotely) in Valle de Elqui, a desert valley in the center-north of Chile with some of the clearest night skies in the world – they have NASA telescopes there for a reason.
Down south in La Araucania, it’s basically a mirror image of the Pacific Northwest: Evergreen forests, active volcanoes, and lots of beer. Go even further south to Lagos and Magallanes, and we’re talking Alaska-style down in Torres del Paine.
That would last more than a week…so multiple trips might be needed.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I’d like to thank GoPro – one of my previous employers – for capitalizing on a particular moment in time and creating a family of talent that can never be replicated. Even though most of us don’t work there anymore, we continue as a family to this day. I owe a large portion of my success to the people that I once worked with there who continue to maintain contact and, when I’m very lucky, trust me with new projects of every kind. I love you all.