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  • Writer's pictureMike Kozlenko

2013-2017: "I'll sleep when i'm dead"

My messy dorm-room desk, freshman year of college. Color grading in After Effects ;)

Tons of filmmakers start blogs at one point in their careers. Then they get too busy and stop. How is mine going to be different? It probably won’t. Part of the thing I’ll have to figure out with writing about my journey is finding a friendly balance between discussing my thoughts & my path without having too much unnecessary fluff.

So let’s give this a shot:

I started video production in high school, and those years were some of the most critical in shaping A LOT of my approach to production, organization, and interpersonal relationships. But that is a super freaking long story that maybe I’ll write about some other day. Or just ask me and block off 2 hours of your day to hear me ramble on…

The main purpose of this post is to recount what I did in the infant stages of my career, once I had 100% committed to pursuing this crazy field; this happened in college.

I didn’t have a progressive, tangible plan to try and learn filmmaking. I was just having fun, trying new things, emulating techniques from filmmakers I admired, and trying to push the envelope with class projects & work projects to make the coolest stuff I could.

This is the demo reel I made the summer before freshman year of college, August 2013; Comprised of a bunch of high school stuff I shot, I sent this out to a bunch of production departments at Florida State University to try get in the door.

Note: The last part of this reel has a little section of something I edited my first month of college that I added in an update to the reel in like September of 2013. I couldn't quite find the actual original version but this is pretty much the same thing.

*DISCLAIMER: This is super embarrassing. Look at those hot motion graphics in the intro

Let’s contrast with my most recent reel, 5 years later:

So what the heck happened in those 5 years?

Sparknotes Summary

First semester of freshman year of college, I interned for FSU’s Department of University Communications, as well as WFSU-TV (local PBS TV studio), and I got in the door with Seminole Productions, the school’s sports production unit… After 1 semester, University Communications hired me part-time to make mini-docs for the Student Veterans Center. This is where I got to flex my storytelling muscles for pretty much the first time. I bought a used Canon T3i, a Sigma 30mm 1.4 lense, and a shitty tripod & slider. This is the first video I made for them

*Scripted interviews…. What was I thinking??

And just for shits & giggles, here is the reel I submitted in February of my sophomore year to get into the school's Digital Media Production program:

Honestly there's some half-way decent T3i shots in there. And I was using a 5D mark II on occasion thru my job at the university. I kept pumping out content for the Student Veterans Center, I worked for them until my senior year. This was the last video I made for them

At the start of my sophomore year, I also got hired part-time by Seminole Productions, working the live productions for the school’s ESPN broadcasts and video-board shows. This was a whole separate mode of production: live multi-cam shooting. There’s not much creativity involved here in my opinion, but it was great training for dealing with high-pressure, high-stress live environments. No chances for a take 2. For football, there were 80k people in the stands that could see on the jumbotron if I whip-panned away when my shot was live. I got to eventually camera op for games that were live on linear-TV, on ESPN2, ESPNU, and the main ESPN network. I also worked some control-room positions on occasion but I sucked at them so I mostly stuck to camera operating. Honestly some of my best times came thru working on these shows with my friends. It wasn't where I wanted to take my career but it was a whole lot of fun.

Full-time student, 2 part-time jobs, while still trying to do occasional college-kid things... while ALSO doing video-production classes my last 2 years of college… How did I tackle doing all of this? Easy. I just didn’t sleep. I averaged around 4-5 hrs of sleep/night for most of college. Going into my senior year of college I left my job at University Communications and started working full-time for Seminole Productions, making cinematic promos for football, basketball, baseball, etc. Some of that stuff is peppered in to my vimeo pages (there’s also tons of stuff that I’ve purposefully excluded lol).

Here's an intro video I did for the football team:

So shortly after graduating college in May 2017 I started freelancing, and that’s a whole other world that I might write about my experiences in some day. But all this is to reflect on the hard work I put in and the opportunities I was lucky enough to get as a result of it. With almost every new project I shot, I tried incorporating 1 new technique, whether it be using only bounced light, or incorporating slow motion, or a glidecam, or reenactments, or macro-lense shots. I look back at my college years as the best version of film school I could have possibly had. My learning came mostly from outside the classroom. I learned one-man band filmmaking, small-team filmmaking, scrapped-for-resources filmmaking, extremely sleep-deprived filmmaking, everything-is-freaking-broken filmmaking, and all things in between. I obviously have a crap-ton to learn and I don't write this to pat myself on the back; I just think it was cool that I leveraged my jobs in production to end up making stuff I wanted to make.


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