Marty, Andrew Son Music Job Interview

Marty and Andrew Son see the world differently. As long-time freelance photographers, directors of photography and cinematographers, they have an eye for bringing light, shadow and shape into one cohesive image that brings out the beauty in everything (and whoever) they point their cameras at.

Growing up, however, this career path seemed non-existent. Despite being interested in music at an early age, the Manila-raised creatives grew up believing that the only way to have a legitimate career in music was by becoming musical artists. It wasn’t until they started seeing pictures of their favorite local bands on then-burgeoning social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook that they realized they could pursue visual art within music full-time. As youngsters, the pair made their way around the capital, preparing equipment, finding their place on cramped arena floors and taking pictures of local shows. “Being a ‘music photographer’ was still not on my mind [in those days]”, Marty recalls. “I don’t think I even heard of anyone having that job at the time.”

At the same time, Andrew – being the tech geek that he is – started tinkering with the video settings of his sister’s old camera, starting his lifelong love of cinematography. “I started learning and studying random YouTube video lessons almost every day to improve my technical side of it. I also just shot anything and everything at home, and learned the shapes of light and how it changes the appearance of a subject, all this, he explains. “I literally wake up every morning super excited to hold my camera and just shoot something. It means so much to me.”

Due to the collaborative nature of this job, it is important to remember that you are part of a team working together towards one goal.

Things moved quickly for the sons – faster than they could have ever imagined. “A couple of years later we were asked by the media and production companies to cover concerts and music festivals,” says Marty.

The Sons still like to carve out time from their hectic schedules to shoot smaller shows, but today they have a stronger focus on client work and professional projects. They look back fondly on the countless hours they spent either sitting on sticky floors or studying the industry’s tough, almost unaware that it would lead them to visual collaborations with major musical artists and the likes of San Miguel Beer and National Geographic. “Being involved in the local music scene at such an early age was a huge plus,” notes Marty, while Andrew adds, “I was always a frustrated artist. When I discovered photography and video, I realized this was a way to channeling the artistic side of me. There are many different ways of seeing the world.”

In three words, how would you describe your job to someone unfamiliar with the music industry?

Marty: Immortalizing live music.

Andrew: Composition, mood, vision.

Can you walk us through a day in your working life?

The night before a shoot, all the equipment is packed and loaded into the car. On the day of the shoot, we (try) to wake up at least two hours before call time, enjoy an espresso or two and go to set.

When we get there we set up our lights and cameras and go through the shot list with the whole crew. Video recording usually takes the whole day, or around six to ten hours, depending on the content. It means a lot to move the lights around, get the camera angle just right and make sure we get all the content we need for the final product.

After we get home from the shoot we usually have a couple of beers to celebrate!

Can you tell us the story of your first big jobs?

Marty: I was first hired by a major national news outlet as a music writer and researcher, but eventually was asked to cover events as a media partner. Through the company I was able to film everything from small shows to international musicians and red carpet events.

As a freelancer, I think one of my first big jobs was for San Miguel Beer. I think I jokingly tweeted them a couple of times to hire me as a photographer, but they ended up in my DMs! I’ve worked with them a few times over the past few years for some of their social media campaigns.

Andrew: I usually post a lot of random landscape and nature video work on social media, so one day I was contacted by National Geographic Explorer and Nikon Asia Ambassador Gab Mejia to join him on a 14-day National Geographic expedition. It was the wildest adventure.

What is the key to finding clients or artists to work with?

Marty: I ended up meeting a lot of artists and people involved in behind the scenes media and production at a young age. Social media helps too, but we’ve found it’s better to meet people in person, especially at events where you know you’ll be surrounded by like-minded people.

Andrew: Maintaining a social media presence has helped a lot. I have had clients contact me after seeing videos and projects I post online.

Get to know the artist you are filming. Music is a very personal art form and knowing the artist beforehand will help you capture their essence.

How do you build that repertoire together with your collaborators?

Marty: When working on a project, pre-production meetings are key to making sure both of our visions are aligned. Other than that, I find that meeting outside of work and just talking about random ideas, dream projects, and goals helps us understand where we’re all coming from as we build that relationship.

Andrew: From pre-production to shoot day, I make sure to always communicate my vision and really listen to your creative input and ideas. Due to the collaborative nature of this job, it is important to remember that you are part of a team working together towards one goal.

What are the first steps a young person should take to start a career in music as a photographer and videographer?

Marty: Go to shows and make friends!

Andrew: Start with what you have and shoot anything and everything.

What lessons and/or work ethic did you gain first after working in the music industry?

Get to know the artist you are filming. Music is a very personal art form and knowing the artist beforehand will help you capture their essence.

What was the biggest challenge you faced so far and how did you overcome it?

Marty: Definitely the pandemic! There were no live broadcasts for almost a year and we had to find other ways to pay the bills. Money aside, going to shows (even when I wasn’t working on them) always helped me feel a sense of belonging and connection, and suddenly it was just gone. It was during this time that I started shifting and working on videos with Andrew. Even without the live events to begin with, we could at least work on music videos, recorded performances or even commercials.

Andrew: Self-doubt is my biggest enemy. It took me a while to get over it, and it still affects me today, but what helps is looking back at how I started and seeing the progress I’ve made so far.

What is one thing about your job that most people would find surprising?

Marty: It’s not really that glamorous. Covering a festival means walking around for hours regardless of the weather, while lugging around heavy camera equipment. Sometimes clients also require you to submit the final images the next day, which means you have to edit through the night and sleep around 7am.

Andrew: It’s ridiculously tough. There is a lot of hard work involved – hours and hours of study and experimentation. This type of job requires you to be ready for anything. Something will always go wrong during a shooting day and you have to come up with solutions on the spot. This is where the study pays off.

Is there a secret to longevity in this industry?

Marty: Be authentic to yourself, and always be nice to the people around you.

Andrew: One, don’t be an as*hole. Two, there will always be someone better than you, so focus on yourself and the work will follow.

There is a lot of hard work involved – hours and hours of study and experimentation. This type of job requires you to be ready for anything.

What are some habits you follow regularly to always maintain a good headspace for work?

Marty: Get at least seven hours of sleep and exercise regularly.

Andrew: I think I have mastered the art of distinguishing between. It helps me to let my thoughts fly freely.

What does a day off look like for you?

Marty: Waking up a little later than usual, squeezing in a short workout and catching up on a new TV show or movie.

Andrew: I really enjoy studying, so I still end up watching videos of my favorite cinematographers online even on my days off. But I can also spend a lot of time on my favorite PS5 game.

How do you see your job developing with the music industry in the next five years?

Hopefully bigger projects! We would love to go on an international tour or even work on a full-length documentary of one of our favorite artists.

If not music, what would you be doing?

Marty: Working in voluntary organizations with issues that are important to me.

Andrew: I wanted to open a coffee shop.

Stay tuned for more features featuring music industry professionals – from executives to sound engineers, stagehands and more; the people who make the music world go round without standing behind a microphone.

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