Justine Curgenven is best known as the creator of the award winning and highly influential kayak film series, This is the Sea. Since she released her first paddling film around 10 years ago she has released several other films including, This is the Sea II, III and IV, This is Canoeing and brand new to the market, This is the Roll.
When not watching paddlers through the lense of a video camera, Justine is off travelling throughout the world on major kayaking expeditions. Sea Kayaking has taken Justine to remote places such as Kamchatka, Tasmania, New Zealand, Sardinia and most recently Tierra del Fuego.
1) How long have you been working in the outdoor industry and what got you started?
After studying geology at university, I had 2 'proper jobs' in the TV industry - a news reporter and then a multi-skilled programme maker taking me up to age 23. I was getting more and more interested in the outdoors for my own pleasure and decided I wanted to try to make a living from filming adventures. I quit my job and spent several years writing to TV companies with ideas, filming pilots at my own expense, picking up a few small bits of work but generally losing money and sometimes losing heart. I guess you could say I was working in the outdoor industry since then, although not very successfully to start with! Eventually I got fed up spending all my time trying to convince TV Stations that I could do a good job and I just went out and made This is the Sea DVD.
2) What’s the best part of your job?
Working for myself and being in being able to make my own decisions. I have the freedom to be able to travel to some amazing places, have wonderful adventures and meet interesting people. Or I can have a lie-in if I'm tired!
3) What’s the most difficult aspect of the job?
It's hard to switch off from work-mode. I sell DVDs internationally so there is always a customer awake at a computer wanting an answer to a question. I could get a work email at any time and I like to deal with any issues ASAP so I tend to always be checking my emails in the evenings and at weekends - which isn’t the most sociable behaviour. To help with the workload, I employ people to mail out orders and other people do jobs like designing DVD covers, making any big changes to my website, and subtitling and authoring my DVDs. Other than that but I pretty much do everything else by myself.
Sometimes I'd love to have someone else to bounce ideas off, or to handle some of the more technological issues such as creating digital downloads which work with all the various gadgets that people have these days. It's also getting harder to make a living from video production. Sales of any one DVD are down slightly as people watch outdoor videos in different ways and as competition has increased. I'm trying to make cackletv.com a place that people come to when they want to buy a DVD for themselves or for a friend. While sales of any individual DVD are down a bit, I sold more overall DVDs in my webstore this year than last year. To stay competitive, keep adapting to the market and customer needs. I actually quite enjoy the challenge & the variety but sometime I feel like I'm spending a lot of time inside trying to keep abreast of technological developments, which isn't my forte.
4) What are two tips you can give to somebody looking to start their own video production company?
There is so much more to a video production company than actually making the film. Make sure you are prepared to spend a lot of time editing, cover designing, marketing, selling and chasing up invoices. You might have a great product but if no-one knows about it or is prepared to risk £20 or $30 on it then you'll have a stack of fantastic DVDs in a cupboard gathering dust.
If you believe in what you are doing and have a lot of drive then I would suggest going for it. Decent cameras and editing software are very affordable these days and you can teach yourself how to do it. Look at Bryan Smith who made Pacific Horizons & Eastern Horizons DVDs (available from the Cackle TV webstore --- see what I did there!?). I'm pretty sure Bryan is totally self-taught but has captured some amazing shots with slow motion cameras and he is now directing adventure films for National Geographic. Anything is possible - but it usually takes a lot of dedication and time to get there.
5) What about your job do you think would most surprise people?
A lot of people seem to think I am always travelling to nice places and kayaking! I do get to do a fair bit of that but I spend between 4 and 10 months every year sat in front of a computer, not only editing but also doing admin, processing DVD orders, marketing, updating my website and problem solving. I'd like to get that closer to 6 months in the next few years!
6) You met the Queen once. Tell me about it.
I was thrilled and flattered to be invited to meet the Queen alongside about 300 "people involved in adventure and exploration" last year. She held a reception at Buckingham Palace to commemorate 100 years since Scott reached the South Pole. It was a great opportunity to meet other adventurous people and catch up with a few friends. I wish it could have gone on longer as I'd like to have chatted to more people. We all lined up and shook hands with the Queen and her husband, while an official read out our name and what we did from a card we handed him. He didn't pronounce "Curgenven" right but I wasn't going to correct him in front of the Queen! The Queen didn't ask me anything about being an “expedition sea kayaker and filmmaker” and I think she was probably wondering what on earth that meant. I've never seen such big bottles of champagne and the quails eggs canapés were particularly delicious.
7) If you could tell something to your 18 year-old self, what would it be?
I would tell myself three things:
- Don't worry about being penniless and jobless for several years - it really will work out OK if you keep working at it & believing!
- No one on their deathbed ever says, "I wish I'd worked more".
- Don't forget to enjoy your life and don't believe people who say, “you can't do that”.
Photo Credits: Justine Curgenven
More info: cackletv.com