Many twentysomethings are identifying with the title of a “creative.” The popularity and acknowledgement of the “creative” label in the professional world has opened up a whole new realm of possibility for those with passions and talents that seem just a bit too eclectic for a traditional job title.
Aaron Chewning is a freelance creative. He is orchestrating his skills in comedy, production, music, and writing into a collective career that breaks through the neatly stacked boxes of conventional occupations.
We connected with (sorta stalked down) Aaron at the recent Hive Gathering in Atlanta and discussed his unique career path.
Aaron, you are involved in several different areas of production and media – from freelance video production, to stand-up comedy, to a family wedding photography business. How do all of these fit together for you? How did you end up doing all of them at once?
When I began freelancing after college, I combined a few different revenue streams to make a living/not die. I joined forces with my sister to shoot weddings under the banner Achor & Eden, I created videos of all shapes and sizes, and I wrote music for several clients. After four years of freelancing, I’ve narrowed things down a bit… but not much. Comedy was always the ulitmate goal and I’m very thankful that a large majority of what I’m doing now is comedy/entertainment based. I still shoot with Achor & Eden and write music when a project calls for it, but comedic media is my primary work.
When did you first know you wanted to get involved in comedic media?
Lazy Sunday, SNL’s first digital short by Andy Samberg + team, came out when I was a junior in high school. No more than a week later, I made a funny music video (attempting to be funny at least) for the weekly chapel at my high school. My school gave me constant opportunities to host events, create videos, and really create a space for myself. I’d always loved making people laugh but it really wasn’t until then that I began putting comedy and video work together.
How did your very specific education at a niche post-secondary institution influence and benefit you?
I think Full Sail was a great fit for me. It’s a very hands on school that let me really dive in to all aspects of filmmaking. I see the fruit of that every shoot I’m on when I communicate with everyone regarding their specific role – be it the actors, cinematographer, grips, or producers. A lot of film schools that are more theory based wouldn’t have given me that ability. Also, getting a bachelors in 21 months wasn’t terrible either.
Do you find that your age (being a twentysomething) helps or hinders you in this industry?
My age hasn’t had much of an effect on my work. When it comes to getting video jobs, clients want to see things you’ve created in the past, not resumes. It’s not about where you went to school or your experience as much as it is about product you can produce.
Your first Atlanta Braves video had great success and launched a partnership with the baseball team. Tell about how the idea came about and the process of the video going viral.
I saw a few music videos about sports teams that were poorly done (and cheeeeeesy), yet still had a decent amount of views. I knew if we created something quality, Braves fans would be ready to watch and share it. I emailed about 100 people the night before we released the video detailing my plan of attack. I asked them to watch the video and link to it via their social networks at 10 AM. The idea was to create a foundation for virality and for the most part, it worked. The Braves front office called a couple hours after the video went live. They adopted it into their pre-game show rotation at Turner Field for the early part of the 2013 season. From there we built a relationship and I’ve had the opportunity to do a few music videos for them, as well as an interview series.
What is the Atlanta comedy scene like?
The University of Colorado-Boulder recently put together a scientific analysis to find out what America’s funniest cities were. Atlanta ranked 3rd behind Chicago and Boston. That study is actually a lot more credible than it seems (it seems like a bunch of made up garbage, I know). They factored in the number of comedy clubs per square mile and traveling comedians’ rating of a city’s audiences, among other factors. All that to say, Atlanta’s comedy scene is solid. We have some great, established clubs (Punchline, Laughing Skull) and a growing network of small bars and clubs that offer open mic nights. Atlanta has an exciting new class of comics waiting in the wings, and I can’t wait to see the ridiculousness that we create.
Where do you believe comedy is headed in the near future – in Atlanta and the U.S.?
Stop me if you’ve heard this before… YouTube. Even the current cast of Saturday Night Live features a whole litter of cast members and writers that were plucked from the YouTube popular page. As easy as it is to get noticed, it’s also now easier to get lost in the sea of half-hearded comedic nonsense. Twitter and the other social media networks have been a great new way for comedic voices to be heard. I think recognizing opportunities to get content out there will be immensely important as people try to make a living in comedy.
What are your comedic influences – personalities, shows, etc?
Goodness. There are so many. I grew up watching SNL and I still watch it; both old and new episodes. I think people like Chris Farley, Dana Carvey, Bill Murray, Jon Lovitz, Fred Armisen, and Kristin Wiig, as well as many others, have had a big influence on me. The Lonely Island have had a big impact as well; not just because of their comedy but because of their route to success. They were pioneers of viral YouTube comedy and managed to turn that into brilliant careers.
Can you tell us about any current exciting projects you are working on?
I have a couple projects coming up that I’m really looking forward to. I’ll be getting the word out there about them soon, but for now, mum’s the word.
If you had a big group of your peers (twentysomethings) in a room, what is one piece of advice you would give to them?
It took me a long time to think any of my ideas were worth pursuing, or even sharing for that matter. In my mind, my ordinary, off-beige ideas paled in comparison to these ground-breaking projects I was seeing other people put out. It wasn’t until I began freelancing and had a client give me glowing feedback on a project that I thought was just OK, that things changed. I remember hearing someone speak on this idea early on in my career, and it shifted my entire creative process. It’s the thought that everyone’s ideas might seem obvious to them, but could be extraordinary to someone else. I once saw an interview with the Beatles where they talked about how some of the songs they thought were their worst, became their most popular. We’ve got to be ballsy enough to to put it out there, and let everyone else judge it. You can’t let yourself be the wall standing between you and doing big things.
Photo credit: Andy Brophy
Freelance Creative • 24 • Atlanta, GA