Issue: January 1, 2006


What were you doing when you were 16 years old? Listening to loud music? Ignoring your parents? Frowning? If so, I’d say you were in the majority. What was Eric Wotila (pictured) doing? He was starting an HD production studio in Cadillac, MI, called Freelancer Productions (www.freelancerproductions.com). I suppose I could have been driven and focused when I was 16, but it just never occurred to me.

Recently Eric explained how a self-taught teenager started making money in the pro world of HD production and post. I guess it came as no surprise to those around him that he was video driven, since as a six year old, he and friends were taping skits on their parents’ old VHS camcorders. But going from playing “director” in your backyard to producing stuff for local TV is a big jump.

Prior to Eric’s first major production for Piranha Hose Products in Cadillac — a trade show video — Eric had produced his own independent film called Internet Detectives: Net Bandits, which was based on the book by Michael Coleman. At 13, he had the wherewithal to contact the author, whose publishing company OK’d free, non-exclusive rights. Since Eric’s voice hadn’t even changed yet, they didn’t really take his film seriously, until they got wind of the scale of it. That’s when they prohibited him from getting a distributor.

Eric, with the help of friends and family, shot the entire hour-and-12-minute-movie on what he could afford at the time: a Canon ZR10 and a Canon ZR60 shooting Mini DV. He edited it himself on an iMac G4 running Apple Final Cut Pro 3. “The video quality was positively terrible,” he says, “but it was really what got me started in video production. It took up about a year and a half of my free time, but I haven’t looked back. If it wasn’t for that film, I wouldn’t be where I am now.”

And where is he now? Competing head on with other production companies in his area. He shoots on Sony HDR-FX1 HDV cameras and edits with Final Cut Pro Studio. Recent projects include some videos and a DVD for B&P Manufacturing, TV ads for a local car dealership and a video tour of the Belle Oakes Retirement Center.

“The trick to starting a production company is getting a good reel together,” he says. “You have to get someone who is willing to take the plunge before you have a reel, and once you put that together you just show them your work. Once we got the job from Piranha Hose, we were able to go in and show other potential clients our work.”

So what happens after high school… aside from college? “I’m in video production in some form for the long haul,” he says.

Why am I not surprised?!