March 02, 2020 / filmmakers,adventurers

How to create opportunities with Estelle and Ramy

Photo by Estelle & Ramy
Photo by Estelle & Ramy

Hi Estelle & Ramy, could you introduce yourselves?

Hi there! We are filmmakers, storytellers, and adventurers. What we truly love is to use video making as a tool to tell inspiring stories and document important subjects. When you challenge yourself to get out there and explore what’s outside of your comfort zone, you realize that there are so many stories worth sharing.

So concretely what that means is that we travel around the world with our gear on the lookout for inspiring people and discovery. We are currently working on our biggest project yet, a documentary about wildlife rangers. The documentary itself will not come out before next year but in the meantime, we will soon start recording the whole process of its creation, from the ideation to the concrete steps we’re taking and how we manage this whole adventure.

How do you differentiate yourselves in such a crowded environment?

We think that the key to differentiating yourself is to not focus on this at all. If you spend time asking yourself how you can do things differently from others, then it probably means that you didn’t find a project that truly inspires you yet. When you start working on a project that is fulfilling, your focus somehow naturally shifts on putting the best of yourself into it, that's when your colors start to show and you develop your own « flavors ». You have your own monopoly, nobody out there can be you. Now, this takes time and true immersion in your art!

It sounds like we’ve got it all figured out, but we’re still in the process ourselves!

What are the 5 essential things you would recommend buying to do what you do?

Technically speaking, our best investments yet were: a good camera (Sony A7iii), a drone (Mavic 2 Pro), a stabilizer (Ronin S), a microphone, a subscription on a music licensing platform and a good backpack to carry everything. We know, that’s 6. Never mind the numbers.

On a longer note, Keep in mind that everything is a process... What we mean by this is that you don’t need to start right away with the most expensive gear. You hear it often that the best tool is what’s in your pocket or what you have at hand, which is somewhat true but it’s missing an important point, upgrade your software first before upgrading your hardware. A cheap camera in the hands of someone who knows how to properly dial the settings and properly light a scene will get a result that most people would hardly be able to estimate if it was shot on a 300 bucks camera or a 15’000 dollars cinema monster.

Learn first, get the best of what you have, invest later. You also don’t need to buy everything at once. What worked well for us, was to buy new equipment little by little. We would buy one thing, use and test it for a while, make a few client projects and then we would go on and buy an upgrade once we had learned (and earned) enough. By doing this, you also make sure that you get to know your tools well, one step at a time.

If you have to get familiar with the camera, the drone, the microphone, sound system and the new editing software all at the same time, it’s going to be a nightmare. The two main advice we have regarding gear is to buy gradually, there’s no rush and watch hours of reviews before deciding what option is best for you. The information is out there, and this will lower your risks of spending your money on stuff that is not suited to your needs.

Photo of Estelle in Egypt

How do you get inspired without falling in the comparison trap?

It is definitely not easy... We fell into that trap so many times and to sum it up, we feel like this happens mostly when you’re bored or not convinced with what you do (which you may not even be aware of). When you’re not thrilled with the projects you’re working on, it's easy to start focusing too much on the big picture of your career and see all that’s still missing. That’s when you start envying everyone you look to for inspiration, because « Hey! they do amazing stuff when I don’t. » And with Instagram and social media in general, it’s even harder because everyone’s feed is a highly curated highlight reel of their lives. You know everything about yourself (more or less), and you have no context about them so it’s easy to only see the good stuff in them and to forget that behind the scenes, it’s a mess for everyone.

This might be subjective but for us, a fulfilling project checks two boxes. First, it has to be challenging, otherwise, we’d be bored. Moreover, it needs to have the potential to have a real impact on things and issues we value as important, otherwise, we’re not convinced that we’re spending our time wisely. Once you’re working on a project that matches these two criteria, you naturally start focusing on a single goal, "how do I make this as good as possible?". When you’re in this state of mind, everything that impresses you becomes an inspiration and an opportunity instead of a reminder of your individual dissatisfaction.

What does it mean « not to focus on money »?

Let's be clear, « not to focus on money » does NOT mean « don’t aspire to be wealthy ». When you focus on money, it often prevents you from growing. Think of it this way, most of the time, people will be willing to pay you for what you are capable of doing, which makes total sense! However, it also means, if you focus on getting the money, you will spend most of your time doing things you already mastered because that’s where the money is available for you.

The problem here is that when you get to enjoy learning or improving your skills, you start to stagnate and stop growing. Another way of seeing this is that money is a means of transaction, it is the return on investment for every drop you sweat in life. From a purely economic perspective, the less effort you put for a given sum of money, the better the deal is for you.

This mindset will prevent you from investing yourself fully because that would be useless and inefficient. You will only do the least required because this is what optimizes the deal for you. When you stop focusing on money, when your focus shifts on the intrinsic value of things, you will start to truly give the best of yourself for everything you undertake. This will translate on your skills, relationships, projects... pretty much on your whole life. And the funny thing is that when you are in that state of mind, the financial return will grow with all the rest.

How do you generate luck?

Do you know the metaphor, « Throw everything on the wall and see what sticks »? Well, this is the first step (but don’t stop here, otherwise you’re toasted). What this metaphor means is that if you want to be lucky, you need to expose yourself to luck. Since we’re talking about luck it’s pretty clear that it’s not something we can expect at a given place or time. You need to try many things, meet many people and learn many skills in order to increase your chances of bumping into that one person or opportunity that will bring more opportunities in your way. Now the second step is to realize that the things that don’t seem to stick to the wall are not sunk costs, but investments. It would be very discouraging otherwise because, most of the time, things you do don’t bring immediate value.

We both have been using this metaphor for a while now, and some projects that « did not stick to the wall » for us 2 or 3 years ago are now kicking back into our lives with beautiful opportunities as a bonus. The reality is that most things you do in life will serve you sooner or later. You may not realize it now, but just keep going. Give give give, and don’t expect anything in return. Invest in people. Be a nice human and always act according to high ethical standards. It’ll pay off, and it’s just cool to be cool. The more you will do and give, the bigger the surface area on which luck can fall will be.

Finally, if you go the extra mile, there’s no competition. For example, we had the chance to travel to so many countries when we were in college through contests and sometimes we were the only applicants because people gave up before even trying.

Photo of Ramy in Egypt

Are you hunters or gatherers?

Both. It’s all about optimizing. While you hunt, don’t forget to throw those berries in the bag, since you’re out there in the bush already. Leave nothing on the table! Every time you hunt, it's an opportunity to gather some stuff... and every time you go out to gather you’ll get new hunting opportunities or you will discover things that will help on your next hunt. And this my friend is the guarantee that almost every expedition you undertake will add value to your life. Think about it... When you hunt, you don’t always come out successful and the prize just runs away. It would be too bad to just go home without stopping by that bush full of fruits you saw on your way!

The hard part is to find a balance between losing focus and focusing so much that you get blinded. And actually, you don’t even want a balance between these two states but rather, you want to alternate and swing between them. The way that we try to tackle things is that we’re constantly switching our focus scope. Sometimes in life, you will be on the lookout for opportunities and you will need to be open. And then, when the opportunity comes, that’s when you take a sprint, you narrow your focus down to just a few things that will help you get this specific project right. And once it’s done, you need to open up again and give a try here and there.

Estelle & Ramy

Find out more about Estelle & Ramy on their website.