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Profile On: Ona Kiser, Equine Videographer

I absolutely love reading Global Horse Culture as it’s always interesting and different and often gives me ideas for blog posts.  The writer of this unique blog also has a rather unique equine related business.  Ona Kiser, Equine Videographer kindly took the time to answer some questions about this service she offers to clients.

Have you always been interested in horses and when did you start out in Equine Videography? What is it exactly that you do?
I videotape horses for clients. Most of my work is shooting and editing sales videos or covering clinics. People who attend clinics often want a video of the lesson to study, especially if they are a preparing for competition.

Ona Kiser on a Crioulo horse in Brazil.Sometimes I do more creative projects, such as highlights from an event, mini-documentaries about a person’s favorite horse or a child’s weekend at a show, or other mementos.

Those are my favorite projects to work on, because of the creative part – telling a story based on the hours of footage I’ve shot, or setting the piece to music. I’ve also done some DVD series for trainers who want to reach a larger market. Those are complex but very fun to work on.

How much of your day/week is related to horses?
Between the care and training of my own horses, my video work, and my horse blog, probably 70%!

In this field is it possible for someone to be a full time professional, earning a livable income?
It could be possible, if you live in an area with a lot of high-end horse breeders, people showing competitively, etc. and you produce a good quality product.

It might be necessary to hire some support staff to really make it a full time business. I’ve always preferred working alone, and therefore I can’t cover larger events like shows, where there are things going on in more than one ring at a time. There are videographers who cover the big shows and have a truck with all the editing equipment right there, and a crew of half a dozen people shooting all day long, and you can pick up your DVD right on the spot.

I prefer to pursue the creative projects. They are expensive and time consuming, but so rewarding for me personally. I’ve been doing this for nearly 10 years, and it has always been a part time business.

What are the general steps taken to be able to provide such a service to clients?
You have to develop the skills to operate the camera well, and to edit well. There is significant investment in equipment. I use Sony DV cameras and Final Cut Pro on a Mac computer to do my work.

I also have microphones, tripods and other equipment for the shoots, and printer for labeling the DVDs.

I go through large quantities of DVDs, tapes and printer ink! I taught myself all of the shooting and editing skills. I studied film, I read books on editing and shooting aimed at the documentary filmmaker, and I went to many film festivals and seminars, looking at the way people frame the shots and tell stories.

Any advice for those interested in pursuing this line of work?
If you think this interests you, get a small consumer DV camera and a simple app like iMovie for your computer, and start making little stories. Find things to tape in your neighborhood.

Watch wildlife documentaries and see how they film the animals from a distance and up close. Watch good quality movies or documentaries about horses, and see how the camera is being used. Read some books on editing and shooting, so you really understand how to use the camera and how to put together what you shoot.

When you have some good samples put together, then you can show them to people and try to drum up some business.

The video that got me my first job was a video of cows. A woman saw it and said she’d grown up with cows, and never seen anyone notice the interesting things cows do – the fact that I had that attention to movement and expression caught her eye, and she asked me to tape her new foal.

Is there anything else with horses you’d love to learn about or try?
I love to ride, and if there’s one thing I’d love to learn it’s working cattle! That seems like a really challenging and interesting thing to do. I’m learning mounted games now, something I wish I’d learned as a kid. That’s a ton of fun, and also quite difficult, especially at my age!

Favourite horse memory?
Hmm. There are so many! I always have a soft spot for the first horse I ever took lessons on. Her name was Katie, and she was so kind and gentle, and I was a timid little kid. Of course, I also remember the time she kicked me, the time I fell off, and the time she ran away with me!!!

Future goals?
I am working on writing now. The blog has gotten me excited about doing some longer articles and even a book. I want to do more traveling, too, to continue learning about horse culture and equestrian sports in all parts of the world.

Best thing about your sport/profession?
I love the “zen” quality of working with video. For me it’s like making a collage, except with moving pictures instead of still pictures. I am so focused when I shoot and when I edit. It’s a wonderful creative process, and a rather solitary pursuit, and I really enjoy it.

“To err is human, to whinney equine.” – Cheryl Farner

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