As Greg Bowen and Matt Kelley have built Human Being Productions, they’ve had to get creative – not just about the content of the photography and video productions, but in how they built the business.
Kelley is a graduate of Sheffield Institute for the Recording Arts in Baltimore County’s Phoenix, and Bowen is an alum of MICA’s film program. While many of their colleagues didn’t stay in town after finishing their studies, both respectively decided they wanted to remain in Baltimore.
The city’s creative undercurrent was a strong draw, and they ended up meeting in 2013 while making a documentary that goes behind the scenes of a Baltimore Rock Opera Society production. The business was officially incorporated the next year, and they branched out into short-form documentaries, studio photography, weddings and more. They’ve since worked with clients like Baltimore Office of Promotion and the Arts, MICA and WTMD.
Along with quality work, they looked to create methods that kept costs down while still offering new approaches that would set them apart. There was the old voting booth that became a control room, and other portable tools that helped them offer live shots.
It’s not just the DIY spirit they’re channeling into a growing business. Human Being is also tapping the community.
“There is an amazing amount of talent in Baltimore theatre or underground art communities,” said Bowen. For larger projects, they’ve assembled teams of those talented individuals.
One such project was a Public Service Announcement about a tax credit. The Maryland Consumer Rights Coalition wanted a creative way to get the word out about a homeowner tax credit that could have a big impact for families. So they turned to Baltimore Rock Opera Society members and others to create and act with puppets, as well as create a colorful set. Bowen said such work is similar to the constraints around a theater production, and they now trust members of the community the most on their projects.
With a few years’ experience, Kelley and Bowen see a model in what they developed. They realize they didn’t grow alone, and with others starting as freelancers like they did, they see a chance to make it a bit more formal. They’re working with more freelancers, as they focus more on management.
At the same time, they see room to create more community in a space that will help create new projects, as Kelley said they “know there are plenty of people who need a studio space to work in.”
A traditional studio space, however, can be a big cost. For those just starting out freelancing (and deciding whether to remain in the city), there can be “a bit of a desert before people trust in your work enough to hire you and pay you what you’re worth,” Bowen said. In Baltimore, they’ve seen the benefit that shared spaces provide for tech startups and digital creatives.
“There wasn’t one of those specifically targeted toward people who would do photography and videography,” Bowen said. Separate from the network of freelancers they work with, they thought such a space could be especially beneficial to “give people with talent and ambition the resources they need, at an affordable rate, to exercise their visions.”
So now they’re creating HB Studios. The plans reflect their community connection as well as their desire for efficiency. The space is designed to be a lower-cost alternative for people who need access to equipment. It also provides a chance to create a studio with the latest in lighting and camera technology that can help not only with quality but also saving time prepping a shoot. It runs on a membership model, and anyone who wants to use the space will be able to book time on its website.
Over the last month, they’ve been building out the initial 1,200 sq. ft. space in Bolton Hill. While the word incubator may come to mind, Kelley said it will be “much more in tune with three bands sharing a practice space.” The idea is that it can offer equipment for those who need access several times a month. As they look to get it up and running around December, they’re seeking out prospective members and looking to “get a dialogue going to make a space that we all feel like we can benefit greatly from,” Kelley said.
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