Well, here we are embarking on our fourth season of Off Camera. Season, you say? Well, as you may or may not know, Off Camera is not only a magazine, but also a television show and a podcast, so I figured now might be a good time to share some scoop on what we actually do around here, and how the whole thing works. Let’s call it Off Camera 101.
Off Camera started in 2013 with the simple idea of participating in great conversations with artists who inspire me. In Issue 1, I wrote: “I started Off Camera to have my own magazine, my own radio station, and my own television studio. I wanted the opportunity to have a no-agenda conversation with anyone that captivated me. I wanted the chance to photograph anyone that piqued my interest, without an art director or publicist looking over my shoulder. I have a strong reaction to over-produced, over-hyped, over-stimulating pieces of short content that leave me feeling like I am learning nothing. It’s taken me a lifetime to develop my attention span, and I want to use it. I like a long book. I like a long documentary. I like a 15,000-word magazine profile. I created Off Camera for those of us who salivate at the prospect of a good book, a stiff drink, and an afternoon with no plans.”
It’s nice to look back on those words and see that I’m still headed in that direction, and that Off Camera became all of those things, on a level I never imagined. After we filmed the first seven episodes and put them on our website, the show caught the attention of Chris Long and Bart Peters, heads of programming for Directv’s Audience Network, who wanted to put it on the air. More amazingly, they were willing to let us license the show to them, keep it in black and white, give us a whole hour, and best of all, take a hands-off approach to our guests and content. In other words, the same show we were making for our website ended up in 22 million homes, unchanged! We signed a deal for a 12-episode spring season, followed by a 12-episode fall season. We are now on our fourth season, which will reach 30 million homes, thanks to the merger of Directv and AT&T. I think my parents still can’t quite fathom the fact that their son is on television.
The lifespan of this show has coincided with a rising popularity in podcasts, and I devote most of my commutes, hikes, and travel time to enjoying a slew of interesting, innovative shows. From the beginning, I wanted Off Camera to be a show that could live as comfortably in an aural world as it does in a visual one; there’s an intimacy to podcasts that can’t really compare to any other medium, especially when you listen through headphones. I wanted our show to have that intimacy regardless of platform, but I underestimated the level of devotion that the podcast would engender. I still think watching the show is the best way to enjoy an Off Camera conversation, but in the blinking, buzzing, shouting cacophony of our media world today, we’re often so distracted when we watch TV that it can be hard to actually watch TV. Podcasts seem by nature to demand and reward an immersive listen, and we’ve been grateful for the response to ours. I grew up loving radio, and the podcast is my opportunity to be a voice in your head, hopefully connecting to listeners one-on-one like the favorite DJs of my childhood.
That brings us to the magazine you’re holding in your hand. I’ve been an editorial photographer for a long time, and have had the privilege of shooting covers and feature stories for Vanity Fair, Rolling Stone, Esquire, Time, Entertainment Weekly, GQ, and many others. I’ve long admired the images made for these magazines by people like Annie Leibovitz, Bruce Weber, Richard Avedon, and so many other photographers I thought had the coolest job in the world. What I didn’t immediately realize as a young, aspiring photographer was that I was also responding viscerally to the design and layout of the pages themselves. It wasn’t until I started working with innovative designers and art directors like Robert Priest, David Harris and Fred Woodward that I understood the power of design. Soon I was sending editors suggested layout sketches along with my photos (I’m sure they just loved that). Plain and simple, I love the power of photography plus design; when each enhances the other, the sum is greater than the parts.
With Off Camera, I get to be the photographer and the designer, which is a dream come true for me. As the folks around our office know, one of my favorite parts of the publishing process is laying out the magazine. I love making a physical object – an artifact that commemorates and documents the Off Camera experience. Print is dead, you say? Long live print!
So that’s our multi-channel story. If you don’t have our app, or haven’t tried watching a show on our website, take a moment to explore and discover your favorite way to absorb a conversation.
Jake Gyllenhaal is the perfect guest to kick off our fourth season. He’s an actor who recognizes both the importance and the absurdity of the artistic process, and has his own unique way of sharing his point of view. He’s the gold standard when it comes to preparation, immersion, and leave-no-stone-unturned research for his roles, and as such, someone whose work never fails to inspire me. He doesn’t take himself seriously, but he takes his work seriously, which is a hallmark of the artists I respect most. Jake, above all, is alive. He is restless, questioning, and constantly in search of challenge. I try hard to live up to that ideal in my own work, and I hope Off Camera reflects that.
– Sam Jones, September 2015