Camarata’s Comm Career Explodes…Literally
Blow things up for a living? Really? That is essentially what 2014 graduate Joe Camarata and his colleagues do. How did he get this job? While he is not a pyrotechnic engineer, he does have a degree in digital communications.
Camarata came to Milligan from the Detroit area intending to pursue a degree in nursing. It wasn’t long, though, before he discovered a program that allowed him to exercise and expand his creative side.
He said, “I had experience with painting and drawing, but the rest was new to me. I had to learn computers, video editing, and graphic design. I actually ended up adding a graphic design minor.”
After graduation, Camarata earned a full-ride to a graduate program in professional communications, but he was still unsure where to go next, until he met Rodolphe Pierre-Louis, a graduate of Miami Dade College, at First Christian Church (Johnson City).
“When Rodolphe found out I had a background in digital media, he told me about an idea he had for a new company. He said ‘When the time is right, you let me know if you are interested in joining me,’” Camarata recalls.
The time was right.
Camarata was the third person hired to help start a new company called ActionVFX, a visual effects company that provides stock footage for visual effects in film.
For instance, if a script calls for a burning building, the production team does not actually burn down a building: they lay video of a controlled fire—provided by experts at ActionVFX—over their footage, blending the two components together to create a realistic look. This is “movie magic.”
Camarata was hired as marketing manager on June 1, 2016, the day the company started, and he and his all-under-30 colleagues have been running ever since. Their first visual effects shoot, which took three days and cost a substantial amount of money, ultimately provided this team with some new footage and the realization that they had much to learn. This insight led them to launch a hugely successful Kickstarter program that brought in three times the small staff’s goal of $20,000.
“Surpassing our goal like we did definitely affirmed that what we were setting out to do was going to meet a need in the media and entertainment industry,” said Camarata.
The team was excited to get started on their next project, but through the Kickstarter campaign, they took the time to survey and listen to their audience. The feedback they received was invaluable in shaping the company’s focus.
“We spent a lot of time listening to people, finding out what they needed and what was missing from the visual effects collections that were available to them,” said Camarata.
The ActionVFX staff all have training and experience in digital media, but they have learned much on the job.
Each visual effect requires attention to location and lighting, state-of-the-art video equipment, devoted technicians, software expertise, and hours upon hours of editing to get each shot just so. Once the digital files are ready, they have to be marketed, which is where Camarata’s particular strengths lie.
“I spent the first few months just building a leads list,” said Camarata. “We needed to get our name and our product out there.”
The company offers free effects files on their website, under the categories of debris and impact, explosions, fire, gun FX, particles, smoke, sound FX, and water. They rely heavily on sites such as YouTube to promote their business.
“YouTube has really been key to our marketing. This is where the influencers in our field are,”
In addition to social media, though, ActionVFX’s staff have begun hosting and sponsoring various industry-related festivals, such as the Atlanta Sci-fi Film Festival. They also host a blog, one of Camarata’s responsibilities, which was recently named a “Top 50 Visual Effects Blog” by Feedspot, a rich site summary (RSS) reader.
Over the past year and a half, Camarata and his colleagues have seen their fledgling company grow exponentially. They have added staff, added stock footage to their digital library, and are getting noticed. By the end of 2017, they will have nearly tripled their sales volume since opening.
From popular shows such as The CW’s The Flash, AMC’s The Walking Dead, CBS’s NCIS: Los Angeles, and Netflix’s A Series of Unfortunate Events to music videos made for bands such as Twenty One Pilots, their work is sought after for its high quality and versatility.
Camarata credits Milligan communications faculty with equipping him for this venture: Dr. Carrie Swanay, Art Brown, and Jim Dahlman.
“Carrie Swanay was a huge mentor for me when I was in my undergraduate program. In fact, she is still a mentor. She really pushed me to do more,” said Camarata.
“Art Brown was another strong influence. He taught me Photoshop and Illustrator, software I use every single day on the job. Then, there is Jim Dahlman. He was a tough professor. There were times I would leave class so frustrated, but I respected him for being tough. I mean, I never thought I’d be writing a blog as part of my career.”
The last 18 months have been a whirlwind for Camarata, who graduated with his master’s degree in May 2017 and got married the next month. In addition to these significant accomplishments, he is working a job he loves.
“It has been so rewarding being in at the ground level” of ActionVFX’s development, said
Camarata. “The trust and responsibility given to us by Rodolphe to grow the company has been amazing. He’s not afraid of failure. In fact,
he encourages us to make mistakes, because mistakes help us learn how to do it better the next time—make us better. We’ve experienced
so much growth individually and as partners since June 2016.”