How this cinematographer makes $3,500 per month pursuing his passion

Claude Quammie is hyped that 90’s nostalgia is back. The freelance director and cinematographer draws inspiration from Hype Williams and Director X, icons in the industry, and hopes that his vision can make him the next video virtuoso.

Here’s how he’s making it happen. 

What he does: Quammie is a freelance film producer/director who offers his services as a cinematographer, key grip and editor. He takes on various projects—from music videos to documentaries to commercial videos for corporations like Microsoft and Canadian Tire.

How he got started: Quammie went to Toronto Film School, where he sharpened his skills, learned the creative and technical aspects of film production and had the opportunity to build a high-quality, professional portfolio. 

  • “Having access to all the equipment I could learn and experiment with was key.”

What he spent: Around $50,000 for film school, a Mac tower and a professional camera. 

What he makes: “I average around $3,500 a month, but the business is seasonal. During busy times I can make around $10,000 a month, and during the slow season, I bring in around $2,000.”

His advantage: Quammie is a one-man band—but for film. Understanding all aspects of production, from creating a concept to getting the proper lighting, allows him to assume various roles either on set or in the editing suite.

  • When he tore his Achilles tendon playing volleyball and was unable to shoot or be on set, he was able to fall back on editing work as he recovered to keep the business moving. 

His connections: Most of his projects come to him through word of mouth, thanks to the strong networks he’s built through film school and his job selling camera gear, something he says made a big impact on his ability to get his foot in the door of a highly competitive industry.

  • “There are so many gatekeepers in music and film that it’s almost impossible to get into it unless you [create your own content] yourself.”

  • Quammie also has connections from his days running a music label and managing artists, a feat he took on in his 20s. While he’s not in the management game, he still works with artists like electric violinist Dr. Draw to create videos for their tracks. 

What’s next: Quammie wants to focus more on the production side of the business, something that requires a lot of capital. To make it happen, he’s hustling, setting up income streams via Truro and Uber, and working photo booths at events.

  • “I survive off the service side of my freelance business: cinematography, editing, directing, grip work. But I’d like to invest more time into production, which requires a lot of money.”

  • He’s also working on a pilot with Battle of the Beatmakers (and hoping to get rights to some unreleased footage he has of Drake from back in the day.)

Advice for new entrepreneurs: “Work for yourself for free, charge everyone else—especially if your goal is to be a creative yourself. You’ll gain way more experience shooting your own stuff and having control over the finished product.”