Matt Decola did not originally intend to pursue a career in videography. In fact, he did not originally intend to pursue any specific career.
“I did a whole bunch of random stuff,” he laughed. “I was doing work as a glass delivery driver. I was a manager of a department at Whole Foods in Fairfield. Videography started out as a hobby — when I rode BMX, I would shoot videos with my friends. Back in 2011, when I started taking it seriously, I began doing odd jobs with it, shooting weddings and clients on the side.”
By 2014, Decola’s hobby-turned-sideline venture became his central focus when he launched MJD Visuals in Norwalk. “Right now, I’m doing 12 projects over the next two months — a mix of corporate, small business and start-up work plus two weddings,” he said. “It’s a good mix.”
Decola’s work with the small-business sector has been particularly lucrative lately, with assignments to create promotional videos for use in crowdfunding campaigns and online advertising. For larger corporate clients, Decola creates videos ranging from “day-in-the-life” offerings used by human resources departments for in-house training to a bigger picture presentation that a company uses in marketing outreach to prospective clients.
One challenge Decola has faced involves clients who know they want a video, but that’s all they know. But Decola is not fazed by acute client vagueness.
“If someone comes to you and says, ‘We have no budget, we don’t know exactly what we want, we have this product but we want to show what it does — it’s a from-scratch experience,” he said “That adds into the fun of the thing.”
Decola admitted that with the proliferation of low-cost digital cameras, not to mention cellphones with sophisticated videography functions, it might seem tempting to forgo the professionals and create videos on one’s own. But, he warned, do-it-yourself is not the same thing as do-it-correctly.
“It’s always an issue that comes up,” he said. “We know what we’re doing and we do it all of the time and it always becomes a better end product.”
One major mistake that many do-it-yourselfers make, Decola added, is the failure to give sound recording the same level of priority as visual composition.
“If there is a tight budget on a project, the one thing that you can never skimp on is sound,” he continued. “You shouldn’t skimp on anything, but if you need to cut costs you never cut on sound. Obviously, the visuals are very important, but if you don’t have a good voice-over for a promotional video explaining what the product is, there is no value proposition for the viewer. If you want to tell someone something, say it through audio. And we use the best audio gear — for interviews we use lavalier mics, boom mics and external recorders. And it always helps to have a good audio engineer — they know what they’re doing.”
Decola runs MJD Visuals as a one-man shop, relying on contractors when special technical assistance or voice-over help is needed. These contractors have been invaluable to helping connect him with projects in an industry that relies heavily on word-of-mouth marketing.
“There is a strong network of people in the Fairfield County and tri-state area,” he said. “It is an industry where you can market as much as you can, but it’s a lot of who you know and not what you know. And the more people you know, the more jobs come to you down the road. If you make a bad impact on one person, it spreads all through the industry. You want to treat every single client like they are your favorite client.”
Looking ahead, Decola hopes to be able to grow MJD Visuals to include full-time employees. One area on which he doesn’t plan to focus is narrative filmmaking.
“I’ve worked on film and TV sets,” he said. “I can’t say I didn’t love it, but it wasn’t something that resonated with me. I like client work — a lot of people don’t, but I do and that gets me more business.”