Former Pupil combines passion for Sport and Videography

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Former Pupil combines passion for Sport and Videography

Former pupil, Jonny Wong, has combined his passion for sport and videography, working with elite athletes and sports events to document and share inspiring stories.

Jonny started his Yarm School journey in Reception and stayed at the School right through to Sixth Form, leaving Yarm in 2015 with A Levels in Maths, Chemistry and Physics and an AS Level in Design Technology.

During his time here, he was involved in various team sports including rowing, hockey and rugby. His commitment to training and after school practices paid off, seeing him compete in rowing events throughout the year, captain the 1st hockey team during an 8-win streak, set a record of 6.04m in the long jump, and kick the winning penalty for Yarm at Liceo Rugby Club on the rugby tour to Argentina.

Jonny was also a member of the School choir and took part in the School’s productions of Fame and Grease, taking roles on and off the stage respectively and it was during the production of Grease that he came to realise he felt more at home out of the spotlight, helping behind the scenes.

After completing his A Levels, Jonny left Yarm to study Mechanical Engineering at Loughborough University. Upon graduating he decided to take the leap into the world of freelance videography and has since worked with a number of high level athletes, combining his passion for sport and video production.

We caught up with Jonny to find out more about his journey post Yarm…

Q. Why did you apply for Mechanical Engineering and how did you find the course?

My ambition throughout school was to work for a Formula 1 team. I wanted to combine my passion for sport and engineering and mechanical engineering would enable me to do this; mechanical engineers are also sought after in this industry so it seemed like the smart choice.

I initially read Mechanical Engineering (MEng) at Loughborough University however, I made the switch to the BEng course during my second year.

I am not shy about saying that I found the first two years of the course incredibly tough from a technical sense. My grades weren’t reflective of an MEng student but I was determined to continue studying because I found the course fulfilling and still had an interest in engineering.

During my third year, I decided to take a year in industry which saw me working as a Project Management Intern at Bosch Thermotechnology. It felt important to be working on projects with teams from across Europe – it made the experience seem more valuable when working with dependencies elsewhere, and it significantly improved my understanding of people’s personalities and cultures and the importance of communication.

I completed the BEng and qualified to reapply to the Masters course however, I decided to pursue a full time career in freelance videography.

Q. When did you first discover your passion for making videos and what made you decide to pursue it as a career?

I took a GoPro on Yarm’s rugby tour to Argentina in 2015 and used it to record some clips of the trip. I hadn’t intended to create a video but was asked if I could put my clips together and I ended up really enjoying it. The process of learning how to turn several different clips into something exciting and cohesive resonated with me and I still feel that same energy and passion when making videos now.

I really enjoyed that people felt the same excitement as I did when making the video whilst they were watching it, and that I had played a role in preserving the memories of a moment that meant a lot to them.

Loughborough University is renowned for its sporting facilities and during my time there I was surrounded by world-class athletes 24/7. I made close friends with many really talented athletes who were far more skilled and hardworking than I considered was possible.

I spent many of my recreational hours at university on YouTube during the early stages of vlogs (video blogs) and decided I wanted to create a vlog for my friend who was an athlete. My newfound passion for video meant we were soon ditching nights out to make videos instead.

Making the decision to pursue videography as a career wasn’t instantaneous. It started as a hobby – something I practised in my free time – but I quickly became addicted to it and would spend every moment I wasn’t studying for my degree or socialising making videos instead. When I finished my degree, I felt like I was in a strong position to make a career out of making videos.

Q. Are you happy you chose to study Mechanical Engineering instead of something related to video?

I don’t regret studying Mechanical Engineering and I think it’s still a degree I could have a future with. For example, I took modules which were dedicated to imaging systems and image processing which I wouldn’t have thought existed when I first arrived at Loughborough. I can also securely attach a light or camera to almost anything, a skill I never thought I’d need.

I was fortunate that whilst I studied Mechanical Engineering, I also spent many hours learning a skill which I can make a career from now. Many of my friends from the course have gone into engineering jobs but there are also plenty who have taken different paths.

Overall, it was a great learning experience and akin to studying at Yarm; there were many areas of learning outside of the classroom which benefited from having dedication and a strong academic knowledge which you can draw from.

Many of the thought processes I went through whilst at Yarm and Loughborough revolved around exploratory ideas and theories. I think the inquisitive nature I developed at Yarm and furthered in my degree made me want to ask questions, explore ideas and provide answers in videos so that others can experience the stories that I try to tell in an authentic way.

Q. How did you find setting up as a freelancer?

It was difficult to begin with but I had to trust the skills which I had acquired in videography through practice.

After my year in industry at Bosch, I decided to put my efforts into both studying for my final year and creating videos. Luckily, the videos I had already shared online led me to a Director with years of experience; I assisted him, observing his work and learning more about the trade than I would have done through YouTube tutorials alone.

I didn’t have a degree or certification saying that I was capable of making amazing videos. Instead, I had to demonstrate my skill set to potential clients through my work or passion pieces I was making without any finance.

When it came to my first real paying client, I had to put myself out there and brave the discomfort of walking up to the owner of the company and telling them I wanted to make videos for their business. It was nerve wracking and to be honest, I still get the same feeling now when I approach potential new clients.

Q. Have there been any challenges or tough moments in your career?

I graduated in the summer of 2019, just months before we first heard of Covid-19. My local client base was growing and more jobs and opportunities from around the country were starting to come in, but the pandemic impacted the industry as people feared the financial commitment.

In March 2020, I filmed a promotional piece for a chain of sports bars in London, advertising the ongoing Six Nations Tournament which was postponed halfway through. I was also filming at the All England Badminton Championships in Birmingham, one of the last global sporting events to be seen through to completion at this time as most other sporting events due to take place that weekend had been cancelled.

The sudden stop to all filming due to the pandemic was the biggest challenge for me. Despite having eight months worth of clients, I had no new projects to work on until the lockdown ended.

I decided to make the best out of a bad situation and broaden my knowledge and skill set, including learning more about live streaming. I had little to no previous knowledge of it, but took this time to strengthen my understanding and consult others on how to create productions remotely. This is still part of the services I currently provide.

Q. What have been the highlights of your career?

The opportunities to work in close proximity with high level athletes and being invited to help tell a part of their story.

As a sport enthusiast, I also feel incredibly lucky to have been able to film behind closed doors at some elite training grounds, on the side-lines at major sporting events and even underwater with top British swimmers.

Another highlight has been helping document and share the journey in professional football of one of my best friends, Conor O’Keefe. The YouTube series has reached over 70,000 subscribers who regularly tune in to watch Conor’s Vlogs, many of whom are young, aspiring goalkeepers. It is deeply rewarding to help inspire his audience to follow their passions.

I have worked with Wasps RFC, a professional rugby union team which is currently home to another Yarm School former pupil, Zach Kibirige. I was privileged to interview England Rugby players, Jacob Umaga and Paolo Odogwu, to help showcase a different and personal side of themselves and bring attention to topics close to my heart: racism and social media abuse towards athletes.

This year, I worked for the Women’s Euro 2022 and travelled the country visiting a new stadium every day for the duration of the tournament. The constant travel was worth it to have my work shown on the big screens inside stadiums around the country.

Q. Do you have any advice for anyone interested in pursuing videography?

Like any field, there are so many avenues and paths to take within video production. Behind every TikTok, vlog, Twitch stream, Instagram post, documentary, TV series and movie is a video production of some scale. The industry is evolving at such a rate that there isn’t a right or wrong time or place to start making videos.

It doesn’t have to be an expensive passion; you can use inexpensive equipment and still make videos which mean something. Many phones have free apps to cut videos together, or you can use an inexpensive camera. If you start by making a video that has value to you, then ‘views’ don’t matter.

For people who are further on the journey and want to pursue it professionally, the best thing to do is to try a different style of video to something you’re comfortable with. You may not like the results, but you will learn a new technique or something which is valuable for the videos that you do want to make in the future.

Q. Are you working on any interesting projects at the moment?

There’s a few things going on at the moment. I’ll be travelling to Mallorca at the start of November, as I did last year, to film at the new UCI Track Champions League which will be on Eurosport. I will be filming at the event for videos displayed in the velodrome and athlete headshots which will be shown on broadcast.

I’ve just completed a project with Fabergé for their 180th anniversary edition Egg Objet. That was a unique video for me to film for a historical brand.

Every day I work on different projects and I think that is what keeps it interesting for me personally.

Q. What are your long term goals?

Ultimately, my goal is to continue making videos which I enjoy watching and tell stories for people who’d like theirs to be told.

I believe that in the years to come if I have gained enough experience and the story is right, then my videos may end up on a platform that gives everyone the opportunity to watch it, share the passion and enjoy it too.

Q. Do you think your time at Yarm helped you succeed when changing career direction?

Yarm is full of challenges and opportunities to try something that pushes you out of your comfort zone. Whilst at Yarm I was involved in a variety of activities, with different groups of people and this meant that I was used to adapting quickly to new environments. This meant that changing career paths, although initially very uncomfortable and strange, I trusted that I would find a pathway. I’ve become accustomed to the feeling that there isn’t one way to achieve a goal – this is something that has taken practice and patience to allow myself to feel lost before continuing in my own direction regardless.

To see Jonny’s work visit his website: www.namesjjw.com or his Instagram @namesjjw

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