From growing up in rural Ohio, watching VH1 and MTV before catching the bus, to living in Florida and working as a full time filmmaker, Kyle Loftus has had quite the journey to say the least. Today, I had the opportunity to sit down and pick apart expert filmmaker, Kyle Loftus’ brain, and peel back the curtain to find out more about his journey, and his process.
Loftus is a 27 year old videographer helping all types of clients create compelling films to tell their story. Whether he’s helping an artist bring their idea to life in a music video, or a corporate client share their brand in a visually appealing way, he is always able to bring the client’s thoughts to life in a visually entertaining manner. Without any further waiting, this is the Kyle Loftus interview.
Matt: So you’re 27 now, but tell me a little about how you got started with filmmaking – were you always interested in it even as a kid? When did you first pick up a camera and start making videos?
Kyle: When I was a kid I was heavy into sports, and that’s pretty much where all of my time was dedicated. Whenever I had the free time, though, I would shoot videos with my friends – parody videos, short home videos, super hero films… anything. I first picked up a camera when I was about 13 years old and used it to create as much as I could, but it was always a fun hobby and a side thing, never my full thing.
It wasn’t until my senior year when my buddy Halim, who’s an artist (a musician) was starting to put music out. I’ve always been super passionate about music and music videos; I think that’s where my passion for film originally developed – I remember sitting around as a kid, bowl of cereal in hand, just watching music videos until the last second when I had to bolt to the school bus. Later that summer, after I graduated, I started working with Halim to create some of our own music videos.
I think that’s where my passion for film originally developed – I remember sitting around as a kid, bowl of cereal in hand, just watching music videos until the last second when I had to bolt to the school bus.
– Kyle Loftus
Fast forward to when I’m in college, and I’m still taking my gen-eds, trying to figure out exactly what I want to do, and at the same time, I’m continuing to create videos in my free time.
Matt: At that time, were you shooting only music videos? Or were you starting to shoot other things as well?
Kyle: No, so at this point I wasn’t starting to make it a career, it was just a fun hobby and side passion for me. And I’ll go back just a bit, because ever since I started I’ve been interested in video, not taking photos necessarily. However, when Instagram came out, I was in high school, and that’s what got me into taking photos more. In my early years of college, I actually started out by shooting photos for people – not even because I wanted to, but because I had more people who were reaching out looking for photos.
Fast forward to my sophomore year in college, and I’m sitting in class and I get to thinking about why I’m not doing this as a career. My school [Ohio University] has the major as an option – screenwriting & producing. A flip kinda switched in my head and I realized I was investing more time in making videos than in school and classes. Sometimes I was skipping class, or bailing on assignments just to shoot so I said screw it and decided to make screenwriting & producing my major and never looked back.
Matt: So now you’ve graduated – at that point are you taking it seriously as a career?
Kyle: Yeah I mean I would say around 2016 I started to consider it a career, but I still had this thought in the back of my head that I could just do it for fun, and that maybe one of these videos will just go viral, but I never thought like, ‘hey I could just shoot videos for people for the rest of my life and make a solid income.’ After that dawned on me I kind of just went full throttle with it and put all my time into it.
Turning a Passion Into a Career
Matt: After you finished up with college, how did you start getting jobs and actually making money from video production?
Kyle: When I finished college, I was in Athens, Ohio, and my first thought and hope was to go to Los Angeles. That’s where the money is, that’s where the film industry is. With student loan debt and everything else I couldn’t afford it at the time, unless I had an opportunity out there. Unfortunately I didn’t have anything come up, but I’m very blessed looking back because I got the opportunity to be a videographer and editor for the Orlando Magic. I worked with the team for about 7-8 months, but after some time there, I realized that’s it was very similar to school. I hate saying it, because I sound like a bad employee, but if I finished an edit that they would give me 3 hours for, I would work my ass off to finish in an hour and fifteen minutes, and then I’d spend the rest of that time doing my own stuff. And on the same note, when I was there on the job, I still went out and shot and did my own projects on the side.
After awhile, I realized it was a really cool opportunity, I got to shoot with all the cool celebrities in the NBA; I’ve shot Lebron James, Anthony Davis, etc.. but there was a lot about the job that I disliked. First being that it felt like a job – I was there Monday-Friday 9-5, and if there was a game, I’d be there until 11pm. And you gotta remember sometimes there’s 3-4 games/week so these were long days, sometimes 9am-11pm. So these were 80-90 hours/week, and I would still go out on top of that and shoot whatever I could.
I think it was about 2-3 months after I got the job that I realized it wasn’t for me – I couldn’t do the dress shoes, slacks, and polo you know? I’m wearing shorts, a t shirt, and a beanie right now.
– Kyle Loftus
After about 8 months with the Magic I decided to go full time on my own and continued to grow and scale my personal videography business. Originally when I transitioned and moved to Florida, I was doing a lot more corporate work – that’s where a lot of my business came from, so I used my opportunity with the Magic to build some great relationships with a lot of good entities.
One of my biggest clients when I first started out was Jewett Orthopedic Clinic; it’s a huge orthopedic clinic in Florida so that was one of the first big retainer clients that I had. So that’s how I got started really, but like we spoke about earlier, I’ve always known that the direction I want to go is towards music videos and narrative work so slowly but progressively I built out my reels and portfolio to cater to that audience. Flash forward almost five years from then, and now that’s my pretty much all I shoot. I do some short films here and there, predominantly music videos, short doc work, and I used to do a bit more commercial work, but that’s just been a bit slower during covid, but it is starting to pick up a little and I think next year I’ll be doing more of that as well.
Matt: Wow man, that’s a full journey from start to finish – that’s cool that you went from shooting personal projects to actually doing it as a job, but then realizing you don’t like the job aspect of it which kind of pushed you back into the personal work. I think a lot of photographers or videographers may enjoy shooting, but once it’s turned into a job-like scenario, you can really tell who’s passionate still and who’s not, and you shooting outside of work, or school, goes to show just how passionate you are.
…One of the biggest things people don’t realize is that if you want this to be a successful, full-time business, you’re doing vastly more business and operations than you are actually shooting, editing, and producing…
– Kyle Loftus
Kyle: Yeah, absolutely – I’m lucky that this is something that I’m so passionate about. I think one of the biggest things people don’t realize is that if you want this to be a successful, full-time business, you’re doing vastly more business and operations than you are actually shooting, and editing, and producing, and so it’s really important to make sure that passion is really there because if it’s not, you won’t survive.
Now, looking at it this year, I’m almost at that corporate/CEO-guy feel – I have about 1-2 conference calls everday, a ton of my time is spent in emails going back and forth on projects and scheduling, so yeah, I’m just really lucky and blessed that I have the passion for this.
Who is Kyle Loftus?
Kyle: Hmmm, not really too much else, I guess Jackass definitely inspired me to do stupid, jackass-style stunt videos, so I have to admit that. But let me say this – if I had an incredible voice, I would put my heart into being a singer, but I’ve never been gifted with that talent, and that’s where I kind of fell into the film or visuals side of music and story telling. I’ve always loved stories and the idea of creating a reality where yourself or other people can get lost in this experience, whether it be 30 minutes or two hours.
I just really always loved the idea of storytelling and, again, back to the VH1 point, the music industry back then was really different; it’s shifted since then. Artists like J. Balvin and Post Malone, they still get these huge budgets, but I mean back then every artist was getting ~$250,000 – $500,000 per music video. Now it’s different though, artists are getting ~$30,000 – $75,000, and a lot of what I do now is around $5,000 – $10,000 budget, but I think back then the budgets were so high and the sets that they built out were so extravagant, and wild, and lavish – I think that really attracted me to the immeasurable possibilities.
Matt: I totally get that, I used to watch MTV and Jackass all the time too :) I’m also curious about your camera gear – what were you shooting your old home videos and music videos then as opposed to what you’re shooting on now?
Kyle: That’s funny you ask, I actually just brought my old camera back to Florida from my parents house. My starter camera was called the Sony Steadyshot CCD TRV318NT-SC (Video Hi8)
Matt: Is it one of those old camcorders?
Kyle: Oh yeah! It takes 8mm film. That was the first one I had and then I got this thing called a ‘Flip’ Camera, which like a little white square camera – it almost had an iPhone kind-of design before the iPhone had even come out, but I think that one was the first that I bought for myself. The Sony was always my parents’ for family home videos, but I would always just steal it at night and take it in the basement and film shit haha.
I used that Flip Cam until my sophomore year of high school, and then I got a Canon Rebel T3i. That was kind of my first purchase where I was like, ‘ok I kind of want to spend some good money on this to see what can happen.’ So I got that, and that’s when I started shooting music videos for my buddy, Halim.
Now, I use the URSA Mini Pro G-2 – that’s the predominant camera, but it really varies from project to project. Sometimes clients have a specific camera they want to use, most of the time if it’s a client that wants a specific camera, it’s a RED, just because everyone hears the name ‘RED’. But you know sometimes if I’m doing some agency work, they might have more specific parameters for whatever reason. A lot of times with agencies they want to use ARRI, so yeah, it kind of just depends on the client. But my own personal kit is the URSA Mini Pro G-2, then I have a pocket 4K as a b-cam, and then if I’m doing any photo stuff I’ll use my Canon 5D Mark IV.
Matt: Damn, that’s crazy. So what do you do when the client asks for a specific camera? Do you rent them for the shoot?
Kyle: Yeah, I rent. Unfortunately, being in Florida it’s a bit harder – in LA you have such easy access to everything you need, location-wise and gear-wise, but it costs a lot more to do anything. In Orlando, it’s very fast in the sense that there’s not a lot of limitations or regulations, so you can move a lot faster and accomplish things a lot quicker; however, there’s a lot less access and opportunity. Gear-wise, there’s no rental house here in Orlando that offers an ARRI – I just know a couple buddies that use them. But for other gear, like dollies, you can’t even get a Dana dolly kit from an Orlando rental house.
There are plenty of production companies and studios that do have this gear so generally I’ve got a pretty solid network down here in the area, so I know who owns what, and what I can get my hands on, so that’s predominantly what I utilize, and then again, because I have these relationships, I’ll get it for cheaper than I would at a rental house, so I always try to go with that if possible.
Matt: Yeah, that’s smart honestly, always gotta use your network. Moving forward after the production side of things – take me a little through your editing process, and how does it differ from a client vs a personal shoot?
Kyle: Yeah so I’ll start with photo – I’m mainly into natural stuff, I don’t do too too much editing. I bring all my photos into Lightroom and this is where presets are key for me. I like to keep a clean, consistent brand, and using my presets really helps me with that. Presets allow me to keep that consistent branding, so I always use those as my starter.
Video-wise, I’m still in m Adobe Suite, still using Premiere Pro. I know a lot of people trying to get me to try DaVinci, but I’m debating. In regards to editing, everything really depends on what the project is. I usually start with the storyline, then I work the audio levels, add cross-fades, implement music, and then once I’m done with that I’ll go into the color-grade, and similar to photos, I like to keep this consistent. Obviously every client is different so if I’m doing commercial work, I tend to go more light and airy, but when I’m doing my music videos, most of them are on the darker side, pretty vivid with the colors and so it just kind of depends on the project in that sense. Regardless, once I get to the color-grading and I’m finished up, I’ll go ahead and throw on my LUTs at about 15-40% and that’s going to give me that consistent look throughout the film as well as consistent throughout my portfolio.
It wasn’t helping me to scale my business, and I didn’t realize how much that was hurting me until they left me.
– Kyle Loftus
Matt: To bring everything full circle, I think it would also be cool to hear about some adversity. What’s one of the biggest obstacles or hurdles you had to get over when you were first starting out in your career?
Kyle: Probably the biggest one I could think of was a relatively recent one – one of my clients, Jewett Orthopedic Clinic. I worked with them for around three years, and then around the end of 2019, they got bought out by Orlando Health. After that, they became a sister company that’s under Orlando Health, which is a huge ‘hospital entity,’ if you will, and they have their own in-house marketing team, their own media team, etc.. What that essentially meant for Jewett Orthopedic Clinic – not only do they no longer need me, but they also no longer have the say of whether they use or fire me.
So I had essentially lost a $30K client. That was a big hit and definitely made me nervous. But also, it was great in the grand scheme of things. It was more corporate work, something I’m not crazy passionate about, and you won’t see it on my website or reel. It was work that way paying me, but it wasn’t something that I was passionate about. It wasn’t helping me to scale my business, and I didn’t realize how much that was hurting me until they left me. I always just saw thirty-grand… that’s good money… it repeats every month… it’s my version of a job if you will. But it was such a great blessing because I lost that client and I realized how much more time I had free’d up and I could actually divisively figure out where I was going to strategically implement or invest that time.
Now it’s been about nine months since then, and it’s just all music videos, short docs, and some commercial work here and there. It was a scary hit to take at the time, but it really lended perspective to keep in mind how important it is to have that big vision and take a step back and look at what you’re doing every once in awhile. I was so caught up in the process of creating and grinding, and just the hustle lifestyle of working my ass off from 9am – 11pm and then go to bed and start up the next day, that I didn’t pay attention to working smarter rather than harder.
Matt: Wow, that’s incredible – I never really thought about it from that type of perspective, but it makes a lot of sense. And it makes me want to refocus on what I’m working on. Thanks so much for the insight today, and I really appreciate your time.
Where to Find Kyle’s Work
I’d like to thank Kyle Loftus for taking the time to sit down with us and tell us about his journey and technique. Hopefully we can all learn something from this conversation.
To find more of Kyle’s work, be sure to follow him on social media and check out his full portfolio: