Pro video blog…Produced by Philip Johnston DoP/Editor

Den Lennie title v2

I started by asking Den about his early days in the video business. Den”At 16 I made it my mission to become a tv cameraman and attached myself  to  BBC Scotland in Edinburgh, tagging along on shoots in my holidays from school/college.  I spent a large amount of time with a cameraman called Jim Galbreath, and a Sound recordist called Ian Cowie.  They were my first true mentors and I owe then a great deal of gratitude for seeing something in me and encouraging me. I studied at Stevenson College and then Napier University on the BA in Photography Film and Television.” As a nice aside to this story Ian and Jim left the BBC and went to IBC, Amsterdam to look at new video kit , while Den on the other hand fell off a mountain badly hurting his shoulder, this set back Dens video career so opted for a career with MITCORP now CVP. Ian and Jim went to a demonstration day in MITCORP Edinburgh and Den met his old mentors looking for kit and gave both of them a managers discount as a thank you for helping him out in his early days.



Den like most of us started out at the bottom and worked his way up, his career started on the streets of Edinburgh. One of his early productions was a great documentary called “The Mortuary man”. Den “It was a film directed by my friend Mike Gribben in his final year at Napier about the chief mortuary officer at the Edinburgh City Mortuary.  I was already working at GMTV but took some time off to record sound and co-produde.  It was shot on 16mm and we recorded audio on an analogue Nagra.  Great experience and Channel 4 bough the film and aired it on a a special series called the Blue Light Zone commissioned by Stuart Cosgrove.  We were very proud of that.”

Can I just add there is nothing gruesome about the Mortuary Man its just a good TV documentary and worth watching.

The Mortuary Man from Shotover Productions on Vimeo.

Den “After a year backpacking in Austrlalia in 1993, I got his first job with Reuters Television in Edinburgh, as a trainee sound recordist on £9,000 per year an started working on a network Breakfast TV show called GMTV.  After 2 and half years learning to record sound, edit and begin shooting I applied for a job with the BBC and got it.  This was a post in East Anglia and I lasted 11 months before another opportunity came up to work on London’s flagship Independent News program London  Today/London Tonight.  This was brilliant, more money, company car and a 4 day working week and a lot of variety.  I’d gone from regional news in East Anglia, to shooting Tom Cruise, Kylie, U2 and a host of other celebrity news in the big smoke.”


I went freelance in January 2001- My first client was Twi shooting Sports features for Trans Word Sport that went out in 220 countries.  I then developed a range of clients shooting everything from Daytime TV  to Network travel shows.  I shot shows including, Watchdog, Tonight with Trevor McDonald, Wish You Were Here…?, Most Haunted Live,  Liquid News, A Place in the Sun, Holiday Showdown, and a number of other reality type shows.

In 1992-93 I took a year off film school and backpacked around.  Australia is an incredible continent full of stunning landscape and diverse geography. It’s  a filmmaker’s and photographers paradise.  The weather s pretty good too.  So after that trip I fell in love with the place and decided that one day I would make it my plan to live here.  The sun shines over 300 days per year in Sydney, and I like that very much. It’s a very positive place to live. Although it rains a lot in Sydney so reminds me of home.

Me book

I thought a wee bit of prior knowledge about Den would be appropriate before lunging into the book Den has written “Business for Filmmakers”. I also needed the time to read the book as being semi dyslexic reading is a chore for me.

Although I have a good 13 years ahead of Den, his business ethics are sound and you learn a ton of information from the book, especially how to treat the “free riders”  on page 36 Den warns us about taking on work from chancers who tell you that there will be more work in the pipeline if you do the first job for free…nonsense. Get rid of chancers at the starting block, they are nothing but parasites.

Almost as bad happened to me recently a chancer booked a studio session with my Sony FS7 with  prompter only to add a free voice over as part of his conditions…I soon told him where to go and he did !

People seem to think we are a charity and “while you are doing this you can also do that for free”,this type of treatment does not go on in other professions.

Back to the book, Den has kindly offered 5 free down loads of his book for your iPad, E reader etc. and is therefore open to anyone who has internet access. If you run a production company you cannot afford to miss this opportunity. I learned far more in this book than in my 25 years in the video industry. Well worth its weight in gold. I bought the book and asked Den if he would like me to review it as I was so impressed with its information.

You will also learn why your business is not earning enough as most of us are too scared to charge the going rate for our work, Den tells you how to rectify this by charging more and how to add weight to your conviction when pricing for work.

How do you get a FREE download…simple be one of the first five people to comment on this article and I will get a copy via Den off to you ASAP.

UPDATE : I have just sent Den the 5 winners emails.



Having been working in the video business since 1988 I have amassed a great amount of knowledge of both the kit and production values over the last 30 years.

12 thoughts on ““Business for Filmmakers” a book by Den Lennie “Worth its weight in Gold”

  1. Working in a small city in the hinterland of Canada, I always welcome the opportunity to hear from others in the video field. It’s like sharing stories over a pint or cup of tea.

    HDW : FREE E book number 1

  2. After joining the inner circle with Den Lennie I have learned a lot on how to run my business. And it has saved me a lot of money as well. He has a great approach on teaching.

    HDW : Free book no 4

  3. Thanks for posting the short film, worth also looking at the Scottish short documentary The Rest is Silence, following an anonymous, unclaimed body from discovery through internment.

    HDW : FREE book no 2

  4. I’ve attempted to work as a freelancer in the past, but as Den and yourself have highlighted, there are so many chancers out there wanting something for next to nothing you wonder why you ever bothered. I’m quite fascinated to learn more about tackling the difficulties, and all the excitement of being a freelancer from the one who knows, Den Lennie, and Hopefully, one day from you as well Philip!

    HDW : Free book no 3

  5. Sometimes I thinks it really is a universal dilemma of ‘free chancers’, or for byline for videographers and photographers. I don’t know if this universal dilemma is a bad thing now as with social media, blogs and other resources there is more awareness that professional people, no matter what profession cannot work for free. Here in Spain the VAT is at 21% and the monthly Social tax is a huge monthly off the top. So working for free is not really an option.

    Finding the work, customer relations, and networking is everything, its about 90% of my time here as a photographer than actually taking photos or video. I really enjoy getting my updates from HD warrior, probably one of the most consistent quality websites I enjoy reading. Thanks

    HDW : For all your nice comments FREE book no 5

  6. Thanks for the post. Started watching The Mortuary Man to get a feel for the production. Ended up watching the entire film.

  7. I’m just starting out as a freelancer, so it’s really inspiring to hear about Den’s progression from trainee to expert!

  8. Interesting post, I’ve been freelancing over a decade now and it’s always interesting to hear from others about how to make it work best, and balance everything. Thanks!

  9. Been free-lance since 2002 and the business aspect is the hardest part!

  10. Hi,

    I would love to have a read at this, get some inside knowledge & know how.



  11. Despite checking in here every day, I never seem to be quick enough! Missed out on the cut price URSA offer and now this! Oh well, maybe next time. Keep up the great work Philip.

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