Making waves as a young independent filmmaker

Image of a beach scene.

Source: Blake Wilton

Central Coast-based filmmaker Blake Wilton first picked up a camera seven years ago, at the age of 14. Although he lived by the beach and often surfed with friends, Blake quickly discovered he wasn’t particularly gifted at it. So, he decided to stay on the sidelines, taking photos of others in the surf instead.

What started as a fluke soon became a lasting passion for photography and filmmaking. In the early days, Blake recalls cold calling surfers and surfing publications on social media to offer to create content for them to boost his portfolio.

It paid off and he soon received his big break. Blake’s work caught the eye of professional surfer Glenn Hall, who invited him on a six-week surf filming trip to Hawaii, documenting some of the best surfers in the world. Since then, he has travelled the world with his camera, working with top brands and athletes on game-changing video content.

Blake recently spoke at the Adobe Make It event in Sydney, sharing his journey as a filmmaker and what keeps him inspired.

Embracing change

New social media platforms like TikTok and shifting media consumption habits have created a relentless appetite for content that creators like Blake often struggle to keep pace with. And while Bake’s business has grown significantly since 2014, he still operates largely as a one-man-band.

He shares that pushing himself to take on new roles, projects and disciplines, even if it involves heading straight into the deep end, is his way of staying inspired. In 2019, he was invited to produce celebrity renovators Kyal & Kara’s YouTube series Blue Lagoon Build. The series was later acquired by Channel Nine, and he found himself at the bottom of a steep learning curve, having to rapidly learn how to adapt videos created for social media into content fit for prime-time television.

“When you’re working by yourself, the reward is so much sweeter, you’re doing something from start to finish and you get to take all the credit. But you take responsibility for everything and the hardest bit about it all is you're by yourself - you don’t have anyone else to bounce ideas off.”

Blake Wilton

Reflecting on the pandemic

It’s fair to say that the pandemic wreaked some havoc on the creator economy due to closed borders and other restrictions that put a stop to many things creators depend on when creating their content.

For Blake, COVID presented a challenge to do things differently and chase new opportunities. During the lockdown, more time was being spent consuming content than ever before, and brands that sought to tap into the goldmine of increased attention spans had to seek out freelancers in their area that they could collaborate with – such as Blake. As a result, his filmmaking business has grown considerably over the last two years.

He foresees the landscape trending in that direction, with brands starting to understand the value of solo creators or creators who work in smaller teams but can offer an agile, hyper-localised, hyper-personalised approach to content creation.

The learning never stops

Going forward, Blake aims to continue exploring different roles and genres as a filmmaker, with his ultimate goal being to work on a major movie production set in future.

For now, recognising his young age and relative experience, his approach to business is to say yes to as many opportunities as possible.

“The best way to learn is by always evolving, always doing something new, I just want to work with more creative people and keep doing more work that I'm really proud of,” Blake says.