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Photographer reinventing the corporate video

The prospect of shooting mundane corporate videos may pay the bills, but it really didn’t stir Patrick Gilbert’s creative juices.
North Bay photographer Patrick Gilbert is showcasing his hometown through a series of corporate videos for the City of North Bay.

The prospect of shooting mundane corporate videos may pay the bills, but it really didn’t stir Patrick Gilbert’s creative juices.

So the North Bay photographer and multi-media producer decided to create a demonstration project that would showcase his full range of ability and skill.

Gilbert wanted a corporate video that didn’t look corporate; something that was deeply personal, that lived and breathed the lives of the people he was profiling.

“I’d done some corporate videos, but I was having a hard time explaining to people the videos I really wanted to make,” said Gilbert.

He hooked up with a young couple who ran a rustic bed-and-breakfast in Nipissing Village, south of North Bay.

Known as the Piebird video, he profiled the folksy and quirky lives of the proprietors, Sherry Milford and Yan Roberts, and their vegan getaway at a century-old country home, replete with meandering pet goats.

“It was about them and their business, but not really talking about their business,” said Gilbert. “I had a really hard time pushing that idea, but I knew if I could put this together with these two people it would be a perfect fit.”

It resonated with many viewers on the web and has become his video calling card.

“It was really weird because people would call me up in totally different industries and say, we want a video like Piebird,” said Gilbert, “and I would be laughing in my head. That one definitely changed the direction of everything.”

Raised in Thorne, across the Ottawa River from Temiscaming, Que., Gilbert worked for some local design firms and taught web design and visual illustration at Canadore College before branching out on his own.

“I was definitely out of my element. I’m not in my comfort zone speaking in front of 50 people,” said the admittedly shy and reserved Gilbert.

He started Patrick Gilbert Productions in 2005, doing freelance web design for clients before eventually transitioning into photography five years ago.

“I spent years where I didn’t have to see a whole lot of people or talk to anybody. But the whole time I was always obsessed with shooting. I always had a camera in my hand.”

Video wasn’t on his radar until the Canon EOS 7D cameras hit the market in 2009.

“It opened so many doors.”

He pitched the idea of shooting aerial footage to Helicopters Canada, one of his web clients, which got him rolling on the corporate video path.

Today, Gilbert boasts a wide-ranging client base in the mining, forestry, manufacturing, aviation, medical, post-secondary, tourism and hospitality sectors.

“It’s so diverse, which is kind of nice, because I get bored easily.”

On assignment, his basic tools are usually two or three Canon 5D SLR cameras, a mono-pod “always,” some portable lighting and a lightweight crane.

“I always try to plan in my head what I’m going to need. I try to find the smallest versions of everything.”

Clients are often surprised that he shows up unaccompanied by a crew of assistants and a ton of gear.

“I prefer not to, because the goal is to get the best possible shot without disrupting the place or business.”

Gilbert said with today’s technology he can achieve a great cinematic look without a huge setup.

“You don’t have to stop business because I’m here and totally rearrange everything. I’ll work around you, not the other way around.”

In keeping with his reserved nature, Gilbert prefers a fly-on-the-wall shooting style, choosing to be unobtrusive and respectful of his subject matter.

“In the beginning, I could tell people who were expecting that whole big spectacle would see me stealthily doing my thing and I’m getting ready to leave and they would say, are you sure you got what you need?

“You could tell they were pretty worried about it until they saw the final product.”

Recently, he’s gained some exposure in his hometown by producing four promotional videos for the City of North Bay showcasing its sport tourism facilities, the Memorial Gardens renovations, its manufacturing base and most, recently a lifestyle video, which received more than 10,000 views the first week he posted it on Facebook. Gilbert wants to keep improving on the scale and quality of the projects.

“I’ve gotten into so many things because once I start getting to the point where I’m not feeling challenged at something anymore I try to mix it up.”

He’s even knuckled under and shot some wedding videos, something he steadfastly avoided until a photographer friend in London convinced him to team up with him on a few events. Then he realized he could shoot it like a feature film of “their day”, capturing candid moments in a highlight package.

“Everybody’s happy, it’s emotional, it’s kind of got everything that I like and it’s in one little package.” 

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