Words: Kazeem Kuteyi, Photography: Nefertiti Hernandez
For the past two years, Rosanna Peng has been part of what’s defining the new trend of storytelling in video format. Her work for the Creator Class, a digital hub that pushes emerging creatives through stylized storytelling and a space to share and create content that meets no boundary has been nothing short but inspiring.We found her name in the credits and wanted to get a peek into her process. We felt like people like her- those who spend hours on hours behind a screen piecing fragments of video are equally as important as the characters in the videos.
Are you living the dream?
No, I have asked this to people when I was in Los Angeles— I said “Are you living the freelance dream?” and they say “No, it never feels like you are living the dream in freelance because it can be taken away just like that”. It is hard to say what my dream is or if I am living it. I would not know that because it is human nature to be looking for something better.
What is the dream then?
I guess a measurable goal is to be financially stable and not worry about money at all. The dream— I do not know, that is hard. I have goals and if I reach them, I will be very happy. The thing with goals is that you keep on going. If you asked me when I was younger what the dream is, it would be winning an Oscar for something because of the notoriety behind it. As I am growing, I am understanding what I want to do more of and where the industry is evolving into.
Was making videos what you always envisioned doing when you were a kid?
I really liked drawing as a kid. When I was in high school, I took a class and I just fell in love with editing because I was in a class full of bros and they were all just in it because it was an easy class. There was this video that I made and I was able to make the class full of people laugh. That brought me so much joy. As a shy girl growing up, it made me feel like I found my voice. From that moment on I knew I wanted to make videos.
Did you go to school for video editing?
I went to school for graphic design.
How did you fall back into making videos?
I went to University knowing that I would go into video. I just felt kind of pressured not to do video because the program I was taking was in a design school, it would have been more profitable to take a design program. I took design but with every project I would still be doing video, trying to make anything work because I still loved it. So then after graduation, I knew I had to go back into it. I bought a camera and I started doing video. I started doing wedding videos and then progressed into more creative things.
Do you think it is easier to get into something like video editing these days?
For sure. I think the industry is saturated, but people understand the difference between a well edited piece versus a poorly edited piece. People understand pacing and everything. It is good to have that editing intuition; it is also easier to know what to Google and find stuff out for yourself.
How did you develop your style?
It is tricky with video editing because a well edited piece is supposed to be invisible. It depends on what you are editing. For example, in a movie you are not supposed to notice the editing because it is about the story. You have to understand the best way to tell a story and then aesthetic and pace is also important. How I develop my style? I guess it is watching a bunch of stuff and seeing what attracts you. Dissect why you are attracted and sub-consciously that will feed into your pieces.
When was the moment you realized that this is what you wanted to do? Did you have a back up plan if making videos was not in the cards for you?
I guess design was somewhat my back up plan because I have that training. I guess the moment was when I bought that camera. It was a $2000 camera and I did not have any money. So it was a huge motivation for me to make all that money back.
People do not want to show their flaws because they want to be perfect and it has created this pressure to be perfect and successful in every venue, venture, and area of your life.
What is your experience like being a creative woman in an industry that is male dominated?
It is interesting. In the 1950s all editors were women because cutting and snipping pieces together was such as crafty thing to do that initially, it was a woman’s task. It is not something I focus on because with what I do as a freelancer— people just find you for your niche. It is mostly just a style element. I feel like a guy could cut just like how I do. I just want to empower women around me. I want younger women to know that there are women that know how to use a camera and who know how to edit video. I guess subconsciously by doing it— hopefully it empowers people to see that it is possible.
Were you scared to leave the comfort zone of a steady job to pursue a freelance career?
For sure. Even now I feel like I could go back to agency life really easily because I am a type of person who craves stability. I like planning around work schedules and stuff. For now, it is more fulfilling to start this new adventure even though I am scared— even though I am uncomfortable and to see how far I can take it before I go back to agency life.
How do you overcome that?
I guess I do not really reflect on it a lot. There are so many things to do in the day to sustain all these projects. When I am really busy trying to get all these edits together, it is a sign that I am OK. I am OK because there is at least work to be done.
Why do you think kids are scared to try new things?
Do you think they are?
Yeah, to a certain extent. I have friends who want to make ideas happen but they seem to be scared because of failure.
I guess people are scared to start things because everyone is in the public eye now and failure is something that people are so afraid to show. People do not want to show their flaws because they want to be perfect and it has created this pressure to be perfect and successful in every venue, venture, and area of your life. That is something I feel that is hindering a lot of people from dropping something and going for it.
Another issue that a lot creative people are facing in this era, is doing free work and people coming to you saying stuff like, “Can you cut this video for m?- it’s going to give you exposure” What’s your take on that? Should people do free work?
I don’t think people should do free work. It downgrades the industry for everyone. For example, if a company wants a certain product from a specific creative, but they know they can get a similar product for cheaper from a hungry and willing creative; they would certainly go with the cheaper option. This seems like it’s in favour of creator B, but eventually creator B will need to pay the bills and he won’t be able to sustain his life. One of my friends taught me once to always ask for more (of course, this varies from situation to situation). It’s not a matter of the amount you’re being paid, but the act of asking for it, this shows that you respect your own craft and time.
Are you content?
Yes. To be honest, I am.
Really? How do you get to that level?
Well being able to do what I love every day has just taught me to be— I was telling my friend the other day that the business model for my freelance career is to be blessed. Every gig that comes my way has been people reaching out to me from seemingly nowhere. Being content is an attitude of constant reassurance that wherever you end up in your career or personal life, there is goodness to that because it is a part of the journey.
Is school important these days?
I do not think formal education for creatives is important, but I think education is important because it opens your mind to these different things. The classes you are forced to take can help expose you to topics and fields you may not normally encounter. Exposure is a good thing and that is what school provides.
I think my thing with school is the whole idea of getting in debt. I feel like I am conflicted on that. I feel like if you can learn on your own especially as a creative, I think you can but how many kids really have that discipline?
Yeah at the age right after high school, I do not know how much it would take for young person to do that. That criminology degree is interesting and put that into a creative world too. With my degree, I do not use it at all but it helps with creating a different mindset and seeing the world through a different lens.
Speaking of discipline, how do you develop that? You are self taught in editing right?
Just out of practice I guess. I worked at a high school as a teaching assistant for an editing program. Teaching someone else kind of forces you to know what you are doing as well. It is that intuition thing too, if you know what you are looking for, you will know what to Google.
So it is all about doing?
Do you want to learn? I can teach you. I love answering editing questions.
Yeah, that would be dope! Are you to hard on yourself when it comes to your work?
So hard. To the point of not being able to watch my videos once it is uploaded and live. I think that is the thing that keeps me going and wanting to make another video.
Do you think creatives have the responsibility in creating social change through our work?
Yes, I think so. I also think everyone non-creative or has the responsibility in creating some type of social change. If we are not contributing a positive message in the world, I think our existence is wasted. With creatives, I think there is a special output because you have the ability to touch anyone and everyone. Everyone can relate to art to some degree.
What is success to you?
If I was to die tomorrow and know that I have had a positive influence on a handful of people, that is success to me.
So money is not a motivation for you?
Money is just a weird number in the bank account that could increase or decrease really fast. It is not something I pay a lot of attention to which sounds super idealistic, but I am a very idealistic person.
So the big house, having a Lambo, or a pool does not phase you?