Llamas, mountains, and a never-ending driveway sound a lot different than yellow cabs, skyscrapers, cramped spaces or palm trees, veganism, and soul cycle. Freelance video editor, Will Carmack, is accustomed to it all. From his small hometown in Forest, Virginia, to New York and now Los Angeles, Carmack has a diverse history of living situations.
After staying in Virginia for college (gotta love the in-state tuition prices), Carmack graduated from James Madison University because it was one of the only schools in the state with a film program. His interest in film dates back to 2008, when his stepdad first gifted him a “dinosaur” of a flip camera. Will began to film Youtube videos of him and his dogs with such a prehistoric device. This hobby eventually spiraled into a constant stream of content uploaded to his channel.
Carmack found that filming was “the one thing that made me stand out from the boring people in VA,” though he gave his home state proper appreciation for all of its beauty and obviously his friends and family. But making videos allowed “[me] to create my own world, because the one that I was in was lame,” said Carmack.
First Stop: LA
Before Carmack moved to New York, his first getaway from Virginia was to Los Angeles. After graduation, Carmack made a Youtube video as his “hail Mary to get to California” which was his first “big risky move as a freelancer.” He challenged the brand Yes Theory to take him on as an unpaid intern—because at the time the exposure was what Carmack wanted most. Lo and behold, it worked! Yes Theory accepted his pitch for an internship, and so he packed up and moved out to LA to work!
Even though he absolutely loved LA, he couldn’t continue past 8 months as an unpaid intern which led to continuous couch hopping. This eventually forced him to move out of LA. Yet, just as Carmack had hoped, working for Yes Theory had given him great exposure. It gave him the experience he needed that ultimately led to his future jobs.
Next Stop: New York
After leaving LA, Carmack had finally found the creative energy he was searching for within a group of artistic people in none other than New York City. He moved in with his still current roommate, Manoa Raine, in Bushwick. His arrival in New York was what really sparked the trajectory of his career. He had gotten a job with Westbrook—Will Smith’s media venture—and shot a video with internet sensation, Liza Koshy. The video got 4.8 million views on TikTok and Koshy herself shared the video on her socials. Suddenly, Carmack had solidified a space for himself in the freelance world.
Freelancing in a Pandemic
But then…the pandemic hit, and with it came a lot of lost jobs. Used to working at music festivals and other large public events, all of those promised projects were suddenly inconceivable with COVID. Carmack even had an enormous job lined up with Atlantic Records that fell through.
So with Carmack out of work, he couldn’t shake the feeling that there was nothing left for him in New York.
In New York, he had this “guaranteed comfort,” a sure thing with no room for growth. However, he had always viewed LA as a “potential” place to live due to production agencies at every corner. “LA is where I can scale,” said Carmack. It’s the epicenter for creators in Hollywood production with his career aspirations. There was a roof for Carmack in New York, whereas the sky seemed limitless in Los Angeles.
As for work, he began to find a high demand for digital content with everyone spending so much time online. Suddenly, there was an enormous space for promotional work (which he specializes in) for companies to look cool and fun, so he seized the opportunity. He worked on online promotions and shifted his focus from shooting with talent to receiving product to shoot remotely.
Quickly, everything started realigning for Carmack and he knew what he had to do…try another shot at living in Los Angeles. And that’s exactly what he did.
Carmack doesn’t see himself moving back to New York—since it was never where he truly wanted to be. However, he couldn’t be more grateful for the lifelong connections and friendships he had made out east. Yet, it’s merely self-preservation not to move back to the city…plus he despised the cold weather.
Renaissance Man of Freelance
Now in LA, Carmack gets to explore opportunities for film and video editing because it’s the hot spot for such line of work. Carmack explained that selfishly he loves the satisfaction from video editing being such a niche area for specialty artists. He says: “It’s cool, I can make my apartment explode if I want.”
However, Carmack didn’t always focus solely on video editing—and he still doesn’t. Explaining that he kinda tried it all, from attempting to be an actual influencer on screen, to a photographer, TikToker, Youtuber, wedding filmmaker, and a Facebook Creator. He noted: “The only thing that really stuck and that I was really good at was visual effects.” And that he “tried everything and this is what works.”
Comparing LA to New York, he said the “biggest thing for an independent creator is their space.” Less space creates limitations, whereas more space leads to additional room for equipment, hence more capabilities.
In New York he was restricted by the square footage; he couldn’t get the lights he wanted, the giant backdrops, etc., simply because he didn’t have the space. New York was “dark” and “loud” and an independent filmmaker “needs open wide space,” said Carmack. It’s like Streeteasy was listening to all of his desires, because what he found in LA was exactly that…not to mention a really fucking awesome front door—we’re talking cast iron with shimmering glass, a true beautiful beast of an entrance!
As a prerequisite for moving to LA, Carmack wanted to have a nice backdrop. He mentioned that many creators, such as Casey Niestat, have such an iconic and recognizable backdrop to his viewers that Carmack wanted a memorable one to fit his filmmaker title to show that he’s creative and unique. His door was the answer to his request. “I basically moved here because of the door,” remarked Carmack laughing.
Since technically moving back to LA, Carmack was lucky enough to have a great group of friends already out west. He visited Los Angeles a ton before moving back and even still had connections with those who helped him land the Liza Koshy job.
A big cross country move might frighten most, especially in the area of freelance, but Carmack has been experiencing consistent work since making the move. It’s important to know that the risk can be worth it. If there’s a dream destination for you that is a hub for the kind of work you’re doing, and not to mention you’re working hard to make and maintain connections there, steady work should come in.
For the Future
When questioned on his future, Carmack said, “[he doesn’t] want to be this guy that does freelance, [he] wants to be the guy delegating the work that he does for all of the companies now.” Carmack became a freelancer because he already tried being in the limelight. Yet now, he’s got a leg up from everyone else because not only does he have the technical skillset of video editing, he has a practiced and polished camera presence.
His personality—not only limited to when he’s in front of the camera—shines through in his playful, explorative edits. With his knowledge and talent, he can create his own “cinematic universe,” which is pretty fucking cool. Additionally, he is constantly practicing his craft and looking up to companies such as Corridor Digital, which he addressed as “the visual effects daddys.”
In five years, Carmack sees himself doing what he is now, but on a production company scale—” wait change that, I’ll be in the circus” laughed Carmack as he shared that he’s constantly changing his mind.
What keeps Carmack propelling in his career is simply thinking of where he came from and how unlikely it seemed to become a filmmaker out of Virginia. His story does enough to inspire him to continue his hard work. He’s so proud—and rightfully so—because “to [him], in LA, in this creative loft in the Art District, just the idea of evolution keeps me motivated.” There’s definitely no going back to the llama farm for Carmack.
Learn more about his move by watching his Youtube video:
Featured image source from: Instagram @itswillcarmack
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