Install Companion on a Mac

Companion also runs on Windows and Pi. This article will focus on a Mac installation.

Running Companion is one of those “easy when you know how” things. This article will show you how. Easy!


1. COMPANION (2.2.0 – pre-release build)

  • Download two versions of Companion:

    • Companion 2.1.3 is the public release (we’ll use this to install larger profiles. DJF Companion profiles under 500KB can skip 2.1.3).
    • Companion 2.2.0 is pre-release (we use this to run all profile versions). Download whatever is the most recent version. While 2.2.0 is still pre-release, it’s generally pretty stable. That said, make sure you thoroughly test your setup before implementing in a live production.
  • Open Companion

    • If running for the first time, right click the Companion app and select “Open”.
    • You’ll receive a notification that the developer is unknown. Bypass this.
    • Right-click “Open” a second time and now you can open the app.
    • Companion’s Web Server icon will be in the top-right menu bar. Click it to open the tray.
    • Check the server is running locally on (easiest setup).
  • Install the Profile using Companion version 2.1.3

    • **Note: If your profile file is under 500KB (most “single” DJF profiles are) you can skip 2.1.3 and install via 2.2.0 instead.
    • Launch GUI in a web browser. Navigate tabs to Buttons > Import/Export.
    • If you already have your own Companion setup, click “Export” to save a backup of your profile.
    • Select Import. Choose the DJF Companion Profile (ends with “.companionconfig”)
    • Select “Replace current configuration”. Note that this will wipe all existing Companion pages, so make sure you’ve backed up any essential work first.
    • Quit Companion by going back to the menu bar tray and clicking “Close”. This will stop the Companion web server and you can close the web browser as well.
  • Run Companion using version 2.2.0

    • **Note: The DJF Companion Profiles require Companion 2.2.0 to support the most up-to-date features and modules.
    • Open the 2.2.0 version of the Companion app
    • Under the Connections tab, click “Edit” for the “atem Blackmagic Design” module. Update the Target IP to the IP address for your ATEM Mini/Pro/ISO.
      • **Note: you can find the ATEM IP using BlackMagic’s “ATEM Setup Software”. Setting a static IP address is recommended.
    • All other modules (VLC, H2R, VICREO, OSC) are pre-set to local and don’t need to be changed.
  • Set the Home Page

    • Under the Surfaces tab, click the green “Settings” button for the “Elgato Streamdeck Plugin” (or the actual Stream Deck serial number, if running Companion solo).
    • Slide the Page number for your specific profile:
      • 32-button Profile’s Home Page uses PAGE 1
      • 15-button Profile’s Home Page uses PAGE 31
      • Vertical Profile for Stream Deck Mobile app uses PAGE 71
  • Troubleshooting:

    • If the profile is not showing up on your Stream Deck, go to Companion’s “Surfaces” tab, and click “Rescan USB”
    • If you’d like to run this without an actual Stream Deck (on a computer or tablet) , click on “Emulator” in the top left corner.
    • If there’s a conflict while running Elgato Stream Deck’s native software simultaneously, quit both applications, then try opening Elgato’s Stream Deck software first, then starting the Companion server secondly. Make sure you have installed the Companion Plugin within the native Elgato Stream Deck app.



  • Install ATEM Switcher software

    • Download and install the most recent ATEM Switcher software from Blackmagic Design’s Support page.
    • Each “update” is a full program installation, so the most recent version will do.
  • Connect your computer to the ATEM via USB

    • When connected via USB, you can set the IP address of the ATEM within the “ATEM Setup” app.
    • Choosing a static IP address appropriate to your router’s range is recommended.
    • Also update this Target IP within the ATEM Companion module, as previously mentioned in the Companion setup.
  • Open ATEM Software Control

    • Go to File > Restore
    • Choose the “DJF-ATEM-MACROS.xml” that came with your DJF Companion Profile and restore Macros.
    • Go to File > Save Startup State to commit the macros to the ATEM hardware.
    • Once you’ve “Saved the Startup State”, the macros will still be present each time you power on the ATEM.
  • Troubleshooting

    • Companion speaks directly to the ATEM via the Ethernet Network and does not require the ATEM Software Control to be running in order to operate.
    • Note that Companion only speaks to the ATEM via Ethernet, not the USB port. While you can install the ATEM Macros via a USB connection, you will need an Ethernet connection to control the ATEM via Companion.


3. STREAM DECK (4.9.4)

  • Elgato Stream Deck software available here
  • Add the Companion Plugin to your native Elgato Stream Deck software

    • At the bottom right of the window, click “More Actions…”
    • Search for “Companion”.
    • Install the plugin.

  • Back up your own Stream Deck Profiles

    • If you are already using Elgato’s Stream Deck software, make sure you back up your work first!
    • Go to the Stream Deck Icon in the top-right menu bar
    • Select “Preferences” (Command + ,), then “Profiles”.
    • To the right of the “+/-” symbols, select the dropdown menu.
    • Go Backup All > Create Backup…
    • Save the file to a safe folder.
  • Install the bonus Stream Deck Profiles

    • Go to the Stream Deck Icon in the top-right menu bar
    • Select “Preferences” (Command + ,), then “Profiles”.
    • To the right of the “+/-” symbols, select the dropdown menu.
    • Go Backup All > Restore From Backup…
    • Select to restore:
      • an individual profile (“.streamDeckProfile”)
      • or a full profile backup (“.streamDeckProfilesBackup”)
    • Caution! While importing individual profiles will add to your existing setup, restoring a full backup will wipe your current configuration entirely. Ensure you have backed up your profile first.
  • Add Companion buttons to your Stream Deck Profile

    • You can also build your own Elgato Stream Deck profile pages in conjunction with Companion.
    • From the right sidebar, again Search “Companion”
    • Drag the “Companion button” to each of the Stream Deck’s keys
  • Choose “Dynamic” or Static pages/buttons

    • By default, dragging a Companion button on to Stream Deck will create a Dynamic Button
    • Not modifying the default Dynamic button is recommended, as it will update the function as you navigate through the Companion Profile
  • Static buttons

    • If you want a dedicated Companion button, choose the corresponding Page and Button number (as found in your Companion software)
  • Simultaneously running Elgato Stream Deck software and Companion’s server

    • You can now add regular Stream Deck buttons into your Elgato Stream Deck’s Companion profile page
    • Button 9 in the DJF profile (the 1st button on the 2nd row of every page) has been reserved across all Companion pages. This is to allow you to create a dedicated Stream Deck button to switch to other native Elgato Stream Deck profiles you may have.
    • It’s recommended to leave all other buttons on the profile as the default “Dynamic” state, so that Companion will dynamically update them
  • Troubleshooting

    • If there’s a conflict while running Companion and Elgato Stream Deck’s native software simultaneously:
      • Quit both applications.
      • Then try opening Elgato’s Stream Deck software first, then starting the Companion server secondly.
      • Make sure you have installed the Companion Plugin within the native Elgato Stream Deck app.
    • If you are trying to run a 15-button or 32-button Stream Deck XL surface simultaneously but independently to the Vertical Stream Deck Mobile app surface on your phone (ie so your two surfaces don’t change pages in sync):
      • Quit both Companion and Stream Deck software
      • Open Companion first
        • Under the Surfaces tab, click “Rescan USB”
        • The “Elgato Streamdeck XL device” will appear with a specific serial number under the ID field.
      • Next open Elgato’s native Stream Deck software
        • Open the Stream Deck Mobile app on your phone
        • Ensure your phone’s WiFi is connected to the same network as the computer
        • Enjoy!
      • Note that because the 15-button or 32-button Stream Deck is now running natively to Companion, the native Elgato Stream Deck profiles will not be available on the hardware (instead you’ll see the DJF logo – hey there! 🙂



Coming soon! 🙂


5. VLC (3.0.13)

Coming soon! 🙂


6. H2R Graphics (0.4)

Coming soon! 🙂




Compact, portable, mountable. Fully self-contained power, networking, and monitoring.

Save time and space when you arrive on set with a self-contained ATEM Mini Pro / ISO rig. Don’t bother updating network settings as you move between the office, home, and location with a built-in router. A single V-mount battery or AC adapter powers the whole system and eliminates cable clutter. Mount it on a tripod, or place it on a desk. Save footprint and cable runs by stacking laptops, mixers, cameras, or autocue on to the rig itself.

This ATEM Mini Pro / ISO rig was designed almost entirely using off-the-shelf, universal video production parts. 15-mm rods, rail blocks, NATO clamps, and 1/4-20 cheeseboards makes it highly customizable with existing production production equipment. Plus, when you out-grow your ATEM Mini, there’s no wastage since all these parts can be re-purposed in other kits, such as camera rigging.


Build your dream rig in four stages with these Amazon Lists:

1. Base Rig

Start with the base rigging to mount your ATEM Mini Pro/ ISO vertically to a tripod.

2. Electrical

Add a 120W AC-DC adapter, power cables, 1ft HDMI cables, data cables, ethernet.

3. Devices

Add a monitor, router, switch, USB-C hub, Stream Deck, V-mount battery, Mixer.

4. Power User

Enhance your workflow with wireless monitoring, Rasberry Pi, and more.





Individual Parts, Frame, Power, & Cables

A teardown of the entire rig, as well as additional recommended items for portable live streaming.



The ISO model is recommended, but if you don’t need individual recording, try the ATEM Mini Pro instead.

Stream Deck XL (32-buttons)

The 32-button version is the best option for the Companion Profile I built.

Stream Deck (15-buttons)

If the 32-button version is sold out, the 15-button is usually still in stock.

10.1″ Lilliput Monitor

Perfect width for the Mini Pro. HDMI+SDI input and loopthrough makes it a versatile tool on set.


GL.iNet GL-MT1300 (Beryl)

Compact Gigabit travel router offering WiFi bridging and phone tethering with an intuitive user interface.

NETGEAR 5-Port Switch

12-volt DC power input makes it easy to run on an ATEM Mini Pro circuit.

Kanex 4K HDMI 2-Port Splitter

At some point, you need to split video…

Pelican Air 1615 (TrekPak)

Exterior Dimension (LWD Inches): 32.58 x 18.4 x 11.02. Designed for maximum allowable airline check-in size.


ATEM Streaming Bridge

Build this into your rig so you can have Program Out always available with one click.

Elgato Cam Link 4K

Useful to patch your MultiView display back into your computer for remote directing over Zoom.

FXLION Nano Two 98WH V-Mount Battery

98WH batteries are within carry-on flight restrictions.

Zoom LiveTrak L-8 Mixer

Powerful and affordable mixer/recorder, powered via USB 5V.


Caddie Buddy Teleprompter

This autocue will mount to the same 15mm rod system the rig uses.

Teradek Cube 655

H.264 video encoder to see MultiView on your iPad via the Vuer app. Also check out the new Camera 2 Cloud.

Teradek Ace 500

Zero-latency wireless video to connect cameras to your ATEM.

Sennheiser Wireless Combo 500 FILM G4

Note the higher-quality MKE 2 microphone is part of sets this above the non “film” version.


AOC 16T2 15.6″ Portable Monitor

Most portable monitors don’t accept 23.98fps…this one does!

Micro to Full HDMI (1ft)

Short patch cable to connect Rasberry Pi to your ATEM, or your ATEM to your AOC 15.6″ Monitor.

Raspberry Pi 4 (8GB RAM)

Build a Pi into your rig to control the ATEM via Companion and Stream Deck.

Pi 4 Armor Case

Neat heatsink/case form factor for the Pi.


100W USB-C Charger

Power your MacBook Pro

10ft USB-C Fast Charging 100W

Room to move! Connect the Charger to the Lasuney USB-C Dock with 10ft of cable! Also available in 15ft!

Lasuney USB-C Dock

Unify your networking, display, and computer interface when this dock is built into your rig.

USB-C Extension Cable 6.6ft, 100W, 20Gbps

Connect the Lasuney USB-C dock to your computer with this extension cable and consolidate power, HDMI, internet connection, audio, and network control into a single port!


SanDisk 2TB Extreme PRO Portable SSD – Up to 2000MB/s

Plenty of headroom to record all your ISO inputs.




Mount for ATEM Mini Pro

This tablet mount is easily adapted to hold the ATEM Mini Pro securely, as well as quick release with no alteration to the ATEM Mini Pro itself.

SmallRig Cheeseplate (x2)

Use one for the tablet mount, and the other to connect to a tripod plate.

CAMVATE Long Cheese Plate (x3)

Use two for the main cage structure, and the third as a vertical support for the router.

SmallRig 15mm Railblock Rod Clamp (x4)

We’ll use 4 pairs (8 in total). They’re handy, so get a 5th to be safe!


6-Inch 15mm Rod Pair (x2)

We’ll use 2 pairs (4 total) for the top and bottom of the main cage structure.

12-Inch 15mm Rod Pair

Use 1 x 12-inch rod at the back of the rig to mount devices. If you want a slightly smaller rig with fewer devices, a 10-inch rod would fit the length of the ATEM Mini Pro well.

4-Inch 15mm Rod Pair

These shorter rods are useful for mounting the camera baseplate, the Autocue, or the laptop trays.

SmallRig 15mm Rod Clamp

Used to support the cross-bar rod at the back of the rig.


SmallRig NATO Top Handle

Highly recommend this top handle for its build quality and versatility to change mounting angles. Will connect to many other cameras and devices.

SmallRig Camera Base Plate

Low-profile camera base plate that works with the 15mm rod system.

SmallRig Cold Shoe Monitor Mount

Friction hinge makes it easy to articulate the Lilliput monitor to the best viewing angle with one hand.

On-Stage MSA5000 Mic Stand Laptop Mount (x2)

Screw one of the railblocks into the tray to mount a laptop or mixer to your rig.


7cm NATO Rail

Attach this to a railblock to use as a NATO rail mounting point for the Top Handle.

SmallRig Cold Shoe Mount

Used to mount the monitor.

SmallRig Monitor Mount Cheese Plate

75mm VESA monitor mount spacing to attach the 10.1″ Lilliput Monitor to the SmallRig Cold Shoe Monitor Mount.

SmallRig Thumb Screw

Used in conjunction with the railblock to mount devices to the rod on the back of the rig.


SmallRig 15mm Rod Clamp

Use in conjunction with the Small Magic Arm to mount devices to the rod at the back of the rig.

SmallRig Small Magic Arm

Handy to mount light-weight devices.



AC to DC 12V 10A 120W Power Adapter, 5.5mm x 2.1mm DC Plug

12V/10A for plenty of current to power all the devices in the rig.

1-to-9-Way Power Splitter, DC 5.5mm x 2.1mm

10A main line, 2A on branches to deliver power to all your devices.

10-Inch DC Power Extension Cable 5.5mm x 2.1mm

These 10-inch extension cables help reach devices such as the 10.1″ Lilliput Monitor without adding bulk.

Female 5.5×2.1mm to Male 5.5×2.5mm Right-Angled DC Barrel

The Streaming Bridge and ATEM Mini Pro require a 2.5mm inner-barrel. Plus the Right-Angle saves space.

DC Female to Female Connector 5.5mm x 2.1mm

Useful to connect the power splitter to devices.

Female D-Tap

This is only part requiring soldering – to connect the Power Splitter to the D-Tap Port.

DC Power Pigtail Cable, 2.1mm x 5.5mm Barrel, 18 AWG

Solder this to the Female D-Tap (if you would like to run D-Taps via the same Power Splitter, otherwise, skip this step).

1 Male to 4 Female D-Tap Port Splitter

With this in your rig, you’ll be able to easily plug in the D-Tap power connections commonly used in video production.


D-Tap to 2.5mm DC Locking Barrel

I use this cable to connect to the ATEM Mini Pro itself, because of the more secure locking connector. You could alternatively connect it via the right angle 2.5mm DC plug.

D-Tap to 2.1mm DC Barrel

Connect a V-Mount Battery’s D-Tap Port to the 1-to-9 DC Power Splitter.

D-Tap to 2-Pin LEMO

Power Teradek devices from the D-Tap Splitter or V-Mount Battery directly.

2.1mm DC Male to 2-Pin Male LEMO

Power 2-Pin LEMO Teradek devices from the DC circuit directly (with the help of a female barrel connector)


12V to 5V Step-Down Regulator, Dual USB-A Fast Charger

Tap into the convenience of your existing 12V power and step down to 5V for devices such as the HDMI Splitter, Router, and Rasberry Pi 4.

DualLock Adhesive Fasteners

More stable than regular velcro, mount the Step-Down Regulator to the back of the tablet mount.

6-Inch USB-A to USB-C 2.0

The USB 2.0 spec isn’t intended for data, but the small size and flexibility of these cables are useful to power the router and Raspberry Pi 4 from the Step-Down Converter’s USB-A ports.

25cm USB-A to DC 5.5 x 2.1mm DC Power Cord

Power the Kanex Pro HDMI Splitter from the 12v to 5v Step-Down Regulator.


1ft 4K@60Hz HDMI Cable (x6)

You can never have enough of these…the benefit of this rig design is short cables.

1.5ft HDMI Cable

Use a slightly longer cable to reach articulating devices such as the 10.1″ Lilliput Monitor.

0.5ft Cat6 Ethernet Cable (x4)

Because the devices are so close together, most can use 1/2ft ethernet patch cables.

1ft Cat6 Ethernet Cable (x2)

The router and ATEM Mini Pro are a little further from the Netgear Switch.


1ft USB-C to USB A 3.0 Sync and Charge Cable

Leave your ATEM Mini Pro’s USB-C port connected to the Lasuney USB-C Hub for easy webcam startup.

1ft 3.5mm Stereo Audio Cable

Keep your Lasuney USB-C Hub plugged into the ATEM Mini Pro’s Mic/Line port for easy audio delivery.

KONDOR BLUE D-Tap to LPE6 Dummy Battery

Input: 12V – 17V; Output: 8V (Regulated) for Canon 5DmkIV, R5, R6 etc

RJ45 Female to Female Coupler

Connect two ethernet cables, or make an easy-to-reach patch cable for WAN access.


Items not available on Amazon

While most items on this page can be easily sourced from Amazon in a single order, these items were unavailable and need to be ordered separately:

SmallRig Heighten Rod Clamp DCD2375 (or B&H)

SmallRig Mini V-Lock Assembly Kit MD2801 (or B&H)




Advanced ATEM Control

Unlock control of the Flying Key, Palettes, Pre-Built Keys, Media Pool, Downstream Key, Audio Faders, Pre-Built Macros, VLC Playback, H2R Graphics, Wireless Control, and Tally. Plus native Stream Deck control of Google Slides, Resolve Remote Editing, Zoom integration, and more!

Get extremely versatile control over Blackmagic Design’s ATEM Mini, Pro, & ISO when you run this Companion Profile on a Stream Deck (or even your phone, tablet, or computer!).



Unlock control of the Flying Key, Palettes, Pre-Built Keys, Media Pool, Downstream Key, Audio Faders, Pre-Built Macros, VLC Playback, H2R Graphics, Wireless Control, and Tally. Plus native Stream Deck control of Google Slides, Resolve Remote Editing, Zoom integration, and more!

Get extremely versatile control over Blackmagic Design’s ATEM Mini Pro & ISO when you run Companion software on a Stream Deck XL (or even your phone, tablet, or computer!).


Included with Profile Assets

Software Download Links

COMPANION (2.2.0 – unreleased build) 

STREAM DECK (4.9.2) 


VLC ( 

H2R Graphics (0.3.2) 








Elgato’s Stream Deck is the hardware that makes this fun! Heads up that there’s a worldwide shortage at the moment so they are overpriced (historically were selling for ~$250), but still worth picking up! And the ATEM Mini Pro ISO is my favorite model yet (even over the Extreme!) I recorded the tutorial videos on an ISO, and I love how easy it is to edit timecode locked files in Resolve.


Elgato Stream Deck XL



Mailing List Profile Download

For a limited time, join my mailing list to receive a download of my original v2.0 Companion button layout for ATEM Mini Pro ISO, as seen in the YouTube tutorial videos above. If you find it useful, I hope you consider purchasing the more polished versions 2.5!

Send me Companion



In my 20’s, I was acutely aware of the need to know my “voice”. As a director fumbling my way through film school, much emphasis was placed on expressing one’s thoughts with both gravitas and artistic merit, as though my self-understanding lay buried in the pages of French New Wave and Auteur theory.

When thrown the question, What do you want to say?, my mind would struggle to expel some erudite observation, yet filtered through latent religious hang ups about the disconnect between who I imagined I should be and how life had actually unfolded.

My father father mused once that each decade is better than the last. That with the shedding of years comes also a shedding of I don’t give a fuck what people think of me anymore. Emphasis mine. He would never speak like that.

Last night I visited a gallery in Red Hook. Some hipster art event in an impossible location with an exquisitely manicured back yard with a fire pit, and a refurbished factory space hosting a band. I was with two friends, and the three of us dovetailed around each other, exploring the art, music, and hipster folks, each on our own journey.

There was a moment I was standing alone in a room full of people, listening to the band and watching the extroverted few dance up front. I became aware of my body, my ability to relax my shoulders and to dispel any niggling worry about what people must think of me (because people probably didn’t even notice, let alone care).

Instead, I was able to observe the rhythmic energy of the drummer, his movements rising like a dance above the hide, and the joy whirling through the audience. And despite standing alone, I observed my ability to be connected… for their smiles to be transferred to my face. Mirror neurons are what I’m referring to. From this came the ability to focus on what I do have around me, rather than do not have: the things in life that make the present moment satisfying, and the feeling of having enough.

Quite simply, I am who I am. Wonderful and complete. I really like myself.

I don’t believe in the notion of a person being where they’re “meant to be”, or that things work out they way they’re meant to, as though the road were predestined.  Rather, the numerous junctures along my life-path led me to where I am today, in New York. One decision after another. All valid experiences. And one node pivots on to the next to create the context of my unique life story.

This is what voice is – understanding that my meta narrative is a valid human experience, unique among the billions, worthy to be communicated to others, in the hope that I may be known, and that they may glean something from it for themselves. In turn, it allows me to appreciate the uniqueness of other people and their stories.

So as I pause in this moment, about to propel myself with abandon into the rabbit hole of my 30s, I’ve discovered my voice does not begin with the reverberations of my lungs. My voice begins in my silence, my stillness; my ability to simply be.

Cover photo by Remy Brand

Photography Tutorial: Sunset self-portraits using off-camera fill-flash

Getting creative with random kids in Bali… I found myself alone on the west coast of Bali with time to kill. If you’ve been to the island, you will know that every single sunset is spectacular: vibrant, detailed, textured. I have a camera & an off-camera flash… time to play!


Exposing for the sky at sunset will make your foreground subjects silhouette

Silhouettes are great. Their shapes can be simple and distinct, and allowing your subject to go completely dark to expose for the sunset means the colors will remain rich and saturated. You’ll retain the details in the sky and present a more accurate mood. However, if you want to get the detail of the person in the foreground, you can either create a HDR image with multiple photos, or, use a flash to fill in your shadows.

The light was changing rapidly and a local crowd gathered to watch me muck around with a number of setups. This kid (top) wandered into my frame, so I picked him up to use him as a prop! This photo would be a silhouette if not for the flash, so if you’re interested, here’s how you would accomplish a shot like this:

  1. Set your camera to manual exposure, and place it on a tripod. Make sure you are shooting RAW instead of JPEG so you have maximum latitude in this high contrast setting.
  2. Adjust your ISO, aperture, and shutter speed until you have a correct exposure for the sunset. My settings here happen to be ISO400, f8, 4sec.
  3. I’ve set the focus manually to a spot I marked in the sand, and f8 will keep the image sharp so I have a little latitude to move around.
  4. Place your flash to the left or right of camera to get more shapely shadows. You’ll need a wireless trigger on your camera to trip the off-camera flash. Put your flash in manual mode, and test out how much power output you need to expose the subject.
  5. I have a remote shutter trigger in my right hand on a 2 sec delay. This allowed me time to pick up the kid before the camera fired.
  6. Because the burst of the flash is so instantaneous, the kid and I are sharp even though we’re moving. The black shadow beneath me is the trail of my silhouette over the remaining 4 seconds the shutter was open to expose for the sky – basically me putting the bewildered little guy back on the sand and returning him to his mother.

I’ll write another post soon about how to shoot a similar setup during daylight, as there are some basic principles you can follow to get your settings in the ballpark before fine tuning for the particular environment.

To finish off, here is the actual image I was going for… something I could use on a website to illustrate a photographer in action in a dramatic location (despite that – if you know anything about speedlites – I’m “adjusting” the wrong side of the panel, and, really, you should never look into a firing strobe in the first place….). But it pictoralizes a “behind-the-scenes” nonetheless.

Setting a speedlite to manual power to compensate for an exposure set for the sunset

6 Steps To Take Charge Of Your Career

It’s my little bro’s birthday today. When I say “little”, I mean in age, for at 6’5, I am one inch his little bro. But, with nine years life experience on him, I’m hoping I can offer some insight about stepping out and taking charge of his work life.

I remember what it was like job hunting post-university in my early 20’s. The work you’re offered is usually far from where you want to be, with no clear path of the steps to attain your long-term goal anyway.

My first job was working in breakfast television as a production assistant. While it was reassuring to have a staff position, I only lasted a couple of months before I got itchy feet. I packed the job in and took off to Brazil, Europe, Africa.

I’ve always had the sense that time is limited. As time passes, I’ve also come to understand it as one of our most valuable assets. For me, it makes sense to take the risk to explore the world and find something I’m passionate about, rather than stay put and wonder what might have been on the other side.

When I returned from my world travels, it also made sense for me to go freelance, and in more recent years, start a business. The reward of owning my own time, choosing priorities, and being proactive in my growth, outweighs the consistency of full-time pay.

My bro is currently between government contracts and said he was waiting to hear back about the next one. But, he also made $500 this month designing custom drawers for a 4WD and reworking a Harley Davidson. That’s the origin of a business!

So on his birthday, I wanted to share 6 insights I believe are critical in taking a proactive attitude towards success.

1. Present your future-self to the people you meet.

Americans do this well.

I’ll meet a person at a function who will introduce herself to me as an actress. She’ll give me a card with a headshot and tell me about a recent film she was in. I know she works in a bar. That is her main source of income, but at this point, that is irrelevant.

Our common point of interest is making films, and the priority of our conversation should be working out if we have cohesive personalities, values, interests, ideas, sense of humor, etc. She would do herself a disservice if she opened with the line “I work in a bar, but I really want to be an actress”.

Other people often give us more credit than we give ourselves, so put your insecurities aside and just speak freely about your current work and aspirations. You might inspire your new friend.

2. People always want to put you in a box. That’s fine. Just give them 9 different boxes.

In my early 20’s, there was a brief time I was a “slashie” — writer/ director/ producer/ actor/ model/ TV presenter/ photographer/ cinematographer/ editor. I’m young; the world’s an exciting place; I want to try it all!

However, it gets darn confusing when you throw so many variables at someone. They’ll leave the conversation with less of an idea of how you might be of interest to them than when you met.

The fact is, in your early 20’s you’re probably going to have many different “hats”, or boxes, as you experiment and find what you enjoy doing. This is good! Even established entrepreneurs and businesses continue to diversify and experiment with new ventures. Just make sure you present each skill or business or idea with clear parameters.

Create different business cards and portfolio websites for each venture. You as a person are the umbrella to bring all those facets together, but you decide on a person-by-person basis the relevant identity to present. On social media like LinkedIn, present only your core role.

You’ll see I’ve reduced this website to two core facets: my direction of moving images and still images. Many of my other “slashie” skills and experience are now utilized under my umbrella role as a director.

My business advisor Monica Davidson gave me this advice, and it’s been instrumental in refining the presentation of my skills over many years. If you’re in Australia, I recommend her workshop for creative businesses:

3. Create an online portfolio website.

Less is more. Present only your best work.

Search Engine Optimization aside, I think the initial value of a well thought-out website is not traffic from random strangers, but comes from the people you meet In Real Life.

You meet someone, they like you, you give them a business card. It looks good and stirs their interest. They look up your website. They’re impressed by a clear and simple demonstration that you can execute in detail the task you were discussing in person. Having this forward-facing entity establishes credibility and a history. They’ve already met you, and now trust you enough to hire you or buy your product.

For more detailed information on what to include (and what to leave out) from your website, read Matias Corea’s article on 99U about creating an online portfolio.

4. You already know everyone you need to know.

This is essentially refocusing the old adage “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know” to understand that the people you need to know are already in your address book, not the cold-calls you think you have to make to powerful people.

In short, make a list of 100 people who have some level of mutual friendship/ acquaintance/ concern for you. Also list 40 goals you want to achieve, big or little, business or personal (it’s important to be specific). Then match the dots. Who can help you with what goal?

Your 100 people have their own network of 100 people, giving you potential access to 10,000 people. You only need 1 person to open the right door, so you have good odds.

Pride and fear keep us from asking for help from friends, but all successful people are able to ask for help. Whatever you truly want in life, it will always involve relationships. Instead of cold-calling strangers, it’s better to be “doing life” with your friends. Friends are naturally prewired with a desire to help you anyway, and you them.

This tip comes from Bob Beaudine who wrote “The Power of WHO!” (gotta say that like an owl). A random book I perused while subletting a stranger’s apartment in New York City.

5. If you want different results, try something different.

This one is simple, yet people continue with the same activities, expecting opportunities will magically shift in their favor with the passing of time. They won’t.

I mean, they might, but you’ll probably be dead by then. Rather than wait, take a calculated risk.

The important note here is that it doesn’t have to be seismic life-shift that turns your world upside down, like quitting a full-time job. Beginning small is the key! And, like Jullien Gordon in his talk “Side Hustlas” at TEDxMidwest delves into, start your venture as something you hustle on the side — in addition to your other job.

This brings us down to the question, “Why are you doing what you are doing?” Maybe you are simply doing your job to make money. That’s great! However, in the long-term, even that money to sustain your life has to funnel into a more intrinsic value system to carry a sense of fulfillment.

6. Know Thy Self.

What do you want to do?

If you don’t know what you want to do… how do you find out?

I’ve always known I wanted to direct, yet it took a good portion of my 20’s to feel grounded in my craft. There’s always more to grow into, as well as the deeper question, What do I want the films I direct to be about?

I’ll leave this post with words from the late British philosopher Alan Watts, who asks “What makes you itch?”:

What would you like to do if money were no object? Do that. Become a master of it. Then you will get a good fee for it.

Happy birthday, bro! My prayer is you take that risk and try something new, that time be on your side, and that you sense fulfillment in what you do.

Love, David


Under a building titled 1930 Falcon Laundry, of red brick and a graffitied roller door, sits a man in a white long sleeved shirt, charcoal pants and dust-worn boots. He turns a magazine pullout over in half and straightens both his arms to support his weight on his knees with palms of his hands. He glances up and down the street. It’s empty.

He stands up, mounting one foot on the arched drainpipe he’d been sitting on and swats the wall with the magazine roll as though he were in a fashion photography shoot. A little Chinese girl passes him, walking her greyhound: black with white booties. The man stands straight against the wall, observing her.

Finally a van labeled Construction rolls in at an angle to the curb and a big smile crosses his face. An arm extends from the driver window, a pair of keys dangling from fingers. The man shoulders his bag and saunters over, retrieves the keys and unlocks the side door. A third man in a battered purple polo shirt jumps out the passenger side and enters the Falcon Laundry also.

A moment later the graffitied roller door recedes into is coil and the van squeezes through the dark of the narrow opening. The man in the white long sleeved shirt appears one last time with a metal rod in hand. He hooks it into the roller door, and in three steps, draws it shut. The street is vacant again. The day has begun.

Californian Chipmunk

In a harsh environment of rock and cacti, this fluffy rodent still finds the food it needs to thrive.

It made me think about ways in which we adapt to our surrounds. Particularly if you’re in a concrete city, how have you designed your life to provide space for your mind?

For me it’s a quiet sofa in the living room, a sunny park filled with trees, a secluded coffee shop, and even attending events with like-minded people.

How about you?

Back to New York

Suddenly I’m back.

The icons of the New York skyline so familiar through recess of memory and the window of film, now examined through the window of a taxi sailing the BQE.


I want to find my notepad to write all this down, but my girl is nestled into my chest. She’s usually fetal with her back turned by 9pm, so I’m reluctant to disturb this spring communion when an isolating city surrounds.

In the morning I wake early and climb the noisy wooden stairs to the rooftop. The panoramic icons glisten in a sunlit post-rain lineup: Liberty, Freedom Tower, Triborough Bridges, Empire.

It’s an outer body experience: like a spectator automated through the motions of another person’s life. One foot after another on a trajectory to I-don’t-know-where.

However, devoid of routine and permanent residence, I choose to let all sense of confusion slip by and acknowledge simple facts: I’m alive, healthy, well-fed, and have an exciting future to build.

ANZAC Day 2014

Lest we forget.

My parents and I rode our bikes down to the ANZAC Day ceremony at the Australian War Memorial today. My brother was playing saxophone in the military band for the royals who were only 20m away! I love how casual security details are in Canberra.

A Motorbike Tour Through Strawberry Land, Samoeng

I’m on a father/son motorbike trip through Samoeng & Mae-Se, northwest of Chiang Mai. It’s Strawberry country!! Strawberry shakes, strawberry wine, sweet strawberries, sour strawberries… and every farm we pass has a giant strawberry mascot out the front. It’s one of Dad’s first times on a motorbike… so I’m glad he’s still here to take a selfie with me.

Exploring Chiang Mai

The past few weeks I’ve been living in Chiang Mai to get some writing done.

The inner city has a thriving expat community. Chiang Mai also attracts many digital nomads who take advantage of the lifestyle, weather, friendly Thai culture, and cheaper living costs.

I don’t recommend this time of year as the agricultural burn-off is thick and unabating, but otherwise the city strikes the perfect balance between bustle and relaxation.