I’m Joel Kahn, Senior Video Producer at Lifehacker, and This Is How I Work
Every week, we share shortcuts, workspaces, and productivity tips from our favorite experts. This week we take a look behind the scenes at Lifehacker. I’m Joel Kahn and this is how I work.
Location: New York Current job: Senior Producer (and author of Joel’s Hot Takes ) Current mobile device: iPhone 8 Current computer: 2017 iMac retina 5K One word that best describes how you work: Purposeful
First of all, tell us a little about your past and how you got where you are now.
I learned how to edit video when I was 15, and my father let me sit with his editor on the TV channel where he worked. (My dad is a TV producer, here we are.) Then I majored in film and television in college and didn’t let other students work on my projects, so I wrote, filmed, covered, edited and animated everything myself. the way I wanted it. After that, I had several jobs creating sponsored videos and creating my own web series, so I ended up here to lead the team and shoot videos of everything Lifehacker covers.
Tell us about a recent work day.
If I’m not on set, I’ll arrive around 9:45. Keep an eye on email and Slack, watch recent videos from the rest of the video team, and take notes. Then, in addition to meetings, I spend most of my time writing scripts / exploring new video ideas, editing upcoming projects, and going to the kitchen for about 12-15 snacks a day.
On a day of shooting, I’ll probably have to buy some props in the morning and then go to our video studio (or conference room, or someone’s apartment). Our shooting usually takes about 2 hours, which is very short. We will only have 3-4 people, so everyone is very busy all the time.
Once we’re done shooting, we’ll back up the footage twice, and if it’s too fast, I’ll start looking at the footage and immediately pick out the parts I like. Then I leave at about 6.
What apps, gadgets or tools, besides your phone, can’t you live without?
We use Frame.io website to watch videos. It lets you place notes right on the timeline, and I love that.
Plus, all of our scripts are in Google Docs, allowing anyone to add feedback to the draft. And I have a large tracking document in Google Sheets with all of our current and past video projects.
How is your workplace arranged?
I have a 27 ” iMac with Retina display and another 5K monitor next to it. I keep my to-do list on a physical laptop so I can happily cross out tasks as I complete them. I also take this laptop to meetings so I can pay attention to the laptop and not be distracted by it. Also, there are some crazy little things to the left of the monitor, including the public favorite Labs with Abs , and I have a drawer full of napkins.
What’s your best shortcut or life hack?
If you are at a concert or event where everyone leaves at the same time (and is likely heading to the same metro stop), use the Car2Go app to reserve the closest car just before the end of the event. Now it is available in many cities, and you have 30 minutes to reserve a car and just leave. This is perfect and you can just bypass anyone trying to catch a bus or train.
Tell us about an interesting, unusual, or challenging process you have at work.
Our current video publishing system includes several separate processes that have been glued together over the years. I had to create a whole step-by-step document to lay out all the steps, but, in fact, after the video is completely finished, we have to send it to get signatures (we use a site called Rev ), make a thumbnail image, upload it to our own video hosting site, blog post and submit everything to our social channels. I cannot control this process, but soon there are talks about its optimization.
Who are the people who help you achieve results, and how do you rely on them?
We have a video team of three. Besides me, there is our producer Adam and creative producer Heather. They shoot, edit and animate, so we can all help each other finish the video. There are also a couple of floating shooters that work with all GMG sites, so we usually take one of them with us to the set. I rely on them all because the video needs to be finalized and published (see the detailed process above), so I need to focus on upcoming ideas, plan for future filming, and make sure that everything we publish is up to our standards.
How do you keep track of what you need to do?
I have a google spreadsheet with all of our active projects. I watch it over and over to make sure I know what else needs to be done for each video. My current tasks are written in a notebook on my desk. And I never forget anything .
How to recharge or relax?
After going to the kitchen buffet. Here is a detailed list of the kitchen snacks that I value the most:
- Quaker muesli chewing bar. It’s so small and has just the right amount of chocolate.
- Kind bar. Slightly harder to eat, very loud and crunchy to eat at the table, but very satisfying. They’re also expensive, so getting one at work feels like you’ve just got a pay raise.
- A cup of tea. Great for caffeine in the afternoon, and by the time you wait for it to cool down, you forget you originally wanted to eat.
- Plum. Season is now seasonal and they are amazing.
- Vegetarian chips. I think it only calms the part of you that wants to chew on something, but it works.
- Annie’s Fruit Snacks. They are bad for you, but they are so good for you.
What’s your favorite side project?
Sometimes I edit videos for friends on the side. These are mostly corporate videos, so they just send me footage, I put in a big text and a funny song and send it. My previous job was to shoot videos like this all day long, but now that I make funny videos at work I have free time to make these cookie cutter videos (which also tend to pay pretty well ).
What are you reading now or what do you recommend?
I’m reading Meet in the Bathroom , a 600-page oral history of indie rock in 2000s New York. It’s great! I’m almost done and can’t wait to see what happens with a band called The Strokes.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
This was from my first boss at my first job, and she told me that when you do something with a brand name, then the product exists to serve the brand. This is not your personal art, so you should not take any notes or changes personally.
What problem are you still trying to solve?
What kind of videos do people want to watch.