Always Learning – Or How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Become An Instagrammer!

Always Learning

– Or How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Become An Instagrammer!

A blog post by Greg

The year was 2003, probably May, definitely a weekday, and at around eleven in the morning (I know this, because it would have been morning break), in ‘F Block’, outside the ‘Design Technology’ classroom, when my head of Sixth Form was discussing the fact that I would soon be leaving Sixth Form, the same school I had attended since I had been eleven. For seven years of my life I had trod the corridors, wandered the playgrounds and fields, performed on the stage, studied in the library, and visited those strange boxes known as ‘classrooms’.

I was talking to the Head of Sixth Form, Mr Berry, and my long suffering ex-GCSE electronics teacher Mr Gooding about the approaching exams and leaving the school, when Mr Berry posed a very interesting question.

“Are you going to miss the school?”

“Oh, yeah, I’ll miss this place,” I replied quick as a flash, my voice dripping with sarcasm.

“Are you being sarcastic?” he asked.

There was a long pause. I thought about the question, weighing up everything, considering my answer carefully.

“Only half sarcastic,” I told him.

This caused much laughter between the two teachers, before Mr Berry told me that if I were to write an autobiography one day I would have to call it ‘Only Half Sarcastic’.

I often think of that conversation, and of the chain of thought that led up to it, because I think it was one of the most (potentially only) truly profound things that I said as a teenager. I knew what I was going to miss about the school, I was going to miss having the time to focus on learning.

Not, I will be honest, in the classrooms (with the exception of seven years of Drama and Theatre Studies lessons with Mrs Burford, who is one of the six people that I generally credit for me being the performer I am today). This is not the fault of the teachers, it is just that I am not very good at being ‘taught’. I have always preferred to seek out information and learn myself. I read the course books, but never did my homework. I mostly chatted with my friends in class, or tried to find in the textbooks what the teachers were talking about, but rarely actually listened to the teachers. Lunchtimes would usually find me in the drama studio rehearsing or in the library poring over books while chatting with friends. The whole day could be spent learning, interrupted only by people telling me to stop reading the book because they were trying to teach me!

I really enjoy learning, and it is how I approach most things in the business side of my life. When I started out as an actor I studied everything I could find about acting, from Stanislavski’s ‘An Actor Prepares’ to Michael Caine’s ‘Acting On Camera’. When I started to learn magic it was by reading as many magic books as I could, and my real association began when I was allowed to borrow books from my director’s magic library in Italy.

When I started on filmmaking, and to this day, I read books on the subject (I have just started re-reading a book about field sound recording to help improve our next videos), and this was also when YouTube tutorial videos started becoming a useful guide on every topic, even though it may take time to work through many videos to find the points of interest you need (which is why books will always be my first choice).

When Felicity and I started to make our documentaries I started studying independent film marketing and distribution, and this really did require a lot of YouTube videos as the situation is constantly changing in both of these areas, and so I still watch several videos a week looking for new techniques and ideas as we continue to learn the best ways to get our films seen by large numbers of people.

The reason that all this is on my mind today is that I have recently started learning something new, and something I hadn’t expected to be learning. I am now spending a lot of my time learning how to become an Instagram ‘Influencer’, much as I had no desire to be known by that term! I am a traveller, an entertainer, a magician and a filmmaker. At 37 years old can I really be an Instagrammer? Why would I?

The why is quite simple. To help us with our other projects. Some of the people we are trying to work with to make our travel and nature based documentaries want to know how big a reach we have, how useful we will be to them from a promotional standpoint, beyond our interest in how many people watch our documentaries. The metric which has been brought up a few times now is the number of followers we have on Instagram, and our ‘engagement rate’ on there – we haven’t actually had any other social media platforms mentioned to us – which means that we need an Instagram following!

For those of you who don’t really know what Instagram is (my hand would have been up a month ago) it is a social media platform built around images – mainly photos but short videos and graphics as well. Yes, there is writing there in the form of ‘captions’ for each photograph, but on the whole it is image based – a bonus for us as with the travel and nature documentaries what we do is also heavily image based, although more with videos than photographs, but we have an abundance of behind the scenes photographs and can always pull stills from the documentaries!

Instagram currently has 1,130,000,000 users (according to a quick google search), of which we need tens of thousands to follow us in order to be considered at the ‘influencer’ level for the type of places which we want to work with. 91% of users (approximately – these are all the best numbers I can find in a quick google search) have fewer than 10,000 followers, and more than half have fewer than 1,000 followers (including us at the time of writing this blog, although we’re closing in on that first 1,000!) This means that we have to get ourselves into the  9% of users (in fact, it is more like the top 5% to get the numbers we are looking at!). Plus we have to make sure we keep the followers engaged – it is no good getting 10,000 followers who aren’t interested in our posts!

How can we possibly go from nowhere to being in the top 5% of users on the platform? It feels almost like standing at the bottom of a sheer and ridiculously high mountain and needing to climb to the top!

Well, to push the analogy a little, if I were at the bottom of that mountain the first thing I would do would be to find somebody who knew a lot about mountain climbing and ask them for advice about where to start. I would also go to my friends and see if there was anyone who could point me in the right direction.

So that is what I am doing now. I am seeking out videos and articles about Instagram, trying to find out who seems to know what they are talking about, and who can provide the tips we need. I am making notes of good ideas and trying them out, I am seeing what advice is suggested by multiple people.

I also went to our friends and asked them for help, which gave us our first few hundred followers (by the way, if you have an Instagram account, now would be the perfect time to follow us at www.instagram.com/gregandfelicity).

Of course, the majority of people on Instagram are using it for fun, to connect with people and subjects that interest them, and to follow businesses that they like. It is also a joy to engage with other people on Instagram, to see photographs from fellow travellers, and to be able to read and share thoughts on different places. I must say, having always heard how negative social media is, and having seen some of it over the past year on Twitter and Facebook, it is refreshing to go onto Instagram and (because of what we do), see a feed filled with far off places, incredible creatures and, because they seem popular, beautiful sunsets.

Learning how to become an ‘influencer’ was never something I had any interest in, it was never a goal. It still isn’t a goal as such, it is a subset of our main goal of seeing the world and sharing our adventures through videos, this blog, and now through photographs on Instagram as well.

To me though, it feels so nice to be starting to learn something new. Of course there is crossover with what we have learned about YouTube, but the rules are all different! So each day I am reading, watching, learning and hopefully that will keep us moving steadily in the right direction.

Now I’m off to find out what I should be doing with a ‘reel’ or what I’m doing wrong with my ‘stories’, or some other little hint that will help us grow, and help me to learn!

Happy adventuring, and please, take unbelievably good care of yourselves, and of each other!

Greg

P.S.

If you enjoyed this blog post, please leave a comment and say ‘hello’!

For information on all of our projects, visit: www.gregandfelicityadventures.com

Follow us on Instagram at: https://www.instagram.com/gregandfelicity

Like us on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/GregandFelicityAdventures

There are various places you can watch our documentaries and series!

Seeking Cetaceans In Scotland: A two-part documentary about the work of the Cetacean Research and Rescue Unit as they work to help whales, dolphins and porpoises in the Moray Firth in Scotland:

Buy it to watch now on Amazon’s Prime Video at:

UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B09RVWVFCV

USA: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B09RVWJGY1

(Greg and Felicity are donating half of our income from the Amazon sales on this documentary to support the CRRU).

Available to buy on DVD (with £5 from each donated to the charity): https://ko-fi.com/s/73e469d114

 

ROMANIA: SEEKING DRACULA’S CASTLE: Our travel documentary looking into the history, legend and castles connected to Vlad Dracula III, sometimes known as Vlad the Impaler, and a journey around Romania:

Free Worldwide on Plex: https://watch.plex.tv/movie/romania-seeking-draculas-castle

Free (USA) on Tubi: https://tubitv.com/movies/579192/romania-seeking-dracula-s-castle

Prime Video (From £1.99, no Ads) (UK): https://www.amazon.co.uk//dp/B08RDPZP14

Prime Video (From $1.99, no Ads) (USA): https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08RDJR4F2

TURKEY: FAIRY CHIMNEYS AND UNDERGROUND CITIES: A travel documentary across Turkey, from the Fairy Chimneys and Underground Cities of Cappadocia to the ancient Greek ruins of Ephesus and Hierapolis:

Prime Video UK (From £2.49, no Ads): https://www.amazon.co.uk/Turkey-Fairy-Chimneys-Underground-Cities/dp/B09KKSZLRW

Prime Video USA (From $1.99, no Ads): https://www.amazon.com/Turkey-Fairy-Chimneys-Underground-Cities/dp/B09KK6VDJB

Free Worldwide on Plex: https://watch.plex.tv/movie/turkey-fairy-chimneys-and-underground-cities

Free (USA) on Tubi: https://tubitv.com/movies/579225/turkey-fairy-chimneys-and-underground-cities

Greg Chapman’s Magic Show: An eight-part series of magic and entertainment with Greg:

Free worldwide on Plex:  https://watch.plex.tv/show/greg-chapmans-magic-show/season/1

Available to buy on DVD: https://ko-fi.com/s/7c1bc10a08

Mexico: Mayan Mystery and Marine Majesty: Filmed on our honeymoon in Mexico in 2019, our first travel documentary took us through the ancient sites of Teotihuacan, Uxmal, El Tajin, Palenque, Chichen Itza and Calakmul, and then on to see the whales of Magdalena Bay, whale sharks of La Paz, and more.

Watch free on YouTube: https://youtu.be/yfMpD868MHU

The Isle of Man: Railways, Castles and Seals: Our second travel documentary took us to the Isle of Man!

Watch free on YouTube: https://youtu.be/uCpUa6XEkbg

Not As Boring As I Thought!

Not As Boring As I Thought!

A blog post by Greg

I think that by far one of my favourite reviews of one of my live shows came from a young child who came up to me at the end of a school performance with a great big smile on her face and offered the now immortal words:

“You know, that wasn’t as boring as I thought it would be!”

I, of course, descended into laughter at the horrified look on the teacher’s face, and immediately asked if I could use the quote on my next poster – I thought that “Greg Chapman: Not As Boring As You Think” would be a great poster line, although, as I write it now, I wonder if it would be better served as the title of a show!

For the record, I think that the child had really enjoyed the show, which is why her double-edged compliment was so funny to me. Taking a step back, for a moment, it is actually a very useful review to receive, because it was nice, friendly, delivered in good spirit, and unintentionally helpful! Hidden inside the comment was an important message, and, as a person who likes words and tries hard to listen to the words people actually say, I started to deconstruct the sentence as I packed up my kit.

Other children had said lovely things – ‘great magic’, ‘I really liked your show’, ‘you are the best live entertainer of your generation and perhaps of all time you incredible genius’ (I may have made the last one up) – but their words, though lovely to hear, weren’t as interesting to me as that one child with her backhanded compliment.

The heart of the sentence which mattered to me was ‘I thought that was going to be boring’.

What an interesting sentiment to consider taking into a show, and one which is important to consider. As it was a school show, I am absolutely fine with the students going in thinking like that, expecting a boring lecture or presentation and then being pleasantly surprised with the fact that my show goes in a very different direction to what they might expect.

When selling the show to the teachers initially, however, or when selling a show to a theatre or selling tickets for an event, the last thing I would want is to give the impression in the marketing materials that the show was going to be boring – nobody is going to buy a ticket for a boring looking show in the hopes that they will be surprised by it!

So reviews, to me, were always useful when there was something that I could take away from them, something that we could build on, and the same is very much true of our videos. Take, for example, this review on the Prime Video page for our ‘Romania: Seeking Dracula’s Castle’ documentary:

Looked at objectively, this is a fantastic review – four stars for our first documentary on Prime Video, where Planet Earth, for example, averages 4.5 stars, we’re very happy with (our average is also 4.5 stars, but, I will be the first to admit, over significantly fewer reviews!).

There is, however, half a sentence of criticism hidden amongst the compliments, the words:

“Yes the sound quality is a bit poor at times, and at other times the exposure is less than ideal.”

There are several ways to deal with criticism like this. The first is the way in which I have seen far too many performers and artists react to it, which is to get angry about it and to decide that the person dishing out the criticism must be wrong because they dared give one piece of criticism in an otherwise lovely review, and not even a bad piece of criticism!

The second is to get upset. I will admit that at times I have become upset about reviews, but never one like this. I will get upset by a review that is fundamentally unfair or deliberately rude (for example, one accusing us of Xenophobia against Turkish people because we dared mention that Vlad had learned his torture methods while held prisoner by the Ottoman Sultan!), but even then I am slowly learning to let those flow like water off a duck’s back, especially as more and more people leave good reviews to drown out the few like that.

The third way, and the way that I endeavour to read any constructively intended review (and it is important to only care about those that are actually intended constructively), is to listen to the points made, both good and bad, and see if I can agree with them and whether they matter to us.

In the review I have included above, for example, I was very pleased to read that for this person our enthusiasm had come through in the video, as this is something that I try really hard to ensure comes through in the final edit.

The comments about sound and exposure were also fair and useful, and gave us something to focus on with the technical side of things. In fact, looking through the reviews we have on that project, sound was mentioned a couple of times, which means that we needed to make that a big focus. As a result we have invested in new sound equipment, including wireless microphone units and lapel microphones, and a new studio microphone for the voiceovers, and I have spent a lot more time studying sound recording and reading books on the subject, and have notes on another couple of pieces I want to complete our kit to make sure that on our next travel documentary the sound takes a big leap forward! We are also looking at upgrading our camera when finances allow to allow us more control over things like exposure!

This, artistically is where reviews are most useful, taking those that are clearly meant in a positive and constructive manner, and getting to the bottom of what useful facts they contain to help us to improve with each passing video.

There is, however, another way that reviews help not only us, but every filmmaker, author, creator and small business owner that you know, and that is the dual points of ‘algorithms’ and ‘crowd authority’.

Basically, we need reviews! It is something that I am heavily focused on at the moment with the recent release of ‘Seeking Cetaceans In Scotland‘, as I try to encourage those people who have watched the documentary on Prime Video to leave it a review there, and I would also encourage you to leave reviews for any other creative whose work you have enjoyed!

The first part of this is the algorithms, the clever secret method by which places like Prime Video, Amazon, Google, YouTube and other search based sites decide when to recommend your work, and how high to rank you in search results. The exact algorithms are usually highly guarded secrets, but we know that engagement is key for most of them, so for our videos it would be a case of how many people have bought the documentary before, have those people then watched it all the way through, and then have they taken the extra effort to leave a review? An honest review is the icing on the cake, the thing that few people will get around to, and so really shows that somebody has engaged with the content, and so it will really help boost the work, and get it to show higher in searches and recommendations.

As important as this, if not more, is the concept of crowd authority.

Imagine, if you will, that you want to buy, for example, a new hat. A very nice hat, one which will keep the sun out of your eyes when it is too bright, but which will also keep your head warm in the cold. It is loose fitting enough that it doesn’t give you a headache, but even the strongest winds won’t blow it off. You are after the pinnacle of hats! Wait a minute… where was I going with this?

I remember.

You have found two potential hats on an internet market place which look remarkably similar. They both fit all of your requirements, and unbelievably are exactly the same price. You look at every detail and they are exactly the same, and both get a review rating of 5 stars!

With a closer look, you see that one of the hats only has two reviews, however, while the other hat has over a thousand reviews. Which one do you buy?

Unless you are being deliberately obtuse, I would expect that most people will say the one with over a thousand reviews, and this is borne out in everything I have learned about reviews, and crowd authority. The more reviews are on something, the more people you can see have liked it, and therefore the higher the chances that the ‘wisdom of crowds’ is correct in telling you that it is a good product and, providing it is what you are looking for, worth buying.

The same is true of our documentaries on Amazon. While they are just launching and Seeking Cetaceans In Scotland has, at the time of writing, only two reviews, people who don’t know us are less likely to take the step of buying it than they will when it has ten, fifty or a hundred reviews.

That is why we are now setting ourselves a goal on a new release of 100 reviews in the first month! It will be a difficult push to get there, but will really make a big difference to the documentaries going forward, and so it is really worth it!

Now my plea to you! If you have seen any of our documentaries, please go and leave them a review, particularly if you have watched ‘Romania: Seeking Dracula’s Castle’ and ‘Seeking Cetaceans In Scotland’ on Prime Video.

More than that though, if you have a book you have read recently, or a video you’ve watched, or a place you’ve stayed, or something you’ve bought online that you really like, then please go and leave it a review! Two minutes of your time can mean the world to a creator! While you’re at it, you can also leave a comment here to let us know what you like about our blogs, and if there are any subjects you’d like us to talk about!

Happy adventuring, and please, take unbelievably good care of yourselves, and of each other!

Greg

P.S.

If you enjoyed this blog post, please leave a comment and say ‘hello’!

For information on all of our projects, visit: www.gregandfelicityadventures.com

Follow us on Instagram at: https://www.instagram.com/gregandfelicity

Like us on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/GregandFelicityAdventures

There are various places you can watch our documentaries and series!

Seeking Cetaceans In Scotland: A two-part documentary about the work of the Cetacean Research and Rescue Unit as they work to help whales, dolphins and porpoises in the Moray Firth in Scotland:

Buy it to watch now on Amazon’s Prime Video at:

UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B09RVWVFCV

USA: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B09RVWJGY1

(Greg and Felicity are donating half of our income from the Amazon sales on this documentary to support the CRRU).

Available to buy on DVD (with £5 from each donated to the charity): https://ko-fi.com/s/73e469d114

 

ROMANIA: SEEKING DRACULA’S CASTLE: Our travel documentary looking into the history, legend and castles connected to Vlad Dracula III, sometimes known as Vlad the Impaler, and a journey around Romania:

Free Worldwide on Plex: https://watch.plex.tv/movie/romania-seeking-draculas-castle

Free (USA) on Tubi: https://tubitv.com/movies/579192/romania-seeking-dracula-s-castle

Prime Video (From £1.99, no Ads) (UK): https://www.amazon.co.uk//dp/B08RDPZP14

Prime Video (From $1.99, no Ads) (USA): https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08RDJR4F2

TURKEY: FAIRY CHIMNEYS AND UNDERGROUND CITIES: A travel documentary across Turkey, from the Fairy Chimneys and Underground Cities of Cappadocia to the ancient Greek ruins of Ephesus and Hierapolis:

Prime Video UK (From £2.49, no Ads): https://www.amazon.co.uk/Turkey-Fairy-Chimneys-Underground-Cities/dp/B09KKSZLRW

Prime Video USA (From $1.99, no Ads): https://www.amazon.com/Turkey-Fairy-Chimneys-Underground-Cities/dp/B09KK6VDJB

Free Worldwide on Plex: https://watch.plex.tv/movie/turkey-fairy-chimneys-and-underground-cities

Free (USA) on Tubi: https://tubitv.com/movies/579225/turkey-fairy-chimneys-and-underground-cities

Greg Chapman’s Magic Show: An eight-part series of magic and entertainment with Greg:

Free worldwide on Plex:  https://watch.plex.tv/show/greg-chapmans-magic-show/season/1

Available to buy on DVD: https://ko-fi.com/s/7c1bc10a08

Mexico: Mayan Mystery and Marine Majesty: Filmed on our honeymoon in Mexico in 2019, our first travel documentary took us through the ancient sites of Teotihuacan, Uxmal, El Tajin, Palenque, Chichen Itza and Calakmul, and then on to see the whales of Magdalena Bay, whale sharks of La Paz, and more.

Watch free on YouTube: https://youtu.be/yfMpD868MHU

The Isle of Man: Railways, Castles and Seals: Our second travel documentary took us to the Isle of Man!

Watch free on YouTube: https://youtu.be/uCpUa6XEkbg

 

Teaming Up With The Cetacean Research and Rescue Unit

Teaming Up With The Cetacean Research and Rescue Unit

A blog post by Greg

Hopefully by now it is no secret that Felicity and I spent a couple of weeks in September 2021 with the Cetacean Research and Rescue Unit in Scotland filming a two part documentary, about the work that they do to study and assist dolphins, whales and porpoises in and around the Moray Firth (and of course the research that they do goes on to assist cetaceans, which covers all three of these, around the world).

As I write this blog, we are pleased to say that the documentary is now available to purchase on Amazon’s Prime Video in the UK (HERE) and the USA (HERE), and that we are continuing to donate half of anything that Felicity and I make through streaming and sales from this documentary to the CRRU to help them keep up the great work that they do. I thought that this means that it is the perfect time for me to share a little bit about the CRRU and our involvement with them.

Back in 2018 Felicity and I decided to start ‘Curios Aquatica‘, which Felicity has written a whole blog post about which you can read to find out more about what that involved. Part of our aim, however, in trying to help to save the seas and the creatures which live in them, was to fundraise for marine charities. The first year we selected the Marine Conservation Society UK, and raised some money for them, however when we reached the second year we decided we wanted to find a smaller charity, one which we could get to know a little more closely, and where we would be able to see (and share with our supporters) what the money was going to help.

We looked into a number of charities, and then we found the Cetacean Research and Rescue Unit. Felicity is very interested in cetaceans, you may have read her previous blog post about them, which was why we had visited the whales of Magdalena Bay while we were in Mexico, fulfilling a dream that Felicity had held onto since she was a young teenager. We looked into the charity, and very quickly agreed that this was the charity for us to support, and so we began turning our fundraising towards them.

While we were planning our videos, it suddenly occurred to us that making a documentary about the work that the Cetacean Research and Rescue team were doing would be perfect. We could donate some of the income from the video to support the charity (we have actually decided to donate half of everything that Felicity and I received as a result of streaming sales to the charity), and also hopefully show the work that they do and encourage others to get involved and to do what they can to help support these wonderful creatures, and the seas and oceans in general.

So I sent an email to Dr Kevin Robinson, the lead researcher and director of the CRRU, with a fairly modest proposal. Would he, we asked, be willing to allow us to come up to Scotland, find a hotel locally, and visit them for a couple of days to do some interviews, film some of what they get up to, and create a documentary, and we waited for his response, expecting either a polite ‘we’re too busy to have someone getting under our feet filming’, or allowing us to come up as we suggested.

This was not, however, what happened. Dr Kevin arranged a video conference with us (this was during the pandemic, while we had all of our video equipment set up in the ‘Mercave’ for online shows), and made a counter suggestion. He was incredibly supportive of our idea to come and make a documentary, but suggested that if we were to really be able to present the team and their work from a place of understanding, then we should be part of the team. This meant joining one of their research teams (they have several over the summer – find out more about how you can get involved here) and spending ten days living with them, working with them, going out on the boat with them, and generally getting a real ‘inside look’ at what they do.

Of course we leapt at the chance… and then the waiting began until the pandemic was over, and we could find a space on a team (we did not want to take a place away from a research student, and there are limited spaces on the boat for each team).

Then in September 2021 things came together, and we found ourselves travelling north from the Isle of Wight all the way up to Aberdeenshire in Scotland, and a small village on the coast of the Moray Firth called Gardenstown, and driving carefully along the sea wall there (barely wider than our van) to the CRRU base.

I don’t want to go too far into our experiences with the CRRU, we are really proud of the two-part documentary we have made, and are really pleased with the way it tells the story and presents the work that the team do, so we would prefer you watch that to find out all the details. I just want to share with you some of the feelings behind this documentary and why it is a little different in style to our others.

To briefly explain what the CRRU does, I can’t do better than quote from their website.

The CRRU is a marine conservation charity dedicated to the study, conservation and understanding of UK whales, dolphins and porpoises (cetaceans) in northeast Scotland through scientific research, environmental education and the provision of a voluntary veterinary rescue service for marine wildlife in distress.

This gives a big overview of what the team do, and to give you a little more of an idea of what to expect from the documentary it seems a good time to include the trailer for you to take a look!

This was a very different documentary for us, because it was important to us to take a slight step backwards from the ‘limelight’. In our travel documentaries we are the presenters and the storytellers, we are taking you on a journey with us, and the main focus of the films, whether the background is Turkey, Romania, Mexico or the Isle of Man, is us on our journey showing you around and sharing our thoughts.

Obviously that is an element of the Scotland documentary, but we were also arriving as part of a team, and a team that we wanted to learn from, and whose knowledge we wanted to share with everyone else. Also, if there was one of us who really deserved to be there, it was Felicity, who (and she will question this, but it is my blog post) knows a lot about cetaceans. She has had a huge interest in them all of her life, and has read books, watched documentaries, and continues to learn about them as much as she can. I would say (because I am not modest like she is, I am a performer with a performer’s ego) that I know more than the average person about cetaceans, and I did even before we visited the CRRU. What I know, however, I learned by osmosis from Felicity, and I know how little I know in comparison to her.

I know filmmaking better than Felicity, I don’t think she will question that. When we make our documentaries I am the one who understands the kit best, and it is me that ‘sees’ the story (see my previous post about choosing our destinations) and puts together the first rough edit to show this story. While we are filming our travel documentaries we are generally equal in the amount of time we spend filming and presenting on camera, but on this occasion I knew that wasn’t going to give us the best results. In order to capture the team, and to allow Felicity to really experience being a full part of the team, we would each be best playing to our strengths. So although you will see both of us on camera, you’ll notice that my pieces are more about the film and the story, pieces to camera, updates, etc, whereas Felicity is part of the team, getting involved with taking identification photographs, discussing aspects of the work with the team, and learning how to do various jobs involved in being part of a research and rescue team.

We also had a lot more characters in these documentaries. While our travel documentaries usually feature us as the main characters, and I like to think of the country we are in as the third main character (and in Romania it felt like Vlad Dracula was a recurring character throughout), with any other people who feature in the films appearing almost like ‘guest’ performers, some of them stealing the show for a moment such as Marco the wonderful guide in Palenque!

In this documentary, however, there is an ensemble cast, and we had to make sure that we put focus on the whole team otherwise the film would not have worked. Dr Kevin, obviously, would be a main feature, but the whole team had their own areas of expertise, and we are so grateful to all of them for throwing themselves into working with us as much as we tried to throw ourselves into working with them. For the first time in one of our documentaries we also had other camera people for a couple of shots, particularly the drone shots and at some of the underwater shots, which were filmed by other members of the team.

This will, therefore, always be a special documentary for me because it is something so different from what we have done before, and likely from what we will do again. In general our documentaries will still be about us on our travels, and will be an equal blend of Greg and Felicity, and with us leading you on a journey and taking you into our world. However, on this occasion, it was fantastic to be part of a team working together to help the cetaceans of the Moray Firth, and also to make a two part documentary!

We hope you enjoy the documentary – if you do, please leave it a review on IMDB and/or Amazon!

Happy adventuring, and please, take unbelievably good care of yourselves, and of each other!

Greg

P.S.

If you enjoyed this blog post, please leave a comment and say ‘hello’!

For information on all of our projects, visit: www.gregandfelicityadventures.com

Follow us on Instagram at: https://www.instagram.com/gregandfelicity

Like us on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/GregandFelicityAdventures

There are various places you can watch our documentaries and series!

Seeking Cetaceans In Scotland: A two-part documentary about the work of the Cetacean Research and Rescue Unit as they work to help whales, dolphins and porpoises in the Moray Firth in Scotland:

Buy it to watch now on Amazon’s Prime Video at:

UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B09RVWVFCV

USA: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B09RVWJGY1

(Greg and Felicity are donating half of our income from the Amazon sales on this documentary to support the CRRU).

Available to buy on DVD (with £5 from each donated to the charity): https://ko-fi.com/s/73e469d114

 

ROMANIA: SEEKING DRACULA’S CASTLE: Our travel documentary looking into the history, legend and castles connected to Vlad Dracula III, sometimes known as Vlad the Impaler, and a journey around Romania:

Free Worldwide on Plex: https://watch.plex.tv/movie/romania-seeking-draculas-castle

Free (USA) on Tubi: https://tubitv.com/movies/579192/romania-seeking-dracula-s-castle

Prime Video (From £1.99, no Ads) (UK): https://www.amazon.co.uk//dp/B08RDPZP14

Prime Video (From $1.99, no Ads) (USA): https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08RDJR4F2

TURKEY: FAIRY CHIMNEYS AND UNDERGROUND CITIES: A travel documentary across Turkey, from the Fairy Chimneys and Underground Cities of Cappadocia to the ancient Greek ruins of Ephesus and Hierapolis:

Prime Video UK (From £2.49, no Ads): https://www.amazon.co.uk/Turkey-Fairy-Chimneys-Underground-Cities/dp/B09KKSZLRW

Prime Video USA (From $1.99, no Ads): https://www.amazon.com/Turkey-Fairy-Chimneys-Underground-Cities/dp/B09KK6VDJB

Free Worldwide on Plex: https://watch.plex.tv/movie/turkey-fairy-chimneys-and-underground-cities

Free (USA) on Tubi: https://tubitv.com/movies/579225/turkey-fairy-chimneys-and-underground-cities

Greg Chapman’s Magic Show: An eight-part series of magic and entertainment with Greg:

Free worldwide on Plex:  https://watch.plex.tv/show/greg-chapmans-magic-show/season/1

Available to buy on DVD: https://ko-fi.com/s/7c1bc10a08

Mexico: Mayan Mystery and Marine Majesty: Filmed on our honeymoon in Mexico in 2019, our first travel documentary took us through the ancient sites of Teotihuacan, Uxmal, El Tajin, Palenque, Chichen Itza and Calakmul, and then on to see the whales of Magdalena Bay, whale sharks of La Paz, and more.

Watch free on YouTube: https://youtu.be/yfMpD868MHU

The Isle of Man: Railways, Castles and Seals: Our second travel documentary took us to the Isle of Man!

Watch free on YouTube: https://youtu.be/uCpUa6XEkbg

 

Choosing A Destination

Choosing a Destination

A blog post by Greg

As the world begins to open up again following the pandemic, and we can begin to look at booking travel with much more confidence that the whole trip won’t fall apart last minute (while still being aware of the possibility), it is time for Felicity and me to start planning our next travel documentary, and of course, that planning has to begin with deciding where we will be going. In this post, therefore, I thought I would take you all vaguely through the process and criteria through which we decide where we shall be heading for our next adventure, and how this has changed as we’ve moved into making the travel documentaries.

If you haven’t seen our adventures so far, we have made four travel documentaries to date, ‘Mexico: Mayan Mystery and Marine Majesty‘, ‘The Isle of Man: Railways, Castles and Seals‘, ‘Turkey: Fairy Chimneys and Underground Cities‘, and ‘Romania: Seeking Dracula’s Castle‘. We have also made one travel-adjacent video, ‘Seeking Cetaceans In Scotland‘, although that leans much more towards a wildlife and charity based documentary rather than focussing on the travel.

The first of these destinations, Mexico, was never intended to become a documentary in the planning stages – it was only halfway through the trip that we realised that the footage we were filming and the things we were seeing were something that we could share with people. So this destination was decided purely on the fact that we wanted to see the Mayan ruins and the whales of Magdalena Bay, and we planned the trip around those, purely focussing on what we would enjoy.

Once we had put together the documentary for YouTube, and released it, we knew that we wanted to make more travel documentaries, and the experience of travelling in Mexico made us decide that we wanted to make filming these documentaries a big focus of our life going forward, and to make them our job.

At this stage we were only releasing them on YouTube, and so I knew that to get some traction on YouTube we needed to get more videos out as soon as we could possibly do so, while maintaining the quality, so that people watching the Mexico video would have something else to follow it up with. I was already booked to perform on the Isle of Man a couple of months later, and so as we were already going to be there it made sense to extend the stay for a few days and use the time to make a second travel video there, so we did.

Then we started thinking about the third documentary, and this was the first time that we found ourselves sitting down to decide on a place to visit with the specific intention of filming a documentary. As we were now looking at making the travel videos a business, and as we had already had a big adventure in Mexico at the start of the year, and as at this point in time, beyond putting the videos on YouTube, we hadn’t really figured out how we were actually going to make money from these videos we knew we had to be careful with the budget, which meant we couldn’t go away for a whole month, and that some of the places we wanted to visit were not possible as the way we wanted to film there would prove to be too expensive.

We did, however, want to make it somewhere very different from the Isle of Man or Mexico. Felicity pointed out that she had always wanted to see the Fairy Chimneys of Cappadocia, and a little research told us that this was the same area of Turkey that had a number of underground cities which I had read about and was very interested in, and so Turkey immediately became the only choice for us for our third video. We selected a number of activities in the country which we thought would be interesting and would also allow for great footage.

Every step of the way here we had been learning, trying out different things. In Mexico we had really had an adventure of two parts, the first part driving between various Mayan ruins, and the second part spending time in a number of marine and underwater environments in Mexico. We actually split it into a ‘Part One’ and ‘Part Two’ within the video. Looking back on this one now, were we going out there with the intention of filming again, I would have probably pushed towards filming and editing these as two separate documentaries, to allow each of the two themes to have its own clear focus.

With the Isle of Man we had a great time filming, and produced a video which a lot of people seem to have really enjoyed, but I think we both felt that it lacked the ‘travel’ aspect. The Island was a little close to Britain (both in distance and in culture, language, etc), and as we stayed in one place for the whole time, and places were only half an hour or so away from where we were staying, we both felt that we had lacked the ‘travel’, a risk which Felicity had pointed out before we went. I am very glad that we chose to film our second video there, however, because a few people have commented how much they enjoyed the comedy and personality which came through from us in that one, something which we strive to get into every video we make.

As a third video location, Turkey was wonderful, and a change of pace again from the Isle of Man and Mexico. In terms of travelling it was somewhere between the two – in Mexico we had travelled for a month and stayed in a different hotel every other night, in the Isle of Man we had based ourselves in the Milntown Estate for the whole time, while in Turkey we stayed in three different hotels in three parts of the country, each allowing for a different ‘flavour’ to the adventure. We also made sure that ‘experiences’ came to the fore in this adventure – hot air balloons, crawling through underground cities, ATV riding, and THAT horse ride (if you don’t know what I am talking about, head over and watch Turkey: Fairy Chimneys and Underground Cities to see me truly terrified on horseback!). This is the first video we made which has been taken onto streaming sites such as Tubi and Plex (although not the first video to get onto bigger streaming platforms, as I will come to shortly), and so we know that the quality was there by this point. However, looking back on the edit on this one, it is a series of great experiences in a wonderful country, but it is important to look at our videos constructively to see what we can approve the next time, and to me the thing that we still hadn’t got quite as I would have liked was a ‘through line’ to the video, a reason why we started and ended up where we did.

This brings us to our most recently released fully travel-focused documentary, ‘Romania: Seeking Dracula’s Castle. I say ‘fully travel-focused’, but of course it has a historical backdrop to it as well, as we used the history of Vlad III of Wallachia, or ‘Vlad the Impaler’ to his enemies, as the backdrop to the journey, giving us a reason to go to the various places that we wanted to visit within the country, while allowing us the freedom to add places, like the LiBearty Sanctuary and the DinoPark, which were outside of the main ‘Dracula’ remit. We managed, in my opinion, to plot a good route which made sense in the context of the documentary, to include funny moments and our personality, to truly have a travel video travelling from place to place, and to put together all of the things we had learned about planning the travel and putting together the video. This seems to have been proved correct as this is by quite a margin the most popular of our travel documentaries to date.

By the time that Romania was released on YouTube in April 2020 we found ourselves in lockdown for the duration of the pandemic. As I mentioned in the blog post ‘A Treatise On Magic’, at the start of lockdown as shows were cancelling around us (and before we knew just how long it would all last), I told Felicity that I was determined to come out of the situation in some way better than we went in.

With the success of Romania on YouTube, I turned my focus to how we could move from putting our documentaries on YouTube, which, while great for shorter videos or tutorials, was not a great fit for our documentaries and was not going to enable us to turn them into a business. I learned a lot, and by the end of 2020 we had the news that ‘Romania: Seeking Dracula’s Castle’ had been accepted onto Amazon’s Prime Video, where it is still available to buy to watch, and where it has done relatively well (following this we also applied to them with the Turkey video and is was accepted… but between it being accepted and actually going on the platform the company changed their rules and stopped taking independent non-fiction work, a stance that we are hopeful may be changing soon). We also found a ‘Film Marketplace’ who accepted both Romania and Turkey, and have since been able to get both videos onto a number of streaming services including Tubi, Plex and more. Artistically I feel that Romania hit all of the ‘sweet-spots’, and any constructive criticism would be on a technical basis, which it why we have been investing time and money on a range of new equipment, particularly focussing on sound!

This means that as we come out of the pandemic, and can finally get to work planning our first full travel-based documentary filming in two years, that we are finally crossing over to the point where we are actually starting to make a real business out of our travel videos, and take another step closer to being full-time travel documentary makers (to clarify, that means we’ve been making travel documentaries full time, not that we would be well fed and making documentaries about time-travel!). We therefore have to take three types of factor into account when we choose our next adventure location, what I think of as excitement, story, and business.

We begin looking at a country by scouring the internet to find out what places there are to visit in the country, and it is here that we are looking for the ‘excitement’. We have to find places or experiences which get us excited about the prospect of seeing them. For Felicity, the easiest way to find excitement is with wild animals, especially marine wildlife, while for me it tends to be an interesting piece of history, or historical story around a place (can you see how we ended up choosing Mexico for our Honeymoon?). Then, for both of us, something unusual, some form of oddity, is another big draw that will get us excited about a place. When there are countries which don’t give us that excitement we put them to one side to come back to another time – if we’re not excited by the adventure, how can we expect to excite the viewer with it?

After we are excited, we start looking for a story. Is there a clear route across, around or through the country that allows the journey to make sense? Are we able to find enough different places and stories along that route that the documentary will stay interesting throughout, and can we plan the route in such a way that we build to a clear ending? This involves much looking at maps and figuring out potential routes. There is also something that happens at this point within my head which I can’t really explain, which I refer to Felicity as ‘seeing a story’, which is the most important thing to me. While I couldn’t, at that point in time, tell you what the complete story will be, and, as we just film a lot of footage as we go and edit it down later, I couldn’t even begin to tell you what the ‘beats’ of the story will be, I can suddenly see there is a story. This will then slowly clear itself up through the whole process of filming and editing, but it is a gut reaction that the story exists in that country, and it is up to us to find it!

This is all fairly simple – with just these two points we could go anywhere in the world! For the third step, however, we have to strap on our business heads. Any journey we plan, of course, will have a budget, a cost which we will have to cover from our income from the video before we can even begin to make a profit. We therefore have to look at the cost of the adventure, whether we think there is a potential for gaining sponsorship for the journey or will have to pay the costs upfront ourselves, and whether we think that we can gain enough interest in the video to raise the funds to not only cover the costs, but also to make a profit to make it a successful business proposition. We don’t need the documentary to make us rich, but enough profit to allow us to keep going with this line of work, and to hopefully continue to upgrade and improve equipment! We have to look at the total cost and how long it would take us to raise the funds necessary to make the documentary we want to make. Doing a ‘cheaper’ version of a documentary is not an option we look at – we want to make each documentary the best it can be, as we are unlikely to get a second shot at making a documentary about any given country. At the same time, we don’t just want to go for the least expensive potential video on our list, because one that cost slightly more to make may have a theme, story, or location which we think has a better chance of making more income towards the next adventure.

Eventually, we hit on a place that hits all of the criteria, and it just feels that the time is right for that particular documentary, and then it is full steam ahead trying to get everything sorted in time for whenever the next set of dates we have booked off for a travel adventure should happen to fall. So I’d better get back to pouring over maps and researching on the internet so we can find our next adventure!

Happy adventuring, and please, take unbelievably good care of yourselves, and of each other!

Greg

P.S.

If you enjoyed this blog post, please leave a comment and say ‘hello’!

For information on all of our projects, visit: www.gregandfelicityadventures.com

Follow us on Instagram at: https://www.instagram.com/gregandfelicity

Like us on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/GregandFelicityAdventures

There are various places you can watch our documentaries and series!

Seeking Cetaceans In Scotland: A two-part documentary about the work of the Cetacean Research and Rescue Unit as they work to help whales, dolphins and porpoises in the Moray Firth in Scotland:

Buy it to watch now on Amazon’s Prime Video at:

UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B09RVWVFCV

USA: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B09RVWJGY1

(Greg and Felicity are donating half of our income from the Amazon sales on this documentary to support the CRRU).

Available to buy on DVD (with £5 from each donated to the charity): https://ko-fi.com/s/73e469d114

 

ROMANIA: SEEKING DRACULA’S CASTLE: Our travel documentary looking into the history, legend and castles connected to Vlad Dracula III, sometimes known as Vlad the Impaler, and a journey around Romania:

Free Worldwide on Plex: https://watch.plex.tv/movie/romania-seeking-draculas-castle

Free (USA) on Tubi: https://tubitv.com/movies/579192/romania-seeking-dracula-s-castle

Prime Video (From £1.99, no Ads) (UK): https://www.amazon.co.uk//dp/B08RDPZP14

Prime Video (From $1.99, no Ads) (USA): https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08RDJR4F2

TURKEY: FAIRY CHIMNEYS AND UNDERGROUND CITIES: A travel documentary across Turkey, from the Fairy Chimneys and Underground Cities of Cappadocia to the ancient Greek ruins of Ephesus and Hierapolis:

Prime Video UK (From £2.49, no Ads): https://www.amazon.co.uk/Turkey-Fairy-Chimneys-Underground-Cities/dp/B09KKSZLRW

Prime Video USA (From $1.99, no Ads): https://www.amazon.com/Turkey-Fairy-Chimneys-Underground-Cities/dp/B09KK6VDJB

Free Worldwide on Plex: https://watch.plex.tv/movie/turkey-fairy-chimneys-and-underground-cities

Free (USA) on Tubi: https://tubitv.com/movies/579225/turkey-fairy-chimneys-and-underground-cities

Greg Chapman’s Magic Show: An eight-part series of magic and entertainment with Greg:

Free worldwide on Plex:  https://watch.plex.tv/show/greg-chapmans-magic-show/season/1

Available to buy on DVD: https://ko-fi.com/s/7c1bc10a08

Mexico: Mayan Mystery and Marine Majesty: Filmed on our honeymoon in Mexico in 2019, our first travel documentary took us through the ancient sites of Teotihuacan, Uxmal, El Tajin, Palenque, Chichen Itza and Calakmul, and then on to see the whales of Magdalena Bay, whale sharks of La Paz, and more.

Watch free on YouTube: https://youtu.be/yfMpD868MHU

The Isle of Man: Railways, Castles and Seals: Our second travel documentary took us to the Isle of Man!

Watch free on YouTube: https://youtu.be/uCpUa6XEkbg