This year I made the decision to make the drive out to Des Moines, Iowa to attend the Iowa Deer Classic knowing very well that Bill Winke and the Midwest Whitetail crew would be hanging out there. During my long drive, I played out some scenarios in my head of what a conversation might look like with one of Midwest Whitetail team members. My job as an outdoor writer is to try and break done the barriers between the professionals and the aspiring professionals. I wanted to uncover the background story of at least one of these guys and get the inside scoop of how they ended working for such a great company.
Upon arrival at the Iowa Deer Classic, I rushed in to get front row seating of Bill Winke’s seminar on patterning mature bucks. After the seminar, I was motivated to find Midwest Whitetail’s booth and simply strike up a conversation. It was a lot easier than I thought, especially after shaking hands with Erik Barber who is the Marketing Specialist and Producer at Midwest Whitetail. After a brief introduction and small talk around hunting and filming, Erik agreed to answer a few questions I had about his profession and his career.
I learned that Erik is originally from Colgate, Wisconsin and he graduated college from Carroll University. It was during Erik’s college career that he applied and got accepted to Midwest Whitetail’s internship program in 2013. Erik majored in journalism and admitted that he lacked a background in producing or filming. To me, this was a surprise. I can remember back when I was in college I would often visit the Midwest Whitetail site to browse the career opportunities. I often saw the internship position become available; however I balked many times and never submitted an application because my perception was that you had to have some sort of background in filming, editing and producing. It turns out that everyone except the main show producer, Greg Clements, does NOT have a degree or any prior schooling in videography. Moral of the story as Bill Winke would say- “Always Dream BIG!”
Erik’s time as an intern and producer really pushed his hunting and filming skill set to another level. Now as the Producer and Marketing Specialist of Midwest Whitetail, Erik manages all of the social media pages and also films, edits and produces for the Great Plains show. Having access to great resources such as Bill Winke, Aaron Warbritton and Greg Clements definitely helped him. But even if one had the greatest mentors in the game there is still a prodigious need for individual effort. Erik found himself learning “the ropes” through self-discovery and learning on his own. He credits a lot of what he has learned about filming hunts to simply being persistent, creative and having the desire to learn more. If you watch the show, Erik and his team are some of the industry’s best when it comes to hunting and filming whitetails. Hard work and having the desire to better yourself at what you do can really pay off. Moreover, Erik pitched the idea of ramping up social media marketing for the show and really leverage what various social media platforms have to offer. Needless to say, it was a great success. Midwest Whitetail doubled their “likes” on Facebook from 25,000 to 50,000 in just seven months. In result, the show’s website traffic has increased 15% from 2015 to 2016; which is a remarkable accomplishment for Erik and his team at Midwest Whitetail.
I asked Erik what advice he would be able to share with a beginner or even intermediate filmmaker who wants to get in the hunting industry, and the main takeaway was simply being persistent with your goals. “Put yourself out there”, Erik said. “Go out to tradeshows, meet the vendors and offer your services.” Bring some business cards and pound the tradeshows. You can’t hide behind the keyboard when it comes to making connections. You can build much better rapport when meeting people in person. Erik also advised building a portfolio for yourself to showcase your work. Even if it is just a couple of hunts, put something together and start displaying your work to others in the industry. In addition, even if a company or pro staff doesn’t need your services as an editor or producer, ask to get a little feedback on your portfolio. Constructive criticism from professionals or experts in the area of producing and editing will help you take your game to the next level.
I was so glad to talk with Erik about what he does and how he arrived at Midwest Whitetail. From my conversation with him, he’s a normal guy with a passion for hunting and filming just like you and me. With this realization, I would like to challenge you. If you are someone who wants to become a field producer or professional camera man in the hunting industry then put yourself out there. Start shaking hands and approaching the people involved in the industry and demonstrate that you are serious. Start diving into filming and editing on your own and start developing your skills now. You never know what could happen if you pass up opportunities. Swing for the fences and good things will happen.