Friday, April 9, 2010

Escalate LIVE & Dane Sanders, An Exclusive Interview With Photogzilla

Photogzilla Rockstar has been thoroughly confused since the inception of EscalateLIVE went public just as we at PZN have been, along with many wedding photographers deciding whether they should even flush down the money to go. It was only a few weeks ago that Colonel Sanders (aka @DaneSanders) began promoting the baajesus out of @escalateLIVE. Along with his co-speakers, who have garnered an army of Twitter 'followers' (yes, that word should make you really go into some deep thought as well...followers, sheep, flock, herd, the list goes on), they started to tweet that people should get excited about and follow @escalateLIVE, a two day speaking event targeted at wedding photographers.

Our interest was certainly piqued and we knew for sure the same was true for our resident chief, Mr. Photogzilla Rockstar. So PZN decided to track down Photogzilla and get his thoughts on the event.

PZN: Mr. Rockstar, could you share with our readers what your first reaction was upon seeing all of the speakers begin their online promotion marketing campaign through Twitter and other social networking avenues?

PHOTOGZILLA: My first reaction you ask? (laughs) I was like, 'Holy shit!' Are these people [Colonel Sanders & Company] really that stupid? Everyone has just come back from spending close to a thousand dollars, leaving their families for a week, and going to Vegas to listen to all of these same people at WPPI. What moron would schedule this event in their right mind, right after WPPI?

PZN: But Mr. Rockstar, scheduling aside, isn't their some value to this event?

PHOTOGZILLA: To be honest, I really can't seem to find it. Besides the words 'inspire' and 'inspiration' constantly being thrown around, there isn't much to go on. For blessed baby Jesus' sake, there isn't even a syllabus or subject matter even detailed on their site. How do you sell $250 tickets to an event without knowing what you're even getting?? Just take a look at this [slips us a the following image]

PZN: Okay, what are we looking at here? It just looks like a simple schedule for two days. Speaker 1, 2, 3, etc, some lunch, and there's a countdown thing on the right, which kind of tells us like we better jump on the bandwagon so we don't miss out. Kind of like when we're buying concert tickets at TicketMaster for our favorite rockstar's show. Mr. Rockstar, we are a little confused by this page.

PHOTOGZILLA: Exactly. It's promoted like its some rock concert to Lady Gaga or something. It's part of creative marketing and PR. Dane Sanders has been famous for his subliminal marketing techniques, along with some of the other speakers involved in this event. Quite confusing schedule isn't it? This is the schedule details from's own website. There's no concise outline about what exactly is being taught. From what I gather with the motivational name and escalator taking a person to the next level in a mall, it's just a make you feel good conference. There is no earth shattering knowledge you'll gain by going to this. Period.

PZN: So what is the value of going to this conference?

PHOTOGZILLA: None. There is absolutely nothing that makes me want to spend hundreds of dollars to go listen to people tell me their life stories or motivate me. My motivation comes in the form of a mortgage bill every month. I need to make the benjamins so I can live. These speakers will be sharing the same stories that are on their blogs and online videos that will be simply rehashed for a paying audience. The only difference will be it's live. Kind of like going to church for inspiration when the manual [bible] is sitting at home gathering dust. Sorta like, most photographers that are trying to find out the secrets to taking great photos, when all they have to do is start with picking up their manual and knowing their equipment inside and out. Then just go out and practice like crazy everyday. And if you want to become a wedding photographer, lower your ego and go 2nd shoot for a year or two to really refine your skills and build up a solid REAL portfolio of REAL brides. Not paid models at a workshop that is staged.

PZN: That's an interesting point you bring up Mr. Rockstar, about photographers needing to focus on the actually photography and not motivational talks. Why do you feel so strongly about this?

PHOTOGZILLA: Isn't it the photos that matter to our clients at the end of the day? If you produce shit, you better correct that first. I don't give a shit how ghetto fabulous your marketing is, the only people that are really paying attention to your Twitters and blogs are OTHER photographers looking on in envy. By the way, isn't envy one of the seven deadly sins? Hmmm...ironic statement since so many of these self-proclaimed leaders are supposed to be Jesus abiding followers yet try very hard to make sure they're in the limelight, but I digress. As I was saying about fab-type marketing, just look at Scarlett Lillian. Her ghetto fabulous marketing is just sad. Any self respecting photographer that knows the craft will look at her work and immediately say she does not know enough to qualify her as a professional photographer. And there are many imitating to be just like her, just as she was imitating other self-proclaimed leaders in the industry. This industry has just become a constant pool of imitators and not creators of anything original or uniquely their own.

My point is that people, not real photographers, don't truly know their craft and are not seriously learning the basics of photography. You can't go out there and call yourself a pro photographer when you don't even know the dynamics of the technology you're utilizing in your hands. You can't go out there and say, 'Oh, I don't know Photoshop cause I just use actions' or pop on a 50 1.2 and say 'go shoot wide open for awesome blurry effects' & call it a day. They don't know why they are doing what they're doing. They are just imitating what they read and use it all day. That's not photography. And that's not art. Kinda like baking a Betty Crocker cake mix and then saying 'I made this cake.' No you didn't make the cake, you just opened up a box and cracked two eggs. Photography is just like becoming a real cook. You need to be able to bake a cake from scratch, understanding what and how the ingredients play into the sum of the whole.You need to understand the chemistry before you can call yourself a professional.

PZN: So aren't today's workshops teaching the 'culinary' skills required to become a pro photographer?

PHOTOGZILLA: (Laughs so hard, he farts) No way! Most of these are just teaching people what isle the cake mix box is sitting in and which flavors they, the instructor are using. They are saying, 'Go to this store, pick up these actions, pick up these lenses, pick up this Shitsac, pick up a pack of these Shitdomain website, and follow all of my friends on Twitter who sell this prepackaged stuff.' Everyone wants to make the quick buck. What is there left then to differentiate you from those weekend warriors undercutting the real professionals? There is NO turnkey solution when it comes to learning ANY profession without sacrificing the time to learn the fundamentals.

PZN: We're confused Mr. Rockstar. Why are these so called self-proclaimed leaders promoting these types of workshops & seminars that won't really help a persons skill set?

PHOTOGZILLA: Greed. Make money anyway you can. Even if it means its at the cost of taking money from honest people that are a little lost in this industry because they are just new to the photography business world or even just business itself. You have to have a skill or product to sell. You don't go to an interview without the right credentials and say 'Hey, I can do this job cause I'm motivated & inspired.' You have to walk the walk. That's why I say, most of today's so called wedding photographers, including some these 'self-claimed leaders,' would fail if given a Photography 101 exam. Would you feel comfortable going to learn from a professor that couldn't take his own quiz?

PZN: That's very interesting and sad at the same time. You mentioned imitators earlier. What did you mean?

PHOTOGZILLA: Well, besides the obvious imitating of style and the actual photo another photographer took, you have these less known people across the country in every city having meetings with other photographers to imitate the jockstar lifestyle. The self-proclaimed leaders are doing a disservice because others are thinking that what they do is the same thing they have to do in order to become famous or popular in the industry. They want to be recognized, so they try to make a name for themselves by having a networking get together, and one guy or girl will get up and just regurgitate everything they heard from a workshop they wasted $99 on. In turn, everyone in attendance thinks this persons knows their stuff and begins to look up to them. In fact, this person is not even looked up to and respected for their actual photography skills. Just an organizer who knows how to invite people to a party and managed to fake it till he makes it. 

What's really disingenuous is all this person has done is make themselves more known to 20-30 people without contributing any original thought or ideas. It's a waterfall effect. Hear something from these so-called leaders. Repeat it downstream to others. Look important. Be popular. Where's the reminder, 'Hey, do you know your skill set as a photographer?' It's become a race to become popular so you can become a sponsored speaker or paid endorser of some camera bag or an album company. Even athletes spend years in order to prove themselves to be great at a sport before they gain fans or sponsorship. It's the reverse with the current state of our industry. Become popular first, then worry about being good at your sport later.

PZN: Wow. Never did look at it that way. You make a very solid point Mr. Rockstar. So do you think Colonel Sanders is qualified to be teaching this two day workshop?

PHOTOGZILLA: Like I said earlier, what are they even teaching? If inspiration is it, I say pick up a self help book or go to church. Don't waste your money. In regards to Dane Sanders teaching any kind of photography seminar, I honestly don't think so. The guy is a community college professor that took a few notes from his textbooks and plagiarized the stuff into his own book. It's funny that he even named it after a toll road in Orange County called Fastrack that he drives on. It just floors me how original this guy is.

PZN: But isn't he a professional wedding photographer who other wedding photographers can learn from?

PHOTOGZILLA: That's funny you call him that. Can you remember the last time Dane Sanders was referred to as a 'wedding photographer?' Or do you even remember one of his Twitter updates being about shooting a wedding? I certainly don't. No one even knows how many weddings he shot in 2009 alone. And if he did shoot any weddings, how much revenue did he make from his wedding photography business? I mean, if you're laying out all this inspiration and great model to follow, show me the motherfuckin money man. This applies to ALL of the speakers at this event, any workshop, or seminar. That's what tells me at the end of the day that your shit works and I need to listen to you. Money talks. Bullshit walks.

PZN: So are you saying Dane Sanders is one of the speakers that should not be teaching a seminar on wedding photography?

PHOTOGZILLA: You don't have to take it from me. Colonel Sanders KNOWS he's not good enough to teach a workshop. More so, the irony is Dane even tells people they shouldn't go to a workshop. It's just amazing the hypocrisy and the self evident ironies that come out of his own mouth. Take a look at these two videos for yourself. Dane does all the talking. 

Here's what Colonel Sanders says about going to seminars/workshops in his own words; don't go. Ironic because he stands to profit the most for organizing and promoting EscalateLIVE. Look at what he says between 1:05 and 1:20:

PHOTOGZILLA: If you missed it, Dane said, "Everything you need is already inside you. This is a true statement. It turns out you actually don't need to go to anymore workshops about photography ever. You don't...The point is, everything you need, you have." I couldn't have said it myself Dane Sanders.

PZN: Mr. Photogzilla Rockstar! He...he....he just said don't go to any workshops! That just turns the entire EscalateLIVE event on its head and goes against Colonel Sanders' philosophy. What is this?

PHOTOGZILLA: We call this flip-flopping for the sake of greed. But I'm not done yet. To answer your question is he good enough to teach a workshop, he himself admits he wouldn't have been able to be a speaker unless he organized this event himself. Good point indeed Colonel Sanders. Take a look for yourself from their sadly produced EscalateLIVE promo video with the Becker. Watch 5:12 to 5:23:

PHOTOGZILLA: Let me quote him again in case your eyes need to read the actual words. Dane said, "I figured that the only way I could ever really get on this ticket is if I created the event myself." What I really like is how The Becker responds with the most honest statement I've ever heard come out of his mouth, "Well, hey, you did it and that's good for you...And I think it's going to pay off." Just look at the Beckers face as he turns and takes in the view of the theater seats as he says "pay off." I'm fully convinced the Becker was doing the math in his head about what the actual pay off will be for filling all 600 seats. Oh, yeah. This event will definitely 'pay off' nicely for a few people for selling inspiration without much substance. And this pay off is for the Dane and the speakers. The facts can't be denied.

PZN: Wow. Just wow Mr. Rockstar. This is quite disconcerting. How much money are they going to make from this seminar alone?

PHOTOGZILLA: Yes, it is very upsetting isn't it? Confuses everyone that watches it, especially when it comes out of their own mouths. Well, I did some conservative calculations myself. The Lido Theatre is a one screen theatre that rents out its space often for private events and meetings. This one theater only holds 600 people. Here's my breakdown so far:

Lido Theatre rents out its space at $1000 per hour and includes all audio/visual/and staff support required to run a meeting. EscalateLIVE presale price per Tier 1 ticket to first 300 with fees is $184.47. If the first 300 physical seats sell out with Tier 1 pricing and then the remaining 300 at Tier 2 pricing, that's Tier 1 $55,341 + Tier 2 $78,866 = $132,207 dollars in gross sales. When you deduct the cost of the rent of the theatre, which will likely be negotiated a bit from their normal $1,000/hr rates, you're around $12-15,000 cost for the two day facility rent. This means your roughly around $115,000 after subtracting rent. Now, that's the bare minimum with the current data we have. They are also planning on selling it on 'Pay-Per-View' by streaming it online. How much revenue will be generated from these online sales is another factor to consider. More then likely, they will also be profiting from selling DVDs recordings of this event. 

There are minimal expenses like travel for some of the speakers, but that's a drop in the bucket, along with some turkey sandwiches, mini-bags of chips, and some cans of Diet Coke from The Becker's trip to Sam's Club.

I just also want to mention, there are people spending hundreds more, if not over a thousand dollars, flying in from other countries and states to go to this event. They are plunking down more money to attend, not to mention the money they've already spent in going to WPPI. These are not the economic times to be taking advantage of these strapped for cash business owners. Look at me, I have to work at my part time job at a drive-thru just to make ends meet. But I do eating free food at work, I won't lie [Grins].

From my calculations, each speaker stands to make a minimum of $10,000 for just inspiring photographers with their personal biographies and plugging the "tools" you will need to ahead. Dane Sanders could be profiting more as the producer of the event. Also, just watch what tools they'll be plugging. Products that the speakers are owners/producers of and/or belong to their close friends. David Jay & will plug Showit sites. Dane Sanders his lack luster plagiarized book. Becker will plug his silly B School. Jessica Claire will plug her sadly designed Shootsac. The list goes on. 

Should they make money? Sure, why not. It's capitalism. People sell crap all the time and poor suckers buy into it. But this is part of the underlying problem known as the fleecing of America. Is all this inspiration information free and available on their sites, blogs, in other forums, and in books? Of course. Are you learning to improve what's really required from your knowledge of photography to have a strong foundation for the service you provide? No.

So there you have it. 

I hate to cut this short guys, but I need to get back to work. The drive-thru is probably backed up by now.

PZN: Mr. Rockstar, thank you so much for taking the time out of your day and sharing your insights. We really appreciate it.

PHOTOGZILLA: You guys better appreciate it. This is the weirdest interview I've ever had to give. I mean, who follows a guy into a public bathroom stall and starts asking questions? You guys are just nuts and will do anything to get a story!

PZN: Yes, sir! We'll do whatever it takes to share the truth with all of the professional photographers we love and help them make a more informed decision to better the industry that belongs to them! We don't want anyone throwing away any of their hard earned money.

PHOTOGZILLA: Yeah, yeah. Whatever. Anyway, can you just throw over some toilet paper or even some newspaper. I'm all out over here.

PZN: On a final note, PZN wants to leave you, our readers, with the following image. We honestly assumed, as professional photographers would agree, that selective coloring was dead. Apparently not.

This image is from the home page of EscalateLIVE website. These pros are keeping the trend alive. Apparently, with at least 9 PROFESSIONAL photographers with a bunch of cameras on hand, not one of these 'pro' photographers had enough creativity to produce their own image for their own event. We are truly saddened and surprised, as you will be, to learn that this image is from iStock microstock photo services. Photozilla just yelled from behind the bathroom stall, "WTF? That's just pathetic!":

Keep stalking Photogzilla Rockstar!

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