Alex Blackwell is a photographer, videographer, and angler, that has the opportunity to travel the world filming videos with his friend and boss Jon B. Over the years, Alex honed down his content creation skills to a point that is almost unrivaled in the fishing industry. We had a chance to sit down and talk with Alex recently and ask him a few questions.
FL: Who is Alex Blackwell?
Alex: So, Alex Blackwell is a 26-year-old content creator that lives in Dallas-Fort Worth but has roots in Florida, as well as New England. I have spent most of my life chasing after fish from panfish in a pond on an ultra-light 2wt, to Tarpon in Belize on a 12wt. So my first and foremost passion is fishing, but I truly believe what that’s become, is now being able to fly fish or sight cast to fish, and visually see everything that happens in that one moment of clarity, when you’re out in nature. I think it’s the ultimate game. That passion became a job with the use of cameras through videography and photography.
FL: How did you get into fishing?
Alex: I grew up always being an outdoor kid. Living in Florida I used to live around golf courses and all that stuff. My dad was a huge advocate for getting me outside, he grew up fishing with his Dad, and so on. My dad was a huge vehicle for getting me outdoors. We used to fish ponds all the time with little earthworms and nightcrawlers, and that all transpired into, “okay then let’s get a fly rod in your hand” and “all right now you kind of do your own thing”. He let me evolve fishing into my own passion.
Right after I graduated high school, my dad asked me what I wanted to do, or if I needed money for a car, or something else. I told him, “no man I want to just go fishing with you. Is there any place cool that we could go to?” That year I was able to go on this trip with my dad to San Pedro Belize, and visit El Pescador to target Bonefish, Permit, and Tarpon on the fly. That memory holds true to me every single day because it’s exactly what I want to do, I want to push the boundaries, I want to explore these little nuggets, these little honey holes of fish that have never seen a fly or anything angler oriented. Going to these places continues to drive me, and what I found was that I couldn’t do it with just my fishing skill set, I had to do it with something else. I’m just blessed to have found a passion in photography and videography to allow me to do just that!
FL: How did you get into Photography and Videography?
Alex: I started doing video back when I was in elementary school and middle school. I was grabbing one of those handheld Kodak cameras and filming snowboarding at a local hill. I made like one edit and it was absolute trash, and I look at it now and I shake my head, but that was the starting point for me. I remember bringing this camera and going down to Islamorada. I was able to film a little Tarpon jumping around all over the place, but what really took off was Instagram. I started using Instagram in 2011, and I was just taking pics of where I was going what I was doing, and I didn’t take it seriously. It was probably not until I was a sophomore in college when I started using things like Lightroom CC. It was nothing too crazy but I was really getting into it. After a year of that, I started borrowing my mom’s camera, and would just go out to take photos. What interested me right away was astrophotography. I always loved stars and outer space. Again, the basic philosophy that I live by, “exploring the unknown”. Photography was a vehicle for me to go outside and take really captivating photos.
Then, I got an opportunity from a friend who was in the nightclub industry. My job was to make these short edits for the club. Basically, for the next two years, I learned all about videography and editing. After a while, I needed a change of scenery, so I dropped my gig at the club and picked up a new job at a production company. We handled social media, production, and website design for outdoor brands. Now that I was working more of a 9 to 5 job, I had all my weekends open. I started hitting up guides in Florida and getting out on the water and filming with them. All my downtime was spent making even more content. During this time, I made around 6 little one-minute bangers. Those six videos absolutely blew the lid off of my Instagram and my social game. I started to gain the attention of brands in the industry by taking an EDM (electronic dance music) style edit format and moving it to fishing, which was not something everyone was doing. I wanted to keep pushing the barriers and boundaries of what people think of when they see fishing content on social media, and that all stemmed from me holding a camera and taking pretty pictures of fish. In my eyes, social media is the driving force that put where I’m at today.
FL: Tell us a bit about creating a media business at a young age?
Alex: It was really challenging obviously, I kind of waddled into my first video gig. I didn’t know what I was doing, but with some help from friends and countless hours of research; I figured it out. But that’s not the whole story.
I studied Marketing while in college at the University of Tampa. I dropped out the end of my junior year to dive headfirst into my passions in life. I worked as a Store Manager in Retail for over 2 years; all while honing my skills behind a camera and building a name for myself and my content. During that time, I began to realize how fast social was beginning to play a MAJOR role in a business’s marketing strategy. You can utilize social to drive sales, build quality relationships with customers, and communicate a brand’s story/mission statement all through posting content on sites like Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, etc. So I took my eye for content creation and started reaching out to small businesses in my “limited” free time. This wasn’t a situation where I had an epiphany like, “Hey I’m just going to pick up a camera and start badgering brands to pay me and make content for them!”. No. I had countless hours of conversations with real paying customers under my belt. I knew what people wanted to see, hear, and read. But more importantly, I knew how to relay and explain the importance of content to business owners. Which allowed me to open the door to Content Creation being a big role in my life.
I would go into small businesses, where I was actively a customer, and have an open conversation with them about their place in Social Media. Of course, before doing this; I would sift through their Socials, find their voice, understand their customer base, and compare it to competitors in other regions of the US. I came into those conversations with a purpose, knowledge of their standing, and a mission to create content for them right away. You get told “No” too many times to count. But the people and businesses that say “yes”, provide a proving ground for you to grow your abilities and portfolio.
Starting a Media business isn’t about grabbing the Biggest Fish in the Sea, it’s about helping the Small Fish succeed and matching the caliber of content the Big Fish are creating! With the right eye, an outgoing personality, and a business background – I was able to dive into freelance work and build my portfolio right away. Those small gigs, making content for businesses like an air conditioning company, clothing brands, and car detailing shops were the foundational content I needed to grab new customers. And without that content in my portfolio and backing from those business owners, I wouldn’t be where I’m at today.
FL: What challenges have you faced along the way?
Alex: I struggled with contractual issues right away, and I also struggled with trying to find out how my style of video best suits a certain business or a certain brand. It’s a little bit unorthodox, a little bit too fast-paced for some people, and I’ve grown along the way to kind of match that to the kind of content I see other businesses are using. Matching your style to a brand or matching your style to a business is important because you don’t want it to look like it’s out of place. You want it to flow with the stylistic tone that these companies have already made. Lastly, Time Management. I didn’t know how to properly manage my time. I was working 90 hours and trying to juggle all this together. So those would be the three main things that I struggled with.
FL: What advice do you have for others looking to get into the outdoor media game?
Alex: If you are looking to get into the outdoor media game, make great content. You can make as much content as you want, but if it’s not eye-catching, if it’s not appealing, if it’s not completely and solely targeted at the industry that you want, you’re going to lose the audience’s attention. If you’re just looking to boost your social media, you need to think of it as a game. You need to know how to play the game and you need to know how the game works. You need to engage back with your community that your building. That’s what social media is, just a community of people that like what you’re putting out. If you don’t engage with your community, you’re going to lose followers because they start to just see you as a page for pretty pictures and not a personality. All of that’s just playing the game, knowing the rules of the game is where the nitpicky things come into play. One of the most important things is hashtags. People don’t like to use them because they feel like it clutters up their Instagram feed. Don’t listen to those people because hashtags are actually super important when it comes down to people discovering your content.
FL: Where can we see your work and what’s next for Alex Blackwell?
Alex: So you can see my work at @XBlackwell on Instagram and on Vimeo. I’m the videographer and editor for Jon B. You can find all the videos that I do for Jon at Jon B (link). I’m currently up in Maine with Jon. We are going to be producing some content up here, anything from musky, stripers, bluefin tuna, and sharks off of Nantucket. I think for 2021 on the very down low if we can have COVID-19 get on out of here, we would like to go or Cuba, Brazil, maybe Indonesia, the list goes on and on!