“Pushing Film” by Hashem McAdam

Film photography has undeniably had a significant increase in popularity over the last few years.  By around 2010, digital cameras became so good that it became hard to make a bad choice buying one.  The fact that digital cameras provide an unprecedented level of convenience in photography is also undeniable.  But that’s not why we’re here is it? We’re here because we love film photography… you reading this article and myself writing it.

That love for the analogue photography process is the most simple explanation for why and how we started our little channel called Pushing Film; to share that love for the process and push film onto the curious and willing community.

Nick Chen pours a coffee at his regular cafe, 580 Bench on St Kilda Rd. Pentax 645, Portra 400

Over any number of cups of coffee during my regular visits to Nick’s cafe in 2016, we would chat about film cameras, photography, and perhaps the latest film related documentary or Youtube video by the likes of Ted Forbes, John Free or Matt Day.  For myself, working part time at a camera store while doing freelance photography gigs afforded me the luxury of a flexible schedule.  This in turn allowed me to frequent the cafe 580 Bench at the bottom of my building on St Kilda Rd, where I lived at the time.  This is also where I met Nick Chen, part owner of the Bench chain of minimalist specialty coffee shops.  Simply having my Canon EOS 3 on me during a visit ignited a conversation about photography.  Both of us had been through a similar journey that I’m sure many of you around our age group had been through too:

  • We used film cameras as kids, and as teenagers in the late 90’s, and early 2000’s until the digital beast took the wheel around our university days.  
  • We got way into photography, eventually saving for an awesome DSLR, and starting that glorious Flickr page. Meanwhile, learning how to use Photoshop and the revolutionary Lightroom software would give us improved ability to go through hundreds if not thousands of shots to choose just a few for upload.

Eventually this got tedious, and boring.  Everything started to look the same; like one digital trend or another.

  • We started to experiment with film again. And it wasn’t until that meeting point in early 2016 that we had both decided to take it the next step from “occasional roll”, to main process for our artistic pursuits.  At the time I was making my first entry into medium format by buying a Pentax 645N, to actually try to integrate film into my freelance work as many photographers at the time had inspired me to do.  Nick was looking to buy his first “serious” film camera, the Leica M6.
Early days of Pushing Film. Planning was in place for our first few videos, over burgers with Eric Kim and Ernest Lew

Late that year we realised we’d gathered a sizeable wealth of information through various sources, some of which were the Youtube channels we admired but knew were all based abroad.  We both also realised we already share this information with our film-curious friends and perhaps customers.  Almost simultaneously one day, around the time Nick was planning to host Eric Kim’s street photography workshop at the Slater Street Bench, we said “we should start a Youtube channel!”.

Although neither of us initially absorbed that this would mean we would have to be in front of the camera, we both felt a sense of “why not?!”, as at the time we didn’t know of a single Australian based Youtube channel on film photography.  For example Eric’s blog and channel was another resource that we and many others knew about, but reminded us that there was a gap to fill in local scene.  We started to share our idea with friends, and decide on an action plan including decisions like which, if either of us, would have to be the one doing the talking because neither of us wanted to.  We didn’t have any experience but concluded that it’s all just for fun, so we’d just co-host!  Because we are both quite different it seemed like having the inclusion of the two of us on screen would be an interesting dynamic.

Youtube stuff is hard, man… it was pretty daunting from the get-go.

The first thing we filmed was our interview with Eric, with minimal equipment and planning.  We learnt through those early videos the challenges of production: including the difficulty of clean audio recording, usage of correct equipment and workflow, hours of editing, and the importance of planning and continuity when it comes to making videos.  Then came the other daunting aspect of putting yourself out there for everyone to see… There’s a big difference between sharing a photo, and recording yourself talk like what you perceive to be an idiot, and saying to the world “Hey, here I am!” We had some good ideas though, and the willingness to share them.  We were also thankful to Eric Kim, with whom we’d discussed our idea for the channel at the time, and Eric being quite experienced in the realm of social media, self marketing, and of course photography, was kind enough to give us some advice and even ideas for a couple of episodes.  He told us not to try and emulate anyone else, but rather offer our own unique insights and just be ourselves. He said something along the lines of “Offer something that you think will help people, rather than worrying about how you’re perceived”, which is what we’ve tried to do ever since.

Over a couple of bowls of Udon noodles on Bourke Street, we brainstormed some more and came up with the name.  In all honesty we settled on Pushing Film after checking a few other names to find out they were taken. But it had a ring to it, and it grew to be our favourite choice anyway.  As long as it was unique and we could get the domain and username(s) we were happy.  On an empty notebook page, I wrote a very basic outline of how I wanted the channel to be structured: A primary stream of informative videos such as tips and reviews, and side stream videos such as interviews, vlogs and general discussion.  We filmed our introduction video, where we once again stuffed up some technical aspects (ie. forgetting to change the microphone input source setting) but went forward nevertheless.  More of the same occurred with our next two videos; on “Formats compared”, where we had some help from a workmate of mine Nang Tran (a fantastic videographer, and film photographer too), and difficulty once again with “Tips for your first film camera”.  Despite the fact that we filmed this “Tips” video on our own, and still struggled with sub-par production quality and bad audio at times, it has proven to be our most viewed video to date. It has steadily been growing and now sits at 90,000 views at the time of writing this article.

A page from my notebook, with the very rough and early plan for the Pushing Film channel structure

The popularity of that one, somewhat haphazardly produced video proves two things to me.

  1. The first thing we noticed were many young photographers are hungry for knowledge about the most basic things to do with film.  They don’t care about the elitist mumbo-jumbo and dogmatic perspectives.  Not everyone is part of our generation; and many are picking up film cameras for the first time.  That’s who turns to Youtube for almost all their information, and therefore an important section of who we wanted to appeal to; people curious about film but overwhelmed by the complexity of information out there.
  2. The second thing the video’s popularity proved, is that production quality is not more important than content.  Of course we wanted to keep improving our production quality by gradually investing in gear and enlisting help, but it was extremely encouraging to see that there was indeed an audience for the content that we were willing to share.  We learned that we needed to take it somewhat seriously and keep working on it.
Behind the scenes of our fourth and still most popular video. We aimed to help those getting into film for the first time. We still only had the assistance of a tripod and minimal planning, but we somehow pulled it off.

It was around this point also that I bumped into my friend Matthew Lee at the store whilst working one day.  Matt had told me he was deciding to update some of his beloved Fujifilm camera gear and focus on learning all about videography for a possible future career change.  Always knowledgeable about the latest tech, he had a drive to learn everything from the get-go and invest quite seriously in the pursuit of this new direction. Not only did he offer to help out with production for some of our future videos, but he also offered to loan me his Hasselblad XPan to try, and make a review on.  Much of my video production experience came from my second major at university in “Screen & Sound”. Some of this experience was quite outdated  however, so it it was great to have Matt’s insight about the latest in gear, and trends in the Youtube scene (which I’ll admit I was very out of touch with) whilst simultaneously sharing my knowledge of foundational video production with him when I could.  He came on board to help us film and edit the XPan review, which proved to be another one of our more popular videos. Matt has contributed in some way to every second or so video we have put out since then, and his help has been invaluable.  For us without a natural knack or background in it, making videos is hard (as many of our bloopers and retakes would prove), so any contribution is much appreciated.

Hashem and Matt “on set” in the Melbourne streets while recording our first vlog. Image captured by Film photographer Dayne (Instagram @xdaynex) while we interview him and his friends about shooting film.

Gear reviews such as the Xpan episode showed higher viewership than some others. Although we had filmed some interviews including an early one with our friend and the creator of this site John Yau; interestingly enough, viewers usually seem more interested in gear. And when it comes to gear and knowledge, John has also been a great help with his experience and insight ever since meeting in 2016 and sharing our idea to start Pushing Film.  He has also supported us on multiple occasions by loaning me his Nikon F3, and Leica M4, both of which I have reviewed for the channel with success and positive feedback.

A shot of John Yau and his Rolleiflex, made with his own camera (Leica M4) which he allowed me to borrow for a review. Always generous and looking to support the film shooter community.

It is this sense of community that keeps us encouraged to keep making more content. Starting the channel has personally allowed me to come out of my shell, and already meet some great people and create networking opportunities.  This has included Youtubers from both interstate and overseas, many of which I keep in regular contact with. Including a couple of which I have met in person, this has mostly been through the @pushingfilm Instagram page which I try to keep up to date with content to support and round-off our growing brand. US Youtuber Nick Mayo of “Nick Exposed” started a forum for a whole bunch of us film-photography YouTube creators to support each other. His sense of community-over-competition is very encouraging and is shared by us wholeheartedly.

Collaborating with fellow film Youtuber Cooper Pestell (Youtube/Instagram “shootswithcoops) in Perth. We love the sense of community and networking opportunities brought about by the channel, including chances to meet like minded people.

The biggest challenge since those beginnings for both Nick Chen and myself is to find the time to buckle down and make content.  Balancing work and personal life, with our other preexisting endeavours and projects is always a challenge.  However coming out the other end with a product to share with people and ideally benefit a few makes it all worthwhile, no matter how “small-time” we still view ourselves in the grand scheme of the amazing film photography community out there.  We are always learning along the way, and in the year since we’ve started the channel we’d like to think we’ve come a long way. We’ve already met some great people, and most importantly had a heap of fun putting these things together, so we’re not looking to slow down any time soon.

So, for 2018 I really hope to put a bigger personal investment into the channel, and see where it takes us.  Over the last few months as Nick has been a little busier running the cafes, I have been lucky to have my supportive partner Sarah (after a little convincing) come on board and not only contribute to production, but also appear on screen as she herself is a great film photographer and both articulate and insightful person to have on screen.  She’s able to offer an alternate perspective and contribute towards the continued diversification that we hope the channel can offer going forward.  As I write this we are putting up the first part of our vlog in Japan from a two week trip along with Matt in November.  Furthermore, Sarah and I have filmed an interview with another member of the local photography community, and another vlog in Perth which we’re hoping to have up in the first two months of 2018, as well as the second part of our journey to the land of Fujifilm!

Going forward we have big ideas and a lot of enthusiasm to continue to spread the joy for shooting film. It was always one of our aims since starting this project, to one day host film photography workshops and offer more to the community.  Hopefully along the way we’ll continue to meet some of the local and maybe even international members of the photography community including the readers of AFPS.  We’re sure the love of shooting film will continue to spread this year, and we look forward to contributing regularly to this fantastic hub to support the local film photography scene.


Pushing Film Crew

Hashem McAdam – Co-creator, writer and producer
Nick Chen – Co-creator and writer
Matt Lee – regular contributor and production assistant


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