k. collective wants you to feel something.
When you land on the website of the group of video artists, you’re greeted with a beating heart, flanked by flowers. The simple tagline of “feel something” is front and center. But in this digital age, maybe being asked to feel is not that simple after all.
We can scroll and click away from things that make us feel. We are so bombarded by stories and imagery, often negative, that we've allowed ourselves to become desensitized. Skyler Michaels, one of the founders of k. collective, wants that to change.
“We are here to create and that’s all we want to do,” Skyler told me. “We don’t care about being rich; That’s not our goal. We just want to make people feel something.”
Skyler Michaels of k. collective. Photo by Jesse Little.
And that starts with the group of talented artists involved in the collective. “We call ourselves a collective because we are more than just our partners,” Skyler said. “We’re a worldwide organization of freelance artists.” Not having an office allows the members of k. collective to work from anywhere, regardless of where in the world they are located. The collective is really a group of freethinkers who love what they do, and it shows in the work they create.
“Our goal is to work with like-minded trendsetters in industries that are willing to take a bit of a risk, or who want to do something genuinely original and cool,” Skyler told me. “With videos, you can’t just have the business side, you have to have the art side.”
k. collective aims to restructure the way that people work with video production agencies, and that starts with transparency. “We are extremely clear on what our budgets are for and where the money is going,” Skyler explained. “When you’re transparent about budgets, people tend to trust you a little more, and when they do you can pitch them those crazy ideas that maybe you thought you couldn’t have pitched them. You create a friendship with them and create beautiful work out of it.”
One of those friendships the collective created was with Diving Canada. The group was commissioned to film a story about the divers for broadcast on TSN, thanks to a pitch that aimed to focus on the human side of elite athletes. “There is so much that goes on behind the scenes that no one understands, so our job was to take these athletes and bring that out on screen,” Skyler said. The team of athletes was like a family, and their trust of Skyler and the k. collective crew afforded them creative freedom that resulted in a moving piece.
But these highs didn’t come without their challenges and risks. The collective was born from people who were working full-time jobs at agencies, but found themselves wanting more creative freedom. “It was scary to leave an agency and go out on our own. You don’t know what success looks like yet. You don’t know if you’ve made the right decision or if anyone is going to hire you,” says Skyler. “But I would much rather be completely broke and have true happiness instead of having fake happiness for someone else’s dime.”
Success doesn’t just come from putting in the hours, though. It also comes from your mindset. “The number one key in life is to have fun. If you’re not happy in what you’re doing, then what’s the point?” Skyler told me. “We took that and built our company philosophy around it.”
That philosophy is something that k. collective looks for in the people they work with, too, including Rebel. “The reason I moved to Rebel was because my old web host was not giving me the attention I needed,” Skyler explained. “I had been with them for so long and they just didn’t care about me and were not answering my questions. Once I followed Rebel on Instagram, I realized how much you prioritized happiness at work – you are people, not positions.”
Focusing on people and sharing their stories has led to success for k. collective, and that continues in 2018. This spring, they are furthering their partnership with Diving Canada, having recently traveled to Calgary to shoot the Diving Canada Grand Prix. They are also launching a video series with the Engineering Program at Carleton University in Ottawa.
“My personal goal is to create an impact on my industry through happiness and transparency,” says Skyler. “I love what I do and I want to inspire people to go out and actually take the chance on doing this on their own, too.”