Ken French started his creative career as a musician but these days he has branched out into filmmaking and is thoroughly enjoying the experience. The early part of his career was spent in Boston where, in addition to playing music, he was a recording and sound engineer.
“That led the way,” French said “but I started to see filmmaking as a kind of music, building a soundtrack and adding pictures.”
After his son Jesse was born, French wanted a lifestyle change, so 25 years ago he moved to the Ten Stones community in Charlotte, living in one of the four initial houses in that intentional neighborhood.
Professionally, the move presented some hurdles. During his days in Boston, French was part of a team of 40–50 specialists who complemented his work mixing sound, but after starting Ken French Media, he had to expand his skill set.
“In Vermont there are no specialists,” he said, “so I had to learn to run a camera, create graphics, edit, direct, and produce. There wasn’t a job waiting for me when I got here, but I enjoy being self-employed because I like to take full responsibility for what I do.”
Around 2006, French stopped doing corporate work to become a full-time musician. Ironically, he had stepped back from music when Jesse was born but started up again thanks to his son’s growing interest in the field. Together they formed “Ragged Glory,” a Neil Young tribute band.
“It was great for our relationship,” French said.
The elder French was also part of a Santana tribute band that played locally, and a 60s tribute band called “Mellow Yellow,” which toured up and down the East Coast and played an annual winter cruise with bands like the Moody Blues, Guess Who, the Zombies and Vanilla Fudge.
Returning to his business, French expanded his creative work into video and began to look for opportunities to make short films, usually for community-based organizations like the Committee on Temporary Shelter.
He also began to make music videos in the hope that his skills could be used for advocacy, education and entertainment.
French borrowed equipment from the Vermont Community Access Media studio in Burlington and after three years, they offered him a staff position.
“It’s fascinating,” French said, “because I’m working hands-on with the widest spectrum of people from politicians and board members to New Americans and refugees.”
French said he enjoys being part of the VCAM community, a community of musicians and the intentional community at Ten Stones – he is happiest when he can use his craft to tell other people’s stories.
His connections have also linked him with opportunities around the globe. After bumping into Chris Peterman, of Eight02, French joined the jazz band on tour in Russia to film their trip.
“That’s the great thing about being self-employed,” French said. “It was a great trip which combined my video making skills with my love of music.”
Now 62, French is proud that his son Jesse is a third generation recording engineer. French’s hearing has suffered so he is spending more time making films than music.
“It’s always a moving target, but I like trying to become a better cinematographer and learning about lighting and lenses and developing more visual skills. I like working on a project until I’m really happy and then moving on to the next thing,” he said.