Brandon Goodwin's minimalist lifestyle is supported by filming weddings, music videos and documentaries. 'I've always felt like there's another way to do things, like I don't necessarily have to get a normal job.'
Brandon Goodwin's minimalist lifestyle is supported by filming weddings, music videos and documentaries. 'I've always felt like there's another way to do things, like I don't necessarily have to get a normal job.'
Brandon Goodwin embarked on his first business venture in the fifth grade. Having been taken aback by the price per candy bar at Sam's Club, he convinced his mother to invest in a box and then marked them up for sale on the school bus.

Although school officials soon put an end to his dealings, Goodwin made off with a few free sweets and a life lesson.

"I've always felt like there's another way to do things," he says, "like I didn't necessarily have to get a normal job."

As the owner and operator of Goodwin Films, he seems to have safely avoided the conventional life. The 24-year-old shoots weddings and films in places from Uganda to New Orleans. He sleeps late pretty much whenever he wants.

And he manages to live happily on as little as $15,000 per year.

"The only reason I can freelance is because I keep my expenses so low," explains Goodwin, who leases space for his freelance and independent filmmaking business in the Nick Sibley Studio building downtown. "If I wanted to take a few years off and just travel, I could. To me, that freedom is more important than having a huge profit margin."

Last year, Goodwin's five-year-old company grossed $55,000, while his expenses ran around $40,000. He projects that this year's revenues will be between $75,000 and $100,000 but doesn't expect his net to increase much.

In context, however, the numbers seem bigger.

Goodwin graduated from Hillcrest High School in 2003 and started his business in 2004. He's never been in debt, and he made his "slow climb out of poverty" by consistently doubling his revenue. Case in point: Goodwin filmed his first wedding for $50 and now makes an average of $2,500 per ceremony.

Until recently, the bulk of his business came from his "wedding movies," a title he uses to distinguish them from the average "cheese-ball" wedding video, he says. Goodwin's style is to capture the details and the story of the day rather than to just film the ceremony itself.

Manden Matz, a Pittman Elementary School teacher, chose Goodwin to film her June 2008 ceremony after meeting him at a local wedding expo. She says his demo video "quickly sealed the deal."

"It wasn't your average back-of-the-church video," says Matz, who also had Goodwin film a "Trash the Dress" segment in which she walks through nature trails and takes a dip in a river while wearing her wedding garb. "He captures things you wouldn't normally and looks at it in a way that is very artistic, different, out-of-the-box."

The economy hasn't affected Goodwin's wedding workload; he's filming as many this summer - about seven - as he was last. "A wedding is really a luxury item anyway," and only 10 percent to 20 percent of couples spring for the additional cost of a videographer, he explains. Those who could afford that indulgence before the recession can still afford it now, he adds.

The same number of wedding jobs, however, is making up an increasingly smaller portion of Goodwin's income. He's recently expanded into other types of video production, from filming feature shorts to the Elite Dance Cup National Finals held this month in Branson. He also made a music video for Mute Math, a band on the Warner Bros. record label, and edited a documentary-style ad for nonprofit Water.org, which was co-founded by Matt Damon.

The latter work is reminiscent of his videography roots, ones he is now getting back to. Goodwin started experimenting with cameras at Hillcrest High by taking part in its award-winning broadcast journalism program, HTV Magazine, and he will start a broadcast journalism degree at Missouri State University in the fall.

While attending college, Goodwin hopes to raise enough money to film a full-length documentary tentatively titled "Speech Kids: The Road to Nationals."

He is passionate about the project, which would follow the progress of Parkview High School's speech and debate team and require him to give up doing other work, weddings and all, for a year.