He’s a one-man crew making his way through Nova Scotia, and upward in the media industry.
“I’m a very small version of CBC,” says Ian Swinamer.
The 28-year-old self-taught interviewer, cameraman, and video editor works day and night to tell the tales of the Valley in his own special way.
Swinamer grew up in Waterville and took an interest in the media at a young age.
Even as a boy, he was drawn to whatever kind of news he could get his hands on.
“As a kid, if I saw a CBC or CTV truck drive by, I’d be like a kid in a candy store. I’d have to go see what’s going on,” he recalls.
Now, it’s him rushing to the scene to report the news.
Swimaner’s business started out with a simple idea: engage his audience.
“Roughly three and a half to four years ago, I wanted to interact more with my Facebook audience and my friends, but I had no idea how to do that,” he said.
“I knew I’ve always had an interest in video and in being in front of the camera.”
His traces his early beginnings in audience engagement to a taped trip to a cornfield, a John Deere hat and pair of coveralls.
“I went out to a nearby cornfield and recorded a Thanksgiving message for my friends. To my surprise, people really responded well to it. That was the building blocks for how it all started,” he said.
“At the time I began recording, I was quite limited. I didn’t have any of the editing software I do now, so it was all one-shot videos. If I messed up, I had to start again. I kept on making videos after that, and here we are today, with Swinamer Media.”
He says his bread and butter has become stories that focus on the hidden gems Nova Scotia has to offer, but he notes it’s not always unicorns and rainbows.
“I try to do as much positive, community-based news as possible, but sometimes I do have to cover accidents, fires - things of that nature,” he says.
“However, as a volunteer firefighter, I’m not just covering these incidents for the news value. I also want to showcase what our firefighters and emergency responders are doing at the same time. The feedback I’ve gotten from the first responders has been overwhelmingly positive.”
As tough as it is to report on traumatic events, Swinamer says his human-interest stories make it all worth it.
“The biggest part of it all is the people. When you go out and actually listen to someone’s story, it’s really rewarding. I try to add a personal approach to all I do. I’m genuinely interested in what they have to say, and I let the come through in my videos,” he says.
“It’s not a job for me, it’s a passion.”
Right now, Swinamer is the only employee for his company, but he has big aspirations. He is starting to look at taking on sponsors to support his content and aims to grow Swinamer Media.
He admits it’s not an easy job being a one-man crew.
One of Swinamer’s reports fills his entire day, from shooting the footage to editing and uploading. Larger projects, such as his tribute videos for the Berwick Sports Hall of Fame induction ceremony, can take hundreds of hours.
Despite all the work he puts in, he says it’s worth it.
“If I put one smile on someone’s face, then I’ve succeeded.”
Every story has left its own impression on him, but certain ones have really stuck.
“I did two stories at Valley Communications in Kentville - retirement videos for dispatchers Donnie Misner and Ruth Nickerson. As a part of the volunteer fire department, I would always hear their voices and looked up to them. I never got to see their faces, but I heard them a lot. So, to do reports on these individuals was really special to me,” he says.
“Another really stand-out moment for me was an event in Grande Pré I was covering. I saw Ben Mulroney from CTV was also there recording for Your Morning, and I got to interview him! That was really cool because he’s usually the guy interviewing celebrities, so for him to let me interview him was a really neat accomplishment.”
Those are a couple standout stories, but he dabbles in other areas, too.
“One that got a lot of response was I ate a habanero pepper in one go, and it literally took my breath away. That one got a few laughs.”