A Portage Life in the Spotlight: Zernul “Z” Shackelford Jr.

A Portage Life in the Spotlight: Zernul “Z” Shackelford Jr.

From joining the Marine Corps, working at a steel mill, starting his own videography business, and live streaming city meetings for the City of Portage, Zernul “Z” Shackelford Jr. has been on a journey of pursuing his dreams.

Growing up on the south side of Chicago, Shackelford always desired to be creative in any way he could. However, he was met with the obstacle of attending a high school that didn’t offer many creative opportunities.

“I never wanted to do anything but create when I was a teenager, but that wasn't pushed a lot,” Shackelford said. “The high school I went to was a technical school, and they were more into training you to become an engineer.” 

After graduating high school, Shackelford spent some time as part of the Marine Corps. When he came back, he got a job working at a steel mill in the Region. 

Shackelford discovered an interest in videography through his passion for creativity. Working at the steel mill allowed him to start buying videography equipment that he was previously unable to buy; then he began learning how to use it.

“I taught myself how to use the equipment as the internet grew and YouTube University became a thing. I started building my little empire from there,” Shackelford said.

When he found out that the steel mill was offering business classes, Shackelford took advantage of the opportunity to take his videography business to the next level.

“I'd been doing videos for people on the side. It was a business, but not an official business, and I wanted to make it legitimate,” Shackelford said.

Through this class, Shackelford learned how to turn his videography into Darque Syde of D’Lyte Productions, which became a formal business in 2012. 

He stayed at the steel mill while continuing to build his business. As it grew, he found that he was able to solely pursue his videography business.

“After a while, my business was doing pretty well,” Shackelford said. “It was enough to take care of myself, so I took the leap, left the mill, and now I do this full-time.” 

As a full-time videographer, Shackelford typically spends his work days filming on location and doing a lot of editing. At times, he receives requests to record remotely, and he enjoys that this is a service he can offer. 

“I have the ability to record people remotely with a program similar to Zoom called Riverside. It allows me to have separate recordings for each person who's on the call, so unlike Zoom, where it's one big recording with everybody, I can separate each person's recording and bend it as necessary,” Shackelford said.

Along with his business, Shackelford also runs live streams for city meetings in the City of Portage.

When he was first asked to test out live streaming for city meetings, he didn’t have much experience with that type of videography. That didn’t hold him back, though. His ambition drove him to learn something new.

“At that time, I had never streamed anything other than with my phone, but I told them, ‘Yeah, I can do it!’ I figured out what equipment I needed, bought it, and learned how to use it,” Shackelford said.

The first meeting that Shackelford live-streamed for the City of Portage was nerve-wracking. He knew that if he did well, he might be able to livestream these meetings long-term.

“That first meeting was the most stressful thing that’s ever happened to me in my life,” Shackelford said. “I hadn’t streamed something like that before, and there was a lot on the line. I didn’t know if I could pull off something this heavy, but it worked, and I got the gig.” 

When live streaming a meeting, Shackelford always comes in an hour early to ensure that everything is working properly. Then, he prepares for the specific meeting he’s streaming that day.

“Each meeting is different because each governing body handles particular aspects of running the city. I have separate templates set up in the system that are customized for each meeting. I make sure those are in place so the meeting will run smoothly,” Shackelford said.

Throughout the meetings, Shackelford pays close attention to who is speaking and keeps the camera focused on the correct people. He ensures that he is effectively capturing each speaker.

“I'm watching them on monitors, and I cut to whoever is talking at the time so the people at home can follow and keep up with who's saying what,” Shackelford said.

Shackelford enjoys being able to bring these live streams to the public. He views it to be beneficial in helping people to better understand what’s happening in their city.

“I like doing this because I've always been aware of politics and government, but I've never been involved in it. Now I am, in a way, because I'm bringing it to people,” Shackelford said. “I think it's important that we continue to do that, especially in this day and age. It keeps people informed. Everyone has different schedules – some people can’t make a morning meeting, but they're able to watch later in the day. I think what we're doing is fantastic, and I hope we continue to do it.” 

In his free time, Shackelford enjoys making music, going to movies with his kids, and spending time with his girlfriend, with whom he likes to collaborate on fun videography projects.

“I want to encourage people who are considering starting their own business. I'm the happiest I've ever been in my life right now. I went from not making anything with creating videos to now sustaining myself, and every year my business grows. You just have to take the first step and it's all possible,” Shackelford said.