Whoever introduced the concept of right brain and left brain into casual conversation did many people a disservice. There are people who think more methodically and others who tend to have better creative chops, but most of us have some crossover capability. I, for one, know artists and authors personally who are quite comfortable making grocery lists and alphabetizing their music collections. So get over it, aspiring producers, and learn reverence for planning – the earlier, the better.
Before you even think about cameras and characters, walk with me down this path. You’ll be happier when you get to the finish… which, actually is the beginning (of production… remember?)
Who’s your audience?
Whether you’re making a video for a sixth grade graduation or for the introduction of a new product, it’s important to remember who will be watching your masterpiece. Before I even knew I would be involved with video production, I saw a movie called The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz, starring a young Richard Dreyfuss. Duddy, in his first effort at film production, surprised an audience of family and friends at a Bar Mitzvah with an artistic interpretation that included vivid scenes of ritual circumcision – complete with plenty of spilling blood and African dancing. Don’t do that.
Choose what you say and how you say it based on who you’re talking to. Many companies say to write to a fifth grade level or a middle school level, but if you’re producing a program for doctors and scientists, let loose with the multisyllabic words. If you don’t know what multisyllabic means, stick with the fifth grade and middle school stuff.
What’s your goal?
Do you want to raise money with your video? Do you want to convince young girls not to smoke? Do you want to motivate a salesforce? Everything about the programs for these three groups should be different. You’ll want the first group to cry. You’ll want the young girls to be terrified – or at least more scared of dying than of not being cool. The third group – well, salespeople are easy if you can show them a good way to make money. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that!)
Thinking about your goal and your audience will help you narrow down creative choices, and that’s a good thing. Let’s say you have a client who’s related to Miley Cyrus and can get her to be in your video. If you’re doing the “don’t smoke” video, you’re golden. But Miley isn’t our girl if we’re raising money for a hospice program or motivating the sales team for Raytheon (you know, the missile systems people). Remember, we’re looking for tears for the fundraisers and inspiration for…well, I guess salespeople are fundraisers, too. The point is, one group will respond to a tender approach, and the other is more likely to want exciting information. Now go… be creative.
What’s your message?
Video production is considered by most people to be a technical skill, but its goal is communication. What are you trying to communicate? What do you want or need to tell people to achieve your goal? Sometimes there are multiple options. Let’s stick with the anti-smoking video and consider some of the messages used in recent television commercials made for the same purpose. One commercial shows people piling up body bags on a sidewalk in New York City in front of the building of a tobacco company. The message: Smoking deaths are not just statistics – real people die, and you could too. Another commercial shows the Marlboro Man “singing” with an artificial voice box – the result of cancer surgery. The message: Smoking could kill you OR make your life miserable. The messages are slightly different but both work to achieve the goal.
What’s your budget?
Video production is not totally budget driven, but budget should always be one of the first things you look at. Producing on a small budget can be challenging, but try to see it as an opportunity to be creative. No budget for location shooting? Hmm, will finger puppets do (and I’m only half kidding)? Once we did a video using Barbie dolls as stand-ins for real people. It got our concept across and was very entertaining. If you have a big budget… does anyone have a big budget these days?… you have many more options. But you still need to produce to your budget.
Do not design a video that costs more or takes more time than you have. There are only two possible outcomes for this situation:
1. Your product will suffer because you’ll cut corners because of your limitations, or
2. You will suffer – either losing money or giving away time, which are really the same thing. And sometimes you’ll have to lose sleep while you’re losing money and giving away time.
Resist the temptation to let a good idea lead you down this path.
Consider all applications.
Video production companies today can do their clients a great service if they take the time to discuss all the ways a specific video can be used before production planning begins. Some people and organizations understand that the same video – or versions of the same program, can be used in multiple ways. For example, a short introductory video can be used in a meeting setting, on a website, at a trade show, in an email, and in social media. If you have a savvy client, find out what they’re thinking. It may save you both some time (a.k.a. money) down the road and even help you make something that works better in all the applicable media.
Even more important may be introducing a client to the options that efficient planning opens for them. Using the same media for multiple purposes is good for them, their company or organization, their career, and your image. Think of it as being digitally green.
Molly Proffer is the Executive VP of Proffer Productions, Inc. – a Kansas City video production company that provides video production services to businesses and nonprofits, associations and entrepreneurs