Reigniting that creative spark within 'the box'
Let's face it...corporate video is not the endless fountain of creative inspiration. More often than not, our brains are trying to figure out how to repackage the same old talking-head videos, product laundry list, and dry policy speech...all in a fresh, creative way.
How do you guys keep the creative juices flowing? What do recommend when faced with yet-another standard video from (insert department or executive here), who prefers 'safe' over 'edgy'?
Good question. Personally, I'm a technical editor - competent in the editing software, but need someone to provide the creative ideas. But, as you pointed out, I've been beat down so many times when attempting to insert 'edgy' into our productions, that I've become very jaded to the aspect.
Case in point - a piece for a fulfillment center. I had a shot of a large forklift moving up and down a very long row of product, raising and lowering to the height of the items to be picked. I thought it would be a perfect spot for a simulated time-lapse by speeding up the clip. Looked great! But...the client was afraid that their clients would think that their equipment actually moved that fast, and would be concerned about breakage. Seriously.
Still, that shot's going in our reel.
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Wow, I've been there. Think a small text disclaimer would have appeased them...?
Often times, people are overthinking the production. They forget that we all watch movies and commericials, and that most people (clients included) understand that timelapsed clouds don't move that fast...hamsters don't really drive Kias...and iPhones don't assemble themselves from molten metal. We don't always have to be literal in video. We are a medium of metaphors, association and exaggeration. We need these for brevity, which is necessary for effective video. We have to remember that it's our job as professionals to educate them.
If nothing else, I think you're spot on with putting it on the reel. Someone told me "the first edit is for yourself, the others are for the client". Love that. And maybe that is why we need to continually challenge ourselves creatively...client notwithstanding.
Good points made so far. I would add that there is nothing that says corporate or government videos MUST be dry and dull as stated. People default to the familiar and low-risk when accountability comes up. But these complaints we have are symptoms of a bigger overall problem.
If you are seen as "just" the editor or shooter, then you can't expect them to take all your creative input. I think sometimes editors prefer to abdicate the larger job of being the overall Producer, to void the extra work and stress. But if you really want to make something that breaks out of the same-old, same-old, you have to fight for the management role of Producer. Once you have that role, it's on you to get the bosses to buy-into your "vision" using a process that documents and describes what you want to do and why, in a language they can understand.
Those tools are a Creative Approach or Brief, and the Creative Treatment.
Look at it this way: their area of competence isn't usually in what you do. They need a blueprint, they need a way to understand the process and the results that will come out of it. This is similar to the documentation that goes with building a new website or software app.
The Creative Treatment is not a script, but a scene by scene written description of what happens in each scene and what is talked about, with a short sentence justifying why it is there.
When the boss or client sees this information, they can finally get in your "head" and see the project the way you do. Then they either go along, make changes, or disapprove it, but at least now they will be making those decisions in a creative context and they hopefully won't be doing things like the forklift story, because they "get it".
But you yourself have to switch paradigms from being a bus driver, executing at the end of someone else's process, to being a pilot. The bus driver does the same route every day, ho-hum. The pilot moves in 4 dimensions and while he or she may have to go to the same destination a few times, they are modifying and improvising parts of the route each time to optimize the trip.
A client who has never done anything in video is always going to default to just what they know or understand, which usually is: read a powerpoint slideshow into a lens, and call it done. That's not TV. That's radio, with slides. And not even very *good* radio, either. That's not their fault: YOU are the communications expert. Yours is the task of offering something better, more effective. Don't sell it so much by saying it is more entertaining, but that it will be EFFECTIVE.
Love the pilot analogy, Mark. The advice about the creative briefs are spot-on, too. I agree, you can often get a client on-board if you show them what you are thinking, but also WHY it will be effective. Show them examples of how a look/technique/style was used in other similar videos (competitor video example work wonders)
What is also important about being seen as a 'creative professional' is that it gives you more control of your product...which in turn keeps ones creativity level up.
Radio with slides, heh heh heh...I gotta remember that.