What About the Words?
Where do you go to learn better ways to produce? Have you read a book about it; found a website or some other method to keep your skills sharp? I work hard to try to develop content that is meaningful and relevant to the viewer - so how can ensure what I'm doing is the best approach - what do you do?
Richard, your question is a bit broad. We all get better with experience, challenging projects and time. Can you clarify what you are asking?
How do you know you're doing your best work? I'll post some things I try to keep in mind with my own work and perhaps that will evoke some responses - and perhaps better focus my question.
It is never your best. Well, it may be the best you can do at the moment, but you can always go further. You always aim higher. I look at stuff I thought was pretty good a year ago, and I cringe, knowing I can do that much better today. Even stuff a week old, I look back on and wish I could have done this or that, tried so-and-so technique, etc. Someone once said something along the lines of "Great art projects are never really finished; just abandoned at some point".
[Mark Suszko] ""Great art projects are never really finished; just abandoned at some point"."
Or as one of my old partners used to say in disgust over the way our CD at the time would take every single project to the brink of deadline disaster, "We never really finish anything, we just run out of time."
I fully agree with Mark in that I can't find a single project that there isn't some way I would like to make it better. And whenever I'm asked what I think is my best work it's always "the next one." Frankly I think that's the only way to be in this or most other businesses. Those just churning out the same thing day after day must have the most boring, mundane, mind-numbing of jobs. In contrast those of us, like Richard, asking how we can make it better, how we can go to the next level, have a real motivation for getting up and going to work every day.
[Nick Griffin] "Those just churning out the same thing day after day must have the most boring, mundane, mind-numbing of jobs."
Yes, Kathlyn and I call that kind of thing, DMN.
Sorry, I couldn't pass that one up, Nick.
The others are correct - always look at your work with a critical eye. Think to yourself, "if I were the client, would i be happy with this product?"
Sometimes "good enough" if great to the end user. Which is not to say you should not strive for "better than good enough" but sometimes in reality those extra 20 hours you spend may make the project better, in your opinion, but won't necessarily make or break the project. Is this to say you should not go above and beyond every time? No, but be your own best judge of how great is appropriate for the client.
You could spend 6 hours on an animation that is all but ignored by the viewer, but it sure makes you feel good, right? Just don't set yourself up for disappointment by expecting praise for something that is not considered going above and beyond by the client.
A couple of years ago we started cutting our standard teaching videos differently, using more of particular effects and better titles. Simple things really, but now those extra efforts are the expectation of clients and are a signature of our work. Takes an extra pass on the final edit to make sure it is consistent with our "look" but worth the effort.
I agree that you look at work you did weeks, months, years ago and think "man, I could have done that better." Just yesterday I dug a DVCPRO tape out of cold storage (think of that warehouse from Raiders) and thought "this looks pretty good, but if I could re-cut this today..." That, hopefully is a sign that I have grown creatively, as one should do every year.
Do I read particular books to stay sharp? Not intentionally, I read a lot in general. Online tutorials, even for software I don't have - anything can offer inspiration. I don't have Mocha or Magic Bullet, but seeing what those programs can do give me ideas. By the same token, look at other people's video work and look for things you like.
Did you know the COW now offers free video hosting? You want inspiration, check out some of those videos!
Thanks for the thoughtful comments, Mike. What prompted the whole analysis was a shocking visit with the executive director of an unnamed public agency. His board directed him to collect bids for the production of a video that would help educate viewers about the board's work and solicit new members. This guy wanted nothing to do with the video - he thought this quality thing was a waste of time. Professional lighting to him was a costly option.
I know this guy wasn't in the mood to give serious consideration to my work - but still, it is very disappointing to come face-to-face with it. There are potential clients out there just like that - and
sadly - there are so called video professionals who will give them what they want.
I need a look to sell; an expectation of quality from all who do business with me. That's where I need to push my work in the coming months -
[Richard Kuenneke] "sadly - there are so called video professionals who will give them what they want."
Do you think salesmen at Lamborghini dealerships lament the fact that Kia salesmen sell more cars? Of course not, because while they're in the same business in theory, their businesses are completely different. Because their customers have nothing whatsoever in common, they are in completely different businesses.
You are also not in the same business as those whom you deride as the "so called video professionals...." you mention above. They are every bit as legitimate as yourself, only they cater to a market segment that you'd rather not deal with on certain levels. You'd like their business, and you'd take their money, but you don't aspire to their goals.
That will surely drive you crazy over time. Something has to give... Either you adjust your goals or find find clients with different goals, because this is a service business, and you'll never survive trying to sell clients a product that they don't perceive as fulfilling their needs. That's not saying you can't educate and win them over to your way of thinking over time, but that takes time.
So, in the short term, either find a higher level of customer or try your best to service the ones you have now, but don't spend you energy berating your successful competitors who may actually understand the marketplace more than you know.
David Roth Weiss
David Weiss Productions, Inc.
POST-PRODUCTION WITHOUT THE USUAL INSANITY ™
A forum host of Creative COW's Apple Final Cut Pro, Business & Marketing, Indie Film & Documentary, and Film History & Appreciations forums.
I didn't find this guy - he found me. If I had known one-half of what I found out after 10 minutes, I would never have accepted the invite to bid.
I'm just pointing out the obvious - someone who agrees to produce a professional video that will serve as a mouthpiece for a state funded agency that refuses to use lights, tripod and an external microphone is fooling themselves. That’s not professional video service, that’s misrepresentation.
And the guy in charge that would allow it – and pay for it – is a bigger fool.
At least the Lamborghini and Kia have some things in common - like an engine, doors, and wheels.
[Mike Cohen] "Sometimes "good enough" if great to the end user. Which is not to say you should not strive for "better than good enough" but sometimes in reality those extra 20 hours you spend may make the project better, in your opinion, but won't necessarily make or break the project. Is this to say you should not go above and beyond every time? No, but be your own best judge of how great is appropriate for the client."
This is one of the points that I like to make to people that feel that everything has to be great.
You are serving the client more than you are serving yourself. At least you should be. And some clients wouldn't know a great job if it bit them on the hiney. They are not paying for the Greatest Show On Earth, they are paying for production work.
I have worked like an idiot on some jobs, working to the point of collapse and so proud of the level that I got the work to, only to find that the client couldn't have cared less -- nor did they recognize the extra effort.
While I do indeed strive for what Nick cites as always working to make the work better and better, I also balance that with the logic of a businessman that realizes that I am not going to make art for the ages and that I am not da Vinci or Michelangelo. I am nothing more than a commercial artist making "art for the moment," at best.
So, I push myself hard and I try to do the best work that I can. But I also realize that if that causes me to work so many hours that I am making $20 an hour, that is not a practical outlook.
The outcome has got to be a practical one, based on the monies and the hours involved.
But on my own projects, I throw the clock out the window. ;o)
Creativity is a type of learning process where the teacher and pupil are located in the same individual.
Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.
- Antoine de Saint Exupéry
[Ron Lindeboom] "on my own projects, I throw the clock out the window"
And I think that can also describe select projects throughout the year, even when they are paying jobs. I try to pick the ones that matter, that will have the most visibility, the ones for the reel and make them "personal" projects. These can be the ones where the clock isn't always running and the timesheet not always filled in.
That said, it's important to maintain a certain level of professionalism on everything and strive to make the everyday stuff a little better without pouring too many extra, unpaid hours into it.
I couldn't agree more, Nick. Certain clients that I work with get the "No Clock" policy.
But in the long run, they pay for it.
Trial and error Rich, It's the Saluki way! :)
How are you, my maiden name was Rebecca Stroetzel and I remember you from RREE. I'm in LA now, doing the freelance thing at the moment and am getting all to well acquainted with difficult clients that put me in positions where I should sacrifice quality to save time and money. And for the most part, I won't sacrifice. I'll put in the extra time or expense to do things the right way. That's the way I was taught. Kind of "do your best" NO MATTER WHAT IT TAKES.
But then I wind up feeling resentful and disappointed. Bottom line, if you don't own the work you're creating, you gotta kind of suck it up and compromise. Not everything you output is direct reflection of what your best work is. Particularly, if the client doesn't give you the budget and time you need. Really if they don't care, it's not up to you to demand that you polish their turn. They just want it done. Those are the projects, where you gotta just push through, and then move on to the next which will hopefully be better.
My best work is reflected when I care. That's what makes me a better producer. But when you get a pain in the ass client that's making your job difficult, they don't deserve your best work.
Mrs. Gillaspie: Thanks for the great note - I was just venting my frustration on this great forum after a meeting a little more than a week ago. The ride home from that wonderful experience forced me to think about why I do what I do and whether it was all worth it. In the end, thanks to the many responses on this forum, I concluded that it is and that the low budget, low quality world cannot sustain itself, even though they do WIN from time to time.
Gosh, I'm ready to start talking about something else.