For most of the past 35 years my “day job” has focused on producing corporate media. I’ve produced video and film projects for large and small companies and that includes a wide range of project types. I’ve also produced projects for schools and private organizations. On most of that work I’ve been lucky enough to have also been the writer and director.
I draw great reward from learning new things and making information clear and simple to viewers. I wrote a series of half hour telecourse scripts for a KCOE-TV in Huntington Beach and one, “The Heart”, won the first Los Angeles Emmy in the educational category. My two-part series, “It’s About Time”, produced to help children learn to tell time, is also an award winner as are many of my projects.
My motivation is simple. I love to help people understand. That’s probably why I’ve gained such satisfaction from working in business and educational media.
Below is a small sampling of my work, including a demo reel made way, way back in the early 90’s! Don’t hesitate to contact me if you have a media project you feel I might be able to help with.
The following article explores an important topic in developing media for a business audience. If you’re in the media business, what are your thoughts? Email me.
Knowing What Works – The Key to
You’ve just watched playback on a shot involving a host addressing the camera as he walks through an office area. The shot included a fairly long dolly move, beginning with a tricky tilt up and rack focus from a computer screen. The crew and client are standing around the monitor with you.
The Videographer speaks up first. “You’ll never get the move any better,” he says. “It was right on the money.”
The Audio Recordist follows with, “Sound was perfect. No rustle, good level. Crystal clear.”
The A.D. turns to you offering a congratulatory smile and thumbs up.
And finally, the client chimes in with, “Looked really great to me. Boy, this actor is good.”
Does this sound like music to any director’s ears?
Sure it does. But in this case there’s one little problem. You weren’t sold on the performance. You felt it was a little too stiff and formal to come off credibly. It didn’t have the warm, conversational quality you’ve decided is an important part of making this host character believable. Adding to your discomfort is the fact that this was take 9, you’re an hour behind schedule, and the client has been pacing nervously since take 5.
So, here’s your dilemma: Do you buy the scene and move on in hopes of making up some time and getting back on schedule? Or do you get farther behind, irritate everyone (including your tiring actor) and call for take 10?
As you think about your answer, consider the fact that this is a common situation in the world of the corporate media director, and it gives rise to two very interesting questions.
First, who’s right? If everyone else watching the scene thinks the performance was great, why argue about it? Your Videographer is a well seasoned pro. Your sound person has been around forever. And the client? Heck, he’s paying the bill! The majority voice should be accurate, then, right? So, why not just call it a buy and move on?
Second, what exactly is this performance you want, anyway? And how should it be judged? What is the manifestation of the “warm and conversational quality” you’re after? Is it smooth? Informal? Casual? Chatty? Let’s assume we define it as smooth. Does smooth, then, manifest itself in the same way for you as another director? Is there a chance one of your peers might watch this same shot and actually say it’s too smooth? Too causal? It needs more “authority,” “presence,” more “formality”? The answer, of course, is yes, and I’m sure you get my drift. Judging any shot – or, for that matter, any aspect of a creative work — can seem like a confusing, and at times, very frustrating paradox. A “good” piece of work in one director’s eyes might be judged as “poor” by another. And who’s to say which one is right?
Though the question may seem paradoxical, the answer is actually very simple.
A small percentage of any group of directors will have a subtle but invaluable aesthetic sense that I call knowing what works. Three simple words, but in the business of creating good media they define the “instinct” that makes the best writers, producers, and directors stand out from their peers. Why? Because knowing what works gives these creative people the ability to view a performance, script, or complete program and experience a very accurate gut-feel for how good it really is.
So where does this “knowing what works” instinct come from? Again, the answer is not rocket science, but pay attention at this point because it is important. Knowing what works comes from an ability to view your work, not just through your own creative eyes, but rather through the eyes of your audience. Audience. There it is. That all important word so many writers, directors and producers don’t quite understand.
Those who do, know that the best of them, both in Hollywood and the corporate boardrooms across America, are acutely tuned and in perfect creative sync with the tastes and preferences of their audiences. When they buy or reject a scene, they are not just standing in front of a monitor surrounded by crew and clients, they are also sitting in a conference room or theater, weeks or months in the future, as the final product they’ve created plays on a screen. And through the combination of these present and future aesthetic perspectives they gain an immediate, very accurate gut-instinct of what works.
Which brings us back to that initial question.
If it’s you in front of that monitor, do you buy the scene and move on, or go for take 10? Once again, the answer is simple – simple to state, that is. If, as you sit with the audience in that theater or conference room in your future, what you’ve just witnessed rings completely true and comfortable, buy it and move on.
If it doesn’t?
Grit your teeth, take a deep breath, and say, “Sorry, folks. First positions, please.”