I recently sat down with friends to watch Love the Beast, a documentary about actor Eric Bana’s love and commitment to a car, his Ford Falcon.
WARNING: There is some colourful language that may not be suitable for work or for some people’s sensibilities at 36 seconds in.
The group of friends I was with are all visual production people: I’m a broadcast documentary shooter and editor, Dylan is a filmmaker and runs a ciné gear rental shop in Vancouver, Florian is a blockbuster film compositor with impressive film credits, Patrick is currently working on a remote Northern TV series with a well-known DoP on a British car show, Brian is in Israel as I write this working on a web series…
In short, we are a hard group to impress.
Let me start by saying the documentary is not without its faults, at least among this group. The visuals are good, the story is interesting and the characters are honest and likeable. But it isn’t superb.
We as a group are a fickle bunch and tore the film to shreds after viewing and we came to a sobering conclusion:
The parts we were particularly fond of weren’t necessarily the most beautiful bits but the most HONEST bits. Most of these moments come from old photographs or home movies that are of questionable quality by today’s standards. So then why do they speak to us so much?
Because they are real.
As I am so fond of noting, I now live in a cinema city – Hollywood North by most accounts, at least until recently. Some days I think there is a film school for every postal code here. I’m NOT a filmmaker. But I am a visual storyteller.
I recently offered to put together a quick promotional video for my friend and colleague, photographer Wendy D. She is hosting a wilderness retreat photography workshop again this summer in one of the most beautiful places on the planet.
Last year, I tagged along to help teach the technical component of her workshop. At the time, I suggested we make sure to shoot some representative video of the workshop in addition to the stills she and her participants were willing to share. Why was this so important?
As Wendy points out in the video below that we also prepared for her: when you take photos (or video…) at this year’s event, you now how promotional or representative images for next year’s event.
As simple as that sounds, we often forget to do just that or we just quickly point our cameras and take snapshots or “home movies”.
Frankly, that isn’t good enough.
If we want to be taken seriously in any given industry, we need to have the best promotional material we can, given our situation. That could be due to fiscal or time restraints, it could be because this is the first time we have undertaken a new event, product or service.
Ask yourself honestly: when you go looking for a service provider or product retailer online, if their website looks cheap or thrown together, what level of confidence does that inspire in you?
We as consumers really are that shallow.
So how do you compete in this marketplace, especially if you have some level of limitation around source materials?
It is far less expensive in the long run to produce quality marketing materials if you document your successes along the way, with the added benefit of being able to spend less money more often thereby amortizing the production costs without needing to access your business line of credit.
How often have you thought “I need some photos or video to promote my business. I’ll go look on iStockPhoto”.
By the time you license the images or moving pictures, you could have hired a professional photographer and/or videographer to document your OWN successes had you only thought of it at the time.
Wendy does a lot of work with one of the country’s leading business schools, both documenting their events as well as providing them with a wealth of stock photos in their own facilities that are instantly recognizable to potential students and community partners.
Their recent annual report was released and the majority of the “stock” photos contained in it were gleaned from a single day photo shoot specifically for the report. This was far more economical than buying stock photos and of significantly higher quality (thereby showing off the school’s commitment to quality) than having their own staff people “just shoot some pictures”.
“So what does this have to do with me?”
I encourage folks who are looking to have more of a visual presence, whether a promotional/educational video or a more professional website, to start thinking long term.
Start thinking about creating your own stock footage library of great moments and gorgeous visuals that help to tell your story.
Make acquisition of images and footage a priority and not an afterthought.
Contact your visual services provider about how to focus on images with a long term goal in mind.
When Eric Bana set out to make Love the Beast, he had a wealth of background material to tell the story with. That made the story much more compelling than historical re-enactments or other filmmaking subterfuge.
I’ve made a commitment to visually recording my story, for better or for worse… you should too.
Thanks for reading!