Posts Tagged ‘video’

eat the mic. eat it!

Getting good copy often means getting a good interview, which takes a bit of skill. I became a pretty decent interviewer out of necessity. In the olden times, we jetted about the country doing product testimonial videos in hospitals far and wide. We corporate video dudes would tend to our 300lbs of gear, and leave the interviewing duties to the marketing managers.  Thinking it was one more headache we didn’t need, we got three other headaches instead.

First of all, I think marketers can be too close to their products. By the time we reach testimonial video stage, this new device is all that the marketer has lived and breathed for two or three years.  Their perspective is skewed, and it affects the types of questions they ask. For example, I’m sure it was a high-five moment when the design team picked the capacitor that made the bed motor 1% more efficient, but don’t expect the lady from Housekeeping to give a damn about it.

This brings up one of the basic rules I have learned: ask people what they know and/or care about. Don’t ask the VP of Finance how easy it is to clean under the mattress, and don’t ask the $8-an-hour medical assistant about macro trends in the health care industry. No, I’m not making up these examples.

And how about a little interviewing skill, folks? An Ivy-league MBA  does not guarantee interviewing ability. From what I have seen, it’s pretty much the opposite.  Example:

VP of Nursing: “Here at Sisters of Mercy, there are three critical elements to our patient safety initiative.”

Interviewer: “Super. Next question…”

Me (whispering): “Uhh, dude, don’t you want to know what the elements are?”

Interviewer: “Oh great, now I’ve lost my place!”

Another mistake is heading out on the road without a clear idea of the story you are trying to tell. By the time it magically crystallizes in your head, you’re on your fifth city. You realize that each of your 40-minute interviews could have been about 20 minutes if you had properly focused. You also realize that you could have made those 1:30 flights, instead of the 5:15’s.  The 1:30 flight, by the way, is the Gold Standard of interviewing success!

Anyway, after about a dozen or so of these adventures, we finally kicked the marketing manager to the curb (or ditched him at baggage claim, I don’t recall.)  Logistically, things got easier almost immediately.  Eventually, the interviews got better as well. Today, I can honestly say that I am a darn good interviewer, either for video, web or print. I’ve even been known to ask a follow-up question or two!


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Looking back on some of my professional zigs and zags, beginning with college. At age 20 I had  a professor who was a proponent of Access TV. Remember Access…where regular Joes and Janes off the street could get studio training and then make bad shows on Time Warner channel 109? A really democratic notion, and very appealing to a college kid. So that’s the path I took.

First job: Armed with my degree, I got a job at an Access station…the American “Access Channel of the Year,” mind you. I found it was a pretty typical operation. Of the sixty or so people that worked there, I was one of the five who was being paid. I was a video trainer/producer/director, and I made $5 an hour!

First REAL job: I cold-called a bunch of production houses in Cincinnati until one said that they were looking for a video editor. Fantastic, I lied…I’m an editor!  At $8 an hour, my goodness, that’s like $16K a year!!  Actually, with all of the mandatory overtime, it was more like $23K. And that’s the lesson…the addictive nature of overtime. I bitched about the hours, but was in desperate straits on the weeks I DIDN’T get 55 hours! Did wonders for my home life too.

The Corporate job: This one happened because my future employer had come to my former employer for some video editing work. The d-bag who represented the big corporate client was trying to put the schmooze on my fellow editor, a lovely young lady, by saying that they had an opening in their in-house video department. She wasn’t interested…neither in the job, nor in being ogled 40 hours a week, so I snagged it. The lesson here? If your future boss gives all the signs of being a total wad, take the hint. He may not have been interested in my supple body (I don’t think so, anyway) but he found other ways to make my life suck.

And that brings us to 1990. More later. Have a happy 4th of July. And if you blow your arms off with fireworks, try to get a sweet hookup like this kid.

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Whether it’s on the web, in print or on video, it often seems that the point of marketing communications is to leverage that 2% difference between a client’s product and his competitor’s, so that your client can wring out an extra 1% of market share. (I’ll pause as you try to wrap your mind around my English-major’s grasp of statistics.)

But what if there’s no difference? No patented process, no unique carbon micro-fibers, no bitchin’ flame decals on the side. What if the competition is putting out the exact same product? Not possible, you say?

Photo by R Middlestetter

Welcome to the world of Old West replica guns; replica Colt .45’s, replica Winchester ’73 rifles, and so on. Now, there are several companies producing these replica guns that, by definition, are exactly alike. So how do you market them? And what if your writer (me) has never held a gun in his life?

The answer, as always, is research. Who is your audience? It turns out, there is this entire subculture of dudes who dress up like cowboys on the weekends and have shootin’ matches. And, yes, their wives dress up as saloon girls. These guys are committed shooters and old west enthusiasts. So, it makes sense that they’re looking for a gun that’s not only well made, but also authentic. Second, just as important as the gun is the entire frontier culture. And here is where I planted the flag. I was determined to sell the romance of the Old West better than anybody else.

Of course, I didn’t do it alone. The executive producer and sales rep were both big-time gun freaks. Their technical knowledge was vital, and allowed me to concentrate of spinning the Legend of the Old West. And the graphics are really evocative. Anyway, take a look here, * and give me your thoughts.

*Well, shoot! (hey, good one!) They discontinued the line! You’ll have to make do with a brochure I wrote for them it’s on p.36 of my Print Samples.

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If you make it through the first five minutes of The Savages, wherein a frustrated, confused old man writes his sentiments on the bathroom wall with, well, you know what, then you are in for a gently challenging, ultimately hopeful movie experience.

In last week’s review of Lars and The Real Girl, I referred to of actors who typically play pent-up, tightly wound characters in pent-up, tightly wound little independent films. In The Savages, out on DVD, we have two of the finest in the business playing their muted best: Laura Linney and Philip Seymour Hoffman.

Fortyish siblings John and Wendy Savage refuse to grow up (as their Peter Pan-inspired names would suggest.) Wendy works a series of temp jobs and wastes office supplies endlessly applying for grants in order to chase her dream of playwriting. John has chosen “college for life” and teaches theater. In the romance department, neither sibling is getting anywhere. Wendy is involved with a married man with no intention of leaving his wife. John has a longtime live-in, a Polish prof he loves, but whose visa has expired. He refuses to marry her.

And yet, each is content in their little bubble…until their lives turn upside down. Their perpetual adolescence is shattered by the fast-forward disintegration of their elderly father (Phillip Bosco.) Seriously, the first ten minutes is tough to watch as we see Dad’s dementia destroy every bit of his dignity (the bathroom wall is just the beginning.) Sadly, he has enough of his mind left to witness his own degradation.

In coming to terms with what to do with the old man, John and Wendy each think their stale lives is more important, and that the other should make the sacrifices. Each stands his ground, however, and the resulting friction causes cracks wide enough for growth and change to seep through.

Obviously, this isn’t the delightful whimsical tale that Lars was, but it is a good story (Oscar-nominated, in fact.). If you happen to be 40, and thinking ahead to that thing we must all face, it’s sure to hit home. It definitely drags you through the hard choices, but ultimately leaves you hopeful. Rent it!

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Ever heard of a Real Doll? I beg you not to Google it, especially if you are at work. A Real Doll is a shockingly lifelike…partner…for lonely men. You might recall they made one of Kelly Carlson on FX’s demented “Nip/Tuck“…though it’s a wonder they had any silicone left over from making the actual Kelly Carlson to construct a doll! Anyway, forget everything you may know (or suspect) about these dolls, because it’s not that kind of story.

In Lars and the Real Girl our shy and painfully backward hero lives a life apart. He is an enigma to his co-workers, the folks at church, and even to his brother and sister-in-law, who live in their inherited home while Lars chooses to sleep on a cot in the garage. One day UPS unloads a crate at the house, and that evening Lars announces he is bringing a guest to dinner. Smash cut to stunned relatives staring at Lars seated at the dinner table next to a sex doll…a doll he considers real in every way.

The town shrink advises his family, co-workers and the townsfolk play along in hopes of helping Lars work through and shake this delusion. That commitment, and the healing that ensues play out in ways that constantly surprise us, because it never gets weird or hokey or over-the-top. The script by Nancy Oliver (Six Feet Under) is subtle, sweet and hopeful and truly deserving of its Best Original Screenplay nomination.

Lars is played by Ryan Gosling, seen previously in his Oscar- nominated turn as the strung-out teacher in “Half Nelson.” Other prominent names include Emily Mortimer and Patricia Clarkson, actors who typically play pent-up, tightly wound supporting characters in pent-up, tightly wound little independent films. This, along with the bleak Canadian winter, really sets a stark tone for the proceedings. The sterile isolation of the picture’s opening presents a startling contrast to where Lars and the entire town eventually end up. Maybe too startling to be entirely believable (and not all the film critics were on board) but I found myself gladly going along for the ride.

Bottom line: A film about a guy who falls in love with a sex doll…that you could recommend to your mother? I’m as surprised as you are. So, get thee to a video store and rent the hell out of it!

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Every now and then, I get the frantic call for an “emergency” video script from one of my corporate clients. Such a call came on a Monday about six weeks ago. Actually referring to them as “911 hair-on-fire emergencies,” the marketing manager wanted to shoot two videos in four days’ time.

You may ask, how many big important marketing videos, or brochures, or presentations pop up out of nowhere, to be delivered in four days? And given the liability and regulatory hassles these days, would such a script possibly make it through all the internal approval channels in that time? A cynical person (sometimes called a freelancer) might also ask, “Will that red alert sense of urgency include processing the invoice?”

For those playing at home, the answers are A) not many, B) not likely, and C) I laughed so hard that milk came out of my nose.

But what do you do? It’s one thing if “crying wolf” is their standard procedure. But if this is an otherwise dependable, regular client you treat it like the emergency they claim it to be. In this case, I dropped everything to deliver two first drafts in a day and a half. I included a note that said “send me your changes and I can get final drafts to you by end of day.”

That was six silent, lonely weeks ago.

Would you handle this situation differently? Let me know!

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