The Creative Constant in Film and Video

a man looking at information on a pad of paper

Let’s talk about constants. The most famous mathematical constant is the speed of light: the universal speed limit. It may not be rocket science, but the time it takes to solve creative problems can also be considered a constant. In filmmaking, you can’t break this limit—at least not until someone finally invents the warp drive.

Often the length of time it takes to solve communication issues creatively in film is given low priority. Sometimes the creative process is shoehorned into an artificially tight schedule. Just because we can physically create a video quickly doesn’t mean that the creative process can also speed up.

This process is a constant in almost all projects and not limited to film. It takes time to find answers in research, writing, and business, but good filmmaking requires it: creativity cannot be extruded with brute force. Breaking this speed limit won’t create a rift in the time-space continuum, but it certainly could result in a colossal waste of time further down the line. Early in the 20th century an Engish social psychologist, Graham Wallas outlined incubation as an integral part of the creative process. (Wallas’s model of the creative process.)

Three things to consider when embarking on a film or video project:

1.  Incubation Takes Time.
It’s important to build in time for the creative and collaborative process when scheduling a production. The more time spent up front working through an agreed-upon objective, the less time it takes to reach a successful outcome. (Barbara Hennessy outlines the key questions and steps in the pre-production phase in her blog The Video Production Process – Part 1.) Scheduling creative time can save time on the back-end.

2.  Slow is Fast and Fast is Slow (a SCUBA axiom)
Don’t rush creativity. When an emergency occurs during a SCUBA dive, it’s smarter and safer to work slowly and deliberately. If you’re caught in a fish line you need to work carefully to cut yourself out rather than react without fully considering the situation and further entangling yourself. Though film and video projects are rarely life and death situations (or take place underwater), the axiom holds true. Take more time beforehand to fully develop a clear concept, and you will need less time to execute it — especially when it comes to post production.

3.  The More the Messier
Who’s accountable? Each creative voice and opinion on a project increases production time exponentially. Understanding the approval process and who’s making final decisions (whether it’s the director or a client) will dictate the incubation time. Knowing how many people will be involved in the decision-making process also will help determine the length of time that should be allotted to the production. The fewer the voices, the faster the process.

The Bottom Line:
The best films and videos require ample time for creativity and collaboration. Allowing for that time will help create a better film and will give you a more memorable experience worth sharing.

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