The Creative Process in Corporate Films

Steady Wins the (business videos) Race

In physics there are mathematical constants. The most famous, of course, 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 thought of as a constant. In filmmaking, you can’t break this limit—at least not until someone finally invents the warp drive.

When I first started working in film, the mechanics of production and editing were entirely different. Film was expensive and it was a time-consuming undertaking. After a shoot, we’d have to wait at least a day to see the footage because it needed to be processed in a lab. During the edit, we physically had to cut and tape together the film. Obviously, this is no longer the case. The advent of digital film and editing was a complete game-changer. The digital format allows filmmakers to take more creative risks. The costs associated with a flubbed line in an interview or a creative shot that didn’t quite work became negligible.

Make no mistake — I’m no Luddite. I don’t miss the ritual of searching through bins of film to find a missing frame.

But, at the same time, it means that many directors and editors jump right into their work without allowing enough time to really think about the objectives of the film—an exercise I like to call “creative digestion.”

Creative digestion is a constant in almost all projects, including company brand videos. Good filmmaking requires it: creativity cannot be extruded with brute force. There are three components to healthy creative digestion:

1. Creative Digestion Takes Time.
When scheduling a corporate video production, it’s important to build in time for creativity and collaboration . The more time spent up front, working through an agreed-upon objective and answering questions, the less time it will take to reach a successful outcome. The questions the team will work through are the same essential ones used in gathering information under any circumstances: who, what, when, where, why, and how. In corporate filmmaking, this means why the film is being made, who the intended audience is, what message will be communicated, when the video will be shared, and how you will accomplish all of this.

(Barbara Hennessy outlines key questions and steps in the pre-production phase in greater detail in her blog The Video Production Process – Part 1.)

2. Slow is Fast and Fast is Slow (a SCUBA axiom).
When an emergency occurs during a SCUBA dive, it’s smarter and safer to work slowly and deliberately. If you’re caught in a fishing line you need to work carefully to cut yourself out, rather than react without fully considering the situation and risk further entangling yourself. Though brand film and video projects are rarely life and death situations, the lesson 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.
Each creative voice and opinion on a project increases production time exponentially. Understanding the approval system and who’s making final decisions (whether it’s the director or a client) will dictate the digestion time. Knowing how many people will be involved in decision-making will also help determine the length of time that should be allotted to the production. Remember: the fewer the voices, the faster the process.

The Bottom Line:
The best company films and videos require time for creativity and collaboration. Allowing for that time will help create a better business film and will give you a more memorable experience worth sharing. Breaking creativity’s speed limit won’t create a rift in the time-space continuum, but it certainly could result in a colossal waste of time

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“It’s one thing to understand the role of video in business communication, it’s another to know how to use video to solve actual business problems. Vern Oakley gets that.”


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