Archive for the ‘General’ Category

Thumbing to a Conclusion

Friday, October 15th, 2010

It started as a conversation yesterday with a co-professor at USC, where I teach when I’m not making website videos and marketing videos .  It was a relatively minor issue involving a subcontractor friend of his we’d used in my class and some administrative difficulties in getting him paid.  This turned to the subject of communicating effectively, since at its core that was the problem vis-a-vis my students.  Which then led to a thought which has been coming to the surface recently.

As anyone who’s taught college students knows, for all their smarts, there are amazingly basic gaps which need filling.  Increasingly, over the past couple of years, a new one has arisen.

They just don’t seem to know how to talk.

Oh, they’re fine speaking to one another, responding to criticism, even asking questions.  What I mean is, when it’s time to resolve a problem with a simple face-to-face discussion, these kids are at a loss.  Not that they dread it and try to avoid it – that’s just human nature.  Rather, they just don’t seem to know how to do it.

And it suddenly became clear why.

Because, more and more each day, instead of talking, these kids are texting.  Everywhere, constantly, the motions of it becoming as second-nature as, well, saying it.  I mentioned this idea to my son, a college junior in Alabama.  After a short pause, his answer was clear.  “You know, that’s true.  Like if a guy is breaking up with a girl, he won’t meet with her or call her anymore.  He’ll just text.  If it’s good news, then he’ll actually say it.”

The atrophying of the muscles necessary to use language to settle a dispute or communicate a solution.  And, as I’ve seen lately, the related surprise and concomitant quick resolution when simple verbal tools are directly used.

In any vast social change there are unintended and unforeseen consequences.  When it’s something as basic as human speech that’s being perverted, what will it do to our kids?  Our world?

A generation which is trained to skirt the responsibility of occasional face-to-face confrontation by an unimagined use of our opposable thumbs may well be facing difficulties we never could have imagined.

Dad’s Day

Friday, June 25th, 2010

It’s Father’s Day again, a day in which I celebrate my five kids ranging from 23 to 3.5, and delight in the obvious fact that we all deeply love one another. I watch my oldest, living with me since graduating college a year ago, making his way in the business world mainly with his mother’s Interiors & Landscapes business, but also helping me with producing website videos and marketing videos. He’s taken it upon himself to get his 7 year-old sister piano lessons, and works each day to practice with her.

My 23 year-old stepson, currently in Portland, Oregon, where he and his brother went to school, is deciding whether to stay there or return here for work. My 21 year-old, a scholarship college athlete in Alabama, is in process of getting a necessary surgery for him to continue playing basketball and have a good shot at playing professionally.

The 7 year-old young lady had her annual ballet recital yesterday, after finishing her first season in volleyball. First grade ended Friday, and now she’s on to a busy summer. And the 3.5 year-old young man just never stops. Joy should be his middle name, instead of Jay.

So, needless to say, when a friend with whom I play basketball told me this morning that he and his wife are adopting their first – a newborn – in about 2 weeks; and another player came in with his 2 year-old, announcing that his second had arrived 3 weeks early; when I took my little ones to a screening of “Karate Kid” today and watched parents and kids and especially a few pregnant couples obviously waiting on their firsts… well, it’s hard not to stop each one of them and give a hug of congratulations. It’s a grand adventure, this having kids, and one which just seems to get better and better.

Happy Father’s Day to you all.

What You Don’t Say

Friday, June 25th, 2010

“The reality of the other person lies not in what he reveals to you, but in what he cannot reveal to you. Therefore, if you would understand him, listen not to what he says, but rather to what he does not say.” – Kahlil Kibran

I often speak of the commonality between feature film and website video work. It’s my belief that you have to be able to successfully make a $20 million film to successfully make a 20-second website video. The choices, such as framing, lighting, content (writing), underscoring, color and font of graphics, and so on, are all based on quite similar foundations.

One area in which any marketing video utilizing live performing talent, pro or non-pro, is utterly consistent with film-making is in the value of what that performer does rather than what he says. Any director or actor worth his salt knows that the actor communicates through life, not dialogue. That’s what actors do. That’s why they’re called actors, because their art is their actions.

There are many failings in most website videos, including sound, lighting, and performance. The latter may not work fully for a number of reasons, but chief among them is when the performer is directed to do nothing other than say the words with as much meaning as possible. Besides the fact that this rarely rings true, a huge opportunity is missed. The chance for that performer to do something which strikes at the core of what’s really being sold in that marketing video. The human connection. This can be delivered by many means – what the performer has in her hands and how she uses it, a way of sitting, a nod indicating confidence in what’s being said.

Because, just like feature films, the idea of marketing videos is to touch the audience immediately and deeply – on a primal level. No matter how clever the writing, this can only be accomplished in one way.

By what is not said.