Appreciating the Primal – Part 1

It seems I’ve been involved in film as long as I’ve been around.  For a start, I grew up in L.A.  My mom signed on at Fox when I was 12.  I had the opportunity to be an extra on “Hello, Dolly” when I was 14, but opted to spend that summer day at the beach.  I worked on the labor crew there when I was 17, watching Irwin Allen direct Shelley Winters and Gene Hackman in the underwater scene from “The Poseidon Adventure.”  I somehow was the producer of “The John Wooden Show”  while still a senior in college.

I’ve watched the medium – especially in television – grow.  When I began with Norman Lear in the late 70s, working on shows like “All in the Family,” “The Jeffersons,” and “Sanford & Son,” we were recording on 2-inch quad videotape.  It was a new technology, from production all the way through post.  Before I was gone, we had moved on to 1″ tape and, soon after, it was digibeta.  All of it, of course, a precursor to the tapeless, digital revolution.

I even sat at Zoetrope Studios in 1982 as Francis Ford Coppola screened a new form of tape – high-resolution (1125 lines, if I recall) HDTV.  Produced on revolutionary equipment supplied by Matsushita of Japan.  The same folks, I was told, who had built the Zeros which bombed Pearl Harbor.  Probably, back then, some of them were still working there.

In other words, technology has made great and ongoing strides in my 30 years in the biz.  But one thing hasn’t changed and never will.

The species of the audience.

Well, yes, a dog or cat or probably even llama will watch TV.  But the shows are made for good old homo sapiens.  So, no matter the delivery method, whether it be HDTV or IPhone or website video, the ballgame remains the same as it was when I produced the Wooden show on 16mm film.

To touch human beings on a primal level.

In the world of website videos, marketing videos, fund-raising videos for non-profits, and – as I’ve found lately – both product videos and fine art videos, you as the film-maker must start in the same place.  Who is your audience?  What drives them on an animal level?  How do you touch them deeply, rather than intellectually?

As Frank Capra famously noted, it’s the job of the film-maker to make decisions.  From writing to lighting, from performance to make-up, from location to pace, each decision you make will affect your final video in ways perhaps not recognizable, but certainly crucial.

In the next few weeks, I’ll explore how to make many of these decisions, and explain why the choices you make are the determining factors in whether or not your website videos engender the one thing they must above all else.

Trust.

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