Being creative means having the freedom to explore

I’m not sure how many of you have experienced it, but I’ll tell ya – our team’s running joke is “omg! Are we going to finish early today?” It never happens because whenever there‚Äôs free time in-between takes or scenes (and let me say this; 8 years worth), everyone pushes forward with new ideas, camera angles, and lighting setups. This is the fun part of being in the creative business and what sustains us in the long run.

Video production needs to be constrained so everyone finishes on time and within budget

On the flip side of the coin, your clients would love for you to stay within budget, and your crew, as tightly knit as they are, would rather your production finished on time so they can go home and enjoy a hot meal with their loved ones. Therefore, it is also imperative for your productions to be constrained. This means setting limits on how much time can be spent on each shot and ensuring that everyone is aware of these limitations.

So the happy middle ground between creativity and efficiency is built on careful planning and effective communication.

Plan meticulously

A well-run production starts with meticulous planning. The director needs to have a clear vision for the final product and map out the steps needed to get there. In my experience, the time you invest in plotting out the storyboard will be regained in the time saved on set. Here are some tips I’ve summarized from my years in the business:

  • Bringing your director of photography to your location scout. This trumps explaining it to them over a phone call. They have the eye and experience to notice red flags that you will surely miss being at the physical location.
  • In your storyboard, include as many references (old photos, colours, props, other videos/movies)as needed to evoke the feeling you are trying to create.
  • Brainstorm with your AD and DOP to make sure they are aligned on creative direction early in pre-production.

Planning well also means having contingency plans for unexpected situations. When you are on set, there are so many moving pieces and each one of them carries with them a set of risks; your actors may be late, props may break, the filming equipment may malfunction and the weather may change on a dim. Your job as a director is to be able to come up with a response quickly so everyone can be reoriented in case of such an event.

Communicate effectively

Once you have your plans in order, it is time to make sure everyone is on board with it. In my experience, letting your crew know their creative boundaries ahead of time works well to channel that creative urge towards a productive end. For example, I would let my DP and crew know, in the briefing meetings, the setups and gears I don’t want to deal with in the production. This eliminates a lot of impromptu problem-solving that is time-consuming on set. With actors and talents, I would have meetings to go over the script and story in-depth and paint them the character I’m visualizing with as much detail as I can.

These preparatory steps may seem insignificant, but they add up to create the artist space that is often missing in unprepared shoots.

Therefore straddling the line between creativity and efficiency is how you succeed in the video production business.

Being a creative director is much analogous to a tightrope walker, your optimal performance is about a balancing act between creativity with efficiency. If you manage this successfully, your audience gets to experience something that is awe-inspiring. If you fail, everyone around you will be staring at an embarrassing disaster. This balancing act is what allowed me to find success in the video production business and for those of you who are reading this, I hope you can find some insights to aid you on your next production.

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