Pressure Cook Your Way to Great Content

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Real artists ship.

This maxim, attributed to the late Steve Jobs, revolves around the notion that creation of great creative work depends upon the ability to overcome obstacles and come up with the best possible result. Ideally (in the context of video production) – a piece that will in some way emotionally resonate with your audience, given a limited amount of time.

Content creators can empathize with this quip. ‘Shipping’ (or in our world, ‘producing’) requires said producer to weigh messaging and artistry against obstacles to produce a piece of communication that will resonate with a wide & varied audience. Usually needed by, like, yesterday.

Judges

Last week I sat on a small panel of industry judges for McMaster University’s second annual 24-Hour Film Competition – a fantastic local event, held inside the Joey & Toby Tenenbaum Pavilion at the Art Gallery of Hamilton.

These competitions are a crash course in the ‘real artists ship’ mentality, as students race against the clock to develop their original stories into fully fledged short films in just 24 hours.

Sitting in the centre of the crowd at the jury table, I felt an immediate kinship with these students. Double Barrel evolves into a kind of 24-hour film crew on each production we undertake, paratrooping into storytelling situations and determining obstacles – developing the best way to get a client’s message across in a limited amount of time. In our world that’s usually about two months from script to screen, nowhere near the suffocating 24 hours of the festival.

Similarly, marketers, brand managers & professional communicators are consistently hit with this same challenge when trying to get their messaging across to a wide demographic. Especially via video.

The winner of this year’s McMaster 24 – the giddy, oddball short ‘What are you STAIRING at?’ quickly emerged as the best film of the night. Its creators – McMaster alums ‘Mobhouse Crew’ won over the jury  due to their ability to incorporate the unique messaging (one line – “do you want some more of that? I don’t think so”) with locations and props required by the film fest (a chair and a set of keys) while still taking us, the viewer, on a full circle ride complete with understandable arc and well thought out ending.

The audience gave four minutes and forty-four seconds to the filmmakers, and they rewarded us with a cleverly scripted film complete with original musical score and tight ending.

So – what can marketers/brand managers and content creators learn from this mother-of-all meat grinder of creative production? Three things.

1. Determine your constraints and work within them.

As any 24-hour film fest-er will tell you, it all starts with the script. Getting real with your limitations and having fences around your ideas actually allows you to be free creatively once you’ve determined what they are.

Are you tight on locations? Budget? Actors? Does the video need to be a certain length? What does it need to get across and to whom? On what distribution platform? These are all constraints that will ultimately make your production that much better once you’ve figured them out. Make sure you’re clear and honest up front with the things you have to achieve (and the limitations you have) in order to make the production process smooth and satisfying for all involved.

2. Be laser-focused in your vision.

In the world of 24-hour film, there’s no time for distraction. Once you’ve determined constraints, go after your story. Full throttle. It’s easy to fall prey to fun and flashy, so stay true to a ‘Top 3 List’ of focus points and messages. If your finished piece doesn’t clearly communicate a message and have some sort of story arc that your audience can follow, it’s not going to get you on the podium.

3. Stick the landing.

This is the absolute without-a-doubt most difficult part of a piece, and also the most rewarding when it’s done well. This year’s winner “What Are You Stairing At” absolutely sold us with a perfect ending. I’ve heard that people only remember the last thing you’ve said, so keep that in mind and go into your production with a firm sense of what you want the ending to be and make sure everything else lines up.

The rest, as they say, is history.

Roz Allen is a partner and director at Hamilton’s Double Barrel Studios.