A couple of months ago I went to a presentation by a design agency. They work not just in conventional design but also in systems design, user experience, agile business design and so on.
The snacks were great, the trendy microbrewery ales were lovely. But the actual presentation was a bit poor.
No real effort had been made aside from throwing up a screen. No microphone so it was hard to hear. The audience were lit brighter than the speaker so you had to strain your eyes a little too. And the slides were busy and difficult to read.
It was probably a low priority event for the company, but if a design agency can’t, or can’t be bothered to design a good presentation, with readable slides, they’re sending a poor signal about their whole brand.
There needs to be brand consistency. It’s not just the quality of the work but the quality of everything you put out needs to consistently sit at the same level as you place your brand.
Quality and Consistency in Branded Video
We are in an era of agile video. Social media channels require brands to produce more content, more quickly, more frequently and that can mean more cheaply than before. That often results in well intentioned, but low quality content that can actually be harmful to a brand.
A few years ago I was invited to the HQ of a major global professional services firm. They have gorgeous offices. It’s like walking into a top end hotel. The concierge is welcoming, the décor is stylish and expensive, and even the teas are those fancy ones in the silky tea bags. Everything says quality.
I was asked to critique their video content. The messaging was good, but the execution was poor. Ropy lighting, inconsistent sound, awkward performance. Not terrible, but not very good either. In every other contact point they were exuding professionalism, but in something as public as their videos they appeared mediocre at best. That’s a lack of consistency.
The firm are now a regular client and together we produce frequent simple and affordable videos, but with a focus on professional delivery – high technical quality, strong aesthetic values and and fluent performances.
When The Cheap Video Look Works
There are times when lower end or cheaper looking video might be right for a communication need. When it needs to feel really personal and intimate, when only an instantly posted video will do, or when you need to film in a challenging environment your audience will usually forgive it. If you have a star performer in the business, who you trust to upload frequent, fast turnaround, home made, personal videos you could be on to a winner, but they need to feel really authentic to pull it off. Most of the time though, low quality video casts a low quality shadow over the brand.
Some brands can get away with lower quality overall. If you are a public service, NGO, campaign group or charity, your audience will be comfortable with it. Content still needs to be engaging and sharp. But people could be turned off by seeing an expensive looking video if it implies money being diverted from front line services.
Even for lower end brands’ video, getting that level of brand quality right is something worth taking time over. Aldi is a discount supermarkets. They can get away with cheaper looking videos and commercials, compared to high-end rivals M&S.
But having made videos for Aldi I can reveal that looking cheaper and being cheaper are not the same thing. Aldi spend time and money getting their “cheaper” look just right. They need it to be consistent with their brand identity.
High Quality Doesn’t Mean Expensive
Avoiding rushed, cheap looking video doesn’t have to cost a lot of money. Some simple tips that can help are:
Start thinking about the video elements early in your project.
Bring your film maker or video producer on-board early, to give them time to understand your project and brand. I have had clients reach out to me a year before delivery, or a few days before. The cost was the same but the projects where I could advise early are usually far better films.
Think carefully about who you engage. The cheapest supplier might have the equipment, but do they have the skills, experience and attention to detail to deliver quality work? A top end video production company isn’t always ideal either – you someone who will prioritise your project rather than rush it through or prioritise more lucrative projects.
Why Low Quality Video Gets Made
Video is often an after thought. Managers and marketeers know that video leads to higher SEO, greater engagement and visitors staying on your site for longer. They know they need it but they may not know what they want, or enjoy the process of making it. So they can have the attitude of “just make something” – that any video is better than no video. Even poorly thought out, quickly put together video.
In theses cases budget can dominate – finding the cheapest supplier and not allowing much time.
But your after thought video could be drastically letting down your brand identity. It could be doing more harm than good.
Video is one of your key public facing marketing tools. It sits, or should sit, on your website’s front page. It’s played at your conferences, events and exhibition stands. And it’s available globally, 24/7 on your youtube, facebook, linkedin and instagram, long after the client meetings are done and the reception is closed.
Don’t let poor quality, rushed, or ill thought through video facilitate the creeping feeling that your brand or product is low quality too. Because what you have to offer is probably amazing. And all your content should be just as amazing.
That’s brand consistency.
“Just Do It” – I never really understood the power of that Nike slogan till now.
Sometimes things don’t feel like opportunities. That job or task that you’re sure you couldn’t do but wish you could for example. In Britain especially, we are so used to being honest and modest that we turn down opportunities before we even realise that’s what they were – opportunities.
I’m a film, TV and video writer, producer and director. I am rarely in front of the camera or an audience, except perhaps at a Q&A’s about my work.
That’s me in the foreground, on the set of Sound Asleep, a short film I’m currently editing, starring Danny John-Jules (Cat from Red Dwarf). I am very comfortably off camera.
And there I am in the foreground again, definitely not stealing the scene.
But a month or two ago I was approached by an actor and performer with a question: Can I write an immersive, iconoclastic, interactive comedy show for a single performer, on the theme of finding love?
Well, it’s a tough starting point, but yes, that’s what I do – of course I can do that.
And will I be that performer?
What??? Continue reading
The Authentic Voice
In marketing and PR everyone is talking about having an authentic voice, creating authentic content, being authentic. Sounds great – it should be natural, right?
The idea of coming up with your “authentic voice” seems ironic. If it were authentic, you wouldn’t have to think about it. But as businesses and individuals, we’re always filtering how we present ourselves.
For me, it comes down to two things: passion and vulnerability. If I feel those when I’m speaking, I’m being honest, and that feels authentic. If I feel those when I’m listening, I connect at a deeper, more human level.
Communicate as a Human
People relate to people. They’ll listen to a real person talking honestly far more than to a brand or a sales pitch. Passion and vulnerability are the subtle signs that the voice I am listening to is real – they are just like me.
As communicators we have to find the passion in our message. Something in the message that we genuinely care about. There’s almost always something you can get excited about if you look hard enough.
When you feel the passion in what you are saying, then you are well on the way to being authentic, and engaging. So look out for it – do you care about what you are saying in your content? If not, something’s wrong.
Don’t hide your weaknesses. Be honest about them and you will create much more engaging, powerful and authentic content that people will want to engage with. People will relate to you or your brand because you are vulnerable just like them. It will make your communication feel inclusive and it will make you seem approachable.
This is as true for an individual or small company like mine, as it is for the multinational brands for whom I work.
Case Study of Passionate, Vulnerable Video Content
8 years ago I won a commission to write, produce and direct educational videos for Jewish Women’s Aid. The short drama scenes were to be used in school lessons on bullying and relationships.
Last week they got in touch again. They told me that the video that continues to have the biggest impact is also the one that for me is the most authentic. Childhood Games.
David really wants to be friends with the cool kids in his school. They see his desire as a weakness and manipulate him. David puts up with it, because he hopes eventually to be accepted.
It’s a simple story. Its power is in its authenticity: I was that child.
I was bullied in exactly that way, and through admitting it and embracing that vulnerability, I was able to create a passionate, authentic feeling piece of content that is making an impact on lives.
Bullying is an emotive subject and it might seem easy to point to the passion and vulnerability here. While sometimes more subtle, those qualities can and should be present in any communications that you want your audience to really connect with and relate to.
What is Passion?
I adore film making. I love the challenge of finding the most engaging way to communicate something. I love bringing together great teams, writing intelligent scripts, delivering polished films. I’m get excited by helping my clients work creatively. All of these passions come through in my work.
But it’s not enough. There is more than just being passionate in your craft. There is more even than being passionate in your message. There is being passionate in how you communicate.
And that comes from both your passion for your message and from your honesty and vulnerability.
Who Creates Passionate, Vulnerable, Authentic Content?
If you want to produce authentic content you need to find the creatives who are more than merely professional. You need to find the filmmakers, writers, directors and creators who are passionate about their craft, passionate about your message and passionate about your product.
Even harder, you need to find the creatives brave enough to show their vulnerability. Your audience relates best to passionate, vulnerable, human communications. Your communicators needs to be passionate, vulnerable and human too. That’s authentic.
You can watch the rest of the Jewish Women’s Aid videos here. They were shot with my regular collaborator, Emmy award winning director of photography, Franklin Dow.
Sound Asleep, the comedy short film I have been writing, producing and directing, has finally wrapped! It stars Danny John-Jules (The Cat from Red Dwarf).
Long time coming
- 6 years ago I wrote a film script.
- 5 years ago it was runner-up for Film London funding.
- 4 years ago same thing, different funder.
- 3 years ago I ran a successful Kickstarter.
- 2 years ago we tried to shoot the film but it fell through, last minute.
- 1 year ago the same thing.
After 4 producers, 4 casting directors, 3 art directors, 3 locations, 2 Directors of Photography, 2 builds, and just one resilient director, in December I flew to Spain to shoot it.
Director and crew head to Spain
The project had been struggling in the UK. Our budget prevented us from being able to afford both the set build costs and the studio space to build it in at UK prices. In Spain we not only managed to resolve that but also engage the exceptional art director, Marcelo Renieblas Paredes.
Coming with me was Emmy Award winning Director of Photography Franklin Dow (of Oscar nominated documentaries Virunga and White Helmets) and camera assistant Naomi Hancock. Producer Dino Webber, production assistant Nick Gaven and runner Kristen Abel drove the van of SLV film equipment, and a generator loaned by Warner Brothers from London to Madrid.
Arriving on set in Madrid
We arrived at the film studio on the outskirts of Madrid to see the amazing set Marcelo and his team had been building. It was a thrill to see Dean’s flat become reality. An odd, hyper real, anachronous reality. Perfect for this quirky comedy.
Danny is an amazing presence to work with. Years of experience and natural talent meant he was unlike any actor I have worked with. He brought precision, skill, comedy timing and wit to the role beyond my expectations. With no one to bounce off on screen, the film really benefits from his inspiring performance and commitment.
Short Film – Long Days
There’s no point in hiding from it – this was always going to be a tough shoot. A £250,000 film made for £10,000. Days were long, conditions were not glamorous, and Madrid in winter is cold! Much colder than us Brits anticipated!
The team really pulled together. Danny’s performance, Marcelo’s set and Frank’s lighting coming together on screen inspired everyone to give everything they’ve got.
International Film Crew
Working with a foreign crew has challenges; the language barrier primarily. This was overcome with a mixture of patience, drawings and google translate, as well as the efforts of bilingual 1st Assistant Director Josemari Martínez. By the final day, it was barely evident anymore and British DoP Frank Dow finally remembered his Spanish gaffer’s name. (Thanks for your patience Adolfo!).
The final shots were a triumph. All the departments came together and pulled everything out of the bag. As Marcello’s set was blown up, Danny’s character stumbled through his wrecked home. Marina H’s makeup was spot on, smoke and lighting was perfect, props fell at just the right moment, and even the dog barked on cue. We had one chance at that closing shot, and we nailed it.
Exhausted but satisfied, all that was left was to pack up the van and get back to London, in time for a well earned Xmas break.
Edit and Post-Production
As I write this, Nick is busy completing the log and we are preparing for the edit. There’s still a lot to do. Edit, vfx, grading, foley, music and sound design. Plus a few pickup shots we need to get in London. We believe this will be a really special piece so we’re not going to hurry – we couldn’t afford to even if we wanted to!
Starring: Danny John-Jules
Producer / Director / Writer: Nadaav
Producer: Dino Webber
Director of Photography: Franklin Dow
1st Assistant Director: Josemari Martinez
Art Director: Marcelo Renieblas Paredes
Sound Recordist: Juan Carlos “Charlie” Arribas
Gaffer: Adolfo Berzosa Rodriguez
Makeup Artist: Marina H
Costume: Sammm Agnew
Original Music: Rich House
Camera Assistant: Naomi Hancock
Art Department Assistant: Luis Morales
Production Assistant: Nick Gaven
Runner: Kristen Abel
Dog Trainer: Mariano Galán
Cuddles the dog: Cavatina
Animation explainer video
written, produced and directed by Nadaav
We’re all very proud of this animation project. I worked with the client to develop a concept and style. After green-lighting, I wrote scripts and worked with animators, illustrators, composers, VO artists and sound designers. Across all the elements: animation, script, voice over and sound design, there is a warm, playful, friendly tone.
The animation explains how peer to peer lending and invoice financing work. It is the second video I have produced for this client. The first is a talking head interview video on a similar topic, for a more traditional investor audience.
I worked with illustrator Peter Ayres to develop the character of Cupid With A Calculator. Peter is also responsible for the logos for Sound Asleep, a short film I am working on.
Last minute request: 7 video responses to the Chancellor’s speech, all online in a few hours!
I have a long standing relationship with New York based global law firm White and Case. I often make relatively fast turnaround Thought Leadership style pieces for them. These highly targeted videos are part of their ongoing PR and sales strategy. Usually I turn around a video in a few days. I also do a little media training there.
On Monday 15th of March I was in their offices for media training, when they informed me that they wanted to shoot a video that day, and have it online that evening. And they wanted to shoot another 6 the next day, and have them online that same evening too. And continue with the media training at the same time.
I love a challenge, and in terms of timescale, surprises and multi-tasking, this was certainly that. For the full story, read on… Continue reading
My videos for the new XCOM2 game create a niche internet sensation.
I was recently hired to create four unusual pre-launch PR videos for XCOM2, a turn based strategy/action video game. The game takes place in a world in which aliens have taken over Earth, and the player leads a small band of guerilla soldiers to fight back.
The promotional videos, designed to create anticipation in the UK audience, take the form of video tutorials and walk throughs, but unlike the typical presentation, these are presented by veteran newsreader and children’s TV presenter Fred Dinenage (How – ITV, How2 – ITV) who explains from his post apocalyptic space ship your role and responsibilities as well as the techniques that will help save the planet and defeat the aliens.
Youtube, gamer magazines, blogs and forums were awash with comments. Everything from Americans asking: “who is the bald guy?” to
“hysterical – I needed this!”
“What the Dinenage”
“This may be the greatest piece of regional specific marketing I’ve ever seen.”
“lol what the ****, I actually needed this but what a hilarious way to present it”
“You know **** gets real when Fred Dinenage tells you about an alien threat..”
“what an epic blast from the past… Whoever came up with this idea, give them a raise!”
“Brilliant – this is just perfect – thank you”.
And of course “That’s HOW for NOW!”
For this tip, you’ll need a brilliant director, and a charismatic presenter with a place in many people’s hearts!
I’ve just finished filming with Fred Dinenage. Readers of a particular vintage may remember him as the long standing presenter of ITV’s How show in the 70s. Younger readers like me grew up on Fred’s tips, alongside Gareth “Gaz Top” Jones, and Carol Vorderman, on CITV’s How 2.
Fred is a veteran broadcaster and a bit of a legend to anyone who grew up with kids TV in Britain. We’ve been filming some How 2 spoofs for the launch of a new video game, and I can assure you, he definitely still has it! Funny, super easy to work with, and put up with me making him say everything in a million different ways.
And he taught me How‘s famous sign off style.
I’m not one for Xmas music. Or pop music for that matter. I never know what’s at number 1 in the charts. Which is why I was clearly the number 1 choice of producer / director for a brand video for Morrison’s with Tony Mortimer, of East 17. He wrote 1994’s Christmas number 1, Stay Another Day. Complete with furry white coat like in the original music video, Tony appears in a tongue-in-cheek film about how Christmas music is annoying rubbish.
2014 roundup in films, videos and events
2014 was a busy year of film making, crowd funding, unusual events and laughter.
In the spring I ran our annual Trafalgar Square pillow-fight, and released a very fast turn around viral video to accompany it. This massive event launched Sound Asleep on Kickstarter. And thanks to 150 backers, we successfully crowd funded the short film, a comedy about insomnia. You can read more about the very unusual campaign, including quirky videos, more pillow fights, a sleep over and a bed time themed closing party on the Sound Asleep website. Later in the spring I made a film for the Daily Telegraph‘s business club. And in April my Citibank commercials were runners-up for the 2014 Focal Award.
In the summer I ran laughter yoga workshops at several summer festivals, a sideline in feeling good I offer to businesses as team building, motivational and experiences. It’s also something I am developing into a documentary. In the late summer I edit produced a documentary series for Channel Five. I completed the BBC’s brilliant creativity training courses and I attended the Sheffield Documentary Festival, where I was asked by the BBC to develop a documentary about the community I grew up in.
In the autumn I began working on several series of corporate and educational films for TfL (Transport for London) and also for multinational law firm White and Case. The former saw me getting to grips with large scale engineering challenges, filming in rarely seen tube tunnels being dug under Victoria Station for example, while the latter saw me return to a role I first worked in for Freshfields, taking complex legal concepts and condensing them into tight short videos. I directed a series of wine promos for Aldi with On-Broadcast, and worked on concept development with Casual Films. Finally, I completed the third of four brilliant courses in the Directors Guild’s Advanced Tools of Directing series, which I highly recommend to all seasoned directors and DPs.
Injured but still shooting!
And then at the end of 2015 I had an operation on my foot! Hence the reason for the image above. I have been using the recovery time to plan lots of film and video projects. I wrote and shot a satire on the Queen’s Christmas Message. I’ve been working on a feature film script, developing a couple of documentaries, working on concepts for some corporate clients and preparing to shoot Sound Asleep.
I can’t wait to get shooting again! Hopefully by mid to late January.
Behind the scenes on the films I’m making with TfL
I’ve been producing and directing a series of engineering films recently, including filming a lot with TfL (Transport for London). I thought I’d share a few fun photos of places you might not normally get to see. Most exciting was the video shoot in the tunnels currently being dug under Victoria Station, using an innovative technique to tunnel directly through wet sandy earth to increase capacity in Britain’s busiest station. I also filmed a video in the super high-tech strong room that controls the whole of the Northern Line, and the not so high-tech way in which signallers are trained to use the new system!
Photos from shoots in secret Underground London
Last week I directed a shoot for a series of web promos for Aldi, which according to wine critic Olly Smith, stocks some top quality wines for bargain basement prices. So we invited Olly down to help us do a … Continue reading
The films I’ve been making and will be making: more films for TfL, including some lovely schools’ pieces, and a commercial for Aldi. Continue reading
I haven’t posted anything for a little. It’s cos I’ve gone underground! But not quite how you might think. In the last few months this is what I have been up to.
Sound Asleep, the short film I wrote and am directing, has been making steady progress. The script is in very good shape, budgets and floor-plans are complete, and a wonderful new casting director is on board. Now we are looking for a location.
I did a brief stint as edit producer on a documentary series for Channel Five. I’ve been working on something special, but top secret, for Sound Asleep’s legendary pillow fight in April. And I’ve been teaching some training and workshops and learning some new skills at the BBC’s creative popups.
But possibly most exciting for the geek in me, I have been going deep underground with TfL (Transport For London). I’m producing and directing a series of engineering films about the huge new developments they are working on to keep London moving. I’ll post some photos as soon as I can get a signal down here!
An intense month!
Thank you so much to everyone who backed Sound Asleep on Kickstarter. It was a challenging, fun and emotional month as we raised awareness and funds for the project. We ran massive scale pillow fights, sleep-overs and parties and were featured on TV, in newspapers and blogs. The film raised 125% of its funding target on Kickstarter – an amazing achievement and we are indebted to our supporters. Continue reading
Crowdfunding for Sound Asleep short film comedy
Have you ever had one of those nights where you just can’t sleep?
We all have. I certainly have, so I wrote a film about it. And I’d love for you to get involved. Take a look at the project on kickstarter – there are some pretty quirky rewards. I could write loads more about it, but I tell it better:
Our Kickstarter Launch
If you’re stuck in bed and you just can’t sleep, a pillow fight is one of the most fun things you can do. So we invited a few thousand people and a samba band down to Trafalgar Square to launch out kickstarter event with a really really big pillow fight.
You can get involved on kickstarter
Find us on facebook
Or follow us on Twitter
The sixty second commercials I directed for Citi (Citibank)’s 200th anniversary have been shortlisted for a Focal Award in the category Best Use Of Footage in An Advert Or Short Production.