Last summer, I stood backstage, ready to be the keynote speaker at a major church media conference.
As I looked out through the curtain at the audience of 200- 300 attendees, I had what some might call a “revelation.” I realized that I’ve spent most of my fi lm and TV career encouraging Christians to use the media more effectively. For the early media adopters in the church 20-30 years ago, quality (or lack of it) was a huge issue. Most Christians involved in the media had never been trained, and as a result, knew the right message, but the packaging was pretty miserable.
But as I looked out over that eager conference crowd, I saw the faces of the future. These were young men and women who had grown up with Final Cut Pro on their laptop and had been uploading YouTube videos since they were kids. They were born with digital cameras. “This audience gets it,” I thought to myself as I was being introduced. I realized that contemporary graphic styles, hip music, and great packaging comes second nature to these content producers.
As a result, as I was introduced, the question hit me: “Now what do I have to say to THIS crowd?” First of all, you never want to be in that position. I went ahead with my talk, but I felt a bit awkward and uncomfortable as the question kept rolling around in my head.
Now, Technologies for Worship Magazine is asking me the same question: If you could share with our readers your advice on making better quality short films, what would you tell them?” Trust me, I’ve been thinking a lot about it, because the future of our company, Cooke Pictures, rests in the answer. And after considerable thinking, here’s the most important things I’d tell you:
1. Learn the art of storytelling. We hear the word “story” so much these days, it’s becoming trite, but the truth is, it’s the heart of a great film, TV, or video project. It’s most evident when I receive films and programming sent to me from church media producers around the country. The graphics are great, the music is cool, and the editing is clean. But over and over, I find they don’t know how to tell stories. No matter how short the video, make sure it has a beginning, middle, and end. Take the audience on a journey and make them glad they went on the trip.
2. Understand a “call to action.” Your job as a video director isn’t to impress the audience with your creativity, it’s to compel them toward an action. Perhaps it’s buying the pastor’s new teaching series, coming to an event, or promoting some outreach of the church. Maybe it’s simply illustrating a scripture. Whatever the point, it’s not enough just to tell the story, you also need to call the audience to action. Be creative, but don’t be afraid to be direct, and always be clear. Audiences won’t understand your intention unless you tell them.
3. Finally, move me. If you’re sharing information, use a printed piece or a website. Video is about emotion, so don’t load it down with text or numbers, make it a powerful emotional experience. If it’s a product driven video, then create a sense of urgency. If it’s sharing an update on your homeless ministry, make the audience feel their struggle. Whatever the purpose, don’t just tell me, make me feel it.