One of the questions I'm asked often by other videographers is how to come up with innovative ideas. Here are some of my favorite techniques for finding and cultivating innovative approaches to wedding video.
"I MEANT TO DO THAT!"
Some of my best ideas have come from mistakes, so I have learned to be open-minded enough to let dumb luck be a teacher.
Let me paint the picture of a ceremony I filmed a few years ago. The groom told me the ceremony started at 5:30 p.m. But when I left the bride's house and arrived at the church at 4:30, I discovered that the ceremony really started at 5:00, and mothers would be seated 15 minutes before that. So I had to be set and in position by 4:45. In all the hustle of a quick setup, a few of the usual checks got overlooked.
In the middle of the readings, my camera just stopped. Although the timecode read only 30 minutes, somehow the tape had been fast-forwarded to the middle, so I had to switch tapes mid-reading. During the priest's message our podium lav went dead. We had forgotten to change the battery before setting it up. We had set up a separate camera to catch the music, but it had never been started so we had no good audio for the processional. And amidst all this I'd gotten frazzled, so some of my shots were a little funky. Overall, the filming of that ceremony was a disaster.
I started the edit very discouraged because I was missing several things that I felt were essential elements. But I decided to get creative and produce something unique with what I had. By the time I was finished I had re-defined my ceremony-editing style, and I've never gone back. That ceremony won a WEVA Creative Excellence Award and was our demo for more than two years!
I don't recommend you adopt a philosophy of encouraging mistakes. But when the plans go bad and you have to improvise, use it as an opportunity to innovate. You may be surprised by what you create.
LEARNING FROM GREAT IDEAS
Many people are under the assumption that the reason to spend time around creative people is so you can hear their new ideas and then copy them. This saddens me for two reasons. One, it's kind of rude to profit from copying what another artist has created without giving that artist any credit. This will probably make that creative person less apt to share next time around. Two, it dulls the mind of the person who does the copying.
The purpose of observing creative things and listening to innovative people is not to copy but to be stimulated and inspired. It is not to learn what they did, but to consider the creative process they went through to reach the final result. Trendy shots come and go, and today's hot shot is tomorrow's falling sheep transition (ask video veterans who owned an original Amiga Toaster). Often these shots are forced to fit into productions in a way that creates a poor overall effect. But when you learn how to develop innovative ideas that leverage your talents and style, then you have gained something valuable that will truly allow you and your business to grow.
WHAT WEDDING VIDEO?
Imagine if I handed you the unedited footage from a recent wedding and told you, "Here's the footage from my latest music video shoot. It's supposed to be cutting edge, MTV-style. Edit it for me." Would you edit it differently from your normal weddings? Of course . . . silly question.
This style of brainstorming can be incredibly effective. Just insert different genres of television and film and consider how you might make a wedding fit into that mold. The options are almost limitless: reality TV, documentary, infomercial, children's programming, commercial, sports broadcast, melodrama, silent film, sci-fi, fantasy, etc.
When it comes to comedy in wedding video, there is no doubt that parody is the simplest, most popular approach. Learn about the clients' favorite TV programs and movies and link a part of their wedding video or love story to this. And the closer you can get to replicating the original with your clients' names and faces, the more points you will score.
Many of the wedding videos that you've found most innovative are probably parodies or adaptations of media from another genre. Although it's essential to keep this concept from dominating your style, this type of paradigm shift can be the source of a creative idea that will stir a reaction from every viewer.
You've had some pretty good ideas in your time, haven't you? We all have had moments of brilliance. Let me encourage you to remember those great ideas and try to recall what motivated you to come up with them. Were you in a desperate situation? Were you singing in the shower? Were you brainstorming with a business partner or friend?
Wherever you were and whatever you were doing, it could be worth a repeat performance. The scenario of your previous genius might be just the place you need to return to in order to continue your trend of innovation.