Collaboration in Video and….

During one portion of my career, I spent a lot of time shooting still photography assignments for magazines like the National Geographic Traveler, Smithsonian and Travel & Leisure, to name a few. I was hired to shoot the images. A writer was hired to write the story.

Every magazine and every story worked differently as far as how I would collaborate with the writer. Sometimes the writer and I would just have a conversation about focus and approach and then we’d be off on our own, each bringing our own perspective to the piece.

Sometimes, I’d be given a manuscript that had already been written and I was expected to illustrate it. This worked well when I, the writer and the magazine would agree on the focus of the “story” and match our talents to that end. But there were times when a magazine would want very literal illustrations of the words, which not only stifled the images but weakened the words. One time I was asked to photograph “the lurkage of limousines.”

And then there were times when I went to a destination with a writer to do a story on that destination and even though we were there at the same time, we came back with different stories. I got my story done on site and the writer did most of his/her work after returning from the destination.

With video collaboration is essential because there are so many facets, each calling for different skill sets. Some collaborations occur simultaneously on set and some later in post-production but all have to work well in order to get to the same end in harmony. Harmony meaning, not just being able to get along but to communicate and work well together as one, but also where each respects each other’s role in the process.

It’s very tricky to assemble the right mix of people, but here are some important things to look for when building a team or even a partnership:

  • Trust – You have to be able to count on someone to do their job. And likewise, you have to also commit to uphold your end of the deal. The team is only as good as the weakest link. That becomes even more critical, the smaller the team is. If you’re only working with one person and you can’t count on them – you’ll be doing the work yourself. It’s important to know that someone has your back.
  • Working Style – While it’s not important for all to be morning people or night people or have similar working styles in that sense, it can be extremely frustrating for all concerned if there are procrastinators on the team. That’s because timing in video production is important for workflow. If someone doesn’t deliver when they promised – it holds up the whole production. We had one situation where a motion graphics artist held the entire post-production up for months.
  • Expertise – Surround yourself with experts. They will make you look good. But remember, just because someone is expensive doesn’t mean they are the best for your job. There could be someone who is more right for the project who is less expensive. Keep style and vision in mind. Talk to potential crew members and get references.
  • Right for the job – The “best” editor in terms of the commercial world might not be the right person for your project. For me, I want to work with an editor that is also interested in the project besides the money it pays. I look for an editor who will also bring a different perspective as to how the story gets told.
  • Bottom line – Work with people you can count on – otherwise the job might not get done.

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