creative development process
The documentary genre comes out of the world of journalism. The process for making a documentary film allows the ‘truth’ to emerge.
The documentary process starts by researching a subject through primary and secondary research until we discover the essential questions to ask and identify people who can answer them from a wide range of perspectives. Then we set up interviews and ask our questions. This footage is transcribed and then analyzed by a writer.
Themes, stories and answers emerge from the transcripts that are woven together into a script. The script is then realized by mixing the original interviews, additional interviews, animation, b-roll and dramatization. The end result is a video that tells the story from the perspective of the people most impacted by it.
The advantages of the documentary process are that they are honest, compelling and real, so the audience develops a sense of empathy as they learn about the topic. The challenges with the documentary process is that the filmmaker and the client has less control over the messaging. Your initial assumptions may be wrong so you have to be willing to let the story emerge, which takes time and patience.
The explainer genre roots are in education and training. Instructional design drives the creative process.
To create an explainer video we start by clarifying the intentions of the client so there is a clearly defined audience and desired outcome of the audience experience. Then we analyze the audience for their current level of understanding about the topic, ability to perform the desired behaviors and pre-existing attitudes and beliefs. We then compare the audiences’ current and desired knowledge, skills and attitudes and identify what needs to change so the audience accepts the message and changes their behavior.
Once we know the trigger points that will motivate people to change, we craft a script that facilitates that experience. This script can be implemented in many different ways. Oftentimes an explainer video is more effectively implemented as a series of short, highly focused videos that guide the audience through a learning process over time (See PSA's below).
The advantages of explainer videos is that they are effective and efficient in getting people to change their behavior. The disadvantages of explainer videos is that they tend to be more informative than emotional, so they are less likely to develop empathy in the audience, which is the most powerful motivation for change.
public service announcements (PSA’s)
Public Service Announcements (PSA's) are short and sweet. Based on the principles of the advertising industry, PSA’s are designed to grab the audiences’ attention, challenge thier preconceptions, communicate one key point and invite an audience response.
PSA's are most effective when done as a series of short spots that cumulatively build the audience’s understanding of a topic. PSA’s are usually less than 90 seconds long, which makes them much more likely to be shared over social media, so they are a good approach to building a broader awareness of a topic in a diverse audience.
Developing PSA’s usually require a combination of documentary and explainer genre techniques. Since they are so short, excellent scripting is critical to their success.
The advantages of PSA’s is that they harness the power of the network and encourage the natural curiosity of the people who are exposed to them. The disadvantages are that you are not guaranteed that the intended audience will be exposed to the entire message because it is delivered in discrete increments.
The dramatic genre is the type of video that the public is most comfortable with because it is pure storytelling. Rooted in literature, dramatic videos provide the audience with a vicarious experience, most likely in three acts.
In this genre the experience is created in the scriptwriter’s imagination and implemented by the director and talent. Although understanding of the audience is important, the creative process is driven by the story. Truth is assumed, not discovered or engineered.
The advantages of dramatic videos is that the production process is tightly controlled and predictable. The disadvantages are that vicarious experiences are less likely to change behavior than real experiences.