August 3, 2016 3:30 pm 0 comments

Passionate photographer early in the morning

As I’ve talked with both videographers and their respective church employers, I’ve been surprised by the variety of ways each camp & the different entities defines the role of Video Director. There does not seem to be a uniform definition for what the role actually does, and doesn’t do.  From near as I can tell, they have ranged from something near enough to filmmaker, with weekly (or bi-weekly) deadlines, to a video editor, who wears a dozen hats. But from my experience, I think it is important to draw a few lines around what a Video Director could do, versus what they should do for a church or organization.

It does a disservice to any organization to not utilize people to their full potential, and it does a disservice to individuals to not call them to be their best, and because leaders may be unaware of what a Video Director (VD) can offer, they aren’t sure how to call, lead and train their creative teams.  As I’ve talked to a few churches, here are a few of the mis-perceptions as to how they choose to see their video professionals:

  1. The Button-Pusher  —  Some pastors and leaders choose to keep hold of the Executive Producer role to themselves on all video shoots. Sometimes, this works great! Said leaders will usually call up their VD the day before an event, and tell them basically to, “show up at this time, and capture this event / story / footage.” If it’s a story or testimonial, the leader will usually be present to either be on screen, in some interviewer capacity, or make sure the story comes out correctly, like any Executive Producer would. Afterward, the VD is released to return to their studio, office, or closet, piecing the footage together in whatever fashion they can manage, usually with little or no notes or oversight.  While very talented, I wouldn’t call this person a Video Director, this is essentially a Video Technician. They’re great with gear, know their way around complex software, but may not have the skills to develop story or draw one out of people.
  2. The Guru  —  These artists are recognized by leadership for their knowledge and expertise in all things related to video. On top of video productions, you’ll usually find them calling live events, trouble-shooting live stream, and even installing and tuning all video-related technical gear (God help this person if the projectors in your high school ministry go down during service on Sunday morning). Again, not quite a Video Director, it’s more of a Tech Director of Broadcast, or Live Video Director.
  3. The Filmmaker  —  Many young film school grads take ministry jobs, and it’s not always out of passion or calling. Sometimes, not aways, they need to pay off college debt, and the church needs a video guy. Adversely, many young filmmakers are called by God to the church, and some, never go. But with the wrong motivation or calling, a filmmaker will fight and wrestle with employers, routinely citing, “That’s not how it’s done!”  And they’re usually right. The films they were trained to make aren’t shot and edited within a week, with little-to-no budget, and basic equipment, not to mention, with a one-man crew. Discouraged, and dreaming of the passion they went to film school for in the first place, this individual will either quit or try to shove their department ever-closer toward fulfilling their original dream. I know this because this was almost me. Almost.

So, when is a Video Director, an actual Video Director?  When are they meeting their potential, and what does it look like for them to be self-motivated, accomplishing the goals of the ministry?  Well, every situation is unique, but here are a few qualities I would recommend for anyone looking to hire a killer Video Director.

  1. Leader  —  As the head of the video department, it doesn’t matter if it’s a department of 12 or just 1 individual, your VD needs to be a leader, set the vision for the department and be committed to the develop each member of the team. Look for the man or woman who shows the greatest leadership, I see way to many organizations who’s VD merely tenured their way into this role. If you’re top guy is qualified because he’s been around the longest, you could easily be stifling the potential of the whole team.
  2. Story Teller  —  Your VD needs be a good conversationalist and care about people over the final product. Script, plan, execute, sure! But they need to show the intuition of when to throw the plan out, to get what’s not obvious, to dig deeper where the stories lies. They need to have the ability to take a brief description of the project/goal/message and weave a story from it; to find sterling stories in people, and help them translate their experiences onto film.
  3. Proactive  —  Most video professionals wouldn’t necessarily think to do this on Screen Shot 2016-08-03 at 10.11.41 AMtheir own, but writing down the weekly, quarterly and annuals goals, will do wonders for the organization and functionality of the department.  If you find them held up in their editing room, week after week, routinely delivering last-minute projects, you need to have a serious talk either about how they communicate, or the heavy workload; because something is off.
  4. The Producer’s Mindset  —  Your Video Director should actually think more like a producer than a director. Sometimes we get caught up on the word Director, and (because it’s a related field) we think Film Director, when we mean Department Director. Producers are the leaders, located behind the scenes. More than just a visionary film maker, they need to recognize their tight turn-arounds and be asking, “How do we get that done?”  They need to be organized, even if it’s as simple as a white board, with video projects written down, logged next to their due dates, just having a visual for the boss to see, will keep everyone on task and at ease.
  5. Content Cranker — This was a big one for me.  As I  mentioned before, I was operating my department like a Filmmaker, trying to produce shorts and stories that I felt would build recognition in the film community in Austin. As a result, I was producing a video every 2-3 weeks and burning myself out every time, when I put on my producer’s hat, recognizing that we needed more quantity and focus less on quality, I started cranking content. Now, that doesn’t mean it was horrible quality, but that I saw a new need for 3-4 video each week, and found all the short cuts, loop holes and cheats to getting what needed to be done.
  6. Saying “No” Is Not An Option  — I’m not saying they can never say “No.” In fact, I say it all the time. Sometimes, there are just really bad/lofty/unrealistic ideas thrown around in creative brain-storming meetings. And before you know it, 3-12 people want to film a 10-minute short film about a guy who finds Jesus, while surviving an alien attack, set in the 1920’s… stupid, I know.  But, the way I train my team of videographers to approach infeasible ideas, instead of being the pessimistic, expert-in-the-field, know-it-all, try saying, “Yeah, we can do that! And here is what we will need to pull that idea off.”  You will be surprised how many leaders, seeing the leadership, willingness and knowledge of their team, now counting the cost, will talk themselves out of ideas not fully worth pursuing.

So those are just my observations, after over 11 years in the industry. I’ve been everything from the “intern editor” to the department director.  I have done it right and I have done wrong, a lot.  But my hope is that you are able to take these principles and help develop your people into stronger leaders, better storytellers, and on task for the vision of your organization.

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