Content And Context


One of the first questions I ask clients and potential clients when discussing a promotional video is, ‘where is it going to be shown?’ and ‘who is it for?’. The answers to these questions I believe, will inform all the subsequent decisions I make.

The importance of these questions was brought home to me recently when I was at a shoot with a group of 11-13 year old girls. The objective of the film was to find out how the young people accessed healthcare and get their wide-ranging opinions on it so it can be better delivered and improved upon. I was there simply to assist with the filming which was done by someone else.

Off camera, the girls seemed a lively bunch who had little hesitation in voicing their opinion. However, when they saw the set up for the shoot – three lights, a green screen and a bar stool on which they had to perch while being fired questions about whether they felt uncomfortable asking a male doctor about puberty – the girls froze and began muttering how scared they felt while nudging each other to ‘go first’.

I was one of the two charged with interviewing the girls. And after a while, I suggested that I draw my stool closer while still remaining out of the frame, so I may lean in and converse with them. I don’t know if it did anything to ease the girls, but I was absolutely clear that if it were up to me, I would have given the girls a camcorder each while they filmed each other talking about doctors, nurses, periods and the like.

You see, in this case, the framing or the lighting did not matter in the least. What was crucial was the girls’ opinion on something important and how that fed back to those who made decisions on their behalf.

On a related thought, at the moment I am reading a book (more about which in another blog post) which refers to the following video of virtuoso violinist Joshua Bell playing busker in Washington Metro during rush hour and how few people stop to listen to his exquisite music.

The author mentions how important context is to any art. And how during peak hour traffic when people are rushing to get to work (Joshua Bell played in a business district of the city), it is natural they will not be appreciative of any piece of art – however remarkable it is.

Similarly, a gorgeous looking film whose subjects are tongue-tied and one which does not communicate what it sets out to, is a non-starter in my opinion.

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