The Lone Shooter

I miss having my friend Mike with me on shoots. We were a great team. Mike took the stills and looked after the audio while I operated the camera. This year I have been filming on my own a lot. I feel like one of those one-man bands with a drum attached to my front and a drumstick rigged to my arm, harmonica at my lips, tambourines in between my knees and a horn on my belt. I often wonder if that’s kind of how I look to people when I go out on shoots.

I find it tough to have to think about and monitor all the equipment myself. I’ve been interviewing people while having an ear bud placed in my ear to monitor for interfering background sounds. I am constantly scanning the camera viewer for proper headroom, noseroom, leadroom, light balance, tonal mergers and the audio v/u levels. My mic stand holds the boom now and I’m constantly checking it so that it’s not in my shot, so that it’s pointed in the right direction, so that it’s not placed where someone will trip over it.

Over the next two months I will be flying solo to Boston, Vancouver and the U.K. to shoot my documentary. I’m having nightmares already of forgetting to white balance, charge my batteries, put a battery in the boom, plug my XLR in all the way, forgetting to check for stereo sound and failing to format my SDHC card properly. There’s a lot that can go wrong on a shoot, especially when there’s no one else looking out for you. Just as the airplane pilots will be doing before taking me away to shoot my doc, I’m going to follow a standard checklist. I’ll post it once it’s finished, though it’s specific to my equipment set-up. Maybe I’ll even have a story later on about how the checklist saved a shoot.

Two-time Emmy award winner and Documentary film-maker Paul Saltzmann

Recently, Paul Saltzmann spoke at TEDx Waterloo. I had a chance to jot down some notes.

Paul Saltzmann worked at the NFB in the Montreal office at the age of 23. What he learned while working at the NFB is to “pause” and not to try to fill the void. The universe will give us opportunities.
As a young man, there were parts of himself that he didn’t like. Eventually, a voice inside of him told him to get away from the environment he grew up in to get a clearer view of himself.

Paul told the story of how he heard an NFB Director was going to Bombay, India and he wanted to get out of Montreal and find himself so he asked the director if he could go as his cinematographer. The director had already hired someone from the UK, but instead of walking away, he paused, and Paul stood in front of him, pausing as well. It was a long enough pause that the director asked, “Have you ever done sound?” Although Paul had never done sound, he said “yes” anyway and was soon off to Bombay India.

In India, Paul worked on a film for six weeks before receiving a letter from his girlfriend that she had moved in with “Henry”. Heartbroken, Paul tried meditation to heal his broken heart. The Beatles were at a meditation facility overlooking the Ganges in India recording an album. The place was closed to the public. “Not at the PRESENT time” a man at the gate told Paul when he asked if he could come in and learn how to meditate to heal his broken heart. Paul heard the word “present” and asked “can I wait?” He slept eight days outside waiting. Eventually, the man who taught meditation came back and let Paul in. After a week of meditation, Paul says his broken heart was healed and he felt better. One day he was walking past an open area of the complex with a beautiful view off a cliff and saw members of the Beatles including John Lennon and Paul McCartney sitting at a table with their girlfriends and spouses. McCartney offered him a chair after Saltzmann asked if he could take a chair. Paul’s internal voice told him they were just regular people and he began to talk with them. McCartney told him they had everything they ever wanted but it didn’t mean happiness. That was still something else you had to find for yourself. I suspect the broken heart story was a great excuse for getting into the complex, but Saltzmann is a fantastic storyteller and can be forgiven for being so ambitious.

Recently, Paul produced a documentary for the NFB called “Prom Night in Mississippi”. It took five months to film in Charleston. Actor Morgan Freeman had offered to pay for a black and white mixed race prom 10 years earlier. Paul called him and asked if the offer still stood. There was silence on the other end and so Paul paused and let the silence continue. Morgan Freeman answered that the offer did still stand. Paul went down and documented the whole process leading up to and including the event.

Saltzmann’s sage advice…slow down and notice the spaces the universe offers you…listen…and you will see opportunities open up for you.

Terry O’Reilly at TedXWaterloo

gwen / Stock Photos

Terry O’Reilly’s job as an advertiser is to create the easiest, speed bump-free path to the sale. This takes skill, though Terry told us he wasn’t going to talk to us about it at TEDx Waterloo. Instead, Terry talked about the quirk in the collective psyche, saying sometimes people need friction before they will buy a product or buy into an idea. Friction, he says, can be the key ingredient in persuasion.

Terry told the story back in time of when housewives ignored a company making instant mix cakes. The company researched and talked to housewives and determined the emotions that surround the process. What they found was that the women felt they weren’t involved enough in the work of making a cake. They needed to be persuaded that they actually had something more to do in the process. The manufacturer went backward in the process and removed the egg from the mix. They then asked the women to put the egg back in so that they felt like they were more of the process in making the cake. By increasing the friction and adding the extra step women were attracted back to the product. Sales spiked.

O’Reilly talked about Johnson and Johnson having a marketing problem with their antiseptic cream. People would not buy the cream a second time. Johnson and Johnson brought human nature into their research. If we don’t feel pain, we don’t feel we are being healed so they put alcohol in the cream to give it a sting. The added friction of pain gave the product credibility and as a result, sales spiked back up.

Clairol introduced a hair product back in the 70s. The instructions for how to use the conditioner were 1. work conditioner into hair 2. let sit for 30 minutes 3. rinse…but it only took 2 minutes to work and not the 30 minutes that women were used to in the salon. So, Clairol suggested 30 minutes to give their product credibility by keeping the instructions for use in line with what the salons were doing. Friction aligned the new product with an existing belief system and made it legitimate.

O’Reilly’s message…Take a look at marketing over the last 100 years…friction can be a powerful tool to persuasion. You can take the concept of friction and apply it to fundraising. Terry cites a donation form for a charity with 3 donation boxes to choose from: a 500 dollar box, 50 dollar box, and 5 dollar box. There is friction with 500, 5 dollars is barely worth the stamp. They framed the desire of the 50 dollar box with the shock of the 500 dollar box and the shame of the 5 dollar box. 50 dollars was always the target.

O’Reilly also mentions an instance of setting up on-line shopping on an e-commerce site. The man designing the site looked at the 5 steps to the checkout process and replaced it with one step. He even added advanced error checking and retrieval of the page if the Internet went down. The idea failed miserably. The 5 steps created a friction that made the customers feel they had added security. Terry compares it to shopping. The narrower a store aisle, the more crowded it is…the more buying is done. More friction means more shopping as choice is a way to exert control over your environment. You control the experience by exercising choice. When the aisles are wide open, people won’t buy. They lash out by buying more in narrower areas.

O’Reilly says Steve Jobs understands his customers. 50 percent of products that are returned to stores actually still work. It’s just that people have a fiddle tolerance. People will only fiddle for 20 minutes. Jobs took this understanding and it applied it to unpacking the computer mouse. He purposely wrapped up the individual mouse so that you would have to become more familiar with it as you were unpacking it. No mice were returned after purchase. If you can embrace this concept, you will have less returns.

Lastly, in looking at human nature… Atul Gawande wrote a book called The Checklist Manifesto. He looked to others to see how they prevented mistakes…ie/ aircraft pilots. Gawade created checklists for hospitals. The hospitals that used this had the number of mistakes go down 8 percent. Unfortunately, only 1 fifth of hospitals in the U.S. use this. Although some surgeons felt offended (20 percent) when asked if they would want a surgeon operating on them to use a checklist , a whopping 95 percent said “yes”.

Friction works. It gives credibility. It can guide and steer people to positive outcomes. There is a real human nature element. O”Reilly looks back at books published in the 40s and 50s…Madison Avenue. He says the more things change, the faster it happens, but the study of the aspects of desires in man never change. These are fundamental traits of our species. Terry closes with the quote, “Friction is the secret ingredient to life” and Mary Poppins was wrong when she said a spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down, a spoonful of sand might make it go down quicker.