Archive for the ‘Marketing Video’ Category

In Tokyo, sharing a real corporate video shoot with a fictional character

November 5, 2013

In one of the climax scenes of the novel 1Q84, the protagonist Aomame goes to Hotel Okura in Tokyo. She is moments away from a foreboding encounter to which an Alice in Wonderland series of events has been tensely building. Despite evidencing a personality that combines inner strength, courage, integrity, and selective sensitivity, Aomame feels an uncharacteristic apprehension, perceiving the unexpected presence of an undefined and potent hand of fate at work. She waits in the oversized, opulent lobby for an escort who will bring her to the room where her antagonist will be waiting.  Alone amidst a crowded diversity of people moving to the buzz of unlimited agendas, her mind skirts between its very rational and methodical proclivity and the nonsensical world that has somehow crept into her life.

I write this on an airplane, three hours away from landing in Japan’s Narita Airport for a corporate video shoot. I am here with Curt, my husband who is a director of photography for our company Voices & Visions Productions. This will be our second trip to Tokyo, so its sprawling urban landscape will not come as a surprise. On our last trip we had dinner one night on the top floor of our hotel and were seated at a table next to a large window overlooking the city. Actually, it was only a wedge of the city. Yet I remember thinking that the vision before us spread inescapably to the horizon, harboring within its dense mass infinite numbers of people and offices and stores and restaurants and everything. Like hotels.

When the logistics of this current trip to Tokyo were being planned, the office manager of our business client offered to reserve a room in the hotel where they have a corporate rate located a block away from their workplace. Eliminating for us the daunting task of choosing between countless hotels in the complex grid of Tokyo neighborhoods, we took them up on their kind gesture, then received the e-confirmation for a room at Hotel Okura.

lobby of Hotel Okura

lobby of Hotel Okura

 

I was reminded of Rick’s line about Ilsa in Casablanca: Of all the gin joints, in all the towns, in all the world, she walks into mine.” Of all the thousands of hotels in Tokyo, our client booked us in the one where this pivotal moment in the best book I’ve read in years takes place.

I am a big fan of Haruki Murakami, the author of 1Q84, and especially of this particular book. It took me weeks to finish the 1,200-page odyssey since I am often working until after midnight, leaving me exhausted when I lay down in bed at night and open a book. For the first third or so, I read two chapters a night, but by the time I got to the middle of the book, my appetite for the plot grew voracious. Each night after I closed the book, the characters and plot danced through my dwindling consciousness into my dreams. They would fade into the paper of the book’s pages through most of the daytime hours when the real world of documentary and corporate video production would dominate my brain. In other words, like Aomame in that pivotal scene, the book transported me to a mental place of vacillation between the real world and the fictional world of Murakami.

It’s been a few months since I finished reading 1Q84, and some of its details have begun dissolving from my memory like the ending slate of a video we create. As the long United Airlines flight to Murakami’s city approaches our destination, my mind is transitioning into the concrete producer/writer roles in which I feel comfortable. But I confess that, immersed in the setting of Hotel Okura, I will not be able to avoid looking out for the imaginary Aomame and the ominous meeting she has in a room that may be located down the hall from the one where we will be camping out the next four days.

Fortunately the nature of our work is creative, so the influence of imagination in video storytelling – as much for a corporate marketing video as any other type – promises to be beneficial.

 

NY Times Highlights Subject of Film Produced by V&V’s Principals

June 5, 2013

Having started filming the documentary Delicious Peace Grows in a Ugandan Coffee Bean back in 2006, the JEMGLO production team was excited to see The New York Times today refer to the cooperative of Christian, Jewish and Muslim coffee farmers who comprise the documentary subject. The principals of JEMGLO, producer/writer Ellen Friedland director/DP/cinematographer Curt Fissel, are also the principals of Voices and Visions.

Highlighted in the Food section, the Times noted that “J.J. Keki, a Jewish Ugandan coffee farmer…enlisted Christian, Jewish and Muslim farmers to form a coffee cooperative. The result: Delicious Peace Coffee (Mirembe Kawomera), which comes in a nutty-tasting light roast, a rich dark roast and decaffeinated.” The Times’ mention coincided with the launch of a Smithsonian Folkways recording on CD produced by Rabbi Jeffrey Summit of 16 songs by the farmers titled Delicious Peace: Coffee, Music and Interfaith Harmony in Uganda. 

The first version of the documentary, narrated by actor Ed O’Neill, was released in 2010 and screened at over 35 film festivals internationally, including many prestigious festivals, and won a number of meaningful awards. This past March Ellen, Curt and several additional members of a production team, returned for a fifth trip to the cooperative to videotape updates (link to the blog), including a qualitatively improved standard of living thanks in large measure to Fair Trade wages paid to the farmers by their coffee buying partner, Thanksgiving Coffee Company.

delicious peace, documentary, smithsonian, new york times, uganda, fair trade, interfaith, fair trade coffee, jewish nonprofit, documentary production

The documentary is available to educational institutions through the Video Project. In addition, socially-conscious media company Specialty Studios is distributing Delicious Peace Grows in a Ugandan Coffee Bean by organizing Delicious Peace Parties where the film is screened and Fair Trade coffee and chocolate are enjoyed. Please contact them for more information!

Video for Private Equity Annual Investor Meetings

May 28, 2013

This is the time of year when many PE companies and PE divisions of larger companies are designing the content and activities of year-end annual investor meetings. Significantly, few industries are as friendly to the fashionable storytelling tool of video as private equity. Each portfolio company brings an engaging narrative of its roots that flourished over time and are expanding as a result of the vision, strategies and assistance brought by its private equity partner. Producing high-end and fast-paced yet short and comprehensive videos to showcase examples of companies in a portfolio that are encountering success is a great way to convey the information, break up the pace of the meeting in a popular and pleasing way, and encourage participation in future funds the PE firm will roll out.

The themes of the videos will depend upon the emphases of the companies or divisions. There is no one formula; decisions are tailored to the firms and their investor audiences. Here are some examples of videos created for The Riverside Company, the largest global firm investing in the middle market, for their 2012 Annual Investor Conference. The goal of these videos was to highlight the different funds:

North American Fund Portfolio Company: Baby Jogger

European Fund Portfolio Company: Reima 

Asia-Pac Fund Portfolio Company: Learning Seat 

North American Microcap Fund Portfolio Company: Yourmembership.com  

V&V has been working in PE and related industries for over a decade with clients such as The Riverside Company, the former AIG Investments, Private Equity Investor, and Duane Morris LLP. We also count as our clients pension funds investing in PE such as the Texas Teachers Retirement System.

Please contact us to brainstorm ideas about ways in which video can provide added value to your annual investor meeting.

Returning to Uganda

March 4, 2013

 

I remember the first full day of our initial trip to Uganda in October 2006 to produce a documentary about Mirembe Kawomera (“Delicious Peace”) Coffee Co-op. After three days of travel (one from NY to Europe, the second from there to Entebbe Airport, and the third by car up to the Mbale region), we enthusiastically showed up at the entrance of the coffee co-op’s clay-constructed storefront. We were eager to meet the legendary farmers who had formed a collective to bridge interfaith differences and generate economic development through a Fair Trade partnership with California-based buyer, roaster and seller Thanksgiving Coffee Company. Since we had been in touch via email for several months and the executive board had invited us to come, we were ready to break out the cameras following the handshakes and dive into work. Instead, the farmers asked that we sit down for a four-hour meeting that began with the question: “Why should we let you do this?”

At that moment, Curt looked at me and said, “You are the attorney. You can negotiate this. I’m going outside to take pictures. They may be the last ones we get!”


delicious peace, documentary, coffee, fair trade, Uganda

Now here it is, six and a half years after that meeting and three years after the premiere screening of Delicious Peace Grows in a Ugandan Coffee Bean, and we are returning in two weeks for our fifth trip, this time (as the last) with a group of friends in tow.  Dual goals motivate this journey: (1) adding an extra 15-20 minutes of footage for a one-hour TV release focused on co-op updates and the impact of climate change on the farmers’ crops, and (2) introducing more American consumers to the work of the Mirembe Kawomera co-op, helping to spread awareness about their truly delicious coffee and the myriad families whose lives orbit around it.

In many respects, the first aim parallels corporate video production shoots we do around the world for many clients. We have done our homework and know what we want to record, all the necessary equipment is packed and ready to go, a basic schedule is in place, and we have the contact information for folks who will be crucial data-providers.

This assignment, however, comes with advance bonuses. We already have established friendships with farmers in the co-op, who are excited to help with the new phase of the project by devoting days of time when we are present to providing assistance; they understand and appreciate our role in helping to publicize their messages. And – New Yorkers — you know that excited feeling of being with out-of-towners who arrive in New York for the first time and stand in transcendental wonderment upon their initial ascent out of the subway? We will have the opportunity to experience that feeling through the eyes of our trip participants, multiple-fold, beginning with the moment our friend/tourguide Samson drives our group out of the airport onto the streets of Entebbe.

delicious peace, documentary, coffee, Uganda, fair trade

In response to the farmers’ initial question in 2006, I promised a long-term, mutual partnership in which success would be shared. I promised we would produce, complete, and screen the documentary. I said this would be an important avenue to spread the message of the work they are doing to bridge interfaith differences and educate coffee consumers about the hard work of farmers dedicated to specialty coffee production so that purchasing decisions reflect that knowledge. I told them that a successful documentary will trigger interest in their coffee. I told them that we have always established long-term friendships with the people who are the subjects of documentaries we undertake – as we have often done with our corporate video production clients.

Almost seven years later, the documentary has screened (and continues to do so) at over 35 international film festivals with a TV debut in the near future. We have partnered with a distributor committed to creating local educational “Peace Party” screenings around the country. Countless people have watched the program and learned about the important work of the farmers – many are busy talking about it on social media avenues everyday. And we are going back again to visit our friends and continue to develop the informational base.

We’re grateful the farmers took a leap of faith with us and proud to have earned their trust. Uganda, here we come!

 

Telling Stories With Video

February 27, 2013

Every corporation is built and sustained by individuals with stories to tell, and those stories can be effective marketing devices. (See “Endless Stories” blog.) Using internet video to tell those stories is particularly impactful: Audiences today watch more than they read, and the place they watch most is online. Consequently, introducing staff via video posted to websites and other online venues gives current and prospective customers a more personal – and therefore positive — feel for the companies with which they are or could be doing business.

One way of ensuring that online videos of staff are up-to-date, reflecting changes in personnel as well as the positions they occupy, is for corporations to build in-house video production studios designed for recording simple sound bites. The existence of such facilities at a company would enable each new hire  immediately  to record and post a video bio introducing himself or herself to the client base and the rest of the staff – or to record something else highlighting personality traits or interests, excitement about the company or its product, etc.  — depending upon the corporate culture. The initial investment in the studio is returned in the ability to inexpensively produce endless short and effectual videos.  


Once videos are edited, companies should consider posting them first on their own Youtube channels, then using those links to post them on their firms’ websites and other social media sites. This methodology will help boost  search engine optimization. YouTube is the second-largest search engine after Google and Google owns YouTube, so enhancing a corporate presence on this social network is important. There are several key elements to optimizing videos on YouTube, which will greatly influence the rankings and quality of search results. Saving video files with keywords as well as tagging keywords when uploading videos are two important pieces to a much more complicated puzzle. (For more pieces, see post on Video SEO).

Designing In-House Corporate Video Studios

February 11, 2013

An in-house corporate video studio sans extra hires: the perfect solution for a constant and affordable flow of new video content with a professional look.

A little over a year ago Cisco predicted that within three years (now one and three quarters) all Internet traffic will be video. While that may be an overly ambitious timeline, there is no question that video is overtaking the web as the communication vehicle through which companies are (and increasingly will be) required to express themselves. It is also by now recognized that the DIY videos that seemed acceptable when Youtube first burst on the scene in 2005 are not professional reflections of the entities they represent. These facts are part of the larger shifting landscape of corporate messaging, mandating creative responses and re-created budgetary line items.

Among the most resourceful recent solutions to this conundrum on which we have had the opportunity to work came at the request of our client EisnerAmper, one of the largest accounting firms in the US, with almost 1,300 employees. Working with clients hailing from a broad spectrum of industries and providing a range of services, EisnerAmper has unlimited topics to discuss on a regular basis, for which ever-new online video posts would be a great asset.  When their expansion induced them to move their New Jersey headquarters into a new space subject to complete redesign, they contacted us about helping them build a studio for the purpose of recording simple sound bite videos as frequently as desired, then turning them around for rapid posting to their website and other online sites.

Basic keys to success of this project included designing the space effectively and efficiently; properly laying out the IT, lighting, audio and other technical needs; identifying high-end equipment on which non-professionals can be trained; and providing the training. The exercise requires a combined knowledge of professional cinematography with relevant engineering and architectural understanding.
corporate video studio, corporate video, corporate video production, corporate video nj, video production, nyc, los angeles
Our VP Curt Fissel met with the EisnerAmper marketing team to determine their wish list of video needs and goals within the context of the available space dimensions. He also spoke with the project manager and architect. Curt is our Director of Photography and Senior Editor. At heart, he is an artist and a complex model builder, so the opportunity to work on the video studio enabled him to combine a lifetime of personal strengths. Curt used a soft polymer clay that hardens when baked to design a model of the room to scale. Even the tiniest details were highlighted in the model he created, such as the precise placement of the electrical outlets on the walls and the track lighting across the ceiling. Curt then photographed the model from many angles, pasting the images into a document onto which he wrote technical explanations of the requirements.

As the project moves forward, Curt will be available for ensuing needs, such as helping EisnerAmper choose appropriate equipment; configure all the studio elements to enable the production of optimum appearance; and teach staff who will be assigned to this job how to use the gear, which is intended to stay locked into place. Upon the conclusion of videotaping, EisnerAmper will have the ability to edit the material in-house or upload it to a cloud accessible by an off-site editor.

The video studio will enable EisnerAmper to produce and post constantly changing, simple and professional-looking talking-head videos responsive to the news of the day or even the hour, as well as a litany of additional information the firm would like to share – all at no extra cost for field (and possibly post) production once the set-up is in place. While their totality of video needs will also undoubtedly require more complex productions utilizing the help of professional corporate video producers, the use of the studio will ensure that EisnerAmper is at the lead of the pack of businesses as the Cisco-like predictions regarding the proliferation of video grow into the reality.

Corporate Video: Endless Stories

January 31, 2013

When I got into the corporate video business over 15 years ago, clients wanted productions that were informational in content. They sought videos that would outline the work of the organization in all – or at least most – of its elements, even when the details required 12 minutes to roll out. Whether the video was to be used for marketing, HR or other purposes, an objective presentation of the nature of the entity was the fashion of the day

That tendency mirrored the appearance projected by news outlets at that time. Remember when the “fourth estate” was all about fair and balanced portrayals of facts based on research and widespread interviews with folks taking a diversity of positions?

Times have changed, and social media has played a critical role in this new world of information presentation. Today news correspondents can take the form of activists on the front lines of a revolt tweeting their eyewitness accounts on their smartphones in 140 characters at a time, reporting from the spots where they stand, unaware of the battle looming around the corner. Subjective by definition, they may nonetheless have more followers than nightly news stations, in large measure because audiences today are attracted to individual stories – real people, real events, real drama, real emotion.  The storytelling methodology resonates.

(One example of such a “story” we told through a video we produced for private equity client, The Riverside Company)

And it has influenced corporate video production. That extensive informational video style is passé. It has been replaced with short stories, endless short stories, each of which can stand on its own in a video or be grouped with others, depending upon a variety of factors including length of time needed to convey its heart. Stories can be about the company, such as the impetus that led to its founding or some cool community event in which its staff participated. They can focus on employees relating personal stories that integrate elements of their characters with aspects of their jobs. They can highlight a company initiative from the perspectives of those charged with implementing it, following the process through from idea conception to presentation. Endless stories.

While each video might max out at two minutes (often less), there may be many to produce, so ultimately far more time will be devoted to this format – and often watched by the viewers — than the single 12-minute piece in which the company invested 15 years ago. Yet unlike its old-fashioned predecessor, each piece will present only a slice of something related to the company. The viewer who watches a series of videos the company provides on its website and/or other social media sites may gain the larger umbrella perspective the company would like to portray. But the person who stops after the first will walk away with neither depth of understanding nor the larger picture perspective of the company.

This is the new communication reality. It is incumbent upon corporations still hesitant to find their video voices within its parameters. That may present some challenges, but a successful initiative will be worthwhile. Individual stories will resonate.

Investor Relations Videos

January 17, 2013

Funny thing about the category of “investor relations videos”: it does not enjoy the popularity of other adjectives associated with video, like “marketing video” or “web video.” The expression just doesn’t seem to have search engine appeal – at least not in this particular three-word combination.

Perhaps that is not so surprising. Traditional industries like financial services clothe themselves less in fashionable (or any) video than other business types. And digits – while long known to possess magical qualities that might make the stuff of a good story – often seem most legitimate when presented in typed black numbers on sterile white pages.

Certainly the nature of some types of financial services companies is less amenable to colorful storytelling than others. But investors today are presented with unlimited opportunities in a market that is still recovering economically. They have the difficult job of distinguishing between a wide array of different kinds of funds in which to invest as well as companies to trust with their investments. In a world in which people prefer to watch rather than read, why not enliven the marketing pitch with a compelling video?

www.riversidecompany.com

Storyline is key here.  Private equity and venture capital firms have an easier job than others in the industry since they are comprised by definition of companies in an array of industries that have wonderful stories about their origins, growth and substance.  But even traditional investment firms can unearth good stories to share with their investors. For instance, a new policy roll-out that is investment-friendly would be of interest to current and potential investors and could be presented in a creative way. Or a video created for a different purpose – such as an HR video – could be modified to focus on the skill sets and personalities of staff who play key roles in successful outcomes (and therefore impress investors).

An investor relations video can be a very helpful tool, especially in an industry in which this type of marketing initiative has not yet come of age, but the ages of younger investors see the world in visual motion.

Finland: First Impressions on a Videotaping Shoot

October 28, 2012

Since we spend a lot of time videotaping in different countries around the world, I am frequently asked my impressions of local communities and places. Often my response harkens back to the opening scene in the movie Blue Velvet. The viewer first sees a helicopter view of a perfect 1960s-era postage-stamp looking community with cute little houses and pretty green lawns. The camera lens then begins to zoom in, and imperfections appear on screen. The objects grow closer, and the viewer sees more details that paint a fuller picture mixing positive imagery with negative. And then, to foreshadow the harrowing movie to follow, the camera zooms into the creepiest microscopic insect behaviors, suggesting the ugliness of what lies beneath the surface.

The full analogy to this opening is apt when I describe the most awful of situations we’ve witnessed while videotaping particular documentaries, such as dangerous territories still reeling from recent wars.  But thankfully most of our travels take us to daily life in peaceful situations, so the Blue Velvet comparison stops before the last zoom-in. Yet it underscores my acute awareness that an accurate description of the pros and cons of real life anywhere on the planet lurks far beneath those first, surface-level impressions. I am therefore hesitant to convey opinions about places where we stop for only a few days to do a corporate video shoot for a marketing video or investor relations video .

And yet, of course, those first impressions linger. So I sometimes bow to the inquiry, hoping those who ask will recognize the shallowness of my responses.

It took that introduction to make me feel comfortable launching into my very favorable initial impressions here on the ground in Helsinki!

First one: Last week we were working in Paris. We had pre-rented a car online, as we did for this trip. At Charles DeGaulle Airport, we spent literally 45 minutes at the rental car desk with only two people in front of us. The experience was like waiting during a work slowdown, except there was no formal slowdown.  Questions we asked were answered in as few words as possible with looks of annoyance, despite our use of French language. In comparison, after arriving in Helsinki, we were second in line for our car. Our total time at the counter was under ten minutes. We spoke no Finnish at all, but the woman at Budget spoke fluent English. She smiled as she imparted key information, did not try to sell us anything we did not need, and literally mapped out our car ride from her counter to the rental car parking lot to our hotel, the Sokos Flamingo Hotel in Vantaa.  I felt stress-free despite a total lack of familiarity with the culture and the ancient and unique language spoken there. I even perceived the cold air that enveloped us when we walked out the airport doors as crisp and healthy rather than an unwelcome reminder of the upcoming winter.

Next: Thoughtful layouts. The wide roads were well-marked, sensible, and lined with sprawling landscapes – after all, this large country is populated by a total of only five million people. The hotel receptionist gave us a parking pass for the garage even before requiring us to check in, and the parking lot had plenty of spaces to accommodate all the cars. The spotless room was styled with simple but comfortable Ikea-type furniture. One entire wall was covered in windows enabling us to look out into the horizon, where fiery red sunrises beneath puffy dark clouds greeted us in the morning.

The food was less impressive, though I am spoiled by living bi-coastally in Los Angeles and the metro NY area – specifically, NJ’s restaurant capital of Montclair. Didn’t mind it too much – we had gone to Finland to work, not to eat.

One other footnote: A friendly encounter on the elevator with a businessman from northern Finland led to breakfast together the next morning. A few things I learned from him were:

  • Children in Finland learn to cross country ski when they are very young, and get around that way much of the winter in southern Finland, which is not mountainous
  • Ski country is northern Finland, but often the freezing temperatures (below -30 degrees centigrade is not uncommon) prohibit outdoor activity until February or March
  • In much of the country, you can see the Northern Lights
  • In the summer in the Helsinki area, darkness falls around 11 pm and dawn comes by 4 am. In the winter, of course, it is the opposite. (October wasn’t too bad. It got dark at about 6 pm and light before 8 am.)
  • The Finnish and Hungarian languages share the same root
  • Swedish is the second language of Finland since Sweden ruled the country for 600 years, from the 13th through the 19th centuries
  • In World War II, the Finns fought against the Russians, who had occupied the country after the Swedes. (This, of course, made them allies with the Germans, though they saw their participation as anti-Russian rather than pro-German, and they protected their Jewish population.)

Had the businessman not had dinner plans that night, we would have met again, underscoring my impression of the friendliness of local people. Of course, he was not talking in front of the camera lens. But those who were featured in the business video that brought us there shared the warm spirit of our hotel acquaintance.

Video Production From The Road: Interviews

October 26, 2012

One of the great upsides to shooting corporate videos at locations around the globe is that we spend our days at facilities with people with whom we have the privilege to become acquainted. After all, we are usually interviewing them on camera, and even when we’re not – such as in the production of a video that uses musical backgrounds without words – we are interviewing them off camera to understand the nature of their work so we can properly capture and present it.  Formal interview time is always bookended by plenty of informal chatter, making the former more comfortable for everyone. And so we learn things like colleges that interviewees’ kids attend or where they went on their recent vacations. Those conversations lead to others, and before we know it, we often all discover how much we are enjoying each other’s company. Sometimes dinner invitations follow, and even when they don’t, recommendations for good dinners (and all the colorful context) are usually a good bet. By the time we are departing, we find that we have collected valuable insiders’ perspectives about the places we have visited even if the trips are only for small amounts of time.

corporate video, video production, professional video, france, video marketing, travel, business

Of course, we don’t always hit it off as good ol’ buddies with the folks we are interviewing, nor do we have any expectations. But we do maintain an attitude of “work hard, play hard,” so we find fun spots to spend the off-hours, with or without our professional colleagues. A few days ago at a pub in Rouen, France, we met a woman at the next table who had come to have a drink after week. After a few friendly comments, we all found that we had many things to discuss, and we spent quite awhile talking, laughing, taking pictures, and sharing stories. Today, of course, such encounters don’t end with the last drop of distinctive French wine. We have become Facebook friends, and if prior such meetings are an indication, I am confident our knowledge of each other’s lives and cultures will continue to expand over time.