To put “lipstick on a pig” is a rhetorical expression, used to convey the message that making superficial or cosmetic changes is a futile attempt to disguise the true nature of a product.
What do you do when the shooting assignment turns out to be a dud? Before you respond with a predictable “It’s not my job to make an event look cool” consider this. Keep in mind that in most cases more people will experience that event through your video than were actually at that event. If you make it your job to take a dire situation and somehow find the silver lining via a great edit and shoot, you will build a reputation as a videographer with a midas touch. There is an invisible intangible energy that flows between every person. What separates a good videographer from a mediocre one is your sensitivity to that energy and your ability to mold it. I will share a few tips on how to turn a dud into a dandy!
1.Wait and see!
The biggest mistake you can make is to walk into an event and assume because everyone is standing around waiting for something to happen that the event is a dud. Nine out of ten times things will pick up. The best thing you can do is to be the fly on the wall and document things as they organically build. The worse thing you can do is to inject your phony positive energy when it is not needed.
2. The Empty Room.
You might find yourself in a situation where the event is well attended and the energy is good but because the organizer booked a space the size of Grand Central Station it looks like nobody is there. The solution here is an easy one. Shoot tight. If people don’t see the empty room, they won’t know the room was empty. Capisce?
3. Too Cool For School.
Living and working in New York I’ve run into many events where it was perfectly acceptable for folks to stand around and look cool instead of having what looks like genuine fun. Many of these folks have no time to be bothered with such things as being photographed. After all having your image captured is soooo 2009. These events although considered a success have the potential to look like a dud on camera. If you think sending a bad edit of a bad event sucks, try sending a bad edit of a good event. Solution; Divide & Conquer. Every event regardless of the cool factor has it’s share of people who aren’t too cool to play up to the camera. Engage these people, separate them from their cool friends, ask them for an interview, or to pose for a super fabulous portrait. More times than not many of the folks who were secretly making fun of the too cool for school crowd will flock to your camera like moths to a flame. Trust me on this one.
4. The Asshole.
The opposite end of the spectrum is The Asshole. We have all encountered this guy. Usually he (or in rare cases she) is drunk, feeling all in the moment with a sudden urge to be the center of attention. He sees your camera and in the most obnoxious manner demands that you interview him and he won’t leave until you do. Suddenly that fly on the wall thing you had going on is about as effective as a cockroach on the wall. Solution; give him his moment and if he rambles on then mid interview tell him your battery died and run to the other side of the room. If he finds you again, repeat.
5. When All Else Fails.
Well you have tried everything on this list and still you’ve got nothing, now what? Solution; when all else fails get drunk and party like a rockstar. Even though I listed this as number 5 on my list, it was always the number 1 criteria of Thenewpop crew to have fun first. Here is one example of that from the Danger Party I shot in 2008. I have matured a bunch since those crazy early days, and I don’t suggest including footage of naked guys peeing on reverends but you get the idea. Having fun is contagious and if all is lost you might as well go out in a ball of flames.
Next Friday: Lipstick On A Pig continued – How to turn bad footage into a great edit.
Trevor “Trevz” Bayack is a Brooklyn-born filmmaker who approaches his web pieces as mini documentaries. Recognized as a member of the 2008 URB magazine Next 100 for pioneering the “video blog” Trevz continually makes his pieces shorter, sharper and ever more shareable” Follow our twitter feed for more.