"Say what you mean and mean what you say because the words that you choose matter."
— Ash Beckham, LGBTQ Advocate
The other day I heard someone express concern because her son used the term "that's so gay" to convey disgust. A friend of mine recently was frustrated by the continued used of the word "retarded."
Because of the potential reach of our films, as storytellers we tend to be particularly sensitive to how words and images can be harmful even if the intention is not to hurt. We find that storytelling from a conscious position of non-violence is a more successful approach for our clients. In being mindful of the impact of words and images, our customers have a better chance of increasing the responsiveness and even the point of view of their extended audience with less automatic counter-productive polarization. The idea is not to shy away from controversy or delicate topics, but rather to employ a conscious restraint and extra gentleness that intends to connect on a more human level.
I like how this video makes this point clearly and with humor.
Separately, on the personal-connection front, notice how we connect with her even more as a human being when she exposes a point of vulnerability at 4:45 when she says, "I did this topic because I didn't have an answer for the guy at the gym." How many times have we all not had an answer for the guy at the gym?
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“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” - Maya Angelou, author and poet
Think about your favorite micro-documentaries. Which are the most memorable? Which are you most likely to share?
There's one thing I can bet on: The micro-documentaries that come to mind are not two minutes jam-packed with details and features of an organization's program.
It’s a typical tendency to want to maximize the time of your micro-documentary, but don't make that mistake. In wanting to pack in the information, we lose breathing space, the time for moments to sink in and for the audience to absorb the experience. And as you suck this air out of the piece, it dehumanizes it, making it easily forgettable.
It's painful to drop such rich material on the cutting floor, but such is the critical role of the curator. Maya Angelou said it best: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
If you move your audience and leave them with a feeling, they will be more likely to engage further with you by joining you in your envisioned future or inviting their friends to do so.
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“It’s quite unusual to see greenery in a concrete jungle like Brick Lane.”
— Resident of East London featured in “Holes of Happiness”
Growing up it was hard to imagine a place with more potholes than Venezuela. They were everywhere, deep and wide and waiting to wreak havoc on oncoming cars, bikers, and even unsuspecting pedestrians.
I remember as children we used to be very amused when all of a sudden each pothole on the way to the beach was encircled, as if by magic, by large painted white outlines. This would happen from time to time when there were bike races. The organizers would prepare the route by marking each single pothole so that it looked like a stream of bubbles flowing ahead of you as you drove through the streets.
Fast forward to college and there I was newly arrived in San Francisco, marveling at the fact that one of the world’s great cities has nearly as many potholes as the childhood roads I grew up with in Caracas. New York, it turns out, has potholes, too, as does Paris, as does pretty much every major city around the world. The question is, what to do with these unsightly blights? Leave it to the Brits to make pothole gardens
of their annoying road imperfections. Mini urban surprises of wonder.
Watch this fun mashup, Holes of Happiness
, to see how neighbors in East London reacted to the guerrilla gardeners who were planting these pothole gardens while no one was watching. It has a bit of a Candid Camera feel and uses that humor nicely to make its point.
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“They fly for work and they fly for fun in their time off of work. That's one way to tell a true passion.”
— Natasha Deganello Giraudie, Micro-Documentaries CEO
A few years ago I went gliding with my brother. Gliding, for those of you who have never done it before, is flying in an airplane without a motor. Natural updrafts replace propellers, and the quiet of the sky stands in for the drone of an engine. My brother is a commercial pilot, and I found it so amusing that most of the people who were gliding with us that day were also professional pilots. They fly for work and they fly for fun in their time off of work. That's one way to tell a true passion.
I was reminded of this when I got Adam Warmington's film this morning. It's something he put together over the weekend on his time off from making micro-documentaries. It's a lovely, moody, poetic, personal piece that conveys the feeling of this stormy past weekend and celebrates it in a way that makes you wish you were there.
Often filmmakers and clients alike shy away from the rain. This is an example of how rain on a filming day can actually be a gift.
What are some of your favorite pieces filmed in the rain?
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Talk radio show hosts Larry Jordan and Michael Horton invite Natasha to discuss
Micro-Documentaries' recent original content series filmed around the world for Cisco.
Last week I was pleased to be a guest on Digital Production BuZZ
, a talk radio show that highlights the latest trends, technologies, people, and practices in the digital production space. The hosts and I discussed one of Micro-Documentaries’ latest projects, a series of original content short films created for Cisco around the globe. We also explored Micro-Documentaries' obsession with innovation and how our unique approach enables us to consistently produce short films that are authentic, affordable, and actionable. Take a listen here:
Posted by Natasha Deganello Giraudie, CEO
After years of crossing paths with Lynne Twist, co-founder of the Pachamama Alliance
and best-selling author of "The Soul of Money
," I am very happy to be attending her Fundraising from the Heart
workshop in San Francisco on September 7th and 8th.
This woman is one of the best fundraisers I have ever seen. I have been inspired by watching her in action as she gracefully persuades thousands of people to pull out their checkbooks and give millions of dollars — and to feel so good about it in the process. She uses a powerful combination of storytelling and clear call-to-action that is beautiful to see.
Moving the heart and inspiring concrete action is what a successful micro-documentary does. I expect that she will have an interesting perspective on how short films can be even more persuasive. Let me know if you will join me at the workshop, as I would love to connect with you there. Or, if you can't attend but have questions you would like me to ask on your behalf, please add them to the comments here.
When I was studying journalism in graduate school, Pulitzer-prize-winning professor Dale Maharidge had us read a bunch of Tolstoy. Not his essays or journals, but his fully-fledged fiction. Interesting, don’t you find, for a journalism class?
I don't remember which novels we had to read or the details of the course, but I do remember the lesson, which mirrored our professor's journey:
You start off as a reporter writing daily news, inspired by the task of collecting the facts day in and day out. After a while, though, the pace gets to you and you want more time and space to develop the complexities of your stories. So you turn to a weekly or monthly magazine. And then soon enough you feel constrained there too, so you pursue the allure of books, where you can dive deeply and travel expansively across the pages. Until one day you tire of books as well, so you turn to novels, where you can be freed from the burden of the facts and just focus on the truth.
A couple of weekends ago, I thought of Tolstoy and Dale a lot at the cinema when I had the pleasure of experiencing the layers of truth expressed in The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
. The movie was produced by Participant Media
, which is well known for its successful documentary films like Inconvenient Truth, The Cove, and Waiting for Superman. But The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is a fictional film that tells the story of a group of British people who retire to India, where their visions of luxury and grandeur are shattered but their lives are reinvented and re-inspired in the process. It’s a lovely movie, full of warmth and quirkiness and deep insights into India, the challenges and beauty of aging, the humor in life's difficulties, and the richness of experiencing every moment fully. My favorite Marigold quote is the one that Participant chose for the trailer:
“Everything will be all right in the end. So if it’s not all right, then it is not yet the end.”
Like Dale and Tolstoy, Participant is showing us how truth can be told beyond the facts of documentary films. I have the greatest respect for the investment and commitment required to execute feature-length fiction successfully. However, even at the other end of the matrix, in our micro-documentary world, Marigold provides a good reminder that offering an authentic taste of the truth is a more successful approach than trying to pack in all possible facts into two little minutes.
Next up on my list of non-documentary work to watch from Participant: The Help
Our clients often shy away from sharing personal details in their short films. From their perspective, individual thoughts, feelings, and anecdotes are not relevant to the story they want to tell about their organizations, so they would prefer to leave the personal stuff out. It’s understandable but in our experience a major missed opportunity.
That’s because personal connections are one of the most powerful vehicles for conveying a story. When speakers share details about their lives, those details provide human insight into their backgrounds, inspirations, struggles, and successes. Even if the subject matter is foreign, those personal details are universally relatable and therefore draw the audience closer and make us more open to listening to a story.
They also make a short film more memorable and repeatable, as they give the audience stronger hooks and reinforce the notion that these are people with whom we can relate. Increasing the likeability of someone on screen almost always has a direct impact on the success of a short film. After all, all of us have only so much bandwidth for new information, stories, and causes to care about. We’re much more likely to share that bandwidth with someone we can relate to on a personal level.
For an example of how effective personal connections in short film can be, consider Apple. In making their business case to their most technical audience—app developers—they masterfully use personal connection as the vehicle to draw developers in. Here are 5 things you can learn from Apple’s films:
Short films are one of the most effective ways to grab media attention these days. The stories editors and journalists create, in turn, result in ever-wider distribution for the short film. That’s the kind of positive feedback loop we all want to be part of.
Becoming part of this cycle and grabbing the attention of your favorite magazines or online sites starts with the quality of your short films themselves. Let’s look at the success of ReadyForZero
's microdoc, which recently landed in Fast Company
magazine, for some key takeaways.
1) Get yourself out of the way
: One of the principles we use to evaluate the quality of a micro-documentary is to determine whether it leads to
the solution rather than leads with
the solution. Short films that lead with the solution often feel overly promotional. The reason for this is that they tend to put the audience on guard - what are they trying to sell me? What do they want to get me to do?
Instead, keep your featured solution for last and use it as an example to reinforce the education and inspiration you offer your audience. In ReadyForZero’s video, rather than lead with their product, they start with the widespread problem of debt in today’s society and how anyone, including the co-founder of the company, can get overwhelmed by the challenge of climbing out.
Sometimes people have a hard time appreciating the great differences between commercial and documentary approaches to video production.
Part of the difference stems from the historical need of the documentary filmmaker to adapt to the realities of working within limited budgets – budgets that simply wouldn’t work within a traditional commercial approach. Since much of the work done in the documentary domain has been labor of love, it has been a situation of “where there’s a will, there’s a way.” For example, it’s typical for documentary filmmakers to rise before dawn so they can film in beautiful early morning light, rather than set up huge lighting. They tend to focus on a well-crafted interview and capture people in their natural element in conversation rather than spend weeks developing scenes with scripts and storyboards.
You may recall Mark Plotkin’s book, Tales of a Shaman’s Apprentice
, where the Harvard ethnobotanist is surprised to learn how the Amazonian shaman, with no access to modern medicine, is able to diagnose diabetes. Simple. He tastes the urine of the patient for sweetness!
Luckily, we don’t have to go to these lengths, but we are often as perplexed as the shaman was by the complexity and cost of the approach that our commercial production cousins take to filmmaking.
Watch the “Making Of” video
of this 30-second commercial Mango spot
featuring Kate Moss to see what I mean.