Developing and planning your video project

THIS IS A ROUGH DRAFT, please send me your comments.

There are many approaches to developing your idea and planning how you will produce your video project. Going through the process of producing a brief project plan offers you a means to think through your project, especially in terms of the process you will undertake to bring the project to completion. You don’t want to overdo it, a good project plan for a short video could very well fit on one or two pages.

Your first step when embarking upon any video project should be to answer some or all of the key questions listed below. Before addressing details like selecting locations, choosing a style, etc. the answers to these questions will make it easier to make sure the project achieves your creative goals. They will also help you maintain focus during the project’s development, during which you refine the story (or concept with an experimental work) and approach, as well as during production (shooting) and post-production (editing). This should not be taught of as a linear process, often you’ll shoot, edit, reflect on your rough assembly, and then go back and do additional shooting that will help you get to a better rough cut.

  • What do you want the video to accomplish?
  • Depending on your genre, style, and approach, you’ll want to answer one or more of the following questions:
    • For an experimental work, what is the idea that is driving your work? Are you exploring just an idea or the nature of the medium itself?
    • For an advocacy piece, what action would you like the audience to take after watching your video (i.e. respond to a specific call to action, seek out more information about the topic, better understand a personal experience, increase their empathy towards a character, etc.)
    • For a documentary work, who is your subject, and what’s the story you want to tell?
    • For a work of fiction, what’s your theme and how will the story convey it?
  • Who is the primary audience for this video (be very specific)?
  • What is your deadline for completion?
  • What resources are required (locations, collaborators, props, equipment, etc.)?

Having a good understanding of the answers will enable you to plan more efficiently in order to meet your project deadline and you’ll also be happier with the work when it’s done. It is important to realize that there is no typical or pro forma project plan or timeline. Every project takes longer than you’d like it to, however, planning gives you a better shot at producing quality work. Here’s are a dozen components that could be in your project plan:

  1. Initial research, this may include any combination of articles, visual research, observation, interviews, writing, etc.
  2. Develop your theme, what’s the essential question or theory about the world you are exploring in your work?
  3. Identify on your primary audience (who are you in conversation with?)
  4. Refine your concept, for narrative and documentary works this includes developing a premise and short treatment, for experimental works this might consist of writing down a list of images or impressions or writing down idea fragments, etc.
  5. Decide on the scope of the work, decide what can or cannot be included, as what must and must not be present in the final video
  6. Decide on your creative approach, in other words, how do you expect the audience to perceive your  guiding concept /or/ theory of the world /or/ moral lesson of your video?
  7. Be clear about what your collaborators are expected to contribute to the project, and your role vis-a-vis their role
  8. Determine the time needed to complete the work (often in the form of a schedule)
  9. Outline the resources needed (often in the form of a budget and equipment list)
  10. Determine how and where you will show the video and to what platforms and identify the shelf life of the project, along with launch and target dates.
  11. Collect feedback along the way, how and when will you collect responses from an audience prior to your final release?
  12. Include plans for outreach if you are making an advocacy piece.

These will get you to a reasonable draft of your project plan. A decent plan is an essential tools for a successful project. Consider this an iterative process of sketching, too much planning is counterproductive, since iteration should be part of your process, therefore, the project plan is but a launching pad for your creative trajectory. The project plan summarizes in one place your goals for the project along with your research findings. It is not a dry blueprint, think of it more as guidelines to kick-start your creative work, rather than a plan that will constrain it.

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