Thanking donors through video has become increasingly popular. Too bad this effort from my alma mater falls flat. Here are 4 ways to improve this student “thank you” from Yale. You can easily incorporate these strategies in your next video project.
1. Authenticity. If the purpose of the video is to make donors smile, then it’s a fail. That’s because the students have obviously been asked to “look at the camera and say ‘thank you’.” We feel their awkwardness. Even throwing in the mascot dog doesn’t help. There’s a much better way to coax great performances out of non-performers. Have some conversations before you start filming. Don’t tell them exactly what to say. Give them context. Ask them some other questions first. Ask questions that elicit the answer you need (“what would you tell a donor who made it possible for you to have heat in your dorm this winter?) rather than asking the subject “when I say go, say thank you”.
For more interview techniques, see my course on Lynda.com (The Art of the Interview). Here’s a snippet about building rapport.
2.Depth of Field. Every shot has students plastered against the same stone wall. What a missed opportunity to show off the campus and the students in their “natural habitat”! Lenses aren’t just fancy add-ons. They are vital storytelling tools. By adding context in the background of a subject, you convey meaning and increase impact on the viewer.
3. Energy. Adding motion to the camera, and multiple camera angles, makes a HUGE difference in the energy and impact of a video. Who knows why the Yale videographer felt he or she couldn’t move from that one spot. But one easy way to add energy would be following some of the subjects down the walkway (which would automatically create depth of field as we’d see action in the background). I love having subjects talk while walking (or driving). Having different students pop up in a variety of places–the library, from behind a tree, from inside a classroom–would have added all kinds of energy to this piece. Plus alumns would have had a fun walk down memory lane seeing all these locations. In this video about a Rabbi, we shot him walking, driving, leading prayer, on the telephone—all things he does in his very busy days.
4. Music. Music has a big impact on the impression your video makes. It affects edit pacing and rhythm. While the laid-back guitar vibe of the Yale piece is nice for a Friday afternoon Frisbee game, it doesn’t convey the dynamism of student life. A catching music theme–and more variety in camera angles– leads to (millions!) more views of this flash mob video from Ohio State (though I’m guessing they didn’t get music licensing rights for the song)
So before you launch into a “quick” video for any purpose, think about how you can use these 4 simple tools to add impact.
Amy DeLouise is a producer and consultant who has created hundreds of videos for fundraising and education.