Let us take you where you might otherwise never go

This article is, simply, about how grateful I am to have a film-maker on my team at the Museum of the City of New York, and might be helpful if you are considering investing in this skill set in-house too.

When I first started at the museum, I got involved in strategic planning sessions with the executive team, as the digital representative. We were almost starting from scratch when it came to digital in-house — apart from one woman of steel who had been building digital marketing capacity all on her lonesome for the previous year or so. She had so much on her plate, it’s a testament to her that she didn’t crumble under the weight of it all.

I felt it was important to at least have some basic skill sets covered in-house, so that strategy and creative ideation, along with management of relationships with the many external consultants, could be covered by internal staffers. Video production was one key area where we all felt it would be beneficial to have someone available in-house.

The museum had commissioned video before, for exhibitions and special events coverage, and could have continued to do so. But a key benefit of having a video producer on the museum team is spontaneity, and flexibility. Sometimes opportunities arise in a moment, and you want to capture them, even if it ends up being b-roll for another shoot. Some projects just seem too small to make it worth all the effort of scheduling, contracting and raising a purchase order for freelance services. Another benefit: our in-house film-maker has set up a house style and guidelines for video, bringing a consistency and polish to our videos that was a little missing when we were working with so many outside producers.

One of our first forays into doing some scrappy ( I don’t mean that in a negative sense, I mean it in a let’s be nimble and not strive for perfection sense) shoots around the museum was with our fabulous curator of costumes, Phyllis. We followed her into the basement, where she slides out a series of historically significant dresses that were part of a digitization project taking place at the time. It’s an opportunity for anyone to gaze into the nether regions of the museum, the place where only select staffers get to go. And to meet a curator, and hear her stories.

We also produced a series of very simple time lapses that show the effort of dressing a mannequin in different costumes.

These pieces were quick and simple to produce, in comparison to some of the more involved pieces that we work on that end up in the gallery or online. Despite that, we saw engagement around them on social in ways that our image and text based updates can’t compete with. This wasn’t a surprise to anyone in the digital marketing/social team, but seeing these posts do so well, with so many more shares, likes and comments, really justified the decision to invest in video in-house, so we can bring these moments to our fans, and keep them in the loop on interesting things that happen everyday at the museum.

The Dressing Room project that spurred on these videos wasn’t really an exhibition but an open photo shoot set that visitors were invited to walk into, and ask questions of staff as they worked to document and digitize the garments. Judging on the comments in the videos on Facebook and Instagram, it seems very likely that video helped to drive visitation to the museum, specifically to see the dresses, and I love it when the smaller things we do are capable of generating just as much interest as some of the bigger productions.


See also DNAInfo’s coverage of the Dressing Room project, (which was also initiated because an editor friend of mine saw the video on my Facebook feed and assigned a journalist to the story — serendipity, video and social, it’s a beautiful thing).