Your “Documentary Style” video is just a long, boring commercial.


No offense.

In fact I am just as guilty as the next producer for having put that idea in client’s heads; that audiences want to watch a 7 minute commercial.

But I’m here to make amends. And I’m not suggesting that content that feels like short documentaries won’t be enjoyed and shared and endear fans to brands… I’m just saying that it probably shouldn’t suck. Therein lies the rub.

The internet is conspiring right now to bore the shit out of people. There is a fundamental misunderstanding about what a “Documentary” is. For the purposes of this article let me unequivocally state:

“If strangers wouldn’t want to watch the whole thing AND if at least 5% of them wouldn’t share it; it’s either boring OR a long-assed commercial and not a short documentary.”

The following is a collection of “Red Flags” that should make alarm bells ring in your head if a producer is selling you on unscripted content:

1.When you ask the producer who is directing and she/he says “I am.”

It’s a bit like asking a car salesman who built the car and he/she say’s “I did.” There is nothing that will 100% ensure that you or your client’s video will be great. But chances are if there isn’t a good (or any) director attached, it’s going to suck.

2.If their other videos suck.

I understand that this is subjective. But if their portfolio didn’t make you smile, get misty, consider sharing it etc., then it’s not very good.

3.If you are driving the creative.

I’m not saying that you, as an account exec. or brand manager or decider person isn’t qualified to have good taste; I’m just saying that people are not generally amazing at lots of things. If you aren’t a filmmaker, just trust that it’s a thing, and it’s complicated.

4.If lots of focus is being placed on the gear and not the story.

If you hear the line “We’re gonna shoot it on REDs” more than twice… If “how to use the drones” is being discussed before a shot-list is in place… If you are dealing with a DP/Director… Hashtag Redflag.

These are, by no means, always true -OR- a comprehensive list of watchouts. Just something to keep in mind before you start signing contracts and putting your clients on the hook for a long, boring commercial that nobody wants to watch.

In fact, consider doing a Branded Content project instead. It allows really talented filmmakers to create stuff they are passionate about and then let brands take the credit for. It’s a pretty groovy model.

this guy.