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Making Movies Part Two

United Kingdom
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Original Post

Last week I wrote about making movies. We'd shot the 404: Law Not Found Kickstarter video and I'd posted it to various corners of the internet, all of the feedback said that the video was great and that the job was done. I rushed to the blog to give myself a pat on the back and talk about all of the things I'd learned.

Then, suddenly and without warning: America! I went to bed feeling great about the video, but when I awoke in the morning the time zones had caught up and I saw reactions from across the pond. What was "Speaking a little quickly" to a local audience became "Speaking incomprehensibly" to an international one. I'd only grabbed local feedback from people who were accustomed (broadly) to an accent like mine, I had no idea how much of a barrier could become. Obviously the video needed to be reshot.

Take two went down pretty well with the international audience; apparently it came across as sincere and intelligent. That suited me well, since I try to be both of those things, though I chuckled a little bit at the notion that my genuine excitement is too fast to be comprehensible but if I suppress my natural response the result comes across as sincere. Unfortunately the local audience didn't react so well, slowing down my speech pattern so much and enunciating very clearly made me come across as either condescending or deeply sarcastic.

In accordance with Shakespeare and Goldilocks, the third Kickstarter video and it was just right. I've had generally positive reactions to it in most places and am personally pretty satisfied, I think that it's worked out exceptionally well. So what would I add to my existing points about making Kickstarter videos? Since it appears to be number of the day, I'd say that we made three changes that were effective in improving things.

The first change was to my speech patterns. Slowing down 10-20% made me comprehensible to folks who aren't used to the Midlands dialect without making it sound like I'd suffered some sort of blunt force trauma to people who were. I figure that whoever you are, you'll have a local accent that gets less comprehensible the further people live from you. If you're interested in more than a local audience then slow down a smidge.

The second was to the script. We knew that talking more slowly would make the video longer and it was already pushing the limits of people's patience at 3:05 so we wanted to axe some things. Our approach was brutal, we went through line by line, word by word asking "Does this line add anything significant?" and "Can this be put more succinctly?" About a third of the script just fell away on a first pass and on the second we managed to cut it down to about half of its original length. The video is now 1:53 despite me talking more slowly, this seems like a much friendlier length. If I made another one I would definitely be more brutal in cutting the script before we got started. Combined with our fairly adaptive approach I might end up trying to cut it a few words each take until we wound up with something perfect, but that's not for everyone.

The third was to change to a clip on mic, I'd read advice before that these are an absolute "must have" item for recording this sort of video. Foolishly I ignored this advice on the first shooting, so let me add my voice to the others who've commented on this issue: Get the damn mic! A camera mic just isn't up to doing the job if you live anywhere other than a featureless white plain.

In a little under five hours I'll launch the Kickstarter campaign for 404: Law Not Found. Undoubtedly I'll discover new problems with the video (and every other element of the campaign) once the internet is free to attack it, so I guess you can look forward to a part three sometime Wish me luck!
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