Supercharge Your Video Collaboration




  • by Patrick Moreau May 27, 2016
    May 27, 2016


    I remember my first major collaboration. It was for the end of our documentary, #standwithme. We made a short video that invited our community to shoot a sequence, then send it to us to be used in the feature. A little nervous, we tossed the request out into the universe and waited to see what might come back.


    The request was simple: write “#standwithme” however you want, and film a three shot—beginning, middle, and ending—sequence of you making your #standwithme.


    A few days later we had begun to receive footage from people in Singapore, Thailand, India, and all other corners of the earth. People we’d never met in person but who were obviously touched by the project, took the time to shoot a sequence and send it in. We had people baking, using candles—somebody shot underwater. It was all so incredibly inspiring and mind-blowing.


    Any time I watch that film, even now years later, the highlight for me is always the ending. I love it for what it represents: the incredible power of people coming together to work on something—the undeniable power of collaboration.



    Collaboration is magical, sure, but there are also ways you can make the most of these experiences. Over the years we’ve noticed three huge ways to supercharge collaborations and we’re excited to share these with you today.


    1. Invite unique perspectives.


    I’m sure we’ve all had the problems that, no matter what we do, we just can’t sort them out. Yet, someone else can come along and have the answer in seconds. Sometimes what we need most is a different perspective. We can often let our ego get in the way as we push to retain control so much that we don’t properly invite and hear other ideas. But the truth is that the best ideas come from a variety of perspectives coming together.


    If you want to get something different, you’ll need to do something different. Gathering a bunch of people with the same backgrounds, paradigms, and blind spots into one room may feel good because they’d all agree and backup your ideas, but you’re rather unlikely to truly innovate.


    If you want to supercharge your collaboration, actively invite people who see things in a different way.


    Charles Darwin, often considered one of the greatest thinkers of all time, attributed much of his success to a simple practice. Darwin sought out evidence that was contradictory to his firmly held beliefs. Why? Because our perception is guided by our expectations or, said another way, we often see what we want to see. And when we look in the opposite direction can we really broaden our own perspective and deepen our understanding.



    “Pay special attention to the verifiable evidence that contradicts one of your firmly held beliefs.” –Chris Darwin, great-great grandson


    It may surprise some of you to hear that we have very few folks on our team who have formal training in filmmaking. Instead we have engineers, anthropologists, psychologists, and theatre and international development majors—all kinds of totally unique perspectives that can come into a room and offer something totally different.



    Two people, standing in a different place, can see the exact same thing in a totally different way. That’s what our background, our upbringing, our personal context gives us. The illustration below expresses this beautifully.


    If I was standing on the left-hand side I’d see the shape as a circle. Yet, if I stood on the right I would see the exact same shape as a square. Who is right? Well, we both are. And it’s only with multiple perspectives that we come to a deeper understanding of reality.


    Put ten people in the room right next to you and you’ll all see a square. Not only that, you’ll no doubt become overly confident that you’re right because if everybody sees the same thing, it has to be correct, right?


    2. Align your purpose.


    Where most of us fail, whether it be challenges within our team or with a client, is with what we call the Purpose Paradox.


    We know that the client has a goal in mind. After all, that’s why they hired us. And we have a good impression of that goal and how we’ll achieve it. We often assume that because we are all working on this project together that our goals are far more aligned than they often are.


    The goal often includes the action you want people to take and how you want your content to make people feel. If you don’t take the time to clearly define this, you could likely ask 5 different team members and get 5 different answers.


    We suggest creating 5 Keywords as a way to define the purpose for any project. These words become the tangible, living, breathing version of your purpose. You can then use them to help focus all of your decisions.


    Every film we do starts with us listening, learning as much as we can from multiple perspectives, and then developing these 5 Keywords. The keywords serve to get both our team and the client on board before we develop any additional creative, any concepts are thrown out, or any other steps are taken. Why? Because we need to make sure we’re after the same thing before we develop plans on how to get there!


    Because this method works so well we have keywords for both Muse and Stillmotion. These help us define our culture and make solid business decisions with our larger purpose in mind. We also have keywords for projects, such as our original web series The Remarkable Ones, which help us choose appropriate characters and define the broader tone of the series.



    Our 5 Keywords for The Remarkable Ones:


    One: Each episode features one story of one remarkable person, on one journey, and one incredible insight. Each character, and his insight, are truly remarkable.


    Intimate: Filmed and told in a very authentic, personal, and real way. Feels like we are being let inside—really getting to know these people and their realities.


    Perspective: The stories heavily focus on the perspective of the main character and through that character we are left with a different way of seeing. His unique perspective helps shape ours.


    Inspiring: The stories are positive and uplifting in nature. They make you excited to explore the world and live life.


    Global: The collection of stories is global in scope and nature. The range of people, their ideas, and the ideas shared are not confined to a specific area, culture, or cause.


    I’ll tell you this—when you take the time to develop these 5 Keywords and get your clients on board, the amount of misalignment, frustration, and change requests drop dramatically.


    Supercharge your collaboration by defining your purpose early on. Your whole team can contribute ideas for how to best help deliver on defined purpose.


    3. Define your process.


    The Harvard Business Review has a fantastic article about the five stages of growth that small businesses experience.


    As companies move through the five stages: Existence, Survival, Success, Take-off, and Resource Maturity there is something essential that needs to grow as well–the systems and processes. When you’re young and small as a business sometimes things get done haphazardly but still manage to get the job done.


    But as you grow and want to scale, developing proper systems that work for you is critical. It’s easy to think about that when it comes to the administrative side, things like accounting would be—and are—a nightmare without a clear process for everybody to follow.


    The reality is that we’re often so busy working in the business that we don’t take adequate time to work on the business. A major causality of this is the failure to develop strong processes. Yet how people develop their creative is a huge blind spot for most.


    Just because it’s creative and ambiguous doesn’t mean that we can’t wrap it in a process. In fact, constraints are proven to increase creativity. And that’s what a process will do for you: it will add constraints so that everybody is looking for the same thing at the same time. Once that’s done, everybody moves on to the next step.


    Imagine you’re sitting with your team and client in a room, and you have no creative process. You’d have people throwing out just about everything imaginable.


    “Why don’t we interview the CEO?”
    “Hey, could we shoot in the warehouse? It looks cool.”
    “Are we using that fancy RED camera? I read that it’s really awesome.”


    To make matters worse, if you don’t have a clearly defined purpose that everyone is in alignment on, you really have no way to sort through all of these choices effectively. Sure you can puff out your chest, sit higher in your chair, and speak louder, but that’s surely not a long-term strategy for delivering exceptional work.


    But now put yourself in that room with a clearly defined purpose that you’re all in alignment on, as well as a process so everybody knows what is happening next and where to focus.


    Those same random questions are handled with ease.


    “Why don’t we interview the CEO?”
    “We’ll certainly look at him as a character and if he’s strong enough, and fits the keywords, then he’ll be considered.”


    “Hey, could we shoot in the warehouse? It looks cool.”
    “Right now we’re focused on the characters in our story. They’re critical for emotional connection, so we have to choose them first, then build the story around them. That’s when we can look at locations. So let’s come back to that at the right time.”


    “Are we using that fancy RED camera? I read that it’s really awesome.”
    “Let’s look at our keywords and see if that style and look is relevant to what we’re trying to achieve.”


    This scenario is much smoother. Best of all, you’re no longer a tripod being asked to do things you don’t really want to do, asked to do things that you don’t really understand the point of, or asked to do things just because somebody thought it was a good idea.


    Rather than divergent collaboration where ideas crisscross all at once, the team and clients can all focus on the same stage, with people adding their unique perspectives.


    Now we’re certainly biased, but we’ve spent a great deal of time digging into storytelling. We’ve researched how we as humans connect and from this we’ve built a process to empower other creatives. You can certainly build your own, or you can look at our years of research and actionable framework to see if it works for you. Some months back, published an article about the 4 Pillars of story and that’s what our process, Muse, is based on.


    If you want to supercharge your collaboration, we’ve got a really nifty tool that’s hit the public (and it’s a perfect complement to Wipster). We call it the Muse Storybuilder, and it’s storytelling software that leverages the Muse process to help you add your story elements, connect them together, and build out a story structure that is both moving and intentional.



    The software has story insights throughout, subtle suggestions and notes to help you make your stories stronger, but what this process inside software also unlocks is incredible efficiency. You’ve all got the same process, you’re looking at the same pieces, and you can build the story together.


    Don’t make the mistake of thinking that means that all stories built with Storybuilder are the same. Far from it. It’s simply a framework for organizing your story elements that helps you be more creative, connected, and efficient.


    And hey, you can invite creatives from around the world to collaborate on your story with just the click of a button. We’ve even got a handy tool where you can define your keywords for a project and they’ll populate throughout your story.

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