8 Good Eats at #NABShow

Caesars Palace ADGreat food and Vegas go together. But if you’re attending #NABShow, as I am this week, you may want some finds beyond the big name restaurants on the strip. Here are some  of my favs. Please add more!

1. Lotus of Siam. Excellent, authentic, and seriously spicy–Thai cuisine. Try the spicy prawns or the sea bass in any of the three sauces–I’ve had the ginger sauce with mushrooms and it was divine.

2. Kaizon Fusion Roll. Asia fusion with interesting (and gigantic) sushi roll combinations in a low-key, hip bar atmosphere. Just across street from Hard Rock Casino, but not nearly as pricey as their famous sushi spot.

3. Lindo Michoacan. A local Mexican 3-restaurant chain well regarded, including by my local friend whose wife hails from Mexico.

4. Sen of Japan gets rave reviews and is more authentic Japanese, for purists.

5. Pamplemousse. Locals go here for special occasion, reasonably authentic French fare. Haven’t tried it myself, so give me your feedback.

6. Echo and Rig Pick out your cut of steak, then have it grilled up at the restaurant next door. Talk about “on-demand” dining!

7. Piero’s. A Las Vegas institution and close to the Convention Center where we’re all living for this conference. Dinner only.

8. The only Vegas eatery on the strip that makes my list is Beijing Noodle No.9 at Caesar’s. Try the Soup Dumplings–the soup is actually IN the dumplings, not the other way around!–and a bowl of Lanzhou noodle soup.

Amy DeLouise is a writer/producer/author speaking all week at NABShow–the National Association of Broadcasters convention–in Las Vegas. Her Post/Production World classes are listed here. Please stop by!

April 8, 2015 at 10:05 am Leave a comment

4 Things Movie Producers Know That Will Change Your Business

Lynda2AmyWhen my carpet installers failed to show yesterday due to a broken-down truck, I thought, “this would never happen on a movie.” That’s because our industry lives and breathes by what is a relatively new idea in other lines of work: “supply chain management.” This is defined on Wikipedia as “getting the right product into the right consumer’s hands in the right quantity at the right time.” Basically, ensuring everyone—employees and vendors—who have anything to do with your brand relationships has skin in the game and a reason to deliver high quality every time. Skip the MBA. Here are four things we do in video production that you can apply Right Now to making your business or nonprofit enterprise more successful.

1. Hire a Smart PA. Or Two. “Find a Way or Make One” was the motto of my high school, and is the guiding mantra for any PA (production assistant) in the video, TV or movie biz.  If my carpet installation was a movie, we would have instantly deployed a PA to the broken-truck-guy’s house to drive him to a U-Haul store and rent a truck for the day. Problem solved. Customer happy. I have deployed PA’s to buy a camera-friendly tie for a CEO’s on-camera appearance, to pick up replacements for gear that has failed, or to drive a client to the airport when her time is of the essence. Once, back when I was a PA, I figured out how to ship and install thousands of pounds of rubber matting on the bottom of the Washington Monument reflecting pool so Important Actors (aka Tom Hanks and Robin Wright) wouldn’t slip in a scene there. So make a small investment in a few young, smart, problem-solvers. People who can research, find answers, are unafraid to use the telephone, and know how to build personal relationships. Don’t worry if they don’t have specific skills for your enterprise–those can be learned on the job. The goal is to ensure your business can deliver on customer promises.

2. Invest in Creative Thinking. Problem-solving is all about looking at issues from a new perspective. There’s a lot of talk about why we need more training in STEM. That’s great. But science and math also need creative thinking to discover new inventions, new drugs, new ways to power cars or fly through space. Steven Hawking understood this when he suggested that we need to put smart people (well, actually he said brilliant people) together in inspiring and creative intellectual environments, where they can go do their best thinking. Again, in the movie biz, we work in teams of incredibly smart, creative, people, who all pull together to solve some interesting problems in pursuit of creating a compelling story.  Build teams who care about your brand story, and the brand stories of your customers. Give them the inspiration to do their best work. Give them the license to fail and try again.

3. Invest in Creative Spaces. Tech firms in Silicon Valley have forged their businesses on this model, and also led the way in building creative physical spaces to inspire collaboration and thinking. Now corporations and nonprofits are following suit. Here are some great examples. Production companies have always built creative spaces for their teams. Wall colors are less monotonous. Graphics suites have walls filled with inspiring designs. Employees and clients share meals during shooting breaks in the studio. Folks lounge on cushy chairs in a casual give-and-take environment while edits render. I think this is why so many of my clients like to come hang out with me during edit sessions. It’s a nice break from the Land of Grey Cubicles. But don’t be fooled by the fun stuff–I do a lot of my best writing work alone, in a room with a door.  Build a creative space for your creative thinkers. Use color. Use light. Create spaces that are both private and quiet (for brainstorming) and large and open (for group collaboration). Use chalkboard paint so people can draw what they think.

4. Focus on Outcomes. When people get stuck on process, it’s usually because they’re not focused on the final outcome. In movies, we have storyboards. They help guide our thinking, so everyone can visualize the outcome of a scene. That doesn’t mean we can’t rethink a camera set-up, or rework a sequence in the final edit. But it does give everyone a shared vision of the goal. Every business can build its own storyboards for What Success Looks Like on This Project. And because your team of creative thinkers are probably visual learners, that storyboard posted across your new, colorful walls, will inspire them to new heights.

Amy DeLouise is a video producer, writer, blogger, speaker and author, appearing soon at #NABShow. She is still waiting for her new carpet to be installed.

 

April 2, 2015 at 10:57 am Leave a comment

Hacking Video Interviews

LyndaAmyInterviewingCoupleYou’re on deadline and need a great sound bite from your boss for the new podcast. Or you’re building a long-form documentary and are interviewing an expert. Or you’ve got five minutes till broadcast and are trying to get a moment with a VIP. Whatever kind of interview you are producing can be made a little easier with a few simple techniques.

  1. Make Your Subject Comfortable. It seems obvious, but often the interviewer is distracted by the crew chatting, the room getting uncomfortably warm, and the fact that, oh, a Camera is Pointed at Their Head. New low-heat lights prevent sweating, thank goodness. But there are many other little touches to keep an interviewee comfortable: hide as much equipment as necessary (I use silks in larger spaces, or just put things away in cases or adjacent hallways in smaller ones); place water on a small table at arm’s reach; Smile when you ask questions (unless you’re on 60 Minutes). And–not for the faint of heart–consider interviewing the person while they are doing something (working, driving, walking), since most people don’t just sit still and talk. These little things will go a long way towards making your subject feel and speak more naturally on camera.
  2. Familiarize Yourself With Content. Again, it seems obvious. But I can’t tell you how many times I hear an interviewer ask a basic question that they should have researched in advance. The result is your subject now thinks you’re an idiot, and you aren’t going to get the story you really wanted. Oh, and stop looking at your notes! Memorize them. Focus on making eye contact.
  3. Find Out Your Subject’s Learning Style. With a few quick questions in your warm-up chit-chat, or by watching previous interview footage, you may be able to discern whether or not your interviewee is a visual, auditory or kinesthetic learner. Why does this matter? Because the way you ask questions to each should be slightly different, and the kinds of answers you will get will be much richer and more useful when you do. More on this in my Lynda course The Art of the Interview.
  4. Plan a Story Arc, Be Prepared for Something Else. Ideally, your interview will follow a narrative arc. Within this arc, you’ll be gently guiding your subject along the path of the central story for your video—the introduction, the central theme or challenge, and the conclusion. Along the way, there will be meanderings, of course. But if you map out the story – not just bullet points for questions–you’ll be that much closer to building a better final video.

If you’re attending NAB this year, I’ll be presenting an In-Depth Session with the talented Director of Photography and Producer Eduardo Angel on How to Capture Great Interviews.  We’ll cover equipment, lighting, camera position, as well as interview techniques. We hope to see you there!

 

March 23, 2015 at 8:23 am Leave a comment

Brain Chemical Connects Us to Human Stories

When we watch cSigning a Checkharacters on the screen, why do they make us laugh or cry? And why does one story make us want to support a charity or social cause? It turns out compelling human stories trigger a chemical response in our brains. Neuroscientist Dr. Paul Zak has been studying the neurochemical oxytocin for years, and learned that humans have a chemical response similar to animals when we find another human trust-worthy: a spike in our oxytocin makes us feel connected to another human being. Even when watching the human on a screen, this response is triggered—what Dr. Zak calls the golden rule response: “if you treat me well, in most cases my brain will synthesize oxytocin and this will motivate me to treat you well in return.”

Most recently, Dr. Zak conducted a study with several short films from St. Jude’s Hospital. When viewers connected with the characters in a short film about a father whose young son is dying of cancer, they had an increase in cortisol and oxytocin. That chemical boost ran parallel to feelings of empathy with the characters, which was increased when there was a strong “narrative arc”—a powerful dramatic rise and climax to the real people story line.

This doesn’t come as a big surprise to those of us working in nonprofit direct response and impact story-telling. We know that to get donors to give and communities to care, we have to tell powerful stories. We know that viewers must connect emotionally with our characters, just as they would with characters in a fiction film. We do this through not just their words and images, but through lighting techniques, music scoring and the pacing of our edits. But building empathy isn’t enough. We have to create a dramatic arc that builds to a climax. We have to create suspense around some kind of obstacle that the characters must overcome, whether it is in their past or present. And our viewers have to relate to that obstacle, even if it is not precisely the same for them.

This is why pre-interviewing potential characters is so essential for documentary-style stories based on real people. Before they go on camera, we need to understand what will be compelling, what will not be relatable, and what will build suspense for our viewers.  And now it turns out that what we’re also doing is triggering those chemical responses in the brain that will make our subjects and their story connect to the brains of our viewers.  In the case of nonprofit storytelling, we need those chemical responses to be strong, because we are usually looking for a response that extends to well after the video ends: we want a viewer to get involved in a cause, donate money, write to their elected officials, or change some previous behavior (stop smoking, lose weight, etc). So it turns out that all these years I thought I was an English major-turned-filmmaker, it turns out that I’m in the neuroscience business: triggering a brain response that helps people act on the golden rule, and do great things for others and the world.

Amy DeLouise is a director and producer who tells real people stories to help viewers connect with causes and take action.

March 3, 2015 at 2:53 pm Leave a comment

Is It Worth Putting JFK in Your Video?

Just about every week, a client asks me if we can use a famous person’s video clip or voice in one of their productions. The much talked-about “Come Back to the Sea” Carnival Cruise lines Superbowl Spot brings up yet again this topic much discussed among creative media-makers: what rights are involved, even for public domain archival materials?

So-called “rights of publicity” are often something to consider when you are using a person’s image or voice to endorse a product or brand. In an interview with PR Newswire, the Carnival spot’s Director Wally Pfister (Dark Knight, Inception) seemed to be saying that an implicit product sale wasn’t the point of the ad (“we aren’t just asking consumers to purchase a product or widget, but instead, we are hoping to move them to feel a certain way about cruising.”)  While the JFK’s “we are tied to the ocean” 1962 speech made to the Ambassador of Australia and delegation might be considered public domain because he made it while serving in public office,  the audio could be considered to fall under rights of publicity when it comes to promoting a cruise line. (Disclaimer: I’m not an attorney. I don’t play one on TV. And I have no personal knowledge of whether or not BBDO requested these rights from the Kennedy estate.)

As creative content producers–whether commercial ventures or nonprofit enterprises–we should always be wary about this issue of the rights of people to their own voices and images, even when they are deceased. A few relevant cases come to mind. Ford Motor Company used a “sound-alike” voice in a commercial and Bette Midler sued. The appellate court ruled in favor of Midler, saying that her voice was protected against unauthorized use. The ad agency who came up with the creative (Young & Rubicum) was also named in the suit. A similar situation occurred with the estate of Erol Flynn when a photo of him was used in car ad.

Well, these are famous Hollywood stars you might say. JFK was a public servant. True enough. But the family of Richard Nixon raised a big fuss with Disney over Oliver Stone’s movie “Nixon”. On the other side of the ledger, the makers of “Selma” completely avoided using the actual words of Martin Luther King in his famous speeches, presumably because of the highly litigious reputation of the King family when it comes to MLK rights of publicity. That’s really too bad, as a generation of film-goers might never read or hear the real speeches.

So it’s a dilemma, and one you can’t always determine with full clarity in advance. As media makers, we always need to be mindful about archival clips, why we choose them, and how to use them properly. That often means running creative ideas by attorneys (as if EP and client reviews aren’t enough!). Defending our creative choices in the courts isn’t really what we have in mind when we’re designing storyboards, so it does need to play into our thinking.

Amy DeLouise is not an attorney nor does she play one on TV. She is a creative producer and director, and speaks and writes about the issues faced by other creative types trying to earn a living making interesting content.

 

 

 

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February 2, 2015 at 2:19 pm Leave a comment

Brand Resolutions for the New Year

Sky at Sunset Who doesn’t want to polish up their brand for the New Year? Here are five issues and strategies to consider for your brand this year.

 1. Storytelling Still Matters. As more and more channels and platforms emerge, a compelling story remains the reason users/viewers stage engaged. Whether you are telling a story with info graphics, with photography, with words or with video, make the story Matter.

2. Beware of New Algorithms.   Gmail’s new message organization system is having a big impact on brands who drive customer and donor engagement through email campaigns (i.e. pretty much everyone). Be sure your writing and images (that will be pulled up in Highlights) help users decide your content is relevant to their lives.

2. Get Leadership Engaged in Social Media. Gone are the days when the intern writes your tweets. Customers and donors expect to a personalized experience with your brand’s leadership–whether that is blog posts, tweets or photos on Instagram.  Let the Thought Leaders in your institution–your C-Suite team and your Board leaders–have human personalities, and authentic voices.

3. Ask Movers and Shakers for Brand Mentions. The tweet is the modern equivalent of getting an autograph, but more useful for your brand. When one of my nonprofit clients gave a facility tour to Justin Bieber (and encouraged him to tweet about it, which he did), they got 10,000 new followers in a matter of hours. Find out if any key personalities, well-connected customers or donors might be willing to give your brand a shout-out.

4. Location-Based Content is Here to Stay. iHookupSocial.com and yikyak are the latest spawn of location-based apps. While their purpose is different than Foursquare, the motivation is the same–users want content that relates to where they are right at this moment. Think about how your brand can deliver this content in new ways for users–(re)think conference and events, sightseeing in a town, touring a college campus, and more.

Amy is a video content director/producer,  speaker and author who mainly cares about telling great stories.

January 13, 2015 at 5:22 pm Leave a comment

Rebrand U: 5 Ways to Revitalize Your Career

Amy DeLouise Workshop

Amy gives a workshop on personal branding.

Forget the gym, it’s time to put your personal brand in workout mode! As the     economy picks up steam, you might considering a career move. Or, the kids are grown and you’re getting back into the workforce. Or, you’re  ready for the next step in your current career track. Whatever the motivation, here are 5 things I found helpful–plus a few updates–when I repositioned my own brand a few years ago.

1. List Your Success Qualities. A resume is more than a boring list of skills. The personal qualities that make you good at what you do are what employers (and clients) look for even more. So whether or not you’re currently in a job you plan to keep on doing, think about what qualities allow you to succeed. Here are some examples: stick-to-it-iveness, loyalty, team-builder, team leader, calm under pressure, strategic thinker, behind-the-scenes organizer, detail person, etc. Put your list together, then define–on a piece of paper, even!–exactly how these qualities can apply to the new job or career path you’re interested in.

2. Develop Personal Examples. When I was an employer, I used the “STAR” method to seek out these qualities in prospective employees, asking them to give me examples of a challenging Situation, what Tasks they determined needed to be accomplished to resolve the situation, what specific Actions they took, and what was the Result or outcome of their actions. As a prospective employee, or someone looking to re-position, you’ll need to show how your qualities can help you–and your employer–succeed. Examples of past performance are a great way to demonstrate your value.

3. Practice a (New) Elevator Pitch. When people ask “what do you do?” make sure you incorporate what you Want to be Doing, not just what you currently do. So, you could answer “I’m a graphic designer specializing in animation, and I’m transitioning from corporate training to broadcast design.” OR “I’m the Executive Manager of a family of six, and I’m putting my organizational ninja skills to work as an educational administrator.” Even if you have not arrived yet, speaking about where you want to be is essential to the re-branding process.

4. Use Your Social Media Voice.  Maybe you have a lot of detailed knowledge about a field, so it’s time for a blog to better position yourself as an expert. Or a microblog on Twitter in which you curate other content in your field and post helpful links. Or you want to show off your new business venture, so you should be posting daily pics on Instagram, and reposting via Twitpic and on Facebook. Or create  Pinterest page.  The key to making your social voice heard is offering content and insights that others find helpful. Social media has leveled the playing field, giving every entrepreneur and employee the same platform as large corporate players and celebs. So use it!

5. Leverage Linked In. Despite being launched before Facebook, and despite new interface upgrades that have made it more user-friendly, Linked In seems like the forgotten step-sister of the social media world. And yet HR professionals say they turn to LI consistently when filling positions. So take some easy steps on this network: build your profile, ask for recommendations, connect to Groups (at a Minimum, your college alumni group and at least one or two industry groups–the one you’re in or the one you want to be in). You can also use the powerful Search tool to find people within your own network who work in the field you want to be in, or even in the very company you are interested in.

And, just because I have one coming up, here’s a bonus tip:

6. Attend Reunions. When people are out of work or re-positioning their careers, often the last thing they want to do is attend a reunion (where everyone asks “What do you do?”). But here is the perfect place to practice your New elevator pitch! And more importantly, reunions give you a place to listen to others about what they do or don’t like about their fields, what qualities make someone successful in that field. So raise a glass with your classmates, who can help you find your way.

The New Year is a time for great new opportunities, and for us all to re-invent ourselves a bit. Go out there and enjoy your personal re-brand. It’s time!

Amy DeLouise is a speaker, brand consultant and multimedia producer who has often had to re-invent herself.

January 4, 2015 at 6:15 pm Leave a comment

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About Amy

Amy is a strategist and digital storyteller who helps people connect with great brands--mostly nonprofit ones. She's a popular speaker, consultant, workshop leader and multimedia content producer. Find Amy at amy [at]amydelouise[dot]com. or join her on Twitter: @brandbuzz.

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