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Look at my photo.  How many stories can you see?  Do you look at the bomb or the couple?  Do you look at the ruined houses or the potholed road?  Do you wonder why the man looks back but the women looks forward, unconcerned?

Do you wonder why we are engaged by the visual image?  What is going on deep, deep inside our brains – what emotions are being triggered that stimulates? The creation of mood, emphasis, emotion, knowledge.  That is what the visual image does.

And I think business is missing a trick.  Can it communicate better?  I have been behind a camera filming documentaries across the globe for over 30 years – the power of the visual image to communicate is unrivalled.

How we communicate as human beings – at home, down the pub, listening to our loved ones – we have been using communication like this for millions of years – and yet we have tended to base all our communication relationships within business via the written word alone.

It’s time for business to harness the skills the broadcast industry have been using for decades.

So what is your return on investment?  Video content increases client lead generation and provides a high level of engagement to staff and shareholders.

By unleashing your imagination the camera can tell your story, engaging the viewer with a message, an atmosphere, and an intimacy that can at least complement, or, by seeing the ‘whites of the eyes’ on a screen in front of you, can even replace the effectiveness of the written word.

Interested? Then you have come to the right website. Skills2Film is run by myself, Jeremy Humphries, and other practising broadcast professionals. Look at my photo above, I have not only been there and done it – as a BBC trained Director of Photography – I am still doing so. Look through our website, see how with video content consultancy, training and production we can help you communicate to staff, client and shareholders a story.

Your story.

 

THE VISUAL IMAGE: MORE POWERFUL THAN A 100 OR 1000 WORDS?  published in Institute of Directors, Director magazine

Imagine if you could communicate with a tool more productive than the written word?

Where your staff could watch, learn and communicate with colleagues in the next office, next building or your regional HQ half way across the globe.  Imagine if you could train with this device, a training device so effective that you could literally throw out the whiteboard!  Want to know what it is?  Well you might already own one – and if I say your kids may well be using one then perhaps it’s time to catch up!

I am a cameraman, trainer  and consultant.  With my background as a BBC documentary cameraman, I know what a powerful message a camera can provide.  The visual image: more powerful than a 100 or 1000 emails?  Video production communicates to a massive audience, it supplies knowledge and information, it documents, entertains even, informs – and used professionally the power of the visual message is limited only by your imagination. And with the public, (let’s face it they can make movies now with their own smart phones,) and your kids using cameras, it’s now time, aided by a few broadcast skills, that the business sector harnesses and benefits from an opportunity that is more relevant now than ever.

I know of a company in the UK that has offices within just a few square miles of each other. A couple of their staff, who were always keen to have a go at making movies, (I dare you not to have a few of those in your own team,) now shoot a weekly news story streamed out via the company intranet.  The directive from above was for colleagues to know what every department was doing.  The two employees have been so successful that they put their video content now onto the company’s own YouTube Channel – it is not just your employees who will benefit: you can take your message to the customer base too.  I know of another company that has filmed its entire product range and demonstrated on video how it assembles, fits together and works – no more diagrams that nobody can understand!  Another company, instead of getting staff into a classroom for training via the flipchart, instead uses video content – their own employees making films about themselves.  They shoot in documentary fashion, about the job they do, the issues and how they deal with them, they speak from the heart – to the camera.  How much more effective is that?  The films are watched by employees all over the world wherever they are – because they can watch on their smartphone, tablet or laptop!  And don’t forget you and your staff get something intrinsic out of producing this material in the first place – the very fact that all this creativity is buzzing around has a huge empowering and cohesive effect on the general well-being and productivity of staff – your staff.

Using our eyes to watch another human face – and all the emotions it can portray  – is a primeval form of communication buried deep in our brains.  I would argue that the professional use of video content complements the use of the written word and can add deeper dimensions of emphasis and engagement.  Now, with multiplatform potential, where video content viewed anytime and anyplace are the norm, we need to use the same visual methods that have been traditional in the broadcast industry for decades, to promote our company and business to the workforce, shareholder and customer.  I can vouch for the camera being an incredibly, powerful communication tool – harness its potential, use your team’s imagination and see what it can do for you.

 

THE DAY I STOOD IN LENIN’S BATH  published in Travellers Tales

Vladimir Lenin’s bath looked very clean. I can testify for this because not only was my reflection clear in the 80 year old chrome taps, but my tentative and warm sock clad feet were beginning to dull the gleaming porcelain tub.

Now before an outcry of desecration or opportunist holiday snaps let me explain.

We were in Russia to make a film on Stalin for the BBC and had been filming drama sequences in Lenin’s dacha, twenty or so miles south of Moscow. Access so far had been superb. As well as a Cameraman I am, alas, a bit of a history buff. The whereabouts of the dacha for years would have been kept secret from your average Russian.  Now I found myself with a British producer and Russian crew standing in a museum to Revolutionaries. A heavily worn leather sofa as sat on by Stalin, the aged material torn and fading.  Lenin’s desk, left as it was in a photo of him reading a copy of Pravda.  Behind are row after row of books in both Russian and English on topics as varied as Marx to the history of the British trade union. Letters written by Stalin held, nervously, in our hands. Their colour an ageing brown, their smell of decay lingering on your fingers. Across the corridor, Lenin’s old wheelchair waits under a staircase. A handrail on the stairs, fitted to help the ailing man up to his bedroom, is tapered and worn at the end where a hand has grasped a thousand times.  Amongst all of this, is a Russian curator with very acceptable English, who did not mind where we walked, sat or looked. A history buff’s paradise.

Back to the hotel in Moscow and you move forward a thousand years. Not that getting there has changed that much. Through the permafrost on our minibus windows silhouettes of figures, shuffling and stamping in the frozen, dreary December light, wait patiently for an eventual bus. The capital has changed beyond recognition. Since I was last here, Muscovites seem to have found a new confidence. It is not just the smart boutiques and designer label shops that have sprung up, but also restaurants everywhere.  In the early eighties, there were no more than a dozen restaurants (and I use the word loosely) in Moscow, all state run and most offering dubious food.  Now  you can taste food from all parts of the Old Russian Empire (best not to ask for Chechen though!) and all for non-exorbitant prices.

The hotels too are changing. Ours with a spectacular breakfast view of the Kremlin had rooms which you could have woken up in anywhere in the world.  Okay, so there were a thousand rooms, and I know that some rooms are still as they were when Stalin lived across the road, but they are becoming more rare.  The mean looking, hunched and terror-inducing babushkas (a Russian woman of a certain age whose prime job always seemed to be to sit at the end of every hotel corridor glowering at each guest) have gone and instead replaced by small bars offering freshly cooked and piping hot borsch washed down with copious amounts of Russian beer.  Some things are forever the same though.  The phone still rings in your room and a voice in rather good English offers you a pretty woman just as soon as the security man by the lift can be bribed. Before I have politely declined the offer, the telephone at the other end is slammed down with a shudder that in the old days would have made the tape machines bugging your phone jump.

Dressing before going out into minus 25 degrees needs some planning. First, your thermals, followed by a pair of salopettes, then on top goes a good thick rugby shirt, a pair of cord trousers, three fleeces (yes three) and two pairs of socks.  Having got this far and hopefully having remembered to use the loo first on go the tubes – totally and utterly essential.  These are thick scarf like, circular, brightly coloured bits of material – one goes around your neck and the other up over the ears and on top of your head.  A pair of Arctic boots is next, these are invaluable but cause much merriment as you walk through reception, then a rabbit fur hat (again ignore laughter), two pairs of gloves and you are ready to head out! If you did not sweat whilst walking inside the excessively heated hotel, the somewhat harsh temperature drop can actually seem rather pleasant – briefly that is.

We are lucky. Back at Lenin’s dacha, we do not have too much to shoot outside. Inside, fortunately for us, the old Communists knew how to heat their country retreats well. My colleagues and I visibly shrink in size as the outdoor garb comes off.

Our friendly curator smiles ironically when our actor playing Stalin, an uncanny look alike to the man himself, lies convincingly infirm on the floor. She is more than happy too when Lenin’s look alike fades away in the old man’s real bedroom. If this was not all surreal enough, the whole crew laugh and joke when to get the best angle for a shot, yes, I end up having to stand in Lenin’s bath! I am aware that poor, dutiful Russians used to stand for hours outside the revolutionary leader’s mausoleum waiting to glimpse Lenin’s embalmed corpse. Yet here I am, a Westerner, being granted the greatest of liberties. How many Russians can claim to have done this, I wonder.  Then, discreetly sensing the history around me, I hop out, quickly replace the thermal boots and check that the curator is still smiling.