A professional video director is always necessary – no matter your budget. Here’s why.
The temptation to direct your corporate video can be overwhelming. You’re a marketing professional, after all: the custodian of your brand’s image. Why entrust it to anyone else? And besides, who doesn’t want to be the sunglass-wearing, order-barking, snack-munching visionary?
But there’s so much more to taking charge of a production than eating sandwiches and yelling ‘CUT!’ at anybody within earshot – unfortunately. There’s also a lot more to it than the vision (important though it definitely is).
Because being a director is ultimately about responsibility, accountability, and control – and most people who assume the role without prior experience only factor in the latter.
You direct it, you buy it
A director can’t just think about any one component of the production in isolation. If the script is badly written, it’s their fault. If the actors are bad, it’s their fault. If the editing is choppy, you guessed it – their fault.
Accordingly, being a director is about making decisions, doing everything to ensure that they don’t backfire, and trying to mitigate the damage when they do. If you assume this role, then you need to direct any and all complaints about the finished product to yourself. Directors therefore make their decisions carefully, and with no small degree of consideration, which is why experience is so critical.
If they’ve decided to shoot from a specific angle, it’s likely because they know that that angle is visually consistent with the rest of the scene and the video’s visual palette. If they choose to exclude a specific line from the script, it’s likely because it clashes with the script’s tone of voice. If they’re not including a certain sequence, it’s likely because it will make the video overlong or otherwise mess with the pacing.
And if any of these decisions backfire, it’s always on them.
Directors don’t simply look at any one thing. To deliver a great video, they need to see how it fits into the broader context of the production – and think about how it can be delivered. They can’t just conjure an idea and make it so: they have to marshal money, equipment, and people. Any failure, big or small, is their failure. It’s a tough job.
The little things count
And the small problems can have more impact than you might think. The big-picture creative stuff – the stuff that makes the job of director seem so appealing and romantic – is often subordinate to simply keeping the production firmly on track.
A director needs to understand how two different cameras – even ones in a similar quality band, like the Arri Alexa and the Red Epic Dragon – will produce two subtly different videos. When filming VR, they need to position cameras, actors, and extras in such a way that any images recorded can be stitched together seamlessly. When animating, they need to make sure that the voice actor uses the correct intonation when delivering their lines.
This takes training, experience, and skill. It’s like building a house: you wouldn’t try to design it, organise it, source the materials, and hire a construction crew on your own. You’d need a site manager. If it falls down and collapses around your ears, Buster Keaton-style you’d know who to hold accountable for it.
Directors must be part manager, designer, writer, artist, cinematographer, camera operator, and shepherd – amongst other things. At TopLine, they’re inevitably marketers, too. They play a big role on set, to be sure, but they also brief scriptwriters and animators, hire crew, and spend an ungodly amount of time in the edit suite.
The buck always stops with them. When the scriptwriter, editor, or camera operator makes a mistake, and that mistake finds its way into the finished product, the director is ultimately responsible for it. If you assume their duties, you (not the production company) also assume their responsibilities, and if the final product isn’t what you want, it’ll be up to you to fix it.
Basically, the director’s chair looks comfortable until you have to sit in it. To take charge of a production is to live or die by your own choices – and that’s why those choices are best left to professionals. We wouldn’t wish directing on anyone other than directors.