Sometimes it’s not the destination that’s important, but the act of traveling.

I started making moving images when I was a junior in high school. In those days, film was the cheapest and most accessible medium to make moving images. But, by todays standards, it was expensive and inconvenient. Two and a half minutes of film costs about $10 (film processing included), or about four dollars per minute. Today, we can buy a two-hour VHS tape for two bucks, which comes to less than two cents a minute. Editing film was tedious because I literally had to cut the film and glue it back together to make a splice. And using a projector to show my finished films to people was inconvenient.

It’s easy to take video’s accessibility for granted. Lots of people can see the videos we make by just popping a tape into a VCR–after all, over 80% of Americans own one. But back in the heyday of home filmmaking, very few people had a film projector. So I had to show my films with my own projector. Preparing for the presentation was an ordeal. I had to aim the projector, focus it, thread the film through it and, finally, darken the room.


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But it was the making of the film that made it worthwhile. When making films, I would practice "the total lack of preparation" method. This production method, as I look back today, seems unique. The best way to describe it is "impromptu." Wed just go out and make a film. (I would always do this with a partner.) The process began with getting the camera out. This helped our motivation and mental focus. Looking at and touching the gear was an important beginning point.

The next step involved brainstorming, where each of us would blurt out an idea. Once announced, wed consider the ramifications. Do we have enough time? (Wed tend to devote less than one day to shooting). Do we have the props, and a suitable location? (This was brainstorming while scouting.)

Once we settled on a plot, wed work on the script while traveling to the first location. Occasionally, wed write it on paper, but usually wed create a rough outline in our heads. It usually had a minimal number of takes, and a few tricks, or special effects (like making an object disappear or using pixelation).

The editing process is best saved for another day. It requires a different mindset. Sometimes it never happens–inspiration lost.

As you can guess, sometimes these films didnt come out too well; and sometimes we created a gem. But either way, we would do it for the sake of spending time behind the camera and the editing splicer.

This impromptu method can be interesting. It doesn’t begin with an end in mind. We had no idea of a plot when we began. What we were after was recreation and fun. The plot was a minor detail along the way.

You can approach videomaking in the same way. Its probably not accurate to call this approach a method of video production. Its more like a method of "fun" production. Ive done this with my kids, and theyve done it with friends.

I’ve never been an enthusiastic fisherman, because I’m disappointed when I don’t catch fish. But I’m learning that fishing is a process thats perhaps separate from actually catching fish. My son and I went fishing for a day a while ago and caught nothing, but we spent the day together. We caught up with each other. At the end of the day, the only thing we had to show for it was "a great time to remember."

Try an impromptu videotaping excursion sometime soon with a friend or a child. You might wind up with a gem–or, even better, a wonderful day.

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