It was Benny’s second date with Sheila. He rang her doorbell. She answered, and thrust an armload of videos into his arms. “Honestly, Benny. I don’t think this is going to work out. Take your videos back. I don’t think we’ll be seeing each other any more.”

Benny’s eyes opened wide. “What happened? I thought we had a good time when we went out together last weekend.”

“You were very nice, but…. My mother always says you can judge a person by the company he keeps. I say you can judge a person by the videos he makes. You’ve given me quite a lot to watch. I got to know you through them much better than I could have through a month of nice dinners.”

“But what is it about me you don’t like?” he asked sheepishly.

“It’s just that you’re so…so selfish.”

“Selfish?” Benny was hurt and bewildered. “How can you say I’m selfish from watching a few home videos?”

Now she caught fire, and let him have it. “You call this truckload of cassettes a few videos? Dumping this many hours on a girl after only one date is downright…abusive! That alone should have told me how self-centered you are. But that’s not the whole enchilada; nooo, that’s not even a half enchilada.”

“What then?”

“Your videos are all ‘me, me, me.'”

“But I don’t appear in a single one,” he protested.

“Ha! Hogging the lens isn’t the only kind of egomania, you know. Your videos are diaries. They are written for you alone; only you can understand them. They represent only you talking to yourself in picture and sound. You keep that up, you’re going to die a lonely muttering man.”

“Now, hold on Sheila! Can you help me understand what you’re saying?”

“All right, I’ll calm down. I guess after the 14th hour it started getting to me. Now look, I love hiking through beautiful places, seeing wonderful vistas as much as anyone. Some of your shots really are breathtaking….”

“Thanks, Sheila…”

“But they leave me wondering, ‘Where am I? What am I looking at? How’d I get here? What day is it?” It’s disorienting at first. Then it becomes downright boring. Don’t you try to understand what you observe, or are you as superficial as you are selfish?”

Benny flinched, but he swallowed hard and croaked, “I’m beginning to see what you mean. I was only showing you what I saw, not helping you understand why you might be interested in seeing it yourself.”

“Exactly. Instead of an ‘I saw this on my vacation in the Grand Canyon’ video, you could have made a ‘Things you might like to see in the Grand Canyon’ video. It would be more like a travel log or promo. You’d narrate it, filling in interesting details, recalling anecdotes, recommending places to see or to avoid. You’d put titles on scenes to let the viewer know what she is seeing. The video would talk to people besides yourself.”

“I get it. I was burning lots of tape, but not really trying to communicate anything to anyone.”

“That’s what I mean. Just wrapped up in your own head talking to yourself. Selfish.”

“Sorry. I just didn’t realize. When I sit with people I show tapes to, I’ll hit the pause button to explain where a certain shot was taken, to answer a question about it or recall an anecdote. And I’ll fast forward through bad shots and slow spots.”

“But Benny, you weren’t sitting on the sofa next to me this week. No, you just dumped all this undigested footage on me to let me slog through it by myself.”

“I’m ashamed; what I have put you through…”

“You’ve got to use edits, narration and titles. They have to give the context, story and highlights that you give when you are sitting in the living room with your audience. You’ve got to reach out through the tape, give a person a reason for seeing it. Benny, you’ve really got to work on communication.”

“I get it Sheila; you’ve opened my eyes. Maybe I’ve been a video recluse–hiding behind the camera instead of using it to communicate. But, Sheila, I can work on that now. If I edited that Grand Canyon piece into a three-minute travel video, would you criticize it for me. Could I…have a second chance?”

Her look softened. “You know, Benny, I think I’ve been too hard on you. I didn’t think you would have cared enough about what another person had to say to stand there and take it. Maybe we shouldn’t stop seeing each other. After all, we’ve just reached a better understanding…

“Sure Benny, I’d be glad to see some of your edited tape. But, right now, why don’t you come in and show me those Grand Canyon shots from my sofa. I’ll give you the remote if you promise to use the fast forward button as much as the pause, and if you stop once in a while–to explain what we’re seeing.”

Stephen Muratore is Videomaker‘s Editor in Chief.

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