Every business faces a decline in morale at some point. The sheer drudgery of the work, the defection of a popular coworker, supervisorial hitlers-all can cause a precipitous dive in the office happy factor.

In my situation, morale had reached a dangerously low level; one of the most popular employees had resigned. The standard platitudes and gold watch weren’t enough, I felt. I wanted to give him something special.

A video “mockumentary” of our office routine would be the perfect gift. The tape would present the departing coworker with a visual remembrance of the staff, and allow those who remained to release some hostility and frustration.

We created a 15-minute video that poked fun at our various tasks. The results were outstanding. The staff roared with laughter throughout and requested it be played again and again.

Our erstwhile coworker left with a record of his time among us while, down on the farm, morale had improved markedly. The movie is still shown regularly; everyone involved requested and received a copy.

Filming the Farm

A number of filmmaking genres are appropriate for an office video. Among them:

Mystery: A workplace who dunit gets all your coworkers into the film-especially important if the tape is a farewell gift. Make up a crime, round up and interrogate the usual suspects, solve the mystery. Simple.

This Is Your Life: Another good choice for a bye-bye present. Trace the magnificent career of the dear departing, recapping or creating humorous and poignant moments.

Music Montage: Tape the staff at the usual grind, then apply a music track for that certain touch of savage irony. The Animals “We Gotta Get Out of This Place,” Tennessee Ernie Ford’s “Sixteen Tons,” Devo’s “Workin’ In a Coal Mine,” and Neil Young’s “Last Dance” are all good choices.

Tips for Hits

Once you’ve decided on the format, walk through these steps to office video success:

Ask for permission from your supervisor: If you don’t ask, you could get in trouble-and find yourself making the unemployment line video instead. Besides, securing permission gives you more freedom in scheduling shooting times and locations.

Plan ahead. Come up with a rough outline and a shooting timetable. This will allow your coworkers to continue with their work while you’re filming other scenes.

Tap your coworkers for ideas. You’ll be surprised at the creative abilities of your coworkers and will find that most are eager to help. I let them come up with ideas for their own scenes, which increased their commitment to the project.

Leave the rough edges. Reaching for the perfect take can turn the project into an ordeal. The goal is to have fun, not remake Citizen Kane. You’ll probably have to do some editing; create an outtake section. Your coworkers will probably find this funnier than the completed film.

Retain some secrecy. Surprise your coworkers with the results. Don’t let them see the thing in dribs and drabs; make them wait for the finished project. This will lead to a more enjoyable viewing experience.

Jeff Saathoff is a full-time computer operator in Urbana, Illinois.

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