As a Storyteller, It’s OK if Your Video Doesn’t Look Good

It’s easy to get caught up in the criticism that gets thrown around in the video and filmmaking communities about aesthetic. That’s especially true in communities like Videomaker, where one of the key focuses is on making video that looks better. In truth, it doesn’t really matter what your video looks or sounds like. What matters is that your video is compelling to watch and clear enough for viewers to understand and follow.
YouTube has been the primary target of filmmakers' ire. For more than 10 years now, our industry has lamented how YouTube and the internet at large has gradually dismantled the aesthetic standards Hollywood spent decades to build. Observers and participants both have vocally objected to the proliferation of vertical video. Even today, 12 years after YouTube launched, industry elites debase YouTube as the place where people go to watch videos of cats, perhaps out of fear that the success of every-day creators on YouTube threatens their livelihood.
YouTube and, more broadly, online video creators have taught us one key thing: aesthetic doesn't always matter. Fans lap up substantive content online because the meat of that content is good. Video designed to entertain can do so without a polished look. Channels like RomanAtwoodVlogs are proof positive of that.
Of course, there are specific instances where the production value of your video does matter. For example, if you hope to land a job directing a McDonald’s commercial, and you haven’t shown you can make highly-polished video, you won’t get the job. Likewise, if your goal is to become an accomplished director of photography, your primary goal should first be to become skillful with a camera and light.
But if you got into video because you want to tell stories with moving pictures, you’re far more likely to grow your career by achieving your storytelling goals. Do your films sell tickets? Do your music videos go viral? Do your commercials convert viewers to customers? We’ve certainly all seen local ads that make us cringe, yet have been on TV for years. They don’t pay astronomical amounts of money to TV stations for fun. Cheesy commercials often work, despite the poor production quality. 
Even wedding videos, where the look of the video is often what gets gigs, can be forgiving to beginners. It turns out that weddings happen all the time; there are countless couples and parents looking to save money wherever they can. That means beginners who are willing to accept smaller checks can get work while they develop their skills. And as long as you can capture all the important moments of the wedding and charge a rate comensurate to your skill, you’ll probably get referrals. Bonus points if your video makes the couple cry.
No amount of gear will make up for an uninteresting or incoherent story, and story is the most important element of any video. The history of our industry is chock full of success stories where production value is not a factor, whether it's Paranormal Activity, Daft Hands, or DanIsNotOnFire. Will you be better off if your video looks like it was shot by Stanley Kubrick? Surely you would. But great looking video is not a pre-requisite for success.
Mike Wilhelm
Mike Wilhelm
Mike is the Editor-in-Chief of Videomaker and Creator Handbook

Related Content