When we were first learning how to produce video, we likely slogged through a series of exercises that helped us establish our video production muscles and build them up over time. Whether structured exercises in a classroom setting or unstructured tasks we developed on our own, there’s no way to avoid practice anytime we’re learning a new skill.
Once you start getting paid for your work, however, it’s easy to settle into the position of expert and abandon your former role as a student of the craft. It’s likely, if you’ve been doing this a while, that you can produce a perfectly beautiful video without too much of a challenge. You’re no longer in the initial learning phase where you’re encountering new circumstances with every production, and it makes sense to lean on experience when doing paid work.
But doesn’t staying within your established comfort zone forever seem more than a little boring? If your answer is yes, here are five exercises to challenge your creativity and help you grow as a producer. Each is designed to be a fun, low-commitment project that hopefully leaves you feeling inspired for your next serious production.
1. Time Crunch
In the exercise, try producing a video, start to finish, in just 72 hours — 24 hours if you’re particularly ambitious! The time period here is arbitrary. The point of this exercise is to force you to work quickly and maintain momentum. How much can you strip out of the production process and what would be impossible to sacrifice? The sense of urgency this exercise creates puts the focus on efficiency and time management — both excellent skills to practice for any video producer. It may help to find a local 24-hour film contest if you need an externally enforced deadline to keep you motivated.
2. Time Crunch, Take 2
Rather than limit your production period, this challenge limits your final run time. Try telling a story in exactly 10 seconds, or exactly one minute and 27 seconds. Again, the time limit you choose is arbitrary; the point is for you consider what you can accomplish in a certain period of time and practice using your screen time as effectively as possible.
3. One Actor
Especially in the beginnings of our career, we’re often working with limited resources — both financially and in terms of cast and crew. One piece of advice often given to budget filmmakers is to limit the number of actors in your production. For this challenge, trying producing a video using only one actor. The video could focus on a sole protagonist, or get creative and have your single actor portray multiple roles. For a different take on this challenge, see how well you can tell a story without any actors at all.
4. One Location
Similarly, small budgets often limit our access to our preferred locations, so making do with the locations available is a skill every video producer should practice. For this challenge, choose one location and stick to it throughout your video. What stories can you tell without leaving your living room? Your backyard? Your favorite park? The objective here is to practice finding the angles and camera movements that best convey a sense of place. How is narrative space constructed? How can we make a single location interesting enough to carry an entire storyline?
5. Mandatory Props
For this last exercise, have a friend make a list of random props, then write a script or produce a video that includes all of those props in some meaningful way. This will give you practice in problem solving and force your storytelling in new directions, helping you break out of your creative rut and start thinking more inventively.
While it may seem counterintuitive to impose these limits in an effort to boost creativity, forcing yourself to confront different problems will help you grow as a video producer and as an artist. Much of a video producer’s time is spent working within pre-defined boundaries, but practice through exercises like these helps us confront those boundaries with confidence and creativity so that we can be sure we’re always producing our best work, no matter the circumstances. Use these exercises to flex your creative muscles anytime you feel like you need a bit of extra challenge to keep you inspired.