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Educational Videographers Need to Make Time for Creativity
While the school year is a hectic one for video teams, it's important to carve out a few hours to meet together and think creatively about upcoming projects.

For many educational video producers, now is the beginning of the school year and the moment when things go from zero to hectic. User requests stream in at a dizzying pace as instructors look at their syllabi and realize that video shoot they need to produce has to happen now, or yesterday.

In the rush of things it’s easy—if not utterly necessary—to be in a reactive mode, ready to push the next service request or project forward. Even if it’s exhausting, the race can be fun, and there’s nothing like making your clients happy, especially when you’re making the impossible happen on a daily basis.

The pitfall is the rush can turn into routine. The race of fulfilling requests goes from sprint to treadmill. Before you know it, you’re webcasting graduation and looking forward to summer, so you can relax a bit and catch up before starting all over again in a few months.

It’s frustrating when you’re firing on all cylinders at the same time your creative engines are also at full throttle. Ideas for streamlining workflows tend to flow when you hit that little bit of friction for the umpteenth time. It’s even more vexing to brainstorm for a breakthrough project idea, right when you don’t have time to devote to carrying it out.

This is a cycle I know well, having circled that track too many times over the course of 13 years working in education. Semester breaks and summer always seem like they’ll be great times to get creative and break new ground. But inevitably, once the decks are cleared—or at least you can peek at the deck—you have little time to unclench before the next onslaught.

The truth is that successful producers are always in demand, and a sign of success is a nearly never-ending queue. This is especially true in organizations whose production departments survive on cost recovery or have to justify their very existence.

Ingenuity and innovation have to become part of the workflow, not something that happens after the work is done. The challenge is to create and enact that creative workflow.

The simplest method I found is to carve out a piece of every week’s schedule specifically for creativity. Ideally you’d have a whole day, but realistically you might have to settle for a morning or afternoon. The key is to make this time as sacred as you can for most or all of your team.

That latter point is vital, because it’s an opportunity to put heads together. It also encourages holding each other accountable, both to keep that appointment and to follow through on the work.

I know finding those 4 hours every week will not come easy. An easy route is often to choose Friday afternoons, because that’s when demands wind down. Resist that urge. For the same reason your users are winding down, so will your team. If you must go with Friday, choose mornings, before lunchtime begins the sluggish descent towards quitting time. I suggest a midweek break after the Monday rush.

Use this time to gather problems, and ideas for solutions. Encourage pragmatic thinking and blue-sky thoughts about dream projects. It’s a balance—don’t be too limited by what’s immediately possible, and avoid getting lost in impractical fantasies. And don’t just make plans, set aside time to execute them.

For instance, take a couple of hours to try a new studio lighting technique, or take a day for skill sharing, teaming up the expert videographer with the best editor to teach each other one cool trick. Every week, be sure everyone checks back in to share how it went, and any ideas or inspirations that resulted.

To justify this to higher-ups, find a good narrative and make it look like work. When your team’s productivity goes up, clients are even happier, and you’ve upped the “wow” factor of your product, these dividends are your proof.

This article appears in the September 2015 issue of Streaming Media magazine as “Find Time for Creativity.”

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