Rab Bradlea, East Coast Music Supervisor, ALIBI Music

5 Questions All Content Creators Should Ask Themselves Before Starting a Video Project

Online media is a creative discipline in its infancy. It’s easy to forget that even YouTube, one of the earliest video-sharing websites, isn’t old enough to buy beer yet. TikTok, the most recent social media juggernaut, only emerged in 2016. We’re collectively in the process of figuring out how to communicate using these new methods of expression, all while new outlets for digital creativity are constantly being developed.

It’s an exciting time to be producing video, but it’s also creative chaos. Having “created content” (as gratingly vague as that phrase is) for over a decade, I’ve found certain guiding principles are applicable no matter where the end result will be shared. To that end, here are the five questions I believe all content creators should ask themselves before starting a video project:

1 – Does my video have a clearly defined goal or purpose?

While this may seem like a no-brainer, content creators caught up in a whirlwind of deadlines and juggling projects often overlook the critical task of establishing clearly defined goals or purposes for their videos. It’s surprisingly easy to do. To avoid this, start each project by asking yourself what story you’re trying to tell. What is the point? How do you want your audience to feel or what do you want them to take away in the end?

Why is this so important? Because if you don’t know why you’re making your video, neither will your audience. And you’ll self-sabotage your own project with poor production choices. For example, I once edited a video series created using a group of interviews shot over the course of a day. Although each video was intended to have a specific topic, the project’s director never asked interview questions that were relevant to those topics. So I didn’t have the footage I needed to make the videos as designed, and the end result made far less sense than it should have.

Once you spell out the video’s purpose and get your team in sync, let this factor into your production process and creative choices. Everything you do should be in service of meeting your project’s goal for existing.

2 – Do I truly understand my video’s target audience?

Understanding your viewership allows you to make choices that better communicate with your audience. And how you tell your story will vary quite a bit depending on who you want to appeal to. You won’t get far with a text-heavy, black-and-white concept if your target audience is a group of 3-year-olds.

This understanding will factor into how you approach creating video both stylistically and practically. If you’re trying to reach a particular genre’s fans, for example, you’ll be able to make creative choices that help your project fit better within that genre or avoid stereotypes that will greatly reduce your project’s credibility.

3 – Can I make the best use of my resources?

As most content creators will attest, it’s pretty rare that you’ll get every possible production resource you could want on a given video project.  So how can you make the best use of what you DO have? By asking that question, you’ll be able to take stock of the resources at your disposal, and ultimately creating a video that makes best use of them. You may not have as much money, software, expertise or media as you’d prefer, but a little creative problem-solving can overcome almost any production shortcoming. Or even create something better than expected out of necessity.

Another example from personal experience: In 2021, I was tasked to cut a documentary short called “Little Measures” that was a mix of animation and live action. Nearing the end of production, we realized that we had no footage for the story’s climax. Because the narrative had shifted, we needed additional animation we couldn’t afford.

As a fix, I repurposed the animation assets we already had to create a visual collage for the documentary’s final moments, combining speed ramps, image resizing, visual overlapping and other editing techniques to conjure up an ending out of nothing. And because I found a non-repetitive way to use recognizable animations from earlier in the film, our finale was a stylistic crescendo that summarized the film both visually and thematically. Even though our ending was built out of necessity, the result still had meaning and purpose that concluded the film in a way we ended up loving.

I often refer to the work of Jon Bois as another example of maximizing available resources. Rather than using expensive editing tools or sets, Bois generally relies on a simple yet meticulous retro style reminiscent’80s and ‘90s animation. This lo-fi aesthetic is combined with well-recorded voiceover packed with research, and the resulting docuseries he creates rival anything produced by a major streaming service – all, of course, at a fraction of the cost.

4 – Do I have what it takes to make my project stand out?

Content creation is an art with almost no hard and fast rules about how it takes shape. The best ideas out there can start with a strange or even amateur vibe until something clicks, and it’s suddenly a stylistic standard We see it in every creative discipline, whether it’s social media Rickrolling or a trailer editor’s use of the “Inception” brass BRAAAM sound effect.

Before embarking on a new video project, it’s important to consider what you can do to make it stand out.  Try to push the envelope, and put your specific stamp on your media (and thus the medium itself). What sets you apart from the literally millions of other videos out there?

Taking creative risks is admittedly not always easy, given that so much has already been done. And not to mention pressure from higher-ups to replicate what’s already popular. But the most successful content typically “breaks the medium,” as one of my director friends often says, whether in a big or small way.


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5 – Do I really care?

How can your project move anyone else if it doesn’t move you first? You make something good by honing your craft, preparing well and stretching your creativity. But beyond the big technical stuff, caring about the material is what gives your art something more. It also provides the motivation thrive in the face of inevitable day-to-day problem-solving and on-the-job learning that can be a tedious part of the content-creation process.

Figuring out how to find a passion for the video projects you take on, regardless of the content, can transform a seemingly dull topic into something that really moves people. The examples I often share are More Perfect Union, which makes compelling content about things as convoluted as labor law, or Lucas Pope, who created a video game I’ve played for over 100 hours about completing paperwork. The right creative can make any subject engaging.


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