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Steve Stockman Interview: The Art of Making Good Videos

First and foremost, who is Steve Stockman?

I'm a writer/producer director at Custom Productions, Inc. in Los Angeles. I've been in entertainment since I was a senior in High School, and have been directing for 25 years.

How long have you been interested in film and videos?

I did my first home movie at 8 and never looked back.

Would you mind sharing your past accomplishments with the audience?

I've done hundreds of commercials around the world, a couple of music videos and short films. MGM released my first feature a couple of years ago. It's called "Two Weeks" starring Sally Field, and have two reality projects in production now for two different networks. I also have a book...

Recently, you released a book called How To Shoot Video That Doesn't Suck. I just finished reading the book and I have to say that it is phenomenal. The insight and knowledge that you present is very inspirational. You present "two years of film school in 248 pages." What was the motivation behind How To Shoot Video That Doesn't Suck?

With the giant explosion of video, being a director is like being a doctor at a cocktail party. Except instead of saying "Can you look at this boil on my neck?" people say "I've got this video I did. Can you give me some pointers?" After a while, I realized I was giving the same pointers over and over. And that I'd watched a lot of really bad video. A book was born.

I tried to make it totally non-technical. You have to know how to make your camera (or phone, or still camera) record, but that's about it. The rest just requires a little thought.

The real trick to great video is not how to use complicated equipment, it's how to create a video someone will actually want to watch. The truth is nobody watches bad video anymore. There are just too many choices.

What are some of your pet-peeves regarding "viral videos"?

Anyone who tells you they know the secret to making viral video is full of it. Successful viral videos fall into three categories -- videos that are just great for a whole bunch of reasons; video stunts done by pros and promoted by big corporations; and "lightning in a bottle." Unless you're a pro or super lucky, the only way to make a viral video is to make one that's great. And making a video great enough to go viral is as difficult as making a hit song, a hit movie or a hit book. It takes lots of skill and lots of luck.

The only way to guarantee a viral video: have Naked Celebrities.

Why is it important to think in shots?

It's how people think. Unless you're watching a screen, you never stare fixedly at one thing. Your eyes scan the room, sensing motion, looking for information. If you don't get information from the video the same way, you get bored and start to look away from the screen. And shortly thereafter, you click to a Beyonce video or Family Guy.

In your book you utilize a quote that states that "brevity is the soul of wit." What are two advantages of having shorter videos?

If your video is bad, it will be over sooner. If it's good, it will only get better if you cut out the dull parts.

In your book you also express that shots should be under 10 seconds. When a shot is longer than ten seconds the audience will...

Click to a Beyonce video or Family Guy. I suggest practicing with shots under 10 seconds, but the real measure is how long they hold your interest. We process visual information really fast, so if the shot is long, it better be good.

Here's one that's under 10 minutes:

On your website you have an awesome video where you provide 50 ways to shoot one shot. Describe the importance of Changing the Angle.

Angles communicate meaning in video. If you shoot a kids birthday party at kids-eye-level, it feels totally different than if you shoot at your adult chest level (which is where we shoot most stuff). To learn what it means, play with stuff.

That video's here: 50 Ways to Shoot One Thing (p. 140)

What are the main differences between a big budget film set and shooting videos in a park?

Lighting. Big budget films bring hundreds of lights and lots of people to deal with them so that every shot looks perfect. When you're shooting in the park it's you, your subject, and the camera. Simple. But you still have to make sure there's light on people's faces.

Why should people purchase How To Shoot Video That Doesn't Suck?

I recommend giving it to the friend who makes you watch their godawful videos and lie to them about how good they are. You can send it anonymously, or just leave it on their chair at work. Or maybe change their screensaver to a floating picture of the cover.

Where can we buy How To Shoot Video That Doesn't Suck?

Anywhere books are sold. If you want instant gratification, electronic versions are at Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble and iTunes. If you torrent it, please send me a check for a dollar. (most libraries have it too...no need to send a check!) A lot of teachers are using the book as a text too-- so you may find it assigned in your next video class.

How can the fans get in contact with you?

Check out the blog at www.stevestockman.com -- tons of free stuff, you can ask questions that I'll answer on site, and my contact info is there somewhere. I'm on Twitter, the blog and Facebook.

Any final words?

Go shoot some stuff. It's the only way to get better.

I really enjoyed reading this book and I think that it is very informative and easy to read. If you would like to view some articles by Steve Stockman click HERE.


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