Video production: A guest blog by Simon Willis

Tasked with a video production project for the Outdoor Industries Association, Pelican Communications worked with Simon Willis of Sunart Media, filming at the OIA Conference & AGM 2016.  A former BBC broadcast journalist and experienced camera operator, Simon considers the challenges encountered as the team worked to produce a polished promotional film with limited time and budget.

Simon Willis, Sunart MediaIt could have been the world’s most boring video.  With only a day-and-a-half to shoot, and set entirely at an industry conference, the pictures threatened to be little more than people talking in rooms.  As Click-bait goes it was not promising.

Yet what we’ve produced is a compelling recruitment video for the Outdoor Industries Association.  It captures the friendly networking and engaged atmosphere of the Harrogate conference but more importantly, it reveals the story of the OIA’s evolution.  It shows potential members from independent retailers to large brands, why they should join.  Our client is delighted (phew!) – so how did we do it?

The Way In

Our starting point came by understanding a unique characteristic of the outdoor industry; almost every person working in it shares a similar hobby.  Medics don’t all spend their weekends on golf courses; caterers don’t all pass their spare time baking cakes.  Yet everyone I know in the outdoor industry comes to it from an outdoorsy background, and what’s more, returns to it at every opportunity.  They may not all love their work, but they love what their work is all about.

So we began our shoot by asking interviewees to explain why they loved the outdoors.  The passion revealed by their answers gave us exactly what we needed.  It didn’t matter whether they were talking about climbing the Eiger or taking the family on coastal walk from their caravan, the spirit of why they loved the outdoors was essentially the same.  Our video was underway.

Can I borrow your pictures please?

Such powerful words had to be paired with captivating outdoor images.  I specialise in shooting broadcast video in wild places but knew I’d need a greater selection than held in my library.  Most businesses in the Outdoor Industries Association have promotional video but tracking down production companies and copyright holders could take weeks, so we relied on our contacts.  Our personal approach paid dividends.

Climbing and snow-sports specialists Supreme Odyssey uploaded new skiing footage directly from the Austrian slopes.  Spectacular running footage – previously filmed to support a campaign undertaken by Pelican Communications for Silva – was sourced from Steve Ashworth, MOViEiT.  The Camping and Caravanning Club’s dedicated videographer shared some of his recent material. I took a GoPro when my wife and I went swimming in Loch Sunart.  I pulled it all together and the first minute of the video was sorted – now to the story.

A cracking good story

We were fortunate that a genuinely interesting tale lay at the heart of our video. The OIA began life as small organisation selling tents.  It grew into a lobbying group and has now established a position of influence at the heart of Government, helping to shape policies that will directly improve the lives of people in the UK.  That is a damn good story.

The rest of the shoot was not without its challenges.  On the first evening my attempts to video the speakers were disastrous due to a lack of light in the basement venue.  A man with a long stick whacked a few weak spotlights into a slightly better direction, and I hit on the idea of shooting video on my Canon D5 stills camera with the ISO dialed up high – the result was clearer than my dedicated pro-video camera.

Meanwhile, Will at Pelican managed to keep far enough ahead during the 10km trail run – one of several activities which kicked off the conference itself – to get a little extra footage using one of my small Sony GW77 camcorders. Filming while running presents some unique challenges but in general, most people now know a bit about shooting video even if it’s only on their phones, so give them a half-decent camera and you can be fairly sure of useable material. It’s a tactic we used to great effect on similar projects such as the European Outdoor Summit, in Sheffield last year.

Of course our target viewers – prospective OIA members – won’t notice the technical complexities, nor should they.  They will relate to the opening words and pictures, will be drawn into a fascinating story and will hopefully reach the end feeling ‘I want to be part of that’ without having the recruitment message forced upon them.  Does it work?  See what you think:

Outdoor Industries Association 2016: Working Together to Get Britain Active Outside

Simon Willis spent 25 years with the BBC and now runs Sunart Media – a production company in the Scottish Highlands.

Pelican Communications are specialists in the environmentfood and drinkoutdoor and leisure and packaging sectors and offer a range of services such as media relations, brand management, event management and people developmentContact us for marketing and communications expertise.