Notes from WELD's Laboratory
Relationships: The Social Object Secret Sauce
Beyond scantily clad women and funny babies what’s the key ingredient to the secret sauce that happens during the production of a social object, be it video, photo, or written content?
Now I know this reeks of every other social media how-to blog post malarkey you have read, but before you stop reading let me clarify: I’m talking about actual in-person relationships.
Last October we did a 13 day video production with O.A.R.S on the Colorado River through Grand Canyon National Park. We shot two videos; one was an episode for Outside Television’s show The Buzz and the other on how the Grand Canyon affects its guests (see video below).
Productions, especially remote productions, can be extremely demanding and the threat of being engulfed by your work can leave you somewhat distant from the guests on the trip. Filming a beautiful time lapse from a canyon ridge takes physical endurance and technical know-how, but it takes something more to really connect with the guests and guides on the trip, to share in their experiences and growth and then translate that through the lens.
This is the secret sauce behind what Steve Markle, marketing director for O.A.R.S., referred to as the video that portrayed the O.A.R.S. brand better than any other video to date.
Here are just a few of my most memorable engagements on the trip:
- Riding in a raft with George Wendt (the founder of O.A.R.S.) and his cousin Bill Wendt. Both of their wives, whom they proposed to on the Grand Canyon, had recently passed away and, although you could feel their tremendous loss, they both had this strong sense of contentment of a life well lived that is extremely inspiring and unfortunately very rare. It was just the three of us and we talked about their lives, the Canyon, their wives and their recent loss, O.A.R.S., their kids, we joked around a bunch, I filmed some and I listened a lot.
- Swapping gin and tonics for whiskey with Bill Wendt.
- On the last day of the trip we interviewed Bill’s daughter, Karen, while floating in a dory. We sat in the front of the dory while Rondo tried to keep the sticks quiet; George Rogers and Bill Wendt were in the back of the boat. We were discussing the effect the Canyon had on Karen and our conversation moved to her mother; the camera stopped rolling and tears were shed. To share such an important conversation and reflection in such a special place with a person that was a complete stranger 13 days prior was an amazing experience.
- Halloween! We turned the cameras off, dressed up in random costumes, and enjoyed some cocktails.
The creation of great social objects is more than what is in front of the lens. It involves setting down the camera for a bit and actually getting to know people, learn their story and then craft a story around that experience.