How to come up with ideas for your next video project

filmmaking grow your audience idea generating ideas ideation impact filmmaking location research make better videos pre interview research video marketing video production video project visual communications Aug 30, 2022

How to come up with ideas for your next video project 

If you’ve ever sat in a boardroom with your colleagues to “brainstorm” a new project, video or campaign, you’ll know how tedious and tiresome coming up with ideas can be. I’m not sure what it is about the word “brainstorming”. But as soon as someone mentions it – POOF. Suddenly every creative thought you’ve ever had vanishes. Your mind goes totally blank and all you can think about is what you packed for lunch. 

I hear this all the time.  I think being told to suddenly ‘get creative’ puts you under a lot of pressure. 

Over the past few years, “brainstorming” has quickly evolved into “ideation”, which in my opinion, is really just a fancy way of saying “coming up with ideas”. When Mike and I were filming a recent episode of Moonshine Moonshot related to this very topic, our trusty voice over guy defined “ideation” as: The formation of ideas or concepts. 

There you go!  It is just a fancy way of saying “coming up with ideas”. I’m not sure what it is about us communications folk – but sometimes we like to overcomplicate the simplest of things. 

Not to say that coming up with ideas is simple. It never is. But it also doesn’t have to be quite as laborious or ho-hum as sitting in a windowless meeting room with a white board and a few pastries to keep you focused. 

In this post, I’m sharing some of the ways my team and I come up with ideas for our impact films, feature documentaries and other speciality projects over at Moonshine Agency. 

To give you a heads up  on what you’re in for, I’ll be covering: 

• Research (don’t roll your eyes – I promise it can be really fun and interesting) 

• Location research (now I bet that lit your eyes up)

Pre-interviews with experts in your subject area 

Let’s get stuck in. 

Research your topic 

If you’ve decided to create a video, you’ve already had your first great idea. A staggering two billion people log into YouTube every month. That’s four billion eyeballs – honestly, my mind spins at the thought. 

Viewers tune into YouTube for a range of reasons too – to sweat it out with a workout, to catch up on the news, for beauty tips or sports highlights. Today, you can generally find anything you’re into on YouTube. 

As a video creator, that can leave you feeling a little overwhelmed. Yes, there’s huge opportunity but also …there’s a lot of competition. So how do you constantly come up with fresh video ideas that stay true to your brand or niche interest area and keep your audience coming back for more? 

My first piece of advice? Research your topic. Yes, even if you think you know everything you could possibly know about your topic. Because, frankly, you could always know more. 

A lot of people bulk at the term “research”. They think it’s dull.  Or just a bit tiring. But I love it. I think I missed my calling as a scientist, because I’m a hardcore research junkie at heart. If I had the time, I could genuinely spend all day, every day researching.  

It gives me a lot more energy that the word “brainstorm”, that’s for sure.  For me, research is just curiosity, why is the world the way it is? 

And research is not like it used to be in the pre Internet days, where you’d have to trudge to the library and speed read dozens of dusty text books. And yes, I still remember microfiche!  If you don’t then Google it, it’s worse than the annoying sound of a dial up modem. Very glad technology is advancing. Now, we have a suite of research tools at our fingertips. 

Social media is one of my favourite places to start. It’s especially great for keeping up with your audience and what they’re currently talking about or interested in. Take some time to look at your followers – what are they liking, commenting on or sharing? Peek at their profiles and look at the posts they’re publishing to their own feeds – what’s making them tick at the moment?  

I also recommend getting familiar with the other accounts your followers follow – this is a great way to gain further insight into your audience and the type of content they want more of. 

This is a real passion area of mine, and I delve into in with more depth in the Define You Ideal Audience online course. You can learn more or sign up by clicking here. 

Now back to the research, because a basic Google search can do wonders too – you can find archived articles or blog posts relating to your topic from weeks, months, even decades back. My co-host on the Moonshine Moonshot series, Mike Hill, is also a big fan of the Google image search. 

You can get a bit abstract with this by searching for a broad theme, such as redemption or greed, and seeing what images Google serves up. Visual aids can be super helpful for triggering ideas and helping you bring your concepts to life. 

Location based research 

 Talking to people is also a fantastic way to research and gain further understanding of your audience and your key subject area.

Mike and I recently returned from a research trip for one of the visual projects we’re working on. Yes, we actually got on a plane and travelled to Norfolk Island, a tiny Australian island in the South Pacific Ocean. 

Research is starting to sound a whole lot more fun now, right? 

This was a totally immersive experience that put us right in the middle of the story we’re currently piecing together. We were exposed to the textures, sounds, smells and culture of the island –something that is far more difficult to grasp on home soil. 

I mean, after working in filmmaking and video production for the past 12 years, our imaginations are good. But they’re not that good. 

We visited museums, book shops, restaurants and community centres. But most importantly, we talked to the people who lived there – and they gave us a completely new perspective on the area and its history. 

Mike and I returned home brimming with new idea. We couldn’t wait to dive back into the project. 

Pre-interviews 

The last thing that I wanted to discuss in this post – which does have a research element to it, I must admit – is pre-interviewing your on-screen talent. 

Pre interviewing is unbelievably important for a whole variety of reasons. But crucially, it will help you assess if they’re actually the right talent. 

Are they relatable and will your audience connect with them? Or are they a bit too controversial? Perhaps there’s something about their delivery that just isn’t right for what you’re producing. Maybe they’re just over-rehearsed. 

It’s way better to find all of these quirks out in a pre-interview, rather diving in, calling Action! and figuring out it’s all bit wrong in the edit suite. 

You can conduct these pre-interviews pretty informally too. We often do it via Zoom or Microsoft Teams, because you can record the session and watch it back later on to assess their performance. 

A pre-interview will also help you gain further insight into the interviewee – which is likely to trigger ideas around the questions you can ask and the video content you can tailor around their specialty area. 

These are just three ways to help you generate ideas for your next video project 

 There are many more wild and wacky ways to help you ideate (sorry, I couldn’t resist) and if you have any secrets of your own, please share them with me! 

But in this post, I’ve kept my focus around: 

Researching – think social media and Google image searches rather than library books 

Location researching – which is perfect if your video is set outside of your hometown 

Pre-interviews – a great way to figure out if the talent you’ve picked is right and spark ideas around what they can talk to 

If this blog post has got you thinking, you might enjoy checking out the companion episode of Moonshine Moonshot. Watch now here and be sure to subscribe to our channel so you know as soon as we release new episodes. 

Or check out the Moonshine Moonshot podcast on Spotify, Apple podcast or wherever you listen to pods. 

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