What Running a Filmmaker Contest Taught Us About Creativity

Published on in Advice / Tips & Tricks

In March of this year, we launched a weekly creative challenge at Soundstripe. The U.S. had just gone into lockdown, and we knew it would have a huge impact on creators around the country.

We’ve always endeavored to keep creators creating — it’s more or less the company’s reason for being — so we dubbed the content “The Keep Creating Challenge.” A few months and thousands of entries later, we learned a lot about what creativity looks like during extraordinary times. Here are a few of our favorites.

Constraints can lead to better ideas

It’s all too common to bemoan a lack of resources — especially in video production. We challenged this idea a little bit by sending our audience one new prompt every week. Not only would they have to work within the confines of the creative brief, but they would also have to deal with the constraints COVID-19 was imposing on society. Lo and behold, the videos, ads, and short films creators submitted each week displayed a fabulous array of creativity. It seemed obvious that constraints could be a catalyst for invention rather than an obstacle.

Perhaps unlimited resources or carte blanche creative freedom seem like ideal scenarios to work on new ideas, but in the end too much choice may be the biggest constraint of all.

There are stories all around you

Sometimes stories are so compelling they jump out at you, demanding to be told. Other times, they sit quietly right in front of you, waiting to be discovered. In the early days of lockdown, cities looked like ghost towns, and people were largely confined to their homes. This challenged creators to look inward, to find the stories that were right in front of them.

The Austrian physicist Erwin Schrodinger (yes, the cat guy) said it best: “The task is, not so much to see what no one has yet seen; but to think what no one has yet thought, about that which everyone sees.”

Outdated punctuation aside, he’s right. And many of the best Keep Creating Challenge winners took a similar approach. They found beauty or narratives in their everyday lives.

Take a look: https://www.instagram.com/tv/CAa9bdHhHRi/?hl=en

This piece by Matt Saunders of Yeti Film is a perfect example. The film opens with drone footage of quiet neighbors, then moves to quick cuts of parked cars and clothes drying on the line.

This could be a platform for despair, but the video follows Saunders' young children throughout their day. They watch TV, they go to school, and then they play in the backyard. The use of soaring music and clever camera work captures the subtle, deep joys that can be found amongst families — even during a lockdown.

Good editing goes a long way

There’s a lot to be said for doing your homework, making sure pre-production goes smoothly, and getting the right shots during filming.

But oftentimes, it’s the work after the shoot is over that really makes a project shine. When we surveyed creators earlier this year, we found that the majority of video professionals — especially those with over 10 years of experience — spent over half of their time on a project in post-production.

That’s a reminder that the first cut is rarely the best one. It’s the editing that fills in the gaps and carves out the true image of the finished work. This short from Giselle Rodriguez is a reminder of the power of good editing: https://www.instagram.com/p/CALKOVmh0UD/

It’s a simple video, really. But the striking nature of the images and the unexpected editing technique make it memorable.

New takes on old tropes

Completely original ideas are rarities. It’s much more likely that you’ll be working on a fresh take of a pre-existing idea. And that’s by no means a bad thing. In fact, that’s the vast majority of art.

There were a lot of modern takes on new ideas, but one that really stood out was a fresh take on an already modern idea: John Krasinski’s “Some Good News.”

The Krief family did an adorable take on the idea by filming their kids giving some good news to the internet.

You can see it here: https://www.instagram.com/tv/B-z51Kah2Um/

The most important announcements are that mom’s friend made masks, the Easter Bunny is an essential worker, and mom got eggs at the store.

Now, exchanging adults with kids isn’t a new idea, but if it’s done right, it’s a very effective idea. Which is kind of the point, really. The idea itself doesn’t have to drip with originality as long as the execution is up to snuff.

There were a ton of things we could have pulled from the excellent work the creative community sent our way. But these were a few of the most prominent ones we observed throughout the body of work.

The good news is that even during a global pandemic, the creative community is alive and well. Zach is the content specialist at Soundstripe, a supplier of YouTube royalty-free music and sound effects.

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