A number of years ago my wife Tasra and I were at home one evening in the early years of our company watching a special on TV about acclaimed fashion designer Vera Wang. It was one of those “Day in the Life of a Celebrity” style shows. At one point Vera and her team were reviewing some potential new designs. As one model after another walked into the room, Vera evaluated the clothes. To the average viewer, each outfit looked stunning. But, if Vera found the slightest blemish, or if anything on the outfit wasn’t just right, she sent it back. It was a very telling moment. This attention to detail and being such a stickler for perfection is why Vera Wang is “Very Wang.”
At that point we decided to apply the same level of scrutiny to our video work. Whenever I was met with a shot I was trying to determine should go into a video, I’d ask “Is it Vera Wang?” Whenever Tasra was reviewing my work and saw something that wasn’t “Vera Wang,” she’d call me on it.
Making the Cut
As I’ve written before, one of the hardest things for an editor to do is cut. But one of the keys to producing “Vera Wang” quality work is just that: cut. Cut anything that does not hold up to a standard of excellence required. Here are some tips on picking “Vera Wang” shots:
- Is the shot shaky? Cut it.
- Is it out of focus? Cut it.
- Is there an unflattering angle of the client in the shot? Cut it.
- Is it and extraneous shot that just makes the piece longer without adding anything important to the story? Cut it.
- Is the audio garbled? Cut it.
- Is it over exposed and impossible to fix? Cut it.
- Is it too dark? Cut it.
It should go without saying (but I’ll say it anyway) that these are just guidelines. There will be situations where a shot isn’t “Vera Wang” but you keep it for very good reasons (e.g. you’re a wedding filmmaker/photographer and it’s the only shot of the first kiss but it’s slightly out of focus, etc.) The point is that you go into the editing process with a pre-determined mindset to be absolutely ruthless in how you approach what shots you keep and which you don’t.
Get Rid of the “Fix it In Post” Mentality
The tips above are all related to the post production. But you need to go into the shoot itself with a similar mindset of excellence. Do the best you can with the tools you have, strive to get shots that meet a “Vera Wang” level of excellence. Keep in mind that “Vera Wang” excellence does not necessarily mean you have to shoot on a RED, use a jib, learn how to shoot with a Steadicam, or shoot with the most expensive camera. Excellence most often lies in simplicity of execution. So many filmmakers and photographers are quick to learn how to use the most expensive gear yet they overlook learning the basics. Master the basics, excel at storytelling, and you’ll find that most of the time you won’t need expensive gear. But when you do use it, your use of it will be “Vera Wang.”