The Power of a Simple Concept

In this art of filmmaking, it is not unusual for filmmakers and artisans to have the desire to go bigger, badder, brighter, and bolder. Bigger sets. Bigger lenses. Bigger concepts. Bigger budgets.

But I’m here to tell you there is power in simplicity. I offer as proof: Cut.com.

I’m not referring to the simplicity of their URL (that’s just an added bonus). No, I’m referring to the simplicity of the YouTube videos they’ve only started uploading since October 2014, that as of this writing, has garnered them over 390,000 subscribers and over 112,000,000 views.

cut-does-size-matter

Like I mentioned, their concept is simple: they perform a social experiment and record the results. They use a minimal set (usually some kind of high key or monochrome color background), a few participants, and a simple experiment. Like:

  • Ask a group of African-American men, ages 5-50, to respond to the word “Police.”
  • Record a group of grandmothers smoking weed for the first time (that video alone has over 21 million views)
  • Ask women ages 18-50 “does size matter”

cut-grandmas

Their latest video is further proof of simplicity trumping bigger and badder. They were invited to participate in “Field Day,” an experiment produced by YouTube and the production company 1stAveMachine, wherein a group of YouTube filmmakers and high-profile social media personalities were each given the resources to make a “dream video” that was unique and imaginative. I’m not sure how many total videos there will be, but as of this writing, there are four, each one uploaded on the same day.

Scene from "Field Day" video "Dancing with Cars"

All of the videos have high production values. But three of them take their production to complex levels: either multiple locations, special effects, complicated lighting and choreography, etc. But the Cut Video is just two people. A man and woman in their 20s and engaged. Makeup artists have at them and transform them into their 50s, 70s and late 90s. Along the way they take turns looking at one another first, then looking at their own reflections, then commenting. The result is surprisingly moving. It was actually this video that lead me to them. (My beautiful wife found it and sent me the link.)

cut-aging

What else is surprising is that of the four videos, this simple little social experiment, with a black background, two director chairs and a couple has blown away the other three videos in terms of views. As of this writing, Cut’s video has nearly 9 million views…in just FOUR DAYS! The next highest viewed video has just shy of 210,000.

field-day

This is not at all meant to be a jab at the other three. They are all wonderful films in their own right. In fact, I would hazard to guess many of you will be more impressed with the cinematography and storytelling of some of the others. But, there was something about the Cut video that strikes a cord in all of us. The process makes you contemplate your own mortality. What difference you will make in the life of the people you love. Frankly, I think this video should be required viewing for any pre-marital counseling.

I encourage you to visit the Field Day YouTube channel and watch all the films. They even have behind the scenes videos for each one. But I offer for your consideration below, the poignant and profoundly simple Cut video, “100 Years of Beauty: Aging.” Then ask yourself, “Instead of going bigger, better, and bolder, what if my next project was smaller, shorter and simpler?”

4 thoughts on “The Power of a Simple Concept

  1. Such a great post! Really resonated with me. Often can get caught up in the hype of more gear, need a crane or a dolly. We need VFX and a huge budget. But, stories can be told simply and yet beautifully! Thanks for the reminder!

  2. Really great post, Ron. I was surprised how moved I was by the aging video — a real demonstration that concept and execution can trump all the bells and whistles. Especially if what’s making all the noise just isn’t that interesting. You hear that sentiment a lot, of course, but it’s easy to forget these days with new gear coming out every week.

    The other nice thing is that it re-emphasizes the fact that these days the barrier to making great stuff isn’t necessarily expensive gear, but imagination. Everyone has at least some of that.

    1. I totally agree Martin. I do feel compelled to say, in watching the BTS of “Aging” you do learn that they had a large crew and used a RED. But those resources aren’t abundantly clear on the screen, especially to the untrained eye. You can tell from looking at this that you could easily do a project like this, just as compelling with a crew of one, a T3i and a black backdrop. I know because I’ve done it.🙂

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