Fuel for the Creative Professional

26 Aug

“Do the best you can do, even in the small things, even when no one is watching”
Said everybody’s Mum

I received an email from a client today that got me thinking about one of the most important factors in getting the best results from creative professionals. I can’t speak for everyone, but I think I’m on to something here.

The email was a follow-up to a peppering of suggestion for changes to a web video we created, suggestions from the marketing team who offered thoughts and opinions for changes, most of which I disagreed with.

There are lots of times when a client has awesome plans from the get-go, and great suggestions along the way, but disagreeing with a client here and there is bound to happen. I think it’s wise to balance professional insight and suggestions with the reality that some clients know exactly what they want and they want you to do it that way. Build a bridge and get over it. Don’t bite the hand that feeds you. Stop whining about your artistic calling and just take the picture of the heart shaped hands on the pregnant belly.

Okay, that last request is one step too far. I have, and will continue to refuse doing those pictures.

Unless it pays.

“I trust you”

I responded with a brief email, requesting a list of changes required. I expressed that I agreed with some suggestions, but not with all. A list of revisions would help me narrow it down to what they wanted. I got a quick email back, asking what suggestions I disagreed with. While I was busy typing up a tactful response, I got a second email. It read:

“You are the artist so I wouldn’t want you to make any changes you don’t agree with.  I think just making the changes you agree with would be best.”

That email made my day. If I were to toss that email in the blender to make it a smoothie, it would read:

“I trust you.”

Want to get a creative professional to bend over backwards to give you a top notch product? (assuming their mother DIDN’T tell them to do their best no matter who was watching) Tell them you’re hiring them because you trust their opinion, abilities, input. Don’t just tell them. Hand the reigns over and see what happens.

I think this principle carries over into far more than service provider/client relationship. I mean, it’s really the foundation of any relationship. Heck, this is probably an effective way to get a 7 year old kid to safely babysit your toddler.

What do you think?


Turkish Delight & A Man Worth Knowing

19 Aug

After a 10 month hiatus, we’ve rebooted our mini-series A Man Worth Knowing. By this I mean we’ve released another episode.

It’s not for everyone.

In fact, I showed this latest episode to some relatives the other day, and one response (she meant it both respectively and honestly) was “Why is this funny?


I made some comment about how it’s not funny if you have to explain it. But as I think about it more, a better response would have been “Why do you expect it to be funny?”

I’ve laughed very hard playing back some of the episodes. And even harder while filming them. And maybe that’s how I infer that they’re funny. But that’s misplaced wording. They’re more bizarre than they are funny. And even that is just an interpretation. Though I’m surprised when people watch an episode and stare blankly at me ( if they had a true sense of humour, they’d agree with me and laugh) I also take full responsibility along with Luke and Aaron that prior to being funny A Man Worth Knowing is a matter of taste.

It’s kind of like Turkish Delight. 95% of people are totally grossed out by it and wonder why it exists. 5% love it. They understand.

Taste aside, it’s a way to practice our creativity and skills with the camera, sound design, and beard.

I hope you enjoy it. But if you don’t, don’t let it bother you. It’s not really that funny.

A Man Worth Knowing, The Vimeo Channel
A Man Worth Knowing on Facebook

Escape the City: My Short Film from California

21 May

Earlier this year, my friend Michael Fess (the same Michael who hired us to make these crazy videos) asked me to take the role of Director of Photography on a video project he was spearheading. The more we talked about the look he wanted, the more we were drawn to the ocean. First we looked at Ireland, which has an insanely beautiful west coast. But seeing as it was snowing in Ireland at the time, Mike looked to the south. He came across Big Sur, south of San Francisco, and that’s where we decided to head.

We spent three days shooting long hours – mostly along Highway 1 – both north and south of San Francisco. We ate lots of Denny’s Breakfasts (I’m still going through withdrawal), and both got a mean sunburn.

While Mike worked on getting his four video’s edited for the deadline last weekend, I worked on creating a film myself. Here’s my edit below, which is dedicated to my Grandma – Vera Summers.

Thanks for watching, and if you choose to, thanks for sharing!

It’s great to Escape the City.


Producer/Creative Director Michael Fess
Cinematography by Cole Bennett
Sound Design by Luke Bennett


The Amazing Race: James and Krystel Weening from Barrie

26 Feb

Our friends James and Krystel are applying for the season premiere of Amazing Race Canada. They asked me to create this 3 minute audition video for them.

As I’m getting more and more into the video scene, I’ve realized the importance of collaboration. I’ve got a good handle on composition, lighting, and telling a visual story. But when it comes to cutting down a final video, there can be a lot to sift through. Taking 45 minutes of footage and cutting it down to 3 minutes can feel overwhelming. My wife, Lydia has been a great help in keeping the ball rolling in our interviews and promo videos – as I focus on the technical camera work. It turns out she’s also a natural at editing. We both had our hands in the final edit for this, and I think it’s stronger for it. On top of working with her, my brother was only a phone call away offering assistance in getting the best audio set up.

Projects can only be strengthened through working with a solid team, and receiving wisdom and feedback from friends, family and mentors. And I’m incredibly thankful for those who are there for me!


Lighting and Filming a Nativity Scene

30 Dec


Earlier this month I took the role of DOP (Director of Photography) on a couple of Christmas videos for Mapleview Community Church in Barrie. Lydia and I have been attending for a few years now, and I’ve been working more and more with their media pastor, Michael Fess. On top of dozens of other roles he plays, Mike takes care of video production.

Mike had a couple ideas for some videos he wanted to create for the Christmas Eve service at Mapleview, and asked if I would help out. He produced, directed and edited the videos and left the cinematography, and lighting in my hands.

Producing can take up a lot of time. Getting costumes, locations, equipment, talent, storyboards – and keeping people happy on set all takes time and energy. Good producing makes the shooting of a video a smooth experience. It allows the day of filming to simply go from point A to point B – with everything in order to do so. For me, it was really nice to be able to step onto the set with the equipment, and basically start lighting the scene in a way that suited the story Mike wanted to tell. I didn’t have to worry about all the production stuff – and could focus entirely on lighting and filming.


ChineseLantern_FilmLightingOne of the most fun parts of the evening was creating the Chinese Lantern on a stick. Even big film sets will use large paper lanterns with dimmable lightbulbs inside. They’ll hover the lights in close to the subject to create a nice soft light that puts a bit of a glow in the eye of the subject. I thought one of these could be really useful to us in both this video and the 2nd video we shot – so Mike and I went to Home Depot and grabbed the components. He already had a $7 IKEA paper lantern. Another 30 bucks got us a dimmer switch, the casing, lamp wire, and a pack of lightbulbs.

As well as the Chinese Lantern, we used a Tungsten light in a soft box for our key light – along with an LED panel to add some cooler light to the background. The idea was to mimic light from an oil lamp, or a small fire burning nearby – and some cool moonlight coming in the window.

Mike and I are already currently putting together some ideas for future productions, so I’m sure I will be sharing more material that him and I have worked on in the future!

Thanks for taking a look at my work, and feel free to stay in touch with me via Twitter, Facebook, or email!

A Film from Ecuador: Escuela speranza de Bastion

26 Nov

It’s been a while.

It’s been a while since my last blog post. And it’s been a while since we shot this film in Ecuador.

I’m happy this is the case, with the film anyway. I’ve learned so much in the past year about myself and about filming and piecing together footage to tell a story. I’m glad that we took the time needed to produce a video that we’re happy with (both my self and the folks who help keep the school ticking), and one that showcases the wonderful atmosphere of Escuela speranza de Bastion (Hope of Bastion School).

I’m not going to fill you in on the details about the school. But I will say that these kids are disappointed when summer holiday comes around, because they love being in school so much (this also says something about the neighbourhood they live in). I will also let you know that each student is sponsored to be there. Francisca, who’s now in university, was sponsored to attend the school back when it first opened. If you’d like to find out how to get involved, contact Nikki Horne, through their website: www.sponsorhope.ca 

The audio was recorded and mixed by my audio extraordinaire brother, Luke Bennett.

A bulk of the commercial projects I have been working on in the past month are for internal use, and as a result can’t be shared publicly. So, this has kept me very busy with work, but with not a whole lot to blog about. Cracking the hood open on the old blog has given me some ideas for future posts. I plan to be back in the game in another week or so.

Until then, Buenas Noches, Amigos!

Web Videos: Connecting with YOUR Audience

5 Sep

Every Business and Organization can benefit from using video to connect with their audience

If you have an online space dedicated to sharing information about a product or service, a web video could be a great next step. Video is a straightforward way to deliver information to your visitors in a digestible manner. We’ve just launched our most recent video production, and I thought it would be a chance to share some of my thoughts on what makes a successful short video on the web. This content will be specifically aimed at small businesses, organizations and entrepreneurs.

This video was created for Conscious Water – a young company stoked on the importance of pure drinking water – and they’re doing something about it. Seriously, check out their website.

“The Four E’s”

It’s not entirely formulaic – but I’ve found “The Four E’s” to be a good guideline.


To be successful, your video must engage the viewer. This is done through a series of small things that make up the final “Big Picture”

 The Communicator – The person in front of the camera. This person must be concise, passionate, and confident. Not every communicator talks. Some perform in sports, music, acting – but they all communicate.
Give it to me in HD. The nicer it is to look at, the better. Choice of location, angle, lighting, camera, lenses and accessories will all add to this.
The Audio. It’s a well known cliche in film making that audio is 50% of the video. Viewers will put up with poor visual quality far before we put up with poor audio. Suitable music will almost always add to the production value.
Content is King. (Read on!)


If you’re creating a video for your business or organization, chances are your goal is to share with and educate both your potential and existing customers. This may be direct education through show and tell, or it may be visual communication that highlights specific elements of your products and services. If you can provide an educational element in which your viewer becomes better informed through your video, you’ll begin to be seen as a valuable resource by your audience.


Any opportunity to make your content entertaining through visual effects, catchy music, and humour will help keep your viewer engaged with the video. Make sure it jives with the content, and it will increase the likelihood of viewers remembering and sharing the video.


The goal in any commercial video is to have viewers act on what they’ve seen. Whether it’s to spend more time on your website, to share the video through their social networks, or to sign up for what you’re selling. A good web video will enable your customers to make the next step, being better informed and feeling more confident about their decision.

What do you think?

Those are just a few E’s from what I’ve learned. What do YOU think makes for an effective web video? Join the conversation in the comments!

Cole Bennett is an Illustrative Photographer and Film Maker living in Orillia Ontario.

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