Have you ever found yourself alone in an airport with a lot of time to kill? For most of us this is a rather dismal experience. But for others, such alone time is a nice respite and a bit freedom to be creative and just see what happens. Last week, Richard Dunn, a lighting designer in corporate entertainment who is originally from Canada, was heading back to his current home in Georgia from Las Vegas. But after volunteering to get bumped off his 11:00pm flight home, he found himself with seven hours to kill before the next flight out at 6:00am the next day. So what to do?
Many people would have headed back to the Las Vegas strip or taken a nap, but Dunn says in this CBC audio interview that he looked around and saw the airport as an empty movie set. He had his iPhone so why not make a movie? So he sat down to brainstorm some ideas and at first pondered making a movie related to travel. But that idea did not grab him, so then he Googled songs about being alone and bingo! It hit him. “And then our dear Canadian sister started streaming in my headphones, 'All By Myself' and I thought ‘that’s it, that’s pure movie gold!’”
As you watch the 5-min video below, keep in mind that he was all alone and had no one holding the camera. His only equipment in the airport was his iPhone, iPad (for the music), a PC case with a long handle, a ruler, and some luggage tape that a staff member gave him earlier in the evening. Once back home, he edited the clips in Final Cut on his MacBook. No special lenses, just a regular iPhone.
Limitations stimulate creativity
The budget for this home movie of sorts was essentially zero, yet this amateur production made by one person alone is far more interesting than the majority of professionally made music videos costing loads of cash. In the comments section of Vimeo, Richard Dunn touches on how he did those shots:
"I had a person behind a ticket counter give me a roll of luggage tape before she left. I then used a wheel chair that had a tall pole on the back of it and taped my iPhone to that. Then I would put it on the moving walkway for a dolly shot. I also used the extended handle on my computer bag and taped the iPhone to my handle. I would tuck different stuff under the bag to get the right angle. For the escalator shot I had to sprint up the steps after I got my shot so the computer bag didn't hit the top and fall back down. Quite fun!"
I always tell people, including students, that they are not limited by technology. There are always cooler, more powerful and more expensive tools available. But so what? You are lucky enough to have a smart phone. And with this ubiquitous device you can still do quality presentations of all types, including short vignette or slice of life videos like this one above. Students always ask me where they can get good photos or video for presentations. I tell them to get their ideas clear and their story structure down first. Brainstorm, get organized, then sketch out what visuals you will need (if any). In most cases they can shoot all the photos or video footage they need themselves using their smart phone and a bit of editing.
One thing that makes Dunn's video seem so good, even though it is shot with a phone, is that he did not use a lot of transitions and effects. Novices will almost always use a dozen or more transitions and effects in such a video, almost all of them cheesy. Dunn kept things simple and focused on getting good material and then keeping the editing simple stylistically, though it was not doubt a lot of work to get the lip-synching perfect and build tension as the song progressed.
Resonating a shared theme
Everyone can relate to feeling lonely or being alone, even being alone in an airport. Many of us have probably fantasized of making our own music video parody of some kind. In the CBC interview Dunn says that he was laughing to himself when thinking of different scenes that the airport interior was offering up, but he figured he was just tired and suspected that what he thought was hysterical was probably not really that funny to others. Dunn had no intention to even post this publicly; it was just a video that maybe his wife would get a kick out. Well, some 72 hours since posting it is already at 3 million views on Vimeo. In the CBC interview he said he was shocked when the views went over 30,000, about 29,999 more than he ever expected. I wonder how he is feeling now?
What makes this fun little video piece work is that it is not about ego. Dunn never intended this to be seen outside his family and a few friends. This was just for a laugh. These humble intentions lend an air of authenticity to it, and yet he took the care to make it as good as possible. Even though he is in almost every shot, it is not about him. This resonates because, like any good story, it is not about the characters, it is about the viewers. Almost everyone who views this will be touched and amused. If you can make someone have a good laugh, or touch them in some other positive way emotionally, I'd call that a pretty good day. A lot of people have had a good heartfelt laugh thanks to Dunn's burst of creativity one night last week in the Las Vegas airport. Let's home Celine Dion is one of them.
UPDATE: Ms. Dion does indeed have a sense of humor. And in the two days since I posted this, Dunn's video has been seen another 9 million times—now over 12 million. Remarkable.
UPDATE 2: Now over 15.5 million as the hits finally begin to die down.