Jenga

I’ve only played it once, and it’s funny to think how removing the wrong structural piece can cause disaster in the context of winning the game. It’s just like certain jobs – they hinge on one key piece of production, and if perfection isn’t achieved, you’re in a bit of trouble. It’s way more than having a plan B or the backup to the backup plan. You can do everything correctly and you are still doomed. That’s just how it is.

So what’s next? Do you give up? That’s hardly a solution. For me, that’s when you really need to turn on the afterburners. I’m not into studying life in the form of a blueprints, but there are some times when the methodical can lessen the madness.

Lateral Thinking is a really simple concept, and if you want you can get a taste of it here. According to Wikipedia, and in its simplest definition, Lateral thinking is solving problems through indirect and creative approaches, using reasoning that is not immediately obvious and involving ideas that may not be obtainable by using only traditional step-by-step logic. Simple right?

My latest example takes place within a current documentary project; one that’s been spread out of over two and half years (and still not complete) and involves filming the demolition of the last industrial structure of its kind. I had Plans. Lots of them – long term time lapse, aerial drone footage, GoPro’s set up in the thick of demolition.

Unfortunately, our plans were derailed by a purposeful lack of communication from the demolition company (a very effective deception that caused short circuits in our schedules) and the 45 seconds or so we needed to capture the end of an era of industrial history was missed. It was just gone. No do-overs.

So, after two and a half years of anticipation, The Moment disappeared without a trace. We had no footage and no way to create closure. So how do you tell a story of industrial demise that affects the well being small communities without the key footage? Local TV stations didn’t have the coverage, so where could we turn?

The concept of Citizen Journalist (which I dread) reared its head. I only dislike the term when it supplants professional’s work, but in practical situations, it’s very effective since it’s unfiltered and raw. And that’s what we found through our network of community contacts that generously offered their own footage of the moment of demolition.

They also agreed to be interviewed. In fact, they wanted to be heard. We didn’t have to move very far laterally to solve this, but we did have to lay aside our professional egos. In the end, we had genuine stories and footage that we could have never captured with all of our expertise. It’s the everyman’s story. The footage is gritty, low quality SD, but the reportage is as honest as one can hope for. Maybe this isn’t an example of a far reaching lateral search that tests the boundaries of convention, but it sure got the job done.


Previously published on ASMP’s Strictly Business Blog.

John Welsh is in the home stretch of several things – the Philadelphia Chapter presidency, a grueling documentary project and is soon looking forward to Other Ways to reach across the aisle as we all go through the metamorphosis into modern storytelling.

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