• The Editor

Put yourself on screen

Filming yourself can capture some creative thinking and help you picture a new idea.

Photo by Reba Spike on Unsplash


There's a story often told about the first audiences of motion pictures, that they screamed and ran for the exit when a film of a moving train was shown in cinemas for the first time.


It's a great story, but unfortunately, it turns out not to be true. Thanks to this excellent article from Atlas Obscura, I discovered that not only was the 50-second film - L’Arrivée d’un train en gare de La Ciotat, or Arrival of a Train at La Ciotat - completely staged by the Lumière brothers (who asked the extras not to look at the camera) but the story surrounding it sounds like it was designed to be PR for the motion picture industry itself.

That's the thing about film: on one hand, it's all smoke and mirrors. On the other, it's superb at helping us see things differently. Including our own faces and bodies.


I wonder what the reaction would have been to the audiences had the first film they seen been not a moving train - but footage of themselves sitting in the cinema. Seeing themselves on screen for the first time. The shy ones might also have run for the exits in that scenario. But the remainder could have been extremely curious about how they appear to everyone else.


That principle, however scary, means there's a lot to be gained by filming yourself doing something. It's especially true when you're trying to do something tricky or challenging.


Imagine you've had the great idea you wanted to have, and it's all gone to plan. You'd be really happy about it, right? Picture yourself in that moment.


Imagine you're about to talk to the assembled media about your amazing idea. They've been waiting with bated breath for you to show up.


Right. Now take your mobile and record yourself talking about your idea and how it came about.


Okay, this may seem ridiculous when you don't even know what it is yet. But just start talking to the camera about the creative problem you need to solve, and how you 'went about solving it'.


Don't stop, even if the process makes you feel like a total chump.


Forget about what you look like. No-one's going to see this. So don't obsess about the lighting, sound or camera angles. It's just a process. A bit of fun.


Don't stop. Talk about what you've already tried. What didn't work. What's been learned so far.


Don't stop. Keep talking about the idea - how you feel now you've 'finally cracked it'.


Don't stop. Tell your 'audience' just how much this means to you. What it will mean to others. The impact it's going to have on the world.


Don't stop. Talk about the key advantages of your idea, as opposed to other people's, or previous ideas you've had.


Just. Don't. Stop.


Chances are that prodding and poking your unconscious like this will help you talk yourself into a new idea.


If that doesn't happen though, well, just watch your video back. Take advantage of the fact that most people (who aren't narcissists) find this about as comfortable as sitting on a cactus.


As you listen to yourself talking about the process, imagine that you're not you. And then you can pretend like you don't know what you're about to say. That way you can potentially be more objective about what this 'person' is talking about - and see whether their thoughts spark off an idea of your own.


Surreal. But it's worked for me. Why not give it a go?


When you're done, there's always the option to utilise the greatest feature of digital film in this situation: the DELETE button.

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