Creating Community Vision Films

Is it possible to make something from nothing?

What does that even mean? Let me explain.

Stephen Chollet Editing.jpg

First of all, let me tell you what I am not talking about. I am not talking about making videos using animation to convey thoughts and ideas, but that can work. I'm also not talking about making videos to promote vaporware (the term for hardware that doesn't really exist yet) or to showcase 3D renderings of a future product.

What I AM TALKING about is using film and storytelling techniques to make a video about places and things that do not yet exist. These are vision pieces, and they can be incredibly effective for a number of marketing objectives.

I am currently working on a project like this for a local non-profit that doesn't have much to film in terms of tangible space. While they are building something physical that will be remarkable, it isn't near completion. What they do have are interesting people, stories and a vision for what they are building. Capturing that vision, the passion, and the stories of the people behind the project are the key.

These stories also work well to convey a vision for communities, religious organizations and other businesses that perhaps don't offer a tangible product or place that makes sense to shoot in the context of the story.

Meriam Park Film - An Example

A few years ago I was approached about making a film for Meriam Park, a new community being built in Chico, CA. All that existed was some land and plans. No buildings had been built, and no ground-breaking had taken place. However, through a creative approach of going inside the mind of the developer, we can gain a sense of the community that is being created. This video helped to cast the vision and convey it to the local community, gather investors, and attract tenants of the commercial spaces. All of this without a single wall in place.

Practical Advice

Here are a few takeaways from my experience with these kinds of projects:

  • Focus on the people. The people behind a brand, a business, a project – they have stories, passion, and experiences that the viewer can relate to. People are unique, and this could be your biggest asset in this kind of project.
  • Shoot as many tangibles as you can. In the Meriam Park video, we took advantage of the team (they're real), the office (it was real), plans laid out on a table, the developers walking on the project site. I try to avoid renderings and still images as much as possible, opting to film people interacting with those things is much more organic and feels more real than the alternative.
  • Use existing people, places and things. Showing off similar projects can help people imagine what might exist in the future. Be honest about the footage and weave it into the story. Avoid stock-footage if you can, because it almost always feels inauthentic. However, don't be afraid of mixed sources. Some of the footage in the Meriam Park film was "crowd-sourced" and when edited well, things just seem to fit right in.
  • Stay creative. You can gain inspiration anywhere. One of the things I often do before scripting out a project is an exercise I call 10 Ideas. I got the idea from James Altucher, which you can read about here. The short explanation is that I brainstorm 10 different opening shots, 10 different ways to close the video, maybe 10 different locations to shoot an get the idea. The point it to do at least 10 because you will stop being so picky about how perfect everything is and just get creative. Often my first 3 ideas are pretty good, then 4-7 aren't great at all, but maybe #8 is the winner. It always changes.


Those are just a few ideas on ways you can stay creative when the obvious choices for what to put in your video don't jump right out at you. You really can make something from "nothing", it just requires a slightly different angle.

A Favor to ask

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