5 Things I learned while creating political videos for the next Mayor of Chicago

A few months back I had the privilege of working with Neal Sales Griffin, a candidate for Mayor of Chicago. From the first time I met him I was hooked on his vision for Chicago. Little did I know that I would make a real friend out of the experience and create a body of work that I was really proud of. I’ve had a few months to reflect and below are some reflections on my experience.

1. The importance of having a good subject who really knows what they stand for and how to articulate it.

Working with Neal was a reminder of how much easier it is to work with people that know what they want to say and how to say it. For months, we never did more than single takes. He didn’t stumble over his words, was clear and concise, and spoke with confidence. This was especially noticeable because I don’t typically speak as effectively as he did, which made it a real treat to see him talk about his passions. 

2. How much I appreciate the creative freedom of working with someone who truly trusted my vision

I have some clients that hold my hand through the whole creative process of concepting, shooting and editing, and some that just tell me to do my thing. Occasionally when clients tell me to do my thing they come back and realize that what I gave them might not have been what they wanted. This is partly why communication is so key in these situations. Other times, clients will tell me to do my thing and really stick to it. I give them the final product and that is that (with some minor tweaks sometimes). When working with Neal, he respected me and my vision and really let me run with it. I was able to do things the way that I wanted to do them, experiment, and have fun while doing it. This made it feel less like work and more like an extension of my normal creative process.

3. Anything can happen

There were a few moments where things happened that were totally unpredictable. I learned the importance of always being ready with my camera no matter what. I definitely over-shot a lot of the projects we worked on together but that allowed me to capture some really special moments that I might’ve missed otherwise. There’s a bunch of great footage still that I haven’t used for anything yet. Maybe eventually it will see the light of day!

4 It’s important to have a rough plan

Most days were totally different than the last. It became very apparent that I needed to have a rough game plan before showing up at our shoots. Typically we’d chat on the phone about whatever our next opportunity was going to be to document and I’d get started with rough story ideas. I was constantly trying to distill what the story was behind every day. This is the ultimate goal of anyone directing/producing video content. When traveling to my shoots with Neal, I would often purposely choose longer routes so I could have time to soak in what was about to happen and try to make a rough plan. That all being said (as stated in the previous takeaway), it’s also important to be flexible at the same time.

5. I felt like I was making a difference that was much greater than me.

People are often convinced that they’re just one person and that their individual impact may not be important. I had the opposite feeling when working on this campaign. I felt empowered to shape stories around Neal that would bring to light not just ideas that he was passionate about, but one’s that really resonated with me as well. After nearly every shoot we had I would race home as fast as I could to get editing. The work felt fun, easy, and most of all, important. I felt like I had so much to say through our videos together and I can’t stress enough the power of creating content around ideas that are important to you.

Well that just about wraps it up—Are there any questions you might have about this kind of work? I’m happy to answer them in the comments!