When to WING IT

Date Published: August 25, 2015

Brand/Company: MUTANT

Industry: Supplements/Fitness

Link: https://shop.iammutant.com/shop/us/blog/behindthelens010/

Our video content is really good. I feel like I can say that without bragging as it’s pretty much agreed within the industry that MUTANT has the best videos. A lot of people ask questions about how much planning goes into some of our bigger or more successful shoots.

I would say it falls somewhere between none at all to not-very-much, depending on the shoot of course.

I’ll explain. We here at MUTANT are trigger-pullers. When something strikes us as a good idea, or even an interesting idea, we just do it. I’ve gotten the go-ahead from Ryan for $20,000 projects with not much more than a paragraph-length description. We make executive decisions constantly, rather than spend unnecessary time getting caught up in the details. And when it comes to video shoots, most of the time we “wing it.”

Now when I say we “wing it” I mean that in the best way. We don’t just show up with a camera and hope something cool happens. I’ll use the Johnny Doull’s ISLANDER documentary as an example. When I was first putting together the concept I had no idea that it would turn into a feature-length documentary. What I did was create a list of things that I thought sounded interesting about Johnny’s life and that I wanted to capture: Stories about his childhood in PEI, how he discovered bodybuilding, the gym named after him, etc. This served as a sort of conceptual shot-list when I arrived in PEI. We met the night I flew in and figured out a rough schedule for the next two days (Islander was shot in only 2 days), and went from there. If something random popped up over those next two days, we had the flexibility to just go with it if we wanted to. Or, if it wasn’t something I thought we’d use, we’d simply move on to the next thing on the list. If I had shown up with a rigid, detailed schedule and sound bytes that I wanted Johnny to read, I’m certain The Islander would not have turned out as well as it did (The Islander got more mainstream press than any other video in MUTANT history, and continues to rack up thousands of views per day.)

Occasionally, winging it doesn’t go as well as we’d hoped. For example, Ron’s Mario Kart charity video. We had no idea what the event was going to be like, but we showed up with a camera to just to see what happened. Honestly, it was a weak piece. But hey, we gambled, and it didn’t turn out a winner that time.

I just finished up a short piece (we first showed it on August 19 on MUTANT LIVE) featuring Dana Baker. A number different things all happened at the same time that sparked an idea. First — Dana was coming to visit and we needed to shoot with him. Second — we had an afternoon open where we had nothing planned. Third — a week before Dana arrived my wife and I had discovered this incredible set of waterfalls on a trail in Golden Ears Provincial Park. Fourth — two days before Dana arrived, the new GoPro Hero 4 showed up at the door down at HQ. I didn’t exactly know how, but I figured we should try and use all four of those things for something unique. Dana said he’d be happy to jump in the water, so I thought we’d take him out to the falls. We could get footage of him jumping off the rocks, and have him try and hit some poses underwater. Sounds kind of weird, but I was trying my best to think outside the box on this one. The guys at the office probably thought I was nuts, but I told them at worst we’d get some cool Instagram photos, at best we’d get a REALLY unique video piece. (Phil Heath once said about me, “Just let Johnathan do his shit and don’t worry about it. It’ll turn out good.”) But yeah, honestly, I was winging it on this one, big time.

Guess what though…it turned out great! We got a creative video piece, a number of photos for Instagram, and some still frames of Dana underwater that are pretty incredible.

So that’s when to wing it: when you have a creative itch and a rough plan, and the intuition that something cool could come out of it. Sometimes you’ll fail, but once in a while you’ll end up with something totally unexpected, and totally worth it.

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