There’s Nothing Wrong With the Box.

It’s a phrase I hear constantly: Think outside of the box. You’ll hear it in classifieds and set-list shot sheets. Anyone who fancies themselves a director or supervisor of some sort will offer it as a creed of how they want things done. They want things previously not thought of; ideas that aren’t run-of-the-mill. Something creative. Something different. Well, who doesn’t want that? We all want creativity and life from our employees, be they camera operators or PAs. But don’t go throwing the box under the bus just yet.

Old tool box

Boxes can be good. I wouldn’t have been able to move my books without a few good boxes. And where would my tools live if boxes weren’t the preferred home? There’s a reason that industry standards are just that-standard. The true idea is not to think that the box is bad, but to realize that your box doesn’t hold all of the needed tools. While tuning a relative’s lawn mower, I realized my tool box did not have the proper socket in the needed size. 13mm, 14mm, 16mm…no 15mm. The tools in the box were perfectly fine, I simply needed something not in there. So I went out, found it, and added it to the box. You have to be careful when telling your crew to disregard traditions or convention. True, it’s great to be creative and go for something out of your comfort zone, but that doesn’t always apply to every scenario. Take interviews for example. You’re going to need a good shot at a good angle, not too much headroom (if any) with backlight, maybe a plant or lamp for balance…there are only so many things you can do there, and telling people to scoff what looks good for boundary breaking leads to extreme close ups with nose-hair shots. In reality, it’s not the cameraman’s job to be outside of the box: it’s the director’s. They’re the ones who should be thinking of innovative techniques and catchy angles. They should have the ideas for the editor as to which filter to add or what the audio should be doing at what point. Who’s dream is this, after all?
As for the box, it exists to hold the tools you use on a daily basis. In the past, what we call ‘in the box’, wasn’t. Someone put it there because at the time it was crazy or inventive.

bake sale cookie

The first church bake sale was probably a big deal. Now it’s commonplace. But it works now, just like it did then. Sometimes it may not be enough, so we find something else to go in the box with it, yet the box remains. Because a good business can’t survive outside of the box for too long. Like a fish outside of the bowl, someone trying to do everything without contemporary guidelines will eventually flail and ultimately starve. That doesn’t mean be cookie cutter one-of-us, but, if you’re looking to make a living and not just a statement, it does mean reigning it in. And that’s where style comes into play, usually by finding a happy medium. Not everyone can do this. It means making your box bigger and colorful, able to adjust to any situation and still be intact. The box, essentially, is you.

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