How to Tell When You're Ready to Make a Video

Friday, December 16, 2011

If you saw someone drowning in a pool, would you think “I’m not a lifeguard. I’m not qualified to help”? Of course not! You’d do whatever you could to help: throw them a life preserver, jump in and drag them to safety, or at least call 911.

And yet we belly dancers routinely let our fear of being “unqualified” prevent us from jumping in to serve those who need us.

The "Big Name" Syndrome

Most dancers assume that only “big name” dancers should give workshops, write articles, and make videos. On the surface, this seems to make sense: after all, the most famous dancers have a whole lot to share, right?

But this is a terrible thing! There are plenty of "small name" dancers who have something to contribute. If we continue to believe that only experts are qualified to participate, then these people spend years waiting, when they could step up and be of service.

Why Do We Assume that Only Experts Can Make a Contribution?

I think this assumption comes from the very real danger of the one-year wonder. Throughout our dance education, we’re told not to be “that girl”, who takes a couple of lessons, buys a costume and puts herself out there as a professional.

Now, I'm not saying that we should tolerate that kind of behavior. Our community needs to uphold standards and make sure that we what we present to the general public is up to par.

But a lot of dancers get so afraid of overstepping our bounds that we hold ourselves back. And it's usually the most conscientious among us - the ones who should be putting themselves out there. The conscientious ones are the most aware of how much there is to learn in this dance, and so they never feel “ready” - even when they have the skills and means to make a difference.

So How Do I Know When I’m Ready?

The best way to know when you’re ready is to shift your focus away from yourself. Stop thinking about what YOU know, and focus on what OTHERS need.

Ask yourself: what unmet needs are out there? What are people asking for or asking about? Do you have anything to share that would help fill those needs?

  • Maybe you have information that’s hard to find.

  • Maybe your style or material could help others expand their repertoire.

  • Maybe you have a teaching method or training approach that might help other dancers meet their goals.

  • Or maybe your unique personality makes a common topic more accessible and approachable.

If you can say yes to any of these, you have something worthwhile to share, and you are ready to make a video.

To put it another way: if you choose NOT to share, you’re withholding your gifts and your contribution from people who need them.

Feels different, doesn’t it?

Case in Point: Me

This is exactly how I felt when I started my DVD series, The Improvisation Toolkit.

I’m not a top-tier dancer. I’m not the first person to think about improv and dance composition. I’m certainly not the only fan of improvisation.

But I saw that a big chunk of the dance community was terrified of improv. And, being a geeky analytical type, I knew that I could make sense out of all this scary, mysterious stuff, and make it approachable and manageable.

I didn’t think I was “ready”. Sometimes I still don’t. And if it hadn’t been for a timely kick in the bum from my marketing coach Julie Eason, I wouldn’t have even considered this project for another 5 or 10 years.

In short: I would have let everybody continue to struggle with improv while I indulged my inadequacy issues.

That Said

This is not to say that you should pretend to be something that you’re not. You should always be honest about where you are in your dance journey. But if you have something to contribute, you don’t have to apologize for not having arrived yet.

What I Want You to Take Away From This

It is important to maintain standards, but dancers needs to stop assuming that only big names have something to contribute.

If you see a need that you can fill, step up and serve! Don’t pretend to be something you’re not, but if you have something to contribute, set your issues aside, and step up! There are dancers out there who need you right now.

What You Can Do Right Now

As yourself what needs are going unmet in the dance community. What questions are your students asking you? What questions and discussions are you seeing on belly dance forums, facebook, etc.?

If you're not ready to meet those needs right now, that’s okay. Just put them on your "someday, maybe" list and keep your eyes open.

And when you hear that splash in the deep end of the pool, you'll be ready to dive in and save the day.


Has "but I'm not a big name" or "who am I to make a video?" been holding you back? What else is holding you back?

6 Reasons to Produce Your Video Resourcefully

Friday, December 02, 2011

(Hint: only one of them is about money. And only sort of.)

What is Resourceful Production?

Resourceful production means fully exploring the resources available to you, instead of simply opening up your wallet.

That involves:

  • Doing things yourself, when you can

  • Learning new skills

  • Looking beyond the obvious sources

  • Asking your communities for help

  • Expanding your network

Clearly, this takes a lot more work than just paying someone else to do it for you. But that effort pays off in so many ways.

So How Does Resourceful Production Pay Off?

1) It saves you money

Obvious, right? Paying less = saving money. But saving money isn't just about your profits; it helps you get more done.

A typical video costs thousands of dollars to produce, which is out of reach for most dancers. But being resourceful can save you enough money to turn your pipe dream into a realistic project.

And when you lower your production costs, you can recoup your investment much sooner. The sooner you break even, the sooner you can make your next video, and get it into the hands of the people who need it.

2) It's empowering

When you produce your video resourcefully, you're going to learn lots of new skills. And new skills are empowering! They give you a great sense of confidence and competence. Even better, once you learn a skill, you can apply it to your next video, or even adapt it to other projects.

And you'd be surprised how broadly those skills can be applied. This year, I learned how to interview a target profile to help me plan my programs. I used some of those same techniques at my mother-in-law's 70th birthday (a room full of people I didn't know), and I was the hit of the party!

(BTW, you'll learn how to interview a target profile in the Resourceful Video Production Guide.)

3) You'll discover new resources

I gave a talk on video production at the MECDA Professional Dance Conference and Retreat this year. (And for those of you I met there, hi!) The most common feedback I received was "wow, I didn't even know that those resources existed".

The world is full of organizations, web sites, and other resources that can help you realize your dream project. And once you discover them, they can help you with many future projects (video or otherwise).

4) It's great networking

As you explore your personal network, you're going to have to talk to people. And that's a great opportunity to build some relationships.

Think about it: if you were a band, which would you find more flattering:

Yet another "like" on your Facebook page?

Or an email saying "I love your music, and I think my viewers would love it as well. Can I license this song for my DVD?"

5) It opens the door for cross-promtion

Those same relationships can come in handy when it's time to promote your DVD. The band may be willing to mention your DVD in their next newsletter. The dancer who did your cover design could post the picture (and a link) on her Facebook page. That can get the attention of many people outside your own circle.

Of course, you should always do the same for them. Don't limit yourself to the credits - if someone helped you out, mention them by name whenever you can. And always include a link!

6) It helps you connect to different communities

Being resourceful often means looking outside of your usual circle. When you do that, you'll discover many new circles to join. For example, I film my DVDs at my public access TV station. The station helped me connect with the local arts community (not just the belly dance scene), which had a huge impact. To this day, I get more students through my local arts council than from any other source.

But I Really Don't Want to Do It All Myself!

Being resourceful doesn't mean that you have to do everything yourself. It just means that you explore all your options, so you can decide whether the savings are worth the effort.

And resourceful production isn't an all-or-nothing method. For example, if you hate video editing, by all means pay someone else to do that part. Being resourceful can still save you a lot of money on other tasks.

Ok, I'm Convinced. But What Do I Do Now?

You'll notice that I used the words "network" and "community" a whole lot in this article. Your local and virtual communities are tremendous resources, so get out there! Go to local dance events (don't forget to actually talk to people). If you use facebook, "like" your favorite dance bands, and let them know how much you like their music.

And if you haven't already, be sure to get your copy of Practice Makes Perfect Videos, my free guide to practicing your video production skills before you begin your dream project.

Don't Be A Stranger!

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