✨ Creative Output ✨

by Kevin Parry

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How to Make Creative Video Content as a Small Business

Feb 29, 2024

Feb 29, 2024

This post goes out to the millions of business owners and professionals suffering from "I'm not creative." Yes, you are, and here's how to unlock those creative ideas.

Cartoon Acting

Over 100 years ago, cartoonists and animators came up with a rule of thumb for cartoon acting:

  1. Show you're going to do it.

  2. Do it.

  3. Show that you've done it.

You don't just naturally pick up a piece of cheese; you:

  1. Anticipate your hand upward (maybe while wiggling your fingers).

  2. Pick up the cheese (maybe while licking your lips).

  3. Pop it into your mouth (maybe with a heavenly 'Mmmm').

In simpler terms: Anticipation, Action, and Reaction. It's a good way to add clear, visual intent to a performance so that there's zero ambiguity about what's happening or why it's being done. (Obviously, pantomime is older than animation, but it's what I know.)

It's the same reason why when a cartoon character runs off-screen, they first wind their arms up in the opposite direction (anticipation), zip off-screen (action), and then a dust cloud is left behind (reaction). Look up any gag from classic Looney Tunes, and you'll be able to spot this formula.

Anything Can be a Story

With the above in mind, it's easier to see that anything can be a story. You don't need a 'once upon a time' or 'everyone lived happily ever after'. When you can break down picking up a piece of cheese into a clear beginning, middle, and end - you've got a story. And stories captivate us, however small.

  1. Beginning = Anticipation

  2. Middle = Action

  3. End = Reaction

Anticipation is the Key

Most businesses posting on social media tend to fixate on the 'action' or 'reaction.' Post after post of simply using the product/service and the smiles that come afterward. Easy to see why it can quickly become uninspiring, especially to your audience.

In my experience, it's the 'anticipation' that opens the door to endless creative thinking. I always start with: where is there anticipation in the production or usage of this product/service?

Pick a product - let's take cookies. Where is there anticipation in baking or eating cookies?

  • Sorting through cookie cutters, looking for the perfect one (for a special occasion).

  • Dinner party guests ignoring a table of delicious food until a platter of cookies is set down.

  • Cookies baking in the oven while two small kids nudge each other to get a better look.

Point is - all of these rapid-fire ideas are more inspired than a picture of cookies or a video of someone eating a cookie.

Why? Anticipation gets to the heart of more authentic human-product interactions. It's opening up your MacBook and blasting the startup chime in a coffee shop. It's the battle to dress your kids in winter gear on a cold day. It's knocking on a dozen melons at the grocery store to find the perfect one.

Creative thinking can seem elusive and mysterious, but once you have an access point, the ideas start flowing. Considering the points of anticipation between your clients/customers and your product/service is that access point.

Let's Make Something

The goal here isn't to elevate competent filmmakers into extraordinary ones. It's to take people who have never made something creative and push them to take that first step (in the context of posting on social media).

Let's say you're a local running shoe retailer, and your feed consists solely (pun intended) of pictures of shoes. Great for staying top of mind and showcasing inventory, but maybe you want to start dabbling in creative video content. Where to start?

Anticipation! Where is there anticipation when interacting with running shoes?

  • Opening a crisp shoebox and unwrapping the packaging paper to reveal brand new shoes.

  • Lifting a pair of fresh shoes out of the box while clearly wearing dirty, old ones.

  • Tying your shoes!

It's almost too obvious, but tying your shoes probably speaks deeply to many runners. Once you have your anticipation, you can then flow into the action and reaction. So here's a video idea:

  1. Anticipation - Looking down at feet as shoes are tied.

  2. Action - Starts to run across concrete (stay looking at feet).

  3. Reaction - On every other step, the location changes (sidewalk, grass, trail, etc.).

Hey, that's a story! Almost like a full-on commercial for running shoes that can tackle any terrain. And I could film it with my smartphone in about 15 minutes.


Once you understand that anything can be a story through anticipation, action, and reaction, it's as if you can't be stopped from coming up with endless creative (video) ideas.

Think of it like a diving board. Anticipation gets you bouncing, action makes you leap, and reaction is how you choose to enter the water. You just need to be prompted to get the board bouncing.

As a final example, let's take a sneeze:

  • Brainstorm the anticipation - the classic 'ah, ahh, ahhh' build-up.

  • The action is logical - the sneeze.

  • Have fun with the reaction - a hand suddenly emerges from out of frame and catches everything in your brand new, softer-than-ever, triple-layered cotton tissues. Cue the theme song.

The barrier of entry to creativity isn't some magical, artistic brain. Sometimes all you need is the right prompt (where's the anticipation?) to get the ideas flowing, and suddenly - you're creative.

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