"Things that matter most must never be at the mercy of things that matter least."
Minimum Viable Product (MVP) popularized by Eric Ries in the business book “The Lean Startup”. The idea is to maximize validated learning for the least amount of effort in the name of the business. After all, why waste effort building out a product without first testing if it's worth it.
The above image conveys something that seems so obvious when displayed like this - Effectiveness.
The MVP framework is meant to help a business build a product that actually serves its purpose to the customer right from the beginning and continues to do so as the company grows. The first version of your product should be made in the simplest way possible using the least amount of resources (because resources are scarce at the beginning, as most of us know very well). The goal is not to build the best possible piece of the structure and totally avoid everything else, instead the goal is to figure out the structure in the simplest way possible and then continue to build newer/bigger/potentially more complicated versions of that product as you iterate. The product must ALWAYS serve its purpose, from the first version all the way to the current version.
When you apply this to film, the goal is the same for any length or medium. Commercials, short films, medium films all the way up to feature films. No matter how much money you have or what your reputation is as an artist or company, the goal is always a genuine connection to the audience. That can be in any number of ways. Intellectually, emotionally, spiritually... etc.
At the beginning we may not be able to afford to build the best possible version of our product. We might also not know how to build the car version of the image (feature film). If thats the case then we would be better to start w/ a skateboard (short film), etc. Make it as simple as you can but don't forget what it has to do. The purpose of the creation itself should not be lost.
As filmmakers, we all have a relationship with the viewer that is unavoidable. We ask for their attention and if they're nice then sometimes they give it to us. Note: Attention does not mean connection. Our collective attention has become almost nothing for content in todays world because of a growing lack of trust between the content maker and the audience. As the amount of content has grown, the amount of crap that we all end up watching has skyrocketed. This goes right from the smallest budget Vimeo video to the biggest budget Hollywood movie with A list stars. My trust is wearing thin with movies and media because I find that more often than not, people are ignoring this important principle and making grey matter content just to showcase one of their skills in any of the many departments of filmmaking. This includes something that solely rests on the shoulders of Visual Effects or some pretty camera work.
This is totally ok if you don’t mind only showcasing that mechanical skill and nothing else. But even still you may not retain the attention of the viewer without some sort of authentic connection with them. If the goal is indeed connection to your audience then storytelling is most likely the medium.
"Doing something unimportant well does not make it important.
Requiring a lot of time does not make a task important"
A lot of us seem to fight this principle even though we are in this for the long run. I mean, this is what we want to do with our entire lives here. That means it's not a race if we aren't doing it right. It's our job to focus on the things that matter most. Not to get caught up in the lights/cameras/pretty sets and lose sight of our relationship to the viewer and what matters most to them.
Audiences should to be treated with respect. If we ask for their attention then we should take our responsibility seriously and make something that delivers the connection that they are craving.
"If you aim at nothing you will hit it every time"
- Zig Ziglar
So if storytelling is our tool for connection, then what makes a story?