Ever since the film What the #$*! Do We Know burst on the scene in 2004, and even more so two years later with the release of the mega-phenomenon The Secret, this fascinating genre that defies a title (might we call it positive-messaging-docutainment?) has become a leading force within the world of positive thinking and personal development. iKE ALLEN (yes, he spells it that way) and Ashley Anderson have emerged as trailblazers within that genre. In a relatively short few years, their company, Avaiya, has developed an impressive roster of films, seminars, and workshops, from A Course in Miracles: The Movie and The Tao of Walt Whitman to A Quantum Leap and MPower: Empowering Women in Business and Beyond. Last December they released a new film entitled Forward: The Network Marketing Movie, which they describe as "the first authentic documentary about the entrepreneurs in this ... $100+ billion trade," with interviews from people representing nearly two dozen different network marketing companies. We recently sat down with iKE and Ashley to learn from their expertise in creating high-quality educational and inspirational video. — JDM & JMG
How did you come to create Avaiya?
IKE: It started with a question. I asked myself, "If I could do anything I wanted, what would it be?" The answer was that I would talk about consciousness and different positive concepts that had an impact on the world. The most logical step in that direction seemed like it would be to start a film business, which would allow me to interview some powerful speakers and authors.
So I started a media company in order to get one-on-one time with people like Fred Alan Wolf, Dan Millman, and others.
ASHLEY: When iKE and I met a few years later, I was a clinical dietitian practicing nutrition in the basement of a hospital with no windows. I was very unhappy with what I was doing. Soon after we met, I decided to take the leap and risk it all to go into business with him, and we created Avaiya.
Why did you choose video to distribute your message?
IKE: Whether it's a two-minute YouTube clip or a ninety-minute film, people love to watch videos. You can watch video while you're in the kitchen cooking. If you're tired, you can still watch. Video is the ultimate medium.
For us, it's also a great way to show different personalities. That's something I like about video: you can truly get a taste of who someone really is, whereas with text or audio it is often not so clear.
ASHLEY: For me video has always been an inspiring medium, because it allows people to see others in their humanness, their vulnerability and authenticity—a little more so, perhaps, than with an audio or book. You get to see their personality, their emotion, their expression, and I think that's very important in business today.
How do you see video as an educational tool, compared to more traditional education models?
IKE: The great thing about video is that you can do anything with it. It's text and audio all rolled into one. You can turn a PowerPoint into a video, you can use it for seminars and webinars, and you can show things with video that you just can't show with text or graphic illustration or audio.
ASHLEY: I think a lot of us are visual learners. We like to see things right in front of us. And since video incorporates audio, it can serve auditory learners as well as visual learners.
How did you learn to become a videographer?
IKE: Practice, practice, practice. I learned by just going out and doing it. To this day I have never read a book on the subject. As an entrepreneur, I think you just get out there and start practicing—do a little research, buy a camera, and go do it.
The easiest way to learn anything is to watch others who are doing it and copy what they do. Then, after you get their formula down, you can make your own personal adjustments.
ashley: Because iKE was already in the film business for a few years before I entered in, it really was a hands-on learning experience for me, learning from him, watching what he did and copying it and then finding my own style. It's pretty simple once you get the hang of it.
For those of us who want to equip ourselves with the basics, what do you recommend?
IKE: Let's say you're posting a simple video online. If you have a Mac, you've already got all the audio and video resources you need built into your laptop. If you're traveling around and posting videos as you go and you need to be a little more mobile, your iPhone will do a phenomenal job.
If you want to get something a bit fancier, get a flip camera. They're great for online video. If you're going to use something portable and mobile, please, for the love of God, use a tripod! So many people post videos that are bouncing around all over the place.
If you are making a documentary, you can buy a camera that will give you true high def for $1,000. It's incredible how the costs have come down. When I started it was $20,000 for a low-end camera—today it's $700.
What about lighting?
IKE: Lighting is really important. I think Ashley's even more passionate about it than I am.
ASHLEY: Lighting is so key! Here's one tip for shooting a simple video to post on YouTube: don't face the camera into a window where the sun is shining right in, because your face will be underexposed. You want to make sure there's light on your face and not too much light in the background, because then you'll be in a shadow.
Do you guys carry lights around with you? At what point should one consider having additional lighting?
IKE: We carry a full light kit. Natural light is great, as long as you get the right lighting, and it's possible to do a lot of adjusting in the editing room. But most people aren't going to do that. So yes, if you are going to be posting regularly, you need a simple lighting kit.
Simplest is to stroll into Costco or Home Depot and buy a few of those little $5 aluminum clip-on lights you would use for renovations. Clip them onto some chairs and you're good to go.
What about external mikes for audio?
IKE: Even when it comes to making good video, audio is king. It doesn't matter how gorgeous the video is if you can't hear the people clearly. Content is the most important thing. If speakers can't hear that content, they're going to leave the site.
You can buy an inexpensive microphone at Best Buy. We recommend using a lapel mike for the speaker as well as the microphone on the camera. We actually use two lapel mikes for the speaker—that's how committed we are to good audio.
Let's talk about content. What makes a video appealing?
ASHLEY: The most important thing is authenticity. That's what everyone wants. People are going to sense if you're saying something you don't really believe, so being authentic, coming from the heart, and showing your passion is key to inspiring and motivating people in their business.
Also, keeping it under two minutes will hold people's interest. If you ramble on and on, you'll lose people.
I suppose you don't recommend a teleprompter?
IKE: That's tricky. A lot of people use teleprompters. The question is, how good is the speaker at not looking like they're reading from a teleprompter? If you can use a teleprompter and not look like you're reading, that's great. Not many people are able to do that.
Another approach is to just make a bullet-point list of the things you want to talk about. But even then, don't make it obvious that you're reading or glancing at your list.
Why did you choose to make a movie about network marketing? And what was the experience like?
IKE: I noticed there was no documentary about network marketing, so we thought, why not just make one?
When we started, I didn't really know what we were getting ourselves into. I thought it was going to be a big stretch away from the kinds of consciousness and positivity films we'd done.
We ended up putting twenty-two different independent distributors from different companies in the film—and they were great. We had so much fun. Network marketing entrepreneurs are the most positive group of people we have ever worked with.
ASHLEY: Also extremely inspiring. I knew very little about network marketing before creating Forward, so this was a brand new experience for me. And I can't tell you how many times I was brought to tears by what these people said. Everyone was so authentic and so passionate about the business model and how it can change lives and allow people to pay it forward. It was an amazing experience.
IKE: I think the great thing about it is that everyone is optimistic, because they're all putting these tools into motion to better their lives. It was nice to be around a bunch of people that were just overall positive. They all have hope.
Not only that, but they get paid to give other people hope, too!
IKE: Absolutely. It's a business of hope and possibility.
What are some of your projects for the future?
IKE: We have a film coming out in a few months called The Gratitude Effect, about the power of being grateful for what you have in your life as it is. We've filmed several exceptional people, including Alex Trebek's wife Jean, Marci Shimoff, Joe Vitale, and others. It also happens to feature an interview with your editor-in-chief, Josephine Gross.
We're also working on a film called Handshake about integrity in business.
ASHLEY: And we're working on a project called Be, Do, Give, aimed at supporting women to live the most empowered life possible.
This genre started, or at least it became big, when The Secret came out six years ago. Were you aware of that phenomenon when it happened?
IKE: Oh, absolutely—I was just in the early stages of this work, and it was powerful.
What did you take away from that film and the phenomenon it created?
IKE: The number one thing it showed us was possibility. It showed us that we can actually improve our lives.
On a spiritual level, I think it reawakened people to a sense that they're part of something bigger and that they're not actually separate from everything else.
ASHLEY: It also brought taking responsibility to the table. It spurred people to say, "I don't have all the things I want in my life, and perhaps I should take a look inside and not blame someone else or be a victim to the world outside of me. What are my thoughts, and how are they becoming my reality?"
How do you see the ubiquity of online video changing the way we do business and education?
IKE: We can already see it now. Everyone is watching video on their phones or their iPads. It's the future, today.
One thing I like about a lot of the video platforms is that you can rate them. The world is going to become saturated in video, and when we all have the opportunity to rate it, the best stuff rises to the top. Eventually, based on people's ratings, we're all going to have access to phenomenal video.
ASHLEY: YouTube is the second-largest search engine after Google. Utilizing this resource is such an important thing for any entrepreneur. There's no bandwidth cost, you can put up videos all the time at no cost to you, and you're building relationships with people you don't even know.
I think this is key to creating success in a network marketing business, to give people a way to see your face, relate to you personally, and recognize that you are human and vulnerable and authentic.
IKE: Video is changing the world. If you don't put out video, you will be left behind in the business world.
You've observed a lot of network marketers. How should they be using video? For what kinds of messages?
IKE: In network marketing you're an entrepreneur and you're also working with a corporation. The first and foremost thing is to know what the company you're with allows you to do. What do they allow and not allow you to post?
Then, based on the freedom they give you, you should be doing everything.
Share that vacation you get via the benefits of your company, how your business is allowing you to stay home with your family, tips and training tools, if you have the option. From personal stories and business successes to straight-up business education, everything you can possibly do, you should do.
ASHLEY:In the feedback we've gotten from Forward, viewers tell us they love the stories about things like how network marketing has allowed people to stay home with their children when they were sick and still get a paycheck, or how people were able to build foundations in other countries and give charitable donations to different organizations.
People want to hear and see other people's stories. They want to see themselves in other people, and video is one of the most amazing ways to do this.
What are some ways of getting viewers for your video? Network marketers can put it on their Facebook, blog, YouTube site ... what else?
IKE: There are so many sites out there—Vimeo, Viddler, and on and on.
ASHLEY: We like a service called Hootsuite that will post to all your social media sites at once. You can organize it so it posts so many times per day at certain times and different content. That's helpful for the busy network marketer or entrepreneur.
We are clearly evolving into an online world, and those who don't take advantage of that are going to be left behind. We have countless resources to utilize to promote ourselves, our causes, and our businesses to the world via the Internet, and they're becoming easier to use by the minute.
Now all we need to do is learn how to make good video! We covered some technical aspects, what about the content?
ASHLEY: Technically, you want to be able to hear and see the person. Once you have those covered, content truly is king.
If you're sharing an authentic personal story about something that helped you overcome something, push through something, or make you more successful, that can change a person's life. It can change many lives. It can change the world, that one story.
To articulate your message better on video, would you recommend taking a speaking workshop?
IKE: Absolutely. There are all kinds of classes. Toastmasters is worldwide. There are online courses. You can get together with a group of friends. There are so many ways to develop yourself as a speaker.
We were doing a yard sale and someone said to me, "Wow, you're an incredible speaker." I was just ranting at a yard sale! But that's part of my business.
How did you become a good speaker?
IKE: Twenty-two years in the restaurant business.
When you go out to dinner, a lot of the experience is about entertainment and atmosphere. For a lot of people it's not even so much about the food, they go to a place because they love the atmosphere, they want to be entertained by a server.
I used to tell so many jokes in the restaurant business. People want to be educated and entertained at the same time.
And of course, practice, practice, practice.
IKE: That's a good point. Practice in the mirror. Record yourself for five or ten minutes—and don't throw it up on YouTube. Instead, study it: take a hard look at what works and what doesn't. How authentic are you? What are you saying? What are you missing? What's the background?
Record yourself and watch it with a lovingly critical eye. Improve yourself until you're where you want to be—and then post your video and share your message.
ASHLEY: It's amazing when you actually listen to how you speak, how inspired you become not to say "like" or "you know" or "um" a million times, because you've listened to yourself and focused on being clearer for your audience.
IKE: Content is king, but there is more to the kingdom. There is the queen and the prince and the whole court.
Content could be, "I'll teach you how to count to ten in Japanese." Imagine in one video you have poor audio, the image is bouncing around, and the person speaking is boring. A second video has crisp audio, a gorgeous background, and the person uses humor and gestures. Which video are you going to watch?
Content is king—and the king thinks he has the power and everyone listens to him. But we all know it's the queen who really rules the castle. So pay attention to sound quality, background, lighting, gestures, elements of fun and humor.
What it comes down to is this: everyone wants to be inspired, energized, and entertained while they are being informed and educated. Edutainment is the way of the future. And online video gives you the perfect medium for providing that.