William J. Buffington, Video/Photography
My story is kinda like an island, if you don’t bring it here, you won’t find it here. If you don’t bring a curios mind and a need for knowledge it will not be the best use of your time. I know that sounds a little strange coming from a guy that hopes you like my story. But it is the way I see the world after 35 years of startups, acquisitions and turnarounds. Leaders I have worked with in the past have always been curios with a drive to know more about their environment. Always asking the same three questions; how do I get more information, why are we doing this and why do I care.
I first ran into the “big three” questions working for Walt Disney Production very early in my career as a busboy. At this time I was working in the Blue Bayou Restaurant at Disneyland, USA, in Anaheim California. The Blue Bayou was a new restaurant opening in the French Quarter, next to Frontier Land. Disney had spared no expense in creating a restaurant in a “Louisiana bayou”. If you were sitting at a table in the restaurant you would think that you were in a swamp with water, trees, bug, rowboats and a trapper’s shack as a view. In the middle of the dining area was crafted 30 foot Magnolia Tree straight from Disney’s Art Department. It’s over hang covered most of the dining area and had lighting bugs flying around it and moss growing on the limbs. It looked like a live tree in every respect. (If you have been there you will know what I mean.)
I was in the dining room cleaning the silverware when a group of very important looking men came into the room. I knew that they were important as they all were wearing suits and ties. (At that time I did not have a suite, nor a tie. Living in California and loving to sail and surf I had little, if any, use for the trappings. ) This day I was working near the base of the tree cleaning the silverware as they approached, then walked past me, stopping near the water’s edge at the front of the dining room.
Normally when we had visitors from the “Studio” I would have moved to another area, but this day it was different. As the group looked up at the tree I could see that leading the group was Walt Disney. Yup, Walt was there not more than 10 feet away from me. ) Later on in my career with Disney I would, on occasion, make lunch for Walt, corn beef on rye bread, light mustard, pickle on the side. Ice tea to drink).
Not that I am an ease dropper, but I was aw struck being so close to Walt, so I just kept working, but I could not help but overhear the conversation. They were looking up and talking about the number of leaves on the tree, in addition Walt thought there were too many fire flies as I recall. This was the point that I became aware of the big three. Not to go detail, as I have forgotten most of it, but the following questions have stayed with me for most of my life and I ask these three questions of myself every day.
Walt first asked, “I need to know how long this change will take?” As we were opening for the first time in the next week I could tell this was a major concern for the group. (The man taking very excited notes I assumed was the designer.) The point here is that Walt needed to know as the answer would determine if the Blue Bayou was going to open on time. The feeling I got was that Walt would not open the restaurant unless the tree was perfect.
The second question did not come from Walt, but rather a “business looking man” in a darker suit than the other. “Why are we doing this?” According to him the tree was designed and built to the specs. In my mind the man must have been on good terms with Walt to have the courage to ask the question. Walt’s answer was simple and to the point, it was clear that Walt cared. Why he cared? Because his name was on the product, the end result. Thousands of Guests were going to set under that tree and think of family times gone by, or how their mother would call them in for dinner back home, or the day their first child played in the back yard under a tree that looked a lot like this. Walt knew why they should care.
Years later that event still sticks in my mind and is no doubt the reason I ended up earning a Master’s of Science in Human Resources/Organization Development from Chapman University, Orange, California and making a career of startup, acquisitions and turnarounds. Every day I ask myself the “big three” questions.
1. Do I know all I need to know about this project?
2. Why am I doing this?
3. Why do I care?
Ok, now you’re going to ask the question, “How does someone with this background leave corporate America and pick up a camera”? Simply put, I realized that I needed to keep growing as a person and as a professional. From the time I was 14 helping my mon develop Black & Whites in the bathtub I have loved the camera, both still and movie, now video. I realized 8 years ago that I could answer the “Big Three” with the use of imagery. People get the message faster and remember it longer if they can see and hear the message. Today I direct my efforts to Video Marketing. Video is an effective way to generate interest and attention. But most importantly; provide the needed information for a call to action; explains in detail why one needs to act; and crates an understanding as to why the viewer should care.
Today I still love working with startups, acquisitions and turnarounds. However rather than spending hours in a Board Room, it’s most likely to be a shop floor, or an office, or a client’s event location. Rather than long hours behind a computer with financials and policy development. It’s behind the camera and in the editing suite. Loving it…..