Veni, Video, Vici
At the end of the eighteenth century Scottish poet Robert Burns wrote something very prescient: “O, wad some Power the giftie gie us, to see oursels as others see us!” Which roughly translates as “If only we could have the God-given gift to see ourselves as others do”. And here we are two hundred and fifty years later with something in our pockets that allows us to do just that. How amazed would Rabbie Burns now be to live in a world in which every person with a smartphone can film, record, replay and then preserve what is happening so that we can see ourselves quite literally as others see us.
The ability to record on film came of age in the 1920s with rapid and exciting developments both technically and creatively. Monochrome became colour, silent movies became ‘talkies.’ Some of my happiest memories as a teenager in the 50s were spent in the ‘flea pit’ in our small town wreathed in cigarette smoke clearly visible in the lights from the projector, which sometimes broke down, probably because the reel of film broke. Television outside broadcasts from places like Wimbledon and Wembley needed massive vans of kit with cameramen (they were always men) to operate the huge unwieldy ‘portable’ cameras.
My first encounter with the power of video came in 1986. I knew nothing about filming people and barely owned a camera, let alone a movie camera. I had just completed a BA Hons degree, and was desperate to finally find a career that would satisfy me on a number of different levels. Through a friend I met someone who ran a management training consultancy. I may have just achieved a good degree at university, but at the age of 38, I also had a very thin CV having stayed at home to look after my two daughters for nearly twelve years. At the interview I was invited to join a training week for new starters in the business to see how I shaped up. Most of the course took place in front of a video camera.
On the first day I was asked to stand at the front of the room and give a five minute presentation about myself whilst being videoed. Terrifying doesn’t even begin to cover it! However I knew that my whole future was riding on how well I performed, so I took a deep breath and gave it my all. Which, thankfully, was enough because at the end of the week I was offered the opportunity to join their team of management trainers. My first assignment was training people from a large accountancy firm in how to give excellent customer service. I was handed a suitcase the size of an airline carry-on bag in which there was a camera with leads, a tripod and a couple of VHS tapes, and expected to get on with it. It was also assumed that each room would be equipped with a TV and video recorder, otherwise you couldn’t actually replay the recording you’d made with the camera.
And so began my love affair with the power of video to change people’s self image, self-perceptions and ultimately their behaviour. I used video on every course that I ran because it was the quickest and best way to show people what we all saw when we looked at them. On presentation skills training courses it was so gratifying to work with a group of people over three days and show them how to come across as a confident and credible person. By the third day everyone had improved and many had transformed into successful, competent communicators. Without video that would have been impossible. I also ran many hundreds of courses helping managers to deal more effectively with other members of their team. I can remember one aggressive, combative person who talked at people and didn’t listen to anyone else. I filmed him in a group discussion and when he watched it back he said “Well, I wouldn’t want to work with me!”. Rabbie Burns would have been delighted.
And then, some years later, I had the idea to start Look Fabulous Forever. And one of the first thoughts I had was “we must use video on the website to show how to apply all the makeup and also to show how lovely it makes an older face look”. Asking my friends to be in photographs was the easy bit, but suggesting that they might appear in a video was a bit trickier. However two friends, Carol, whom I’d known since we were both teenagers and Anne whom I’d met at a playgroup with our young daughters, both agreed to be filmed. It was 2013 and obviously the big bulky cameras of my past career had given way to small, neat digital ones, but we still decided to use a professional set-up in a studio with a camera operator, good lighting and excellent sound quality.
We now use lots of video footage across the LFF website and on our social media channels
The director and editor of those two videos suggested that we upload them to YouTube. My first reaction was entirely negative and, as it turned out, entirely wrong! I didn’t realise it at the time but YouTube would turn the business from local to global within about six months. At the launch of LFF in 2013 I had never watched a YouTube video, believing that the platform contained content almost exclusively by and for teenagers. Who on earth (I reasoned) would be searching for makeup videos for older women featuring non-celebrities and with an unknown makeup artist?
Well, as it turned out, thousands of older women were searching for that very thing. I followed the analytics every single day with mounting excitement. Eighty people on a single day! Then two hundred, then a thousand and then the orders for the makeup started to arrive from places as far away as Hawaii and Australia, from all corners of the USA and from all over the UK too. Look Fabulous Forever was securely on the map and clearly had legs, and that was, in large part, down to the success of those first two videos posted onto YouTube.
Video was also an absolute God-send (as Burns would have it) when the pandemic struck. As an over 70-something living entirely alone and classed as ‘at risk’, I was very conscious of the need to reach out to other women who might feel as isolated and scared as I was. I hit on the idea of a daily video which I’d record every weekday morning to be sent out via email at 4pm when people might be having a cup of tea. The brilliant thing about making these Teatime at the Ritz videos was that I needed no camera equipment, no studio, no special lighting or sound effects and almost no technical expertise. I just sat on my sofa, opened up my laptop and talked into the screen on my computer. I can honestly say that this daily act of reaching out and knowing others were watching my videos saved my sanity.
Our customers are at the heart of everything we do at Look Fabulous Forever and video is the brilliant medium we use to create a personal connection. We use it to showcase our products, show you how to make the best of yourselves, to get to know what you want and also to have some fun and entertain you. Over the past 8 years the Tricia Cusden Channel on YouTube has gained 50,000 subscribers and we’d really love to grow this to 100k by the end of the year. Why? Because the more subscribers we get, the more YouTube rewards us by showing our videos to more people. It would be wonderful if you’d consider subscribing if you haven’t yet done so! Subscribing is free and you’ll be the first to know when we have uploaded a new video via email. Just click the red button and it’s done. (See image below for how to subscribe)
I sometimes play a fantasy game in which I take my Granny Hilda (born in 1900 and died in 1957) round my house to show her all the ways in which my life is different from hers. From a copper tub and mangle to an automatic washing machine, from an outside ‘privy’ to an indoor bathroom, from an open coal fire to central heating and from a water pump in the yard to hot and cold running water. But just imagine how dumbfounded she’d be if I used my phone or laptop to film her reactions to all my modern conveniences as the star of her very own personal movie. I truly think her flabber would be gasted!
Upcoming Event Information:
Upcoming Event Information:
Tuesday 26th July
PLEASE NOTE THE DATE OF THE EVENT HAS MOVED FROM JUNE TO JULY
Teatime with Tricia - Lorne Blyth, Flavours Holidays
Flavours Holidays is a specialist ATOL bonded tour operator – offering quality cooking, painting, Pilates, language and photography holidays in Italy since 1998. Set in idyllic and unspoilt regions of Italy, guests have the opportunity to learn from local chefs and passionate, experienced tutors
Day: Tuesday 26th July
Password (if needed): LOOKFAB