Anyone can produce a safety video. But not just anyone can produce one that resonates with people, prompts them to take action, and is memorable.
Bryan Tosh pulls off this feat regularly. No stranger to filmmaking, this native Oregonian has a rapt following of thousands on social media channels. A regular crew member on Portland area productions including Portlandia, Grimm, and The Librarians, what sets Bryan apart is a different genre of filmmaking: the world of safety videos. His latest project, a Lockout/Tagout (LO/TO) Procedure video for industrial safety company Graphic Products, has really moved the needle with why he does what he does.
Here’s a little behind the method to his madness on this latest project:
What do lockout/tagout and safety mean to you?
I was an avionics technician with the U.S. Navy for ten years, and through the military became very familiar with industrial safety because we lived by it. Unfortunately, there was an incident that is still etched in my mind…I was working on an aircraft carrier, and during a shift change, an F18 hadn’t had its wheels chocked. The aircraft rolled over a shipmate, crushing his skull and killing him instantly. He was wearing PPE, however, the safety procedure wasn’t followed correctly and every one of us on the craft will never forget it. I do reflect on this tragedy when I'm making safety videos, which adds to the validation of my work.
As someone who makes films for a living, what advice would you have for others in making effective safety videos?
- Watch all sorts of safety videos; they are a genre of their own, so you’ll need to know the pace and style of how they roll.
- Do the research. Find out what resonates with your market. Watch the videos that YouTube hands you in the right column—find the ones that are the highest watched and note patterns in style. You see a lot of tragedy videos, but push yourself to tell the story beyond someone’s personal tragedy that makes people remember. Remember that the tragedy you’re watching is happening to someone’s son, mom, dad, child, brother, and you have to be sensitive to that fact rather than profit from it.
- Humor and emotion are memorable, and people are drawn to both. Remember too that humor sells your message, and try to bring a human element into things, rather than someone just telling you to be safe. That’s why many safety programs fail—they miss the human elements. Think— and give an honest assessment to videos you watch or create. Ask yourself, “Would I watch this video and would I take safety seriously after doing so?” If the answer is no, be honest with yourself and turn the process around.
Why the old-timey vibe?
Our video team brainstorms and researches memorable ways to communicate safety. We know that when done correctly, the vintage feel cuts across all age groups and backgrounds and is a memorable and humorous way to communicate safety. Sometimes a light touch is all you need, and humor accomplishes that.
The research we’ve done on effective safety videos also points to a growing trend in “explainer” videos. These are easiest to translate the info through animation. The fun part of this video, as well as the characters, is the vivid color palette.
Who was the inspiration behind Eville?
Eville is the name of the company—the boss is sort of a Despicable Me character lording over the Minions. He’s not really a bad guy, but he’s in too much of a hurry at the expense of others. The robot, who is locked down and tagged out, fits into our vintage theme and represents a machine that’s capable of destroying a city if this boss doesn’t step up and order a lockout/tagout procedure.
Everyone, at one time or another, has had this boss, or maybe even been this boss, and that should bring out some emotions. The emotions can serve to make it more memorable rather than make it blasé.
Was this storyboarded and animated?
Yes, it was. It took about three months from concept to completion. It was computer animated using After Effects, Illustrator, Photoshop, and a little Cinema 4D for good measure.