selling ypsi via video

I hesitate to post this here because I fear that some of you may feel inclined to poke fun, but my hope is that the good that comes from the resulting discussion will outweigh the bad. In any case, what follows is, to my knowledge, the first citizen-originated video created for the purposes of drumming up developer interest in Ypsilanti’s Water Street property. If you have constructive comments that may help either the persons responsible for this piece, or others that may be working on videos of their own, please leave them.

Just a few thoughts off the top of my travel-weary head… I’d start with a map of the city, showing the parcel and its location relative to the rest of downtown. I think that’s important. I’d also mention the total Michigan Avenue frontage and the number of commuters that pass each day… If I were working on a video showcasing the property, I think that I would focus more on the property itself. I’d go down there with a camera at a time when Michigan Avenue is well traveled, and I’d walk the site with someone in the City Planning Department, or perhaps a sympathetic developer that knows what points would resonate. I do a quick walk-through, and then maybe I’d show a few new developments in the area. I might have Mike Finney talking about the opening of the Spark East incubator. I might have Eric and Karen Maurer talking about the buildings that they’re rehabbing. I might also see about reusing some of the MetroMode footage of the Shadow Art Fair. And, I’d get some footage from the recent Hyatt Palma presentation. If you bundled all of that together, I think you’d have a pretty strong package.

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  1. Buddy Gibbs
    Posted May 5, 2008 at 9:01 am | Permalink

    It’s even niftier than this one.

  2. Roma Mance
    Posted May 5, 2008 at 9:45 am | Permalink

    It’s good. But they should have mentioned that Ypsilanti is a short, 24 hour drive from here.

  3. A Little Birdy
    Posted May 5, 2008 at 10:54 am | Permalink

    This video was made by former Ypsi Mayor Farmer who most would say is responsible for the Water Street fiasco. At least she’s trying.

  4. Thoreau
    Posted May 5, 2008 at 12:19 pm | Permalink

    I like this one better.

  5. Thoreau
    Posted May 5, 2008 at 12:21 pm | Permalink

    This one shows off park amenities.

  6. Posted May 5, 2008 at 1:56 pm | Permalink

    Here is our video entry we did about Water Street last week. Water Street Video


    – Steve

  7. Jordan
    Posted May 5, 2008 at 4:04 pm | Permalink

    I think it’s sweet. Although the constant zooming/panning make me feel a little woozy.
    There’s something very “Being John Malkovich” about it…

    “Did you know that Ypsilanti was founded by a small sect of butterfly lovers who only wanted to live and prosper in a city where they were free to marry these winged beauties as they pleased? It was only after they discovered the reproductive challenges of their pairings that they decided to revert to traditional forms of mating and marriage, but they remained steadfastly in love with the sunny banks of the Huron River.”

  8. Danny
    Posted May 6, 2008 at 12:24 pm | Permalink

    I propose a half hour video in which all of the inhabitants of Ypsilanti gather at Riverside Park and cry inconsolably.

  9. Andy C
    Posted May 6, 2008 at 5:11 pm | Permalink

    I had no idea we were trying to market the Water Street Project as a retirement home.

  10. Ol' E Cross
    Posted May 6, 2008 at 8:24 pm | Permalink

    I think now is an appropriate time for Schutzman to say, “I told you so.”

  11. mark
    Posted May 6, 2008 at 8:53 pm | Permalink

    Like I said, I knew that this would get a bad reaction. And, yes, it was done by former Mayor Cheryl Farmer and her family. I thought, however, that the conversation around it could be useful to others thinking of contributing their effort. I was hoping, in the ensuing conversation, that we might discuss specific things that should be included in a successful video. I’m tempted to poke fun too, but I don’t see where that gets us as a community. It certainly doesn’t encourage others to come forward and attempt videos of their own. Like the rest of you, I’m frustrated. I wish there were resources to do something well. I think we’ve got a great story to tell.

  12. Ol' E Cross
    Posted May 6, 2008 at 10:33 pm | Permalink

    Okay. You’re right. I’ll try better.

    Honestly, I’m simultaneously appreciating that folks (Farmer & Pierce) are making the effort and wishing they hadn’t.

    Farmer’s video includes many things I love about Ypsi. But, if those things were all Ypsi was, I wouldn’t love it. I’m guessing it mostly incorporated footage they had on hand, but it does, as Danny put well, make it seem like we’re looking for retirees. I think the production value with voice over is good enough. I just don’t think the images of someone spinning yarn do much to help us attract innovative, contemporary urban development.

    On content, I prefer Steve’s. I like the soccer in the park and shots of the Tap Room and art gallery. But, it makes me dizzy and the piano music makes feel like I’m at the part of the movie where I’m supposed to cry. I think Schutzman was right in what he was getting at, that there is art and craft in such productions and combing music, images and words ain’t for amateurs. (But, although I’ll probably never say it again, given the two, Steve wins.)

    To both parties, I’ll say, I can’t do any better and thanks for doing what you can. As for suggestions, I’d add nightlife. Shots of people enjoying music in the Tap Room Annex and watering at holes. I’d also add people at cash registers in local businesses buying things. I’d show shots of students on campus, not buildings. People walking dogs past historic homes. People canoeing down the Huron. People wearing Ypsipanties. As well as everything Mark said above. Stage it. I think we should ask Metromode for help. Or, if all else fails, the dirty bros.

  13. egpenet
    Posted May 6, 2008 at 11:42 pm | Permalink

    It isn’t for amateurs … but then it MAY be … if THAT’S the message … that we’re OK with that in Ypsilanti.

    But I don’t think that’s the case …

    We want better here … better restaurants, better entertainment, better theater, better pastries, etc.

    And by better we mean … best … best ingredients, fresh local produce, the best of what’s seasonally available, best of our artists and craftspeople, etc. In short, the BEST of Ypsilanti.

    If we are a “shot and a beer town” we should be the BEST of that. If we are a “hip hop and burners beware little city” let’s be the BEST. If we are a “funky shadow art town” let’s be the BEST. And on.

    My gripe is that we settle. Good taste is seriously lacking, which affects the goals we set for ourselves as a community. We settle. That’ll do. Thanks. OK. Fine. One tray of pita wraps coming up! Sheesh. Or … what’s better than that? More. Quantity. It may be greasy but it’s a LOT of food! Cool.

    That’s us.

    Ya’get that on that tape? Film at 11.


    When you don’t know what you’re looking at or what you’re supposed to be seeing … when the words don’t match the picture … when the music is inappropriate to the context of the shot … when there is nothing to look at but vacant property intercut with power point titles … I KNOW Timothy Leary put something in my drink … OR … there is no POV, no script, no effort to think of the viewer and what images you want the viewer to take away from this … not words … images.

    Who IS the viewer? A developer … go one way. A prospective resident … go THAT way. A business person looking to locate here … gotta go a different way. Without an audience POV it’s nowheresville.

    I was at this point 23 years ago with a Lee Osler soundtrack under one arm and an outline in-hand … and even then THAT didn’t make sense. THAT idea was not a movie … not a story … and it had no POV, then. Today there IS a story … many stories. Pick one. Tell it well.

  14. Posted May 7, 2008 at 11:01 am | Permalink

    Ol E’,

    Don’t feel bad, it wasn’t intended to be a competition. Others are right. For our POV, we asked the folks at the city want they wanted. One thing we got back from those questions was that many folks didn’t understand the scale or size of the Water Street parcel. Hiring a balloon and floating over the area would have blown the budget so the panning shots were sort of the best approach to show size and scale and the differing views.

    Then the idea was to show how Water Street is connected. So that led to a trip through Depot Town, the Parks, and Downtown and connect those back to Water Street and their close proximity.

    The music, you are right, could be a lot better. The choice was conscious. This was targeted to be played in a booth in a convention hall with lots of noise. Realistically no one was going to hear any words so that is why there were no voice overs.

    Any music that could punch though the noise of a convention hall would have distracted from the folks in the booth trying to talk to prospects. Moreover, the sounds could be just turned off and even if left on, the staff in the booth would provide the narrative and discussion.

    However, piano music was provided because this video may also be sent to prospects via the mail or on-line. Here again, you don’t want some loud voice or techno-cool music because of the real possibility that it would be played late at night and could disturb a sleeping partner or kid. Again the focus was on who was the target audience.

    It wasn’t intended for someone that was very knowledgeable of Ypsi. It isn’t a video about trying to attract tourists and 20 somethings on why to come to Depot Town or Downtown on a Saturday night. Nor a music video of our nightlife.

    The specific target is a potential developer or broker that needs in just a couple of minutes to get a sense of the size of Water Street, and how it connects to other areas downtown.

    We didn’t infuse the video with maps and a bunch of other facts because again in the booth or in the packet there would be other literature including a brochure, map, and much more. So the idea was to keep it simple.

    If in just one video you try to be all things to all people, you end up with Ishtar.

    Again, not trying to be defensive, just a little perspective.

    The good news, is it relatively easy to re-edit and add or remove scenes, and overlay voices or another soundtrack.


    – Steve

  15. amused1
    Posted May 8, 2008 at 9:28 pm | Permalink

    I’d like to see parts of both combined into one presentation piece. I liked the energy of the video Mark posted but I felt the ypsinews tape was more slickly produced.

    I’m not sure if long views of cracked and empty parking lots really show how the site is connected to the rest of the city. Maybe a better choice would be to start with a shot of the Crossroads stage at Washington and “walk down” MI Ave past the existing store fronts then pan over to the site from the bridge? Do this during a heavy traffic period to really show the impact of the traffic count stats.

    Then slowly sweep around to the other side of the bridge to the park. Then cut to scenes of some of the events at the park, Heritage fest, Elvis fest, Brew fest, to really give an idea of just how much life there is in the area. Mix in parade footage, the car shows on Cross, SAF, campus shots and nightlife in downtown and depot town.

    Next, show the construction of the new Walgreen’s as well as indie shops and galleries so developers get the idea that there’s strong potential for growth as well as established destinations for potential residents.

    Music is tough. The piano track does sort of impart the idea of moving water. Still, it needs to do more to earn its keep. The music on the posted video was a bit, dare is say it? “brassy”. For me, it teeter-tottered between tongue-in-cheek whimsy and overly earnest rah-rah-ism.

    I’d shy away from lyrics but use something with compelling rhythm and energy. If we’re talking hip/funky, maybe go with something vaguely world/”austrasian” tribal like Tia, or a moderate tempo urban groove track. Something that gives an idea of the dynamism of Ypsi while not knocking the listener in the head. Music doesn’t have to be loud to be effective. Quiet energy can be compelling.

    Well placed text and voice overs are important tools in sending a message. I feel that some commentary during the empty lots scene would have been beneficial. Talking a bit about just how close things like the park, downtown and depot town are to the site would have been a nice touch.

    Mark, I hope my comments are more in line with what you were hoping to see.

    Hey, maybe the shop ypsi folks should take a crack at a video? They did a very professional job on the web site and brochure.

  16. schutzman
    Posted May 8, 2008 at 9:31 pm | Permalink


  17. Paw
    Posted May 9, 2008 at 10:28 am | Permalink

    Has Schutzman finally snapped?
    A case of Water Street Fever perhaps?

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