In our last blog, we started our series on experienced versus inexperienced video
professionals. This series is designed to help you navigate hiring a production company.
It can be tough to select a company that will produce the best results for you and it goes beyond price. Read the first blog in the series here.
Today we will be focusing on the elements of Pre-Production and how experience comes into play.
Planning a video production is not easy. It’s a little like planning a wedding with lots of moving parts, travel, honeymoon, luggage, dress, veil, and a myriad other tiny details. Even knowing what to include in the plan takes planning or experience.
The trick is knowing what to include and what is not necessary for specific projects. You can’t just use the same list for every production. Each one has its own challenges and requirements. You have to know how to plan and execute a professional production, act as project management for the production, plan for contingencies, scout suitable locations, modify locations to minimize issues (such as large windows or noise), auditioning and casting talent, planning the schedule, coordinating crew schedules, building the budget, allocating resources, identifying needs, and so much more. Planning a successful production demands a masterful hand at proper planning so the final video does more than just play.
Ask how the production company plans to manage the project and for details for their plan to the production itself. Ask to see a production calendar and schedule for the different phases and steps involved. This will help you see how much thought has gone into your project and whether the company understands your needs. Now at a bid stage, many details may not be available, but rudimentary schedules and planning should be drafted. Avoid companies that can’t provide a concrete approach to the production and a clear, concise plan for your project.
A Production Strategy goes beyond planning. This is knowing how your company is going to produce a video that meets the goal and succeeds for the client. It includes knowing how you are going to get the shots you need, the message behind the story, how you are going structure and tell the story, direct the talent, manage the budget and ensure the footage you get is everything you need to edit a successful video in the end.
Production strategy is more than just showing up with a camera and mic and calling yourself prepared. It means knowing the needs and challenges of the space, having what you need to dress the area, capture the shot, gel the windows, light the outdoors, capture sound, feed the crew, transport equipment and crew, and every other detail that goes along with production beyond using the camera and lighting kit. It’s like that wedding we talked about before. You need to know you are ready for the wedding, reception and honeymoon, that you have your shoes, flowers and sunscreen, as well as the phone charger, vitamins, book, socks and swimsuit.
In the case of a production, this means bringing the lighting, cables, microphones, boom, playback monitor, props, cameras, dollies, jibs, lenses, gels, makeup, backdrops, slate, and so much more. It’s knowing it often takes multiple vans to transport everything you’ll need on set and carts to move it about the space. It’s knowing you can’t easily run out to get things you missed. Experience helps you prepare properly for each shoot so you don’t have to jury rig solutions on the fly that might not work in real life.
Production strategy is also about making sure the final video fits the client’s stated goals and intentions, even if that means going beyond the client description in the proposal. A professional, experienced company will alert the client to missed opportunities and ways to enhance the reach and engagement. A good company will look for ways to integrate the video into other materials in the company and offer suggestions for promoting and distributing the final video.
Look for a company that goes beyond the bullet points in the request for proposal (RFP). Ask for a company’s production philosophy and strategy. They won’t have a fully developed plan in the proposal phase, but they should be able to speak to how they would approach production strategy in your project. They should be able to provide examples from previous projects in how they managed the production strategy and how soon they would be able to deliver a production strategy to you should they be hired. If they stare at you blankly, hire someone else.
Once a production company has planned the project, it’s time for them to organize it. This means doing the hard work of hiring crews, managing schedules, auditioning and casting talent, locking in ancillary people, like hair and makeup, all while managing changing client needs and unforeseen issues throughout the project. Managing a production is like juggling 50 balls with new ones being tossed in randomly to keep things exciting. Experience helps, especially when most companies are doing this with multiple projects at a time.
Organization means the company should know how to meet a deadline despite distractions and delays, all while ensuring production stays on track and on budget.This is project management at its best. When done well, it’s like winning a game of Risk.
Look for a company with experience in production management who can talk to you about how they manage productions, schedules and budgets. What you want is a company that has systems in place to stay on track and minimize changes, delays and cost overruns.
In our next blog, we will address content.
If you have any questions about production or hiring a professional production company, please contact us either through this website, Our eMail or call us at (703) 683-5305. We’d love to hear from you.