You’ve decided you would like to produce a video for your website, as a marketing or training tool or for a new campaign. But how do you go about choosing a production company? Video production can be costly so you need to know that the company you choose will create something your business or organisation can be proud of.
Ann Wright is a former BBC producer who now runs Rough House Media, which has a range of services including video production, media training and crisis communications.
In this guest blog, Ann shares some tips that help prevent you making an expensive mistake.
How to choose a video producer
Why you want to produce a video?
Is it a sales tool, part of a charity campaign, to give instructions on your products, safety or training? Consider this before you even start to look for a production company. Also, think about who the audience is, and where it will be shown – online, at a conference or event or as a video news release.
On a very basic level, ask other businesses in your network for recommendations for production companies, or if that doesn’t yield any names, do an online search and narrow yourself down to three different companies.
Look at their websites
Do their values, ethos, company style and experience match yours and what you are looking for? Being realistic, my company would not be the right fit if you wanted an animation or music video because we just don’t have the right track record. Ask your contacts who they have used and look for examples that you can research online to see who the production company was.
Who have the production company worked for previously?
If you’re a small business, do they work with small businesses, if you’re a charity, do they work with other charities?
What is their background and what films have they done before?
Do they have examples or a show-reel they can show you? That’s not to say that if they haven’t made a particular type of video before, you should dismiss them (we produced two safety videos earlier this year having never done them before) but production companies do tend to have specialist areas.
Are they creative?
When you tell them what you need, do they come up with ideas and options of how it might be produced?
Earlier this year we won a tender because we came up with lots of ideas and the other company just told the client: “We’ll do whatever you want”. The client, being a chemical plant not a video production company, quite understandably didn’t really know about what types of video options they might have (examples might be a series of talking heads, lots of action with a voice-over by one or several of their team, a presenter-led film, animation and graphics).
If the company expects you to come up with all the answers and ideas, avoid them. Not every idea will make it into the finished video, but choosing a creative team will make sure the finished video is interesting and engaging.
How long do they estimate the project will take?
A simple one or two minute video could potentially be filmed and edited in a day but it may take much longer if it has complicated content and graphics or lots of participants and locations.
Our safety videos were 16 and six minutes long, and we filmed them in two days and edited them over a week. But they were very heavily scripted and planned beforehand, so there was a lot of ‘pre-production’ involved. You are better off spending some time thinking about what you want to achieve.
The more informed you are about what sort of video you want and what you want it to do and say, the easier it is to get going. If you’re really stuck or ideas, look for examples of videos that you think are good and share these with the companies from which you are getting quotes.
Be very clear about your brief
We were once asked to produce two short films – one, a talking head ‘piece to camera’, one a Q and A session, and we quoted accordingly.
When we arrived at the shoot, we discovered that the talking head was actually a 10 minute film with 10 different company employees (which obviously took us far longer to film and far, far longer to edit). The Q and A was actually three films to be done in the style of ‘Who wants to be a Millionaire’, so therefore quite complicated to stage and direct, and with lots of graphics to be added in the edit suite.
What is your budget and how much might the video production company charge?
Be realistic about what it might cost – an all singing all dancing video which involves a lot of pre-production is likely to cost more than one where the production team can just turn up and shoot. The talking head film mentioned above was for a training conference and required no preparation on our part at all, which meant that our fee was consequently low (in actual fact, too low, as I have already said!)
A client of ours recently paid a production company £900 for a four minute film and then was surprised that it was not very good. In general, if you want a high quality video produced by an experienced team you are going to pay more for it. Having said that, the video does not have to cost the earth, and a good production company should find ways to make it the most cost effective.
For example, if you want to create a series of ‘tips’ videos, we might suggest filming up to eight over the course of a day, so you only pay for the film crew for one day. Remember the old adage, ‘you pay peanuts you get monkeys’ – it is generally true when dealing with video production.
When you speak to the company, do you get on – and do you trust them?
The video is going to be a showcase for your company or organisation so do you trust the video production company – and do they get your business? You will be talking and interacting throughout the production process so you need to build a good rapport. A good working relationship is key to the success of the final film.