My fellow microbudget filmmakers, most of the site's content is for the freelancer (whether on the side or F/T self-employment) and second to our community, the businesses who need videos.
But what about video producers who are thinking they want to be gainfully employed by someone? I.e. you're someone's W2 problem. You pay half of FICA. You're paid for time-in-chair (e.g. 8-5, M-F) or even as an on-call video producer (but W2 nonetheless). What about these video producers who dream of telling stories of hope on the big screen or the little screen?
I don't mean to neglect this segment of video production. Truth of the matter is, all of us video producers have a fair shot of making it onto someone's team. And by that, I mean work with a few bright minds as their employee. Yep, we all want to be the next Nolan, but until then, we must work for clients or a company or both.
In this post, I'm going to outline some of the hard lessons I've learned in my past experience of shopping around at other companies/groups. I'm going to give you a tested (not theoretical) approach to navigating interviews and using your God-given senses to know if they're interested in you and if they're a good fit for you.
Bonus: Stick around, after the show, for a free performance by Limozeeeeeeen. Actually, I'll send you pt. 2 of a list of quality questions to ask an employer that I've learned and adapted to our world, questions I learned from people who are much wiser than I am (e.g. Patrick Lencioni). And just as useful, I'll give you the script I've learned to ask about the SALARY question, when you should pop the question, and how to handle any push back, plus YOUR RIGHTS as a worker and what you're not required to divulge.
Step 0: Homework
Do your homework. Study up on the person you're interviewing with, and study, study, study. Where to study?
1. Their website
Do they have a video embedded somewhere on their website? If so, that's their welcome mat. Ask what they'd do differently with that video to make it a 10/10.
If they don't have a video embedded on their site (and not in a blog post but an actual landing page), this is a problem to be solved and one you can come out swinging with.
2. Their social media pages
Particularly the 2nd biggest search engine in the world - YouTube. Facebook as well. Might as well check Instagram while you're at it.
Look for these areas of improvement:
are their videos maximized for web engagement (call-to-actions, links to their site, etc.)?
are the videos properly color-corrected?
are shots colored consistently or do their color temperatures vary wildly in the same scene?
do they sound okay or could they use some EQ?
do they answer questions on their social media pages (each question unanswered is a chance for furthering the brand by doing a video FAQ response)?
Think through any technical issue you notice and write it down. Chances are, to get to the point they need YOU as a F/T, W2 employee, they've had to cobble together videos from multiple vendors or even current staff who are generalists and not specialists. If so, there will be plenty of problems you can solve.
3. If they're a non-profit, study their form 990's
I talk a great deal about these in the context of doing video production for a non-profit HERE and why you should study the form 990's before pitching an NPO. The same concept applies here, but rather than a 1-off job (or jobs), you're pitching yourself to work for the NPO. In either case, study the form 990's that are available and see where their dollars go (and check that post from yours truly to get the nitty gritty as a video producer).
4. Review sites
I particularly want to emphasize the need to research glassdoor.com and then indeed.com for employee reviews and any salary information others might have shared. Glassdoor cares about bulletproofing their site from tampering, but I'm sure it happens anyways. Still, I find they're the S&P 500 of company review aggregators.
If past employees (plural, not singular) are airing out dirty laundry on Yelp, Facebook, or Google (Maps/Reviews), RRRRRUUUUUUUUUUUNNNNNNNN! Do not collect go!
I also recommend studying up on sites like salary.com to see if what you want to earn with ole Uncle Bob is a fair market value for the location Uncle Bob is in.
Additionally, go to sites like payscale.com, nerdwallet.com, expatistan.com, and bestplaces.net to see what the cost of living is in that city (if moving to another city or even state) will do to your finances. I've used all four and use all four any time I'm even remotely curious what living in Austin, TX looks like vs. Casper, WY. Of course, the easiest way to get all four in one place is to type
"cost of living" "NAMEOF CITY"
into Google. You should see all four sites in the top 5 results for the city in question.
Additionally, see what pops up in the news for that company/NPO/church on Google. Limit your search to the last year and go from there.
Lastly, check the yearly weather if moving to another locale. You may be like me and loathe humidity, so working in Sarasota, FL would be about as bad an idea as Dr. Seuss' infamous cat babysitting your niños.
>>FUTURE HOME OF SNAZZY VIDEO<<
Step 1: The First Interview
Now that you've done your home work, come out swinging.
I.e. regardless of how that first question is phrased, come out of the gate ready to storm the beaches of Normandy with an M1-Garand. Tell them all you're going to do to take their video content to the next level - and be excited about it.
But Jake, it's an HR rep in the first interview.
That's okay. It shows you're eager, forward-thinking, and you care about solving their problems. Don't be super esoteric, but do let them in on what and how you're going to elevate their videos, and do it in the first question.
Think of the ole timer who you casually meet and ask about their time in Vietnam and then they take that platform and run to town with it. 15 minutes later, the MC at the event finally speaks up, effectively ending the ole timer's monologue that started with Vietnam and ended with the elevators going inside the Biltmore ca. 1890.
Learn from the ole timer - use the first question as a launch pad and SEGUE if you must to come out swinging.
If you don't sell yourself here, you only have yourself to blame. Your job is to convince the HR rep or decision-maker you're the cat for the job. No one else will do it for you.
Be sure in every question, you relate it back to SOLVING problems for their team. Even the ole trap opening line from an interviewer: tell me about yourself.
>>Imagine our favorite fishy general from a distant galaxy chiming in here!<<
I won't spend lots of time here how to navigate their questions. There are so many resources out there from people with far more wisdom than me.
But I will recommend the following for my fellow microbudget filmmakers and video producers:
Be yourself - even if that's a zany persona like Tony Horton. No need to waste time if they're a bunch of stiffs and they won't pursue your candidacy any further because you're full of life and they're about as exciting as termites in a Georgia home.
Be enthusiastic. Introverts, you can do this. You don't have to be Tony Horton, but don't sound like you're in a stupor either. Show them you're excited; try smiling and standing. Your voice is fuller when you stand, and smiling will naturally translate, even across a telephone.
Share real weaknesses (and what you're doing about them) when they're asked for. Don't cop out here like a Dragonball Z episode that milks powering-up for 2.5 episodes. For example, I always say I struggle with information recall when information is passed on audibly -- but I take notes! And I tell them I'm allergic to long meetings that could be summarized in 5 minutes or by an email. I also admit I'm not the world's best closer -- but I learn sales training every working day.
When you've navigated the gauntlet of their questions, then ask how much time you have to run your questions by them. If they say "I've got x minutes," then pick and choose, and make sure the salary question is one of them (included in the bonus at the end of the post). Without further dawdling, these are questions I've battle-tested over the years:
What do you love most about working with the team*?
How would you describe the vision of the company/NPO/church - where it’s headed?
Where do you see yourself in 5 years (yes, ask this to the interviewer - if they say "I don't know..." you should be leery)?
How will success be measured for your video producers?
What separated the good from the great in previous video producers?
Is this role a new video producer slot? If not, why did the person before me leave?
Who would I be working for? What’s the hierarchy for a vp (video producer)?
Do you want the team to be a leader in the video space**?
Who do you consider major competitors?
What do you love about the culture (I recommend asking this later from #1 so you don't get as much regurgitation)?
How would you score the team on living up to its core values? What’s the one thing you’re working to improve?
What’s the staff turnover rate, and how is the team working to reduce it?##See below the asterisks##
ASK THE SALARY QUESTION before the two wrap questions -- details are below in the bonus section
Have I answered all your questions or are there hesitations about my qualifications?
EXTRA (for the courageous only (i.e. takes action despite any fear - it is not the absence of fear)) question I learned from Uncle G: "How much of what I've told you do you believe?" Another variation is "Do you believe half of what I've told you?"
What’s the timeline for next steps?
*Most folks are unprepared for this question (and #9), so expect long answers with no roadmap... show grace, they might not be used to these solid questions.
**Remember their answer here because if you're brought in on probation or as a temp 1099 worker to vet the working relationship, and if they try to pay you less than what you'd earn as a salaried producer with them (which means you have to look at their monthly checks they'd be cutting to you -- GROSS, not net -- and add another 10-20% for benefits), then their words and their actions don't line up and they truly don't want to be leaders. It's the classic example of Dave Ramsey sitting in on a board meeting at a church. Guy gets up, "Children are our most important ministry here!" Dave Ramsey disagrees, "Really? Their ministry makes up less than 3% of your overall budget."
##This usually makes employers a little nervous; be optimistic and smile when you ask. By asking the part 2 of the question (i.e. and how is the team working to reduce it?), you're effectively putting a positive spin on the question. If the numbers are high, I'd be wary of joining their team.
>>FUTURE HOME OF ANOTHER SNAZZY VIDEO<<
Step 2: The Second Interview (And Subsequent Ones That Are Also Not In-Person)
These loaded questions are available below, in the bonus section.
With this interview, you can bet you'll be chatting with a decision-maker, if not the decision-maker. The first interview is usually with an HR person or other influencer. Sometimes, the first interview is with your would-be-boss, but that's less common than Halo sequels.
If you haven't already, this second interview will likely be via video (e.g. Skype), so bust out your interview special. As with all interviews where you are SEEN, you need to wear a suit. It doesn't matter if you're applying to work with a church, NPO, or an office environment where everyone is dressed like it's Silicon Valley and the CEO is 24-years-old. WEAR A SUIT.
Always, always, always dress up for your interviews.
I once was in a round of interviews where a group of us were testing all at once for this job. Two or three people showed up in t-shirts and shorts, and the company didn't mince words. They spent a good 10 minutes letting the entire group know how unprofessional we were (in the Chair Force "boot camp," if one person messed up, it was the whole group who was responsible... say "team" anyone?).
While we're at it, a few common sense housekeeping items that might not be so common sense, and I'm saddened by the fact I even have to spell 'em out:
Be in a well-lit area. Turn on your Kino if you must.
Be in a quiet area. Don't interview outside. Don't have a dog yapping at a rabbit in the background. Make sure the niños are taken care of and won't interrupt your interview.
Don't hold your phone. Interview via your laptop/desktop and have the former on a stable surface. There's a fair chance your interviewer won't like fetching dramamine because of your camera wobble.
Be patient. Good teams fire fast and hire slow. For example, I once interviewed with a team for 3 months before they were going to bring me out for the in-person interview.
If you haven't already asked the "how much of what I've told you do you believe" question from the first interview, you need to here. For example, I failed to ask this in my 2nd interview once, and the guy cheerfully said the next step would be a video chat with several of their team players. Guess what happened next? Nothing. That's my fault - not theirs. I failed to discover he didn't buy what I was selling.
My generation - level up! My son's generation - learn from your great-grandparents' generation when it comes to relationships: show respect, take responsibility always, and show up 15m early to all appts.
>>FUTURE HOME OF ANOTHER SNAZZY VIDEO<<
Step 3: The In-Person Interview
You'll likely be meeting with several people in shifts. Singles, pairs, groups even. Smile often and do everything we talked about earlier, and for each *new* person you interview with, recycle questions from this post and the bonus section.
Put in your absolute best effort and remember to sell everyone you meet with on what problems you're going to solve for them. Be an active voice there, not a hypothetical one; it's an assumption close in action - you're working for them, and you're going to solve x, y, and z.
Even if you make it this far, you still might not make it. For example, I once had an out-of-state interview carousel with several people, and weeks later, when I was back home, the head honcho said they were hiring locally. I.e. I did not close them on me being the right guy -- the fact they were hiring locally was simply one object. As Grant Cardone says, the unspoken objection is the one true objection.
How to prepare: before the in-person interview, check the social media profiles of the people on the team. If they love their job and their team, it will bleed over to their profiles. They'll have personal posts of their work, they'll be wearing company shirts all the time, and the evidence of them being "bought-in" will be staggering.
If you see this "bought-in" behavior in only a few of the key influencers and decision-makers, well, I have a theory (and pardon the ole math teacher in me, but a theory is just that - a hypothesis) this means the ship is going down or is rudderless. So far, I haven't been wrong.
For example, I once interviewed for a video producer job out of state, and before I left, I checked up on all the key peoples' social media profiles. I then interviewed with 6 people in person, and of those 6, all but one interview were fairly formal to some degree or another. That part's irrelevant, but I what I found fascinating as I talked with these folks is how I'd ask the question of where they wanted to be in 5 years. Guess what their response was without fail?
I don't know.
Guess which of these folks showed off some company swag or just "having fun" pics from being "on the job" on their social media profiles?
A theory is just that - an unproven conjecture. Take from it what you will.
I'm leery of a team without a clear road map - aren't you?
>>FUTURE HOME OF ANOTHER SNAZZY VIDEO<<
Are you looking for more help with the interview process?
Third, have courage. Be like Daniel in the Lion's Den - take action despite any fear that may come your way and kick that fear to the curb while you're at it.
This bonus upgrade contains questions you should ask in the 2nd interview, and it includes the salary conversation (and how to handle complaints/objections -- and your rights as a worker) you should be having in the very first interview. After all, there's no need to waste anyone's time if they can't afford to bring you onboard.
By getting this bonus material, you'll be added to the Bold Nation newsletter. I don't sell your email to anyone, as I've spent 3+ years building this community, and I will continue to do so for as long as I have breath in my lungs. Emails generally go out a few times a month, and every now and again, I'll send an offer your way. For the most part, it's just valuable information for us microbudget filmmakers as we learn to hone our craft (the business side of it), that we might tell stories of hope to billions.
Hit that big blue button below to get in on all the action.
Ever had a great-sounding video production gig lined up that totally backfired on you when you got to the price?
Don't worry my fellow microbudget filmmakers and video producers - this post is not a rehashing of the post on tirekickers. This post is rather about questions you need to ask a potential client up front - and fast.
Don't waste your time, your team's time, or their time preparing materials, finding out their problem, demo'ing a solution, and then have nothing to show for it. Don't be a sucker!
Stick around 'til after the show for a free bonus to prime you with EVEN MORE questions to ask your prospect.
1. Ask if they are the decision-maker.
I once prospected an architecture firm. I got the marketer to commit to a lunch. I got all the way through the first 7 or 8 steps of the sales process that Uncle G (Grant Cardone) outlined. I was doing good... or so I thought! He, the prospect, even agreed to a followup in a few days to close the deal and start working on their pain points (bad videos, sloppy editing, incomplete and cut by a non video guy but just a generic social media marketer).
Towards the end of the convo, I realized he was not the real decision maker. He was an influencer, no doubt, but I had been wasting time persuading the wrong person.
Still, I sent a video thank-you message afterward.
Uninspired followup - YouTube
I followed up days later. Not yet he said. Sent another video or two and useful information some time later.
Weeks later, I stopped by in person and dropped off fresh-baked bread with a note that I'd LOAF to do their videos for them. I got the dreaded: "We'll let you know if we're interested."
I was a weak sauce salesman through and through, and if I could go back and watch a play-by-play of that sales process, I'd wince a time or two, and so would you.
The first big mistake was I DID NOT find the real decision-maker. I settled for a lunch date with a guy with zero buying power. 3 months and a lunch down the drain of effort. It was a mistake I didn't repeat.
I don't want you to repeat this rookie mistake either. Money can be regained; time cannot. These kinds of mistakes are beneficial, however, in this way: they are exceptional teachers, but you don't have to go to their schools to learn their wisdom. You can read this blog or watch its video.
<SPIFFY YOUTUBE VIDEO WILL GO HERE WHEN IT'S UP>
Jeff Gitomer says in his little red book you shouldn't ask this question "Are you the decision-maker?" because they could lie.
But Grant Cardone is slinging more sales knowledge than Jeff these days, and I'm a fan of Uncle G, so ask away.
Or take Jeff's approach: ask how will the decision process work.
I wonder how Zig Ziglar would handle this question? I think I need to read some more Zig... you should too while you're at it.
Jake, I'm not in sales! I'm just a videographer/cinematographer/editor/grip/guy with a Movie Pass subscription.
First of all... Not true - if you want with your whole being to make films and tell visual stories of hope or some kernel of redeeming value, you will sell people on your vision, on funding your vision, on showing up on time, on delivering when they're dog-tired at 5 am, and so on so forth. You are in sales because everybody is in sales! That's Zig for you.
Secondly, Movie Pass will be like Napster or Pets.com soon enough.
2. Ask if they're the head-honcho for x-dollar projects
Want another classic "I-biffed-it" story?
This one's more recent. Being in Vegas, there is no shortage of (live) AV work, so I decided I'd flex my sales skills I'm acquiring every day and bid on a live gig in Tampa.
After all, whose grandparents don't live at least part time in Florida, AZ, or Las Vegas? I wanted an excuse to go visit Opa and Oma.
I had the right decision-maker. Check.
I didn't know how much to quote for this job. I had zero idea. I'm still learning how to pitch LIVE video jobs (we're talking a switcher, shader, camera ops, cabling, and so much more) as of this writing, and so I erroneously made my buddy waste precious mental energy and time coming up with a ballpark figure with me.
It turns out this prospect was fielding bids for a live video crew (with streaming, mind you) to work the weekend gig for about $1,500 all-in.
We're talking gear, manpower, and more across 2 days - live streaming by the way.
My jaw dropped. It was just so... what Craigslist producers say (look it up sometime on YouTube; it's full of colorful language, but its truth can't be overstated despite their best attempts).
But, it wasn't his fault he was looking to pay a penny or two on the dollar.
I should have qualified his project from the get-go, not waste an hour or two of my buddy's mental energy, or waste my time (or his) for that matter. It was 100% my fault. I knew better and didn't execute.
But Jake, how do you qualify the price if you don't know what to charge?
I pride myself on lickety-split quotes; I have a whole tool for that express purpose (see below - the RED font), but it's only for pre-recorded live action/animation, even with a crew, per diem, etc.
Live video production? 'Tis a whole 'nother story; I'm learning. I am, however, an ex-math teacher, and you don't have to be one to understand a floor or a minimum: quote a minimum for one factor you do know.
What I SHOULD HAVE DONE is qualify with a floor pricing:
Uncle Bob, are you the guy behind $5,000+ projects?
We needed 5 people on the gig. Excluding flight days, we would have needed, just for manpower (not gear), approx. $5,000 for 5 quality video techies across 2 days of all-day broadcasting.
Could it have been $6,000 just for manpower? Yeah, but the point is to give a floor price, a lower bound, a minimum for just one facet of the production - and then mention it's simply for manpower. Gear, flights, hotels, etc. will be tacked on later; you can even assure the prospect right now you want to be respectful of everyone's time. For example,
Uncle Bob, I want to be respectful of everyone's time; are you the guy behind $5,000+ projects?
Shoot, he might have gear and just need quality people, so err on that side of the equation and give a floor price that covers manpower and adds at least 10% profit just on wrangling people, if not more.
If he's fielding bids for the comically low $1,500, he'll lose his marbles here.
The point is to save both parties time. Get them qualified quickly and if they're not qualified, move along; they're not the droids you're looking for.
Don't send this bitmoji, as tempted as you might be. I did this ONCE and the prospect let me know I was unprofessional. She was right, but she'll also remember my name from here on out. But don't follow my example with an ill-timed bitmoji; it is unprofessional, and we're called to serve others, not laugh in their faces when they want to undercut a business with a 90% discount.
When I have my head on straight, I typically give them a range. The guys at HubSpot advise against this. They think you should say a firm price point AND what that firm price point includes.
In our line of work, that could look like this:
1 sound operator
music that is free to use in commercial projects
a ham sammich
a thumb drive with your completed video
no locations (other than yours)
no scripting (your team handles the script)
no visual fx (for example, no green-screening)
5 edited still photos of your new location
bonus: 30 keywords your competition isn't leveraging - .pdf bonus
50% payment to book our pre-production meeting and the remaining 50% is due with your final deliverable
Or if it's animated project, it could look like this:
Developer is not developing the script but will assist in crafting the language
Buyer will issue "storyboards" which can be dictated (see the attachment example) or roughly drawn with simple (even über simple) illustrations
two revisions (1st, 2nd, and final draft)
three-week turnaround if Buyer stays in the communication loop from the time of signing and consideration
use of music that is licensed in perpetuity from our library - no copyright infringements, ever
HD video playable anywhere, online, externally, or internally - even broadcast mediums
Indefinite access to web-ready and high-quality video files - hosted in the cloud
no DVDs, Blu-Rays, or physical media
→ available every day but Saturday & Tuesday, 8a - 5p PST → Office line (call/text): 702-JakeTFG
Back on track.
I combine sections 1. and 2. into one question:
Are you the one who leads $3,000 - $5,000 projects like this or are there others you'd like to get involved too?
You can phrase it multiple ways, but scope out their personality first before you call them:
the head honcho
the big kahuna
the top dawg
the guy in charge
Instead of "leads $3,000 projects" you can say:
oversees video projects
leads video projects
is in charge of videos
runs these kinds of projects
manages video projects
any variation of this with a dollar amount or range
The sky is the limit. Vary it up, be tactful, and ask the bloomin' question.
How to know what to charge?!
How do you know your range? Generally, a prospect will give some information, and if you've been in this business any length of time, you'll start to develop an intuition for pricing. If not, head on over to the post on quoting your clients to learn more about pricing strategies, and if you need more, there's always my worksheet to crunch numbers for you.
3. Ask if they're okay with remote work/an out-of-towner
Some people are fiercely loyal to their town, and they want their money to be reinvested locally. I can understand that, and I'm grateful for that mindset; otherwise, we'd lose out on a lot more jobs than we do to the guys on the other side of the world who will work for pennies on the dollar.
Back to Tampa, there was another gig I bidded on. This one was for a single person and not a crew. I was jonesing to go see the grandparents, so it made sense to try.
But after a fruitful conversation, the guy decided he didn't want to work with an out-of-towner, even if I footed the bill and worked as a local (so airfare, per diem are out the window). I volunteered that much.
He wouldn't budge.
I tried him from my second number with a creative folllowup.
I used my name again; I wasn't trying to be sneaky, but I also know multiple emails and phone numbers can help. Uncle G will call a prospect back, for example, and leave an immediate 2nd voicemail from a cell phone after he's already tapped his office landline. It's about coverage, creativity, and persistence.
The man was interested and completely spaced on who I was (again, I identified myself) - but he qualified me very quickly:
Are you in Tampa?
Thereafter, he made sure all of his jobs explicitly stated something to the effect of a bolded, all-caps NO OUT-OF-TOWNERS; IN-STATE ONLY.
Now, this question about location won't always apply, but it's a huge qualifier for any animated work. Ditto if your neighboring state has a gig, and you can easily drive over and visit/crash with Uncle Bob.
Don't wait until you're halfway through talking to your crew, finding out the client's venue, and burning precious man-hours.
Pro-tip: set up a Google Voice number in the nearest film mecca if you can work as a local and don't mind footing the bill for your own travel.
For example, I live in Las Vegas, so for LA (about 5 hours down the road) work, I don't want to pitch with my Las Vegas number. I should use an LA number when I'm making calls, sending texts, or sharing my contact information.
Sections 1 through 3 shouldn't take more than one minute. Talk about a time-saver!
4. Other questions
Here are a few of my favorites:
Why me? There are oodles of video producers in my town; you can almost throw a brick and hit one without trying.
What will this video do for you?
(If they are the proxy and not the check-writer... i.e. not the real decision-maker) What does your leadership want to know, and I know you'll be talking with them, so that when you go to them, all of their questions can be answered?
What will your leadership team want to know?
What does your leadership want to know before they even look at a proposal?
The guys at Hubspot have oooooodles more you can pick and choose from.
Are you ready to quit losing precious time with tirekickers, unqualified buyers, and the über price-sensitive?
I've got a bonus set of questions for you to mine valuable information from your prospects once you've qualified them. Repeating: they are not necessarily qualifying questions; most of them are not, but they are powerful in their own right and belong in your sales at various points. Here's a companion, introductory list of questions should you need them.
Your info won't be farmed out or sold or repurposed in any way - I send emails roughly once a week and sometimes share an occasional offer that will help you in your filmmaking journey!
That's right. When it comes to niches, 3d animation is not a bad route to go. If you've ever dabbled in animation for your clients, you'll notice you're one of a thousand fishes in the sea who can do 2d animation.
Ditto live-action video ever since 2008's Canon 5d Mk II and YouTube a few years before it.
But 3d animation? It's a skill few possess and even fewer are great at. I have zero skills in 3d animation beyond what After Effects can natively do. But I know how to pitch, I know how to lead a small video production, and I know how to over-communicate. Don't let the barriers to entry keep you away. Find a talented artist and be a heckuva producer.
Not interested in 3d? Niche down 'til it hurts fellow filmmakers, and I'll see you on the next post (or video).
After a long hard look at the 80/20 rule in my work as a video producer, I'm gonna niche down even more with 3d animation (and A/R) for businesses. I encourage you to examine where 80% of your work is coming from (live video? commercials? weddings?) and cut out the 20%.
If you're a buyer, don't panic - this guide will be written to accommodate your perspective and your needs too.
Soup to nuts, here's the ultimate guide to set the work process straight for both parties; you won't find a funnier, better-looking guide this side of the Mississippi. You'll get your money's worth on this one, and if not, I have a 7-day refund period because your success is my mission.
BONUS: if you join the Bold Nation newsletter below, I'll send you all 8 steps in one nifty .pdf. This post contains the first 5.
Now, there is lots of room for collaboration in 3d projects, and communication is key. In fact, it's step zero in this process.
0. Communicate. Over-communicate. Then check in again with something funny.
Communicate 'til all bases are covered. Check.
Then go back and over-communicate. When we were in basic training at Lackland AFB, we couldn't hear what instructions were being relayed to the group up front. I was always in the back because I was a road guard (bright vest and all), so I often asked for the student leaders or the row in front of me to repeat the instructions because I often couldn't hear them. I was only looking out for myself all those many moons ago, but I knew from my time teaching math that if one person had the question, sure enough, someone else was thinking it. The worst questions (and the only dumb questions) in life are those left unsaid. And make no mistake, even after the sale, your client will have piles of questions - this is good.
I mentioned math, so it's not a bunny trail to mention it here again. Math is a very visual language. Repetition is a plus for students, and it's an even greater plus for high-rep learners. Math, not unlike animation, has a lot of moving parts, and it can get nitty-gritty or downright esoteric. Both are visual languages for communicating ideas; both have lots of potential to go sideways in a hurry. Your job as the developer is to be a teacher. Teach your client about the different methods or ideas you'll be running. Ask clarifying questions and don't rest on your laurels 'til you know they can give the 411 to their 6-year-old with ease.
What about something funny? We do this in speech - we have to break up the monotony of our voice with a percussion or a joke or something every 90 seconds or so. Do the same with your communications. Don't just check in for updates, and don't just send only updates. Send a card when their anniversary is on the 'rizon. Send a picture of a loaf of bread and tell 'em you LOAF working on this project with them. Keep it light, and keep it coming.
1. Get on the phone
I know some buyers are reluctant to get on the phone just as some sellers are scared of the phone. But with 3d animation, there are just too many variables to communicate only by email. The first chat should be to set an appointment to get on the phone (if not a meeting in person or a Skype/Facetime/Messenger/Zoom/Myspace call) to allow fluid conversation.
Buyer's responsibility: commit to a 10-minute conversation on the phone. Share your vision, expectations, and ask questions. Email or a service like Slack, Trello, or Asana is okay for future communications because 3d is detail-heavy, and we all know long email chains are a pain in the rear. On my last gig, I had email chains as long as 70 emails or so. My fault? 100% my fault and not afraid to admit it - I'll be guiding all parties to Asana or Trello in the future.
Developer's responsibility: be a servant. Remember the first rule of selling is agreement. Make sure - even if the product is the wrong service for the buyer - you leave them with something. Heck, you could point them to this guide or the guide on why people need video. If you can't sell someone on your service as an animator, at least give them something of value to maintain a healthy line so that (as Uncle G says), you might be able to do business with them in the future. People buy from people they trust, so build a relationship now and nurture it.
This isn't just closing the deal and signing the dotted line. Figure out what each party needs and get everything in writing. Talk about timelines. Talk about quality (photorealistic or not-as-detailed). Figure out who is developing the script. Who is recording the narration? What does the music sound like? Do you want a fly-by? Cross-sectional views? Is the animation team going to have 5 machines working around the clock? Will you have to send renders to a farm? Discuss, discuss, discuss, and put everything you promise in writing (typed, unless your handwriting is a sans-serif font that's pre-installed on MS Word).
Buyer's responsibility: 3d animation takes time - make sure you're clear about your deadlines. Don't try to haggle the animator for pennies. The market value for 3d is about as 1-1 as you can get with video services; i.e. you truly get what you pay for and "quality" is still a competitive advantage in 3d animation, unlike with live-action video production these days.
Developer's responsibility: Everything you mention in an email that'll you do for the buyer should be lifted (copy and paste job) into your contract on the blank space before both parties sign. Make sure you pony up on your contracts and sign as an officer of your company (if you have one) rather than just regular ole you. Leave room for them to do the same as well. Don't sign as yourself (opens you up to liability) - sign as an officer of your company. Not sure whether to incorporate or not? Read on amigos.
3d animation: what buyers and developers need to know - YouTube
I'm sure you have a few videos in mind. I'm sure you've seen 3d animations that made you think, "Gee, I'd like that." Keep a running doc of these samples. And start building your library of shared materials. This goes for both parties - buyers and developers. You need to be able to communicate freely with one another without getting bogged down in the esoteric details of 3d animation.
Buyer's responsibility: this goes with any animation - have a folder prepped for your developer that has a simple word doc or an .rtf file with branding guidelines (yes, spell them out) as well as any detailed notes you'd like. Be to sure to include logos and vector art in your folder as well that may or may not be needed. Include 'em anyways! Color, looks, styles - even if "flat" - will be helpful resources for your animation team.
Developer's responsibility: ask 'til you're blue in the face for materials you need, and don't settle 'til you get them. You're doing both parties a disservice if you think now's the time to be modest (as if you were modest or reserved about landing the gig!) about your needs to get the project rolling. Also, get a project management tool up and running for your buyer (Asana, Trello, etc.) and walk them through it so there are no surprises. You don't want 70+ email threads in your inbox. Your buyer needs a centralized place to communicate and get updates, so start 'em early. If you can, sit down and walk them through it during the negotiation before they sign. Once they sign, thank them and get out of there - you have work to do!
This is a biggie. Bad time management is a killer on a film set, and it's no bueno in your video production services. 3d animation has so many moving parts, so many places for error or slow rendering that both parties need to be fully aware of the time involved.
Buyer's responsibility: be prepared for some massive sticker shock if it's a rush job. Don't assume a video like this one below is an easy, $3,000 video.
ThuThiemII Bridge Architectural Animation (Sub-Zero Animation - Ho Chi Minh City, Viet Nam) - YouTube
For that matter, don't tell your service provider you want a video like this aforementioned one at all, unless you're a big blue whale in the world of business and can drop $75,000 or more.
Let's bring you back down to earth; a $2,000 video will look more like this one:
Milano Dinning Table Product Animation by PinkSquare - YouTube
3d animation isn't something you can start and pivot easily with, especially when you have a deadline. Of course, it's on the both of you to over-communicate during pre-production, but once production starts, it takes time, and the amount of detail you want blows up the costs significantly. If you can find a cat in another part of the world who will remotely do your 3d animation for pennies on the dollar, more power to you.
Developer's responsibility: first things first, a few preliminary items that work in tandem BEFORE the close.
A. Be as transparent as you can be about pricing. Heck, go to other places on the web to see what the pricing looks like. Join other company newsletters if you must to get the pricing. It'll help you be competitive in the marketplace.
Also, don't assume that time and detail are the only items that cause the costs to soar. Explain very clearly which processes and the number of machines and people will be involved in this 3d animation. Build value for your selling price and go for it - ask for the sale.
B. Once the pricing is clear, communicate how long this will take, then multiply that number by 1.5.
What if the render farms crap out?
What if you forgot about your anniversary trip coming up?
What if you internet provider goes AWOL in your hour of need (true story - definitely happened to me, and I didn't have a solid plan B)?
Exactly why you should multiply the time by 1.5, then give that number to your client.
E.g. if you know the job will take 2 weeks to complete, tell your client it will take 3 weeks. Earlier in the sale, before the client signs, make sure this is spelled out and be sure to include a safety net such as "expected delivery date is _____________". Back to the 3-week example, if you close on the 1st of June, your work agreement should say something to the tune of "expected final delivery is June 22nd."
Make sure your client understands they have to stay in the communication loop. I've seen some work agreements with "restart" fees in the costs - meaning, if the client goes AWOL on you for a month (for example), then it will cost $200 to restart the project. I haven't done this (ever, but I'm willing to try), so if you have already, comment below on the results.
Now that we've backed up and covered material that should have been shared in the earlier section on negotiations, let's talk about time here.
It will bite you - in the worst way possible - in 3d animation if you're not prepared. It's time-consuming with 2d-animation. It's even more time-consuming with 3d. Remember back in 2002 when you had to use "Windows Movie Maker" to edit your mini-DV clips after their protracted conversion to digital? If you were too young for that, just know this, 3d, even today, takes oodles of time to render. It's data-heavy, and your client (unless they have previous film/video experience) operates with the mindset "Oh, it's a quick, 30-second video."
So, I don't recommend the usual 3 cuts (2 revisions), and you're done. Because a lot is on the line, I think Uncle Ben would counsel all the young Peter Parkers to think and act differently with keeping the client in the loop with 3d animation. Rather than shoot over a first draft and hope for the best, send over everything, every working day or every other working day. Specifically, I recommend the Scrum approach when it comes to time. Which leads us to the next step...
Want to download the entire .pdf and get all 8 steps? Of course you do! Your information's safe, won't be farmed out, and emails only occasionally offer promotional offers. By and large, it's informational content week-in and week-out.
You're a small business owner? Fantastic! You have zero employees or nobody on staff that does the marketing (other than you)? You're in the right place. In this post, you're going to learn painless, easy-to-follow, simple instructions for shooting your own videos to promote your products/services and making 'em look halfway decent.
Don't have a camera? Lies! You have one in your pocket!
You have no experience? Well neither did you when you first launched a business, but that didn't stop you!
You have no idea what to say? I'll help you, and chances are, you have that dynamic person on your team who can bring it.
If you have no time to edit or no desire to edit, then do LIVE videos. They're free and you can do them with your phone.
If you have zero presence on both channels, then here's a (dated) primer on getting started with uploading videos to YouTube or Facebook.
You can capture your live videos in 720p from your phone, even if you use the front-facing camera (newer phones only... for example, an iPhone 5s will not shoot HD from the front-facing camera if memory serves).
You can only download a tiny SD file (e.g. 400x224 - über bad resolution) from Facebook directly by clicking the three dots in the upper righthand corner
Insights (viewing statistics, etc.) feel clunky and disorganized
Takes a smidge longer to go live than YouTube
Insights feel more intuitive and organized, more detailed too so you can better understand what material viewers are jiving with
YouTube links can be shared anywhere and don't require a person to be a YouTuber to watch them
Especially if you're on your phone, there are less steps to going live
YouTube live - from your phone anyhow - is limited to an SD picture. HD is so common these days, anything less feels like 1995.
YouTube has two capital letters (I'm grasping at straws here)
4. What do I say in front of the camera?
Easy - think of the top 10 questions you get asked in your industry/niche. Each question is a video by itself because you can explain the answer to the camera (and hence your viewer and possible buyer).
As you get more comfortable, you can expand that list to 40 and 100 video ideas. Yes, you want frequency here before quality. Quality comes later. A lack of frequency tells your buyer you don't give a poop about video, when that's how they want to engage with you before buying.
Don't conclude every video with "Call Now For The Best Service!" but do use it every now and again. Mix it up in the meantime:
Click the like button if you enjoyed this video!
Who do you know that needs to hear this? Hit the share button!
What's bugging you? Leave a comment below and I'll answer it!
If you're a business owner, you're used to problem-solving, so be creative.
Bonus: in the content upgrade/bonus section at the end of the post, I'll hook you up with some ideas for titles and topics for your videos. Get to it lads and lasses!
5. Presentation basics for appearing on video
Look into the camera - this is not a documentary. Dress for success. Don't mumble. These are easy tips.
Smile. Be enthusiastic. Study dynamic personalities and emulate successful presenters. Do you remember Tony Horton? Be that guy for your industry on the camera.
Welcome to Tony Horton Fitness on YouTube!! - YouTube
Yep, he's ridiculous and over-the-top, but it's a part of who he is, it works for his branding, and most everyone who takes fitness seriously in America knows who he is - be that kind of dynamic onscreen personality.
Speaking of, be yourself. Unless you're a bore (then you need to work on your skills). Unload your wit, your crazy accents - share your personality.
Color is important - more on that in a second. Keep in mind every color scheme can use black, gray, and/or white. The colors you wear and the colors in your background.
Do your videos regularly. Once in a blue moon is ineffective at best. Try weekly or more frequently - and stick with it. Like marriage or your business - every day, you have to commit.
Finally, end every video with a CTA. It can be as simple as "like this video" or "subscribe to this channel." Train your viewers to take steps to become buyers with simple actions they can take.
If you're providing great information/entertainment, there's nothing wrong with asking for help.
6. Why your colors matter
Colors communicate meaning. Do you know what pink communicates vs. black?
Do you even have a color scheme for your brand? You probably do.
Have no idea where to start with your color scheme? I recommend Adobe's free tool. Find a good monochromatic (one color) or complementary color scheme (two opposing colors, like green and red... Christmas!).
Or take the natural world for instance. The sky and the sun are complementary colors between their blue and yellow and blue and orange schemes.
Or be bold and do a three-color scheme (I use a red, yellow, and blue scheme).
You can even take a photo you like and upload it to the color wheel site to dissect the color pattern. Adobe will - again, freely - determine what colors are predominant in your image and spit out hex values you can then copy and repurpose elsewhere.
Don't wait any long - head on over to their color wheel and move the handles around to find a scheme that works for you.
7. Where do you shoot your videos?
a. Outdoors - don't stand with the sun directly in your face. Make sure the sunlight is behind you (or your onscreen talent). You don't want them squinting (just because Uncle Bob wants the family photo with everyone facing the sun, it doesn't mean it's a sound photography or video practice). With the sun behind the talent, you avoid squinty eyes, and you put a nice "rim light" on the subject's hair line.
One possible exception: you can have the sun lighting the subject from the side.
b. By a window - it acts as a natural source of diffusion. So plant your left or right side facing the window, and then you'll have a natural contrast on your face. Sit or stand near the window and hit record.
c. In a large room like a garage - or anything with a big exit to the outside world. Like the window example, you'll get some natural contrast on your subject's face if they're far enough away from the (open) door and their side is to the door. Here, you're using distance to diffuse the light rather than a window.
d. Anywhere you can wrangle soft lighting - think lamp shades. Your desk lamp probably doesn't cast soft light. Neon lights can be soft (a la Las Vegas). A china ball, if you have one laying around, and even better, a soft box will do the trick - so will a shower curtain between your light source and your subject.
e. B-roll - we'll take more about this later, but anything you shoot can be used as B-roll. So, this may not be a "where," but rather a "why." Regardless of whether it's pretty or not, wherever you are, hit the record button Zapruder!
8. How to record audio that doesn't blow chunks
First, don't record bad audio. People will watch bad video if the audio is fine. But when it's crackling or peaking super bad from wind or people yelling, it's a major turn-off. For proof, consider movies like The Blair Witch Project or Cloverfield.
Alright, how do you do that? Simple.
If you have zero gear, make sure it's not windy outside. If it is, you're hosed.
If planes are flying overhead, don't record.
If the dog is barking, shut the dog up with a ham sammich or just wait. Or move your shoot.
This one's ideal. You can control most noises inside. Things to check:
mechanical noises are powered down/off - fans, HVAC, fridge, etc.
digital noises won't interrupt - phones, alarms, etc.
Any kind of electrical contraption that could kick on and ruin your shoot? Unplug it.
Pro-tip: if unplugging the fridge or other appliance that MUST be reconnected to power, leave your keys by the plug to help you to remember to plug the darn thing back in when you're done shooting
c. Mic direction - point the mic toward you. You want it facing your sternum more or less. Don't talk off mic. Just like you're supposed to keep eye contact with your audience when you're speaking (live), you want to give your mic your undivided voice.
d. Speak loudly and clearly - if you're a mumbler, work on it. Push with your diaphragm. Use your full voice. Don't be shy, timid, and reserved. It'll make it hard for people to hear you.
You're a business owner; you provide a service for people. Act confident in front of the camera just as you do when selling your big vision to an investor or you're pitching your product to a customer.
e. Content matters - if your content is boring or uninteresting, or if you're a bore, all the crisp, clean sound in the world won't save you. Make sure your material's information, entertaining, or both! People should be busting a gut every 60 seconds!
9. Should you shoot video at night or during the day?
For the vast majority of the business world, you should be shooting during the day, especially if you're shooting on a phone. Our current phones don't have big sensors, and they can't handle dark or dimly lit areas. You've seen it yourself I'm sure - when shooting a dark area with your phone, the quality of the footage goes down the pooper.
Plus, if you're not selling a product or service that isn't deathly or ideal at night (e.g. a mortuary, or a headlamp), you want bright lights. Think cheery. Use warm lights where possible.
If you must shoot at night, still, find ways to include daytime shots. You want people to have a warm impression about your solution.
If you're shooting on your phone sure enough, use practical lights from around your office to avoid these "fuzzies" you might otherwise pick up with poor lighting.
If you happen to have a DSLR or a camera that shoots RAW, well, you're probably doing a little better than the average bear - or at least you're in a position to do a little better than the average bear. So YouTube how to light your scene on the cheap and then go do it. Or hire the broke-as-a-joke college kid down the street to do it for you. Think Jimmy McGill here.
10. Make sure you have enough space!
Check your camera's memory card if it's a DSLR. If it's your phone, check to make sure you have enough space to record. Videos can be HUUUUUGGGEEE and before you know it, you get the fabled "recording stopped" message because you didn't do your due diligence before launching the Saturn V. Way to go NASA!
If you are in fact on an iPhone, check your settings to see how much space you have. If you're clogged like an artery after "In & Out", hook up your charging cable to your computer and use your default/stock "IMAGE CAPTURE" app to sift through all your videos and clear them in bulk off your phone. Don't worry - you can move all the files (videos/photo) to your desktop and delete them off your phone. Once on your computer, back up your footage in the Cloud. Pick two cloud platforms - they're not 100% safe. Do this for your prized footage, but if you want to go nuts, you can back up all footage. While you're at it, check out the tools page for recommend cloud hosting solutions. Shoot, back up your footage on two solid-state drives. You never know when a fireball is going to hit Bluffdale, Utah, so I use and recommend the 1 TB drive from SanDisk.
If you're on an Android, Google how to clear space off your device. I'd be a charlatan trying to explain how to clear space on an Android. I haven't owned an Android since... 2013. Egad. Move along.
11. What to do with your videos when you're done
Put your video on YouTube.
When you share a YouTube link on Facebook, Facebook will cruuuuusssshhh the organic reach of your YouTube link. They don't get along lads and lasses.
Share the YouTube link on Google Plus (plus.google.com). You get to do this for free by virtue of having a gmail/YouTube account.
Share the video on LinkedIn with your YouTube link.
Upload the video to Facebook. Why not?!
Other platforms as needed: Instagram, Twitter, reddit - you know your industry better than I do.
Start with the two Juggernauts though - upload the video to Facebook and YouTube. Heck, focus on just one of those platforms or both of them.
Embed that video in all of your outbound emails. Why not?! It's extra eyeballs you're jonesing for, and how many emails do you send a day? Exactly. With YouTube, you'll get a thumbnail that *should* populate at the bottom of your emails, especially if you're using GSuite to handle your inbox.
Use a URL mask to send people to your video. Instead of something crazy looking like https://youtu.be/h1rgC0q4W_k, dig into the URL mappings of your website and generate a mask, like microbudgeter.com/why. That's easier to remember. It's easier to share. It's less scary. Etc. If it's your champion video, put it on your business cards: "Watch the video here at microbudgeter.com/why."
12. Additional places to share your videos
Your email list. If you have any kind of online presence in this day and age, I suspect you have a newsletter.
Send your newsletter an email and say you have a video for them in the subject. People will be all over it like a hobo on a ham sammich. We're talking as much as 3x or 4x your normal CTR or even more. People love video!
Share your newest video on your Facebook groups. Give them a great hook in your copy, then in your call to action, tell them they can "learn more" in the video.
Be tactful. You can't just spam your groups here. I personally share content once a week in my groups, and three days later, I ask a question in the groups. Rinse and repeat. Never been banned this way.
Ditto LinkedIn groups
reddit - if you're already a user here, you probably already know how it goes. Don't spam your subreddits (more on them below). Find appropriate places to share your video and brace yourself. redditors hid behind anonymity, so if you think Facebook comments are brutal, better head to reddit with a thick skin.
Use a link (and URL mask) or a QR code to your ace video on your business card. Again, you don't want https://youtu.be/h1rgC0q4W_k on your business card. No one is going to type all that nonsense out! But microbudgeter.com/why? Someone might be inclined to type that address in - in lieu of a QR code to your ace video. Does anybody still use the ole QR code?
13. How to get the most bang for your buck out of your YouTube videos
AKA optimize your videos.
Have a keyword-rich title. E.g. "How to change a flux capacitor in a 1985 DeLorean."
You can even consider using Google, Quora, reddit, YouTube itself, kwfinder.com or a plethora of other places to find keyword ideas. Adwords - great place as well. Google Trends - another solid place.
Have a 500-word description in the body of your video. Don't do a hack copy and paste job. I learned this from Miles Beckler - you want to connect video to text (which Google understands), and you can do that with your 500-word body of text in the video's description. I'm lazy about it, but that doesn't mean you should be a coach potato.
Link back to your post or website or landing page in your video's description, just as you probably embedding your video on your blog, website, or landing page. It's the perfect marriage of SEO and it doesn't even need prenup agreements.
Also from Miles Beckler, in the thumbnail image of your video, have a keyword-rich title in the name of the file itself. When your custom thumbnail (don't use the default ones from YouTube - they seem to always find the most unflattering stills like when your nostrils are flared, your mouth is gaping, and your eyes are shut) is ready for upload, go to its file and rename it. E.g. what-to-charge-for-your-corporate-video-production-services.
If you're still on Windows 95, a) what are you still doing reading this post, and b) why aren't you on YouTube for your business? Okay, '95 may be a stretch, but I bet there are businesses still running Windows XP. Hyuk hyuk hyuk.
14. 6-second bumper ads and why you need them
Imagine going to three meetups/networking events in a month. Between coffee (or other beverage/snack) and gas, you'd spend about $30 just to meet a handful of business owners. With a 33% to 50% appointment rate, that means you'd get at least one appointment. Not bad for $30 - especially if you're able to add them to your sales pipeline and close them. If you aren't already, add meetups/networking events to your marketing strategy; here's what I recommend.
Or you can go to Adwords and spend $25 there and probably get $50 or $100 of additional ad money if you're a first time user.
Then spend that $75 - $125 on video views. With simple targeting of people who would benefit from your ad, you can easily get a view for $.01. I.e. you could turn $25 into 2,500 views and more, and as a bonus, the first 6-seconds are unskippable. That's a lotta eyeballs for $25. If you have a crown jewel video on your YouTube, those first 6 seconds will be hard to forget.
2500 people vs. 75 or so (between 3 meetups) - both are essential in your marketing because one's online and the other is offline. We were created to be social - yes, even introverts, so you can't ignore the offline component, but in this day and age, you can't afford to ignore the online component either!
Whether you're in a B2B or B2C business, the fact of the matter is, you're in the people business, and people use Facebook. The problem with Facebook is, they crushed the organic reach of your page posts (business page) a long time ago.
There will be a time when you need to use Facebook ads, and since videos are expected to make up 80% of web traffic this year or next year or 2020 (depends on who you ask), you might as well get on the wagon.
Fact: my generation and the next generation don't read much. We love videos though.
Idea: push as much "free" organic traffic as you can to your video AND do a paid video campaign. Like YouTube, you can generate views as cheap as a penny a view. Just go to your page, navigate to your ads manager, and start a video views campaign.
Of course, you need to have a goal in mind: are you sending them to a sales page? Probably not - you're probably sending them to some gated content (a lead magnet, like "Join the newsletter below and download Uncle Bob's ultimate guide to selling swordfish in 2018"). That's what I would do:
This way you have a virtual handshake in place - a warm lead possibly. Unless you've already got Walter Cronkite-levels-of-fame, people gotta like and trust you before they'll do business with you.
I won't go into more details on "how" here, but you can study this topic more extensively on YouTube. I like and listen to Miles Beckler almost every working day, and he has a wealth of information on setting up Facebook ads.
16. Use a URL mask for your crowning video
The what, the what, and the what?
Spaceballs (3/11) Movie CLIP - The Radar Is Jammed (1987) HD - YouTube
It's simply really. Instead of sending people to your ace video (or blog post or sales page...) which likely has a clinical, unfeeling URl (e.g. https://youtu.be/h1rgC0q4W_k), create a URL mask for your ace video.
For example, I send people to microbudgeter.com/phone when I want to encourage them to shoot their own videos with their phone (and how to do it..
Fellow video producers and budding filmmakers, this post is a simple, easy-to-follow reminder of what you need when covering live events.
They could be corporate, wedding, birthday, or other celebratory events – it doesn’t matter. You need to treat each live event with utmost attention to detail. Here are several items on the ole checklist you can’t afford to forget, from both a business and a practical standpoint.
Stick around, after the show, for a free performance by Limozeen (aka a bonus). Actually, for those of you who are in need of additional resources, I’ve got a less complicated, more intuitive work agreement you can download and use in your media productions. It’s a scaled back version of my earlier one on this site (and referenced in the next section), and it’s very disarming when pushing for a signature. Use it with legalese-weary clients and land more business in the process!
1. Have a written agreement
To this day, my post on contracts remains one of the most visited pages on this site. If you have no idea where to start with a solid video production contract, try visiting this article here. Don’t like reading? Well, if you made it this far and are tiring out, there’s a video at the same post. Bon Appétit.
At the very least, if you’re going to invoice a client for live coverage and the amount of time is unknown at the start, make sure you have clear terms before you go into battle.
E.g. I’ll cover the event at a rate of $400 per 10-hour day. If work extends beyond 10 hours, I bill at time and a half, and if work extends beyond 12 hours, I bill double time. Half days are billed at $0.25.
That last part’s a joke.
This could be an open-ended clause if the event lasts at least two days but might need you onsite three or more days and the event itself will dictate your coverage needs.
Go paper-based where possible, and if not possible (e.g. distance and time preclude it), use a service like Sign Now to send your invoice and simply ask for them to agree to the rates in writing before the work begins.
If you don’t FOR WHATEVER REASON, don’t panic -
2. Keep the footage until the agreement is signed
I get it; sometimes you lack the backbone to drive the hard bargain up front. I’ve been that guy too but every day I’m still in business, I gain more confidence, and the more I pray for wisdom and read a Proverb or too, the wiser I get.
Suppose you don’t have the work properly signed off just yet. At the very least, the benefit of covering a live event is you have the footage firmly in your grasp. Include this clause in your invoice (that’s to be signed):
Footage will be delivered when the agreement is signed.
It’s simple, non-legalese that anyone can digest without losing their marbles.
Even if the job prevents you from keeping the footage for your reels, you don’t need to fork over the media until - at the very least - the agreement is signed. If you want, you can require a deposit or the full bill before the media is handed over. Either way, the footage is your bargaining power. Your showing up onsite is great and it’s needed until the day a bot can fly around and take shots, but the final delivery is what the client wants. Don’t just let it loose until your terms are met, and this kind of playing-the-cards-close-to-your-chest scenario can really only happen in a rush job.
For example, “I’ve got an event tomorrow at Bob’s Hotel. I need coverage from 9a to 7p.”
You: Great. I’ll be there; here are my terms…
The client goes dark, but you know from earlier homework, they are an established, reputable business in town, and your gut says to take the job. You take the job but they don’t agree to your terms beyond an email that says “Yeah, that looks good.”
Push for the signature. Better yet, push to get paid. Hold onto that footage like it’s your dog pulling on the leash when he sees the neighborhood cat giving him the stink eye.
The Essential Video Production Checklist For Live Events - YouTube
With the bare-bones business essentials are out of the way, let’s talk what you need to do in the way of hardware.
First, get in the habit of asking your client or point-of-contact from the get-go for a safe, private staging area where you can securely leave your belongings, eat, and check footage without prying eyes. Worse-case scenario, it’s your car, but you won’t have wall power in your car so push for a secluded area.
1. Camera: rent or bring your low-light-sensitive camera. A solid Sony DSLR from recent years works here. If you’re going to a place with little or no experience in the rooms and environments you’ll be shooting in, you need a camera that can shoot a clean image in dark or dimly-lit rooms. ALWAYS EXPECT dimly lit rooms. This isn’t cinema – real life is often dimly lit and unflattering on video. A large sensor goes a long way here as does a clean image at ISO 2500, so come packing.
2. Eyepiece or viewfinder: you need something you can block sunlight with if your event involves any shots outdoors.
3. A great zoom lens: have at least one that’s somewhat fast, sharp enough, and able to go somewhere between wide and zoomed in. It’ll be your work horse lens on these kinds of shoots.
4. Tripod: should be self-explanatory if it’s an easy-to-use tripod. If it involves lots of setup and tear-down from surface to surface, you’ll lose precious time. Pick a tripod in your inventory which allows for quick deployment and leveling.
5. Memory cards: yeah – plural. Don’t get goosed here with one or two cards. What if a card craps out? What if you fill the cards up faster than a fly on a ham sammich? Get your ducks in a row here mates.
6. Slider: don’t leave home without it. If you can bring a gimbal, fantastic, but your slider should mount on your tripod and be ready at the drop of a hat to spruce up your footage.
7. Should rig: you may not use it, but handheld footage looks awful when your camera weighs more than two pounds. It’s better to have it than not.
8. A phantom mic: audio purists, I know it’s a “phantom power(ed) mic,” but I always just call it a phantom mic. You need one on your camera or rig that can wire right into the camera and record spur-the-moment interviews. Just about anything is better than a camera’s built-in-mic, so I won’t list examples here, but I do like and recommend the Rode Videomic Go (affiliate link). To the best of my knowledge, Rode manufactures their mics in Australia and not some shady sweat shop, so that’s a plus too.
9. Cans/earbuds: something to listen in on your audio for those spur-the-moment shout-outs or interviews – don’t forget them.
10. Loads of batteries: don’t settle for a handful. Bring as many as you can in case you lose one, one gets destroyed or fails to maintain a charge mid-shoot. Or worse, you don’t have enough time to recharge your exhausted batteries. Even worse, you have no way to charge your batteries. See that? Several horrible scenarios you don’t want to live out, so pack the batteries and more batteries before you head out.
11. A power strip (and power bank while you're at it): what if your staging area only has one serviceable outlet? Nightmare scenario yes, so bring a solid power strip.
12. Adapters: make sure you have every power adapter and converter you could possibly need. Bring your phone’s USB to wall power adapter. Bring two of those. Bring your phone charging cable!
13. Your laptop: you need to be able to make sure you’re hitting critical focus, and you must be able to backup footage onsite frequently. Again, don’t let a corrupt memory card ruin your job and reputation. If it’s a corporate event, grab coverage, head to your staging area and back up the footage and assess your shots. A long hard look in the mirror will do you boatloads of good. I once had an event where I was out-of-focus on more than a few shots the first day. It was a full-frame camera, and I biffed a number of shots, but I learned really quick to check my shots throughout the day on my 15” laptop to see where I was failing. Iteration is a good thing amigo; use it.
14. An SSD drive to backup footage: again, don’t let a bad memory card-to-be or a laptop crash be the end of your work onsite. Bring an SSD drive to also backup your footage.
15. Food: yes, this isn’t exactly “hardware” but it might as well be. Don’t assume the client has food for you. Low blood sugar will destroy you in a live event where you work continuously with little to no breaks. Keep food in your staging area that won’t spoil, and your food needs to pack calories like an Ivan Drago punch.
This list could go on several more rounds – if I missed something, leave it as a comment below in the comments section for the benefit of your fellow filmmakers and video producers.
4. Personal care
Long events are tiring on your body and mind, so make sure you’re hydrated, fueled, and rested every day. Don’t sacrifice sleep; don’t eat Cheetos all day. Pack quality calories for the days and eat a balanced meal before and after. Don’t neglect water during the day. Honestly, you need at minimum an oz. of water per pound of body weight during a normal day, and on a shoot day, you need even more than the minimum. Don’t rob Peter to pay Paul here.
Don’t show up looking like a bum. Shave or cut your hair beforehand. Don’t wear jeans with holes. Even consider wearing a button-down shirt, and as with any A/V work, all black is the way to go where possible.
Bring gum. Brush your teeth in the morning after breakfast. Don’t schmooze with people at the event if you have Dragon’s breath (ergo, the need for gum).
Keep your phone charged.
Wear shoes you can stand in comfortably for 14 hours if need be.
Don’t lock your knees out when standing in one spot – ever. I had a kid in my Air Force training at Port Hueneme back in ’08 pass out during a muster because we were standing at attention for a while and sure enough, he locked out his knees. To add insult to injury, we were mustering on asphalt. Egad. I don’t know the science behind it, but it’s a no bueno.
Every live event, you need to have your business cards on hand. People will stare at you with bewilderment, others with excitement, but most people are indifferent when you stick a camera in their area to get your shots. If you look the part and it’s a packed event, your presence is expected.
You’ll talk to people. You will, even if you’re introverted. Onlookers and weary guests alike will want to know what you’re doing, where the footage is going, etc. I’ve had militant people give me the 20-questions routine, and they were not decision makers or my client’s agent in any way, shape, or form. They were just vendors or other attendees. This post-9/11 and online culture has made people fearful of the unknown and certainly cameras in some instances. Smile, and remember we’re called to love one another. Answer questions, show enthusiasm, and don’t forget if you leave a sour taste in one guest’s mouth or one visitor’s mouth, it will surely get back to your client.
The folks you meet who are chummy – ask for their card and then connect with them on LinkedIn later. I talked about this in the post/video on networking and why you need a killer 8-second-or-less hook when you engage new people. Treat each live event as a job and to a lesser extent, a networking event. Of course, you’re there to cover the event, but willfully ignoring the people who are trying to engage you is rude and prevents you from further opportunities to serve people down the road. Smile, engage, shake hands, and get back to rolling the camera.
6. Cloud storage
When the job is done, back up all footage in the cloud. Yes, it takes time. Yes, it ties up your machine and it’s a data hog. Grow up! It’s a time-saver in the long run, I promise.
I started using pCloud (affiliate link) for my client footage because you can allow clients to upload footage to folders as well as download. It’s the underdog in this war for cloud storage solutions, and that’s part of their charm. Give them a whirl – ONE MONTH of 500GB - 100% FREE TRIAL – using the link above.
This is something you should be doing on a regular basis anyways in your routine client care when the job is over. Inevitably, your client will want to pull some random shot down the road, and this new era has made postal delivery of physical media time and cost-prohibitive. Factor cloud storage into your costs, and if you’re struggling with pricing your services to cover the overhead of running your video production business, I recommend a refresher at this post.
As promised, I’ve got a solid bonus for you in today’s post. If you’re in need of a simple, easy-on-the-eyes work agreement, I’ve got a newer, much different template for you to adjust and use as needed. I made it from scratch, so you have my blessing to tear it up.
To access it right now, just join the newsletter below. Your email is safe – no farming out data here. I send emails about once a week with news and the occasional offer to help you grow as a video producer.
That's right. More. Clients. In. Your. (Figurative) Backyard.
Unless you're a budding filmmaker in Casper, WY, you'll have a big city near-ish to you. And that big city is rife with people who need video production. And 2018 is yet another new year where even more businesses and brands will have to net attention with video.
Forget weddings, birthdays, and music videos - go for the businesses right in your backyard by pitching your services as a video producer. It'll put some grit in you as you level up as a filmmaker.
And after an experiment in December (of 2017), I found the best conversions were by meeting people in person. Call it networking. Call it a meetup. Call it a shindig - I don't care. Get out, make new friends, be a servant leader.
Don't be shy fellow microbudget filmmaker; brush up on your pitching skills, smile big, and make a big, bold claim. Meetups are not for the timid. Go in ready to serve and stand out in a noisy world. If you're a half-decent producer/filmmaker, you owe it to those businesses to win their business and do butt-kicking videos for them.
Go with God; keep creating.
If you're brand new to starting a video production business on the side or full-time, you can start right here, right this weekend. Get a leg up here.
If you're brave (BOLD NATION - that's you) and not one to invent excuses, get off the couch and go meet some new people. I'll show you in this post that for our line of video production, if you're still a speck in the sea of production companies, your BEST bet for meeting new clients is in person.
That's right. People are much more receptive to someone they met in-person and had a 5-minute conversation with vs. a cold call interrupting their work day.
Real live events - networking events - can produce more leads than cold calling and cold emailing combined if you're not on the first page of google for your video production services.
Fuel up broseph smith.
Bonus: for those in need of little more help, I've got pitches you can sample below plus a Google Sheet that will track your followups, both cold emails, cold calls, and meetups then compare your appointment and closing ratios.
In a world... where... there are 7 billion people (think dramatic movie trailer voice guy).
This is a world of 7+ billion people.
But I'm an introvert...
God didn't create you to be the last lady or last man on earth (not at this moment anyways... you're reading this which means you likely have internet so the apocalypse probably hasn't started).
So... stop making up excuses. Yes, people are draining, and on this side of Heaven, we're all imperfect, inhospitable, cruel, and terds on occasion. We can also be helpful, supportive, resourceful, and inventive, and it's for the latter reasons I plead with you:
GET OFF YOUR COUCH AND GO MEET SOME FOLKS
Will you get butterflies? Probably. That middle-school-dance tension never really goes away in a big crowd of people you don't know when you're going to be front-and-center for a stretch, but it does get easier with time.
Below, here are additional steps you need to commit to and a mindset I pray you adopt as you venture out in the world.
2. Practice Your Pitch
Most networking events give you and everyone else a little slot to introduce yourself. Seize the opportunity amigo: know your pitch.
After a few years in business, I've gained a little more confidence with warming up a crowd.
Side note: I was a teacher (math) before I did video full-time, so I'm thankful to have acquired about 1,000 hours of classroom instruction. I'm more comfortable in front of a crowd because of my teaching, plus I love people, and they don't drain me. If you have zero public speaking experience, and if you're a total introvert, then your battle is harder, but not impossible. All things are possible with the King.
I practice almost every working day without fail my 30 and 60-second pitches, which you can study and tear it up on your own below in the bonus section.
I start with a bold claim:
I'm Jake the film guy, and I'm the best video producer this side of the Mississippi; I'm also the most humble...
Sometimes I'll use other adjectives like "most handsome video producer" or "most persistent video producer," but for the most part I keep it simple. I smile big, I deepen my voice, and I make eye contact. People always laugh because it's such an absurd claim.
But that's the point. Absurdist humor works wonders in front of a cold crowd (cold meaning you have zero relationship to them). You don't have to leverage gossip, conflict, or controversy (especially if you're an ambassador of peace - c'mon man!); you can use outlandish claims to be memorable and grab attention.
Figure out what you're going to say and pretend you're Martin Scorcese - you've got years of wisdom and experience. Would you be timid in front of that crowd that just met you face-to-face? No.
I also make the pitch about them.
This one's easy. A lotta rank-and-file newbs show up and ramble about where they came from, how many years they made flapjacks, and then what they're excited about doing in ____________.
Me, me, me. Heck, newbs might as well grab a booster seat, a bib, and a bowl of mac-and-cheese.
It's not hard folks - talk about *them*, and what their buyers need:
something that saves time - a 3,000-word blog post takes way longer than a 5-minute video you can consume at ludicrous speed
Then conclude with a call-to-action (CTA):
When you're ready to commit to doing your own videos, I have a guide and video you can check out at [site name].
When you're ready to reach your buyers and you need a quality video, something you can be proud of and not embarrassed to share like a wobbly iPhone video, give ME a call.
You can be outlandish at the beginning to grab attention; you should be assertive at the end for those who want more info. You can do both without being a terd or being from the me, me, me crowd.
3. Find Places To NetworkI recommend considering meetup.com.
Step 1: Creating a profile is free.
Step 2: Then pick a handful of business-y groups. Again, if you're out in Minot, North Dakota, good luck finding any kind of gathering other than snow bears and womp rats.
Step 3: Commit to showing up at as many gatherings as possible.
Step 4: Add the meetups to your favorite calendar. They already support a number of the biggin's.
Step 5: Add a catchy blurb under your profile pic for each group/event you're attending.
Step 6: Show up. There's this central tendency I've noticed in life that in any live event (especially those that are "free"), at least a third of the guests who say they're coming won't. Next time you throw a party, watch this tendency. It applies to meetups as well. 24 people might be RSVP'd to attend, but 16 or less will show up. Don't be a slacker like the guys and gals who have trouble honoring their word; show up.
Note: Meetup.com has an internal messaging system, so if you ever have any questions, feel free to message your meetup's organizer. Perhaps you met someone at a meetup and lost their card or didn't get their card to begin with? Find their profile attached to the meetup you attended and send them a message.
I also recommend Facebook.
Facebook groups, specifically - find people throwing gatherings and show up!
Step 1: Type in "[your town] networking" into the search field.
Step 2: Facebook groups - in my experience - have great engagement at the beginning and then level off in later weeks, months, and years. Look for BIG networking groups.
Step 3: Click the join button. I was approved right away for the biggest group in my town (Las Vegas).
Step 4: Others may require a screener question or two. The networking group for Las Vegas veterans asked me screeners like:
1. What branch were you in?
2. Are the Marines a part of the Navy?
3. Favorite duty station?
Anybody could google these questions if they were stumped, but I get what they're trying to do.
Step 5: Find an event. Commit. Go serve someone.
I'm personally not a fan of these groups on Facebook. They all turn into self-promoting billboards (which I do when given the chance as well - guilty as charged).
That's probably a reason meetup.com was created.
I don't recommend Craigslist.
Craigslist is just so shady... ew.
I do recommend your Chamber Of Commerce.
If you live in a big city or near one... but if you're in a small town, well, see what community centers are around.
I myself have never joined my Chamber Of Commerce. It's my fault entirely for being complacent and not pulling the trigger, simple as that, but it is an established resource with space to meet clients occasionally and find new folks to rock their world with video. I'll catch up to you.
4. Show Up Ready To Serve
I went to my first few meetups with dollar signs over peoples' heads.
MLK Jr. approached racism and racial violence with non-violence. Ditto Gandhi. WWII POW survivor Louis Zamperini went back to the Japanese camp where he was held and forgave his jailors. I'm sure you can think of a number of "upside-down" responses from great leaders and examples from history. Personally, I like Jesus' approach - He said he came to serve and not be served, which was totally backwards to his followers and admirers who thought for sure Jesus was going to take an office or lead an uprising and deliver Jerusalem from its Roman rule.
I challenge you to go to an event with a servant's mindset. It's backwards from everyone else's going to the event, and that's precisely why you should do it:
a. You'll find ways to give without expecting anything in return.
b. You'll build trust.
c. Do the first two in order, and I guarantee you'll find some clients.
For example, I started sharing helpful guides with people. Especially when a lot of folks are attending this event just like you or me - no overhead, no employees, no room for videos or so they think. That's why I made the guide on how to shoot with your phone.
I give away free advice and information when people ask, and even if they don't, I try to leave them with a quick pro tip.
5. Followup Is Key
Just like everything in the business world (or relationship-building), follow up with the folks you have conversations with. People will gladly hand you their cards at these events - that's an open door to pursue a dialogue with them and see if there are ways you can both exchange value.
Bonus points for those who personalize a message or call each person you meet at the event, not just those you "mingled" with.
In December of 2017, I went to four meetups. Of the dozens of people I interacted with, only two beat me to the followup. The rest didn't even initiate a followup, and I'm not bitter at all. I mention it to illustrate a point; I'm guessing it'll be similar for you. If the average bear shows up at these events thinking
a. me first
b. call me
c. how much can I get from this relationship?
And if you're doing the exact opposite of those, you'll build new relationships quickly.
6. Invite People
I started doing this with the folks I meet at meetups and see at repeat meetups or would like to see again. I simply invite them to a meetup I'm going to.
So far, one person came out and was glad I reached out to him:
Relationships take time, but they are worth every ounce of energy. God wired us for relationships, and since the sales cycles on video productions tend to take longer, relationship-building is especially important.
Don't be a slacker McFly! Get out there!
Pro Tip: for every half-hour you have to drive to get to the meetup, plan to be 15 minutes early. If the event is an hour away, that means you need to leave as if you'll get there 30 minutes early. If it's 5 minutes away, still plan to show up 15 minutes early. Here are several good reasons why:
You could face a traffic delay
Networking events are about socializing, so you'll want to arrive early and stay late - no different than showing up for a project you're hired to do
I hinted at this in the post on hiring subcontractors - your impression of a subcontractor is influenced by the way they handle time (are they early? do they stay late?)
Go to a dozen meetups and comment below when you've done it - how many people have you been able to serve?
I won't spam ya or sell your info, but I will blow up your inbox about once a week with info and occasional offers. Want to be a part of a growing movement to tell (non-cheesy) stories of hope through film and video? You're in the right place; hit the blue button and join the Bold Nation.
In today's bonus, you'll get
pitches you can model
a Google Sheet with appointment, closing, and meetup information so you can track how effective your outbound marketing online vs. in-person
The SBA reports there are 23 million small businesses in America with only one person. That’s 23 million one-man-bands where the owner is the operator. If that’s you, you don’t need me or any other video producer. You do need, however, to bury the excuses and use that pocket-sized movie camera to shoot some videos of you and your business! In this post, I’m going to explain how you can use that nifty little phone to record decent videos and why you need to be doing this.
For those who need more, I’ve got a promotional video with your yours truly, shot with nothing more than my iPhone. You can study it, emulate it, and then shoot your own video. I’ll also send you a list of 20 different ideas for what to shoot because let’s face it – you may be rusty in front of a camera! Stick around ‘til the end for the bonuses!
If it’s a product, your buyers want to see and learn about the product before they drive across town for it or wait for it to arrive in the mail
If it’s a service, your buyers want to see several video testimonials from your buyers
If it’s coaching/consulting, you better bet you need videos of you, and you better be espousing King Solomon levels of wisdom
With most internet traffic being video, you can’t afford to NOT do video.
2. Why you don’t need me or any other video producer
I want to do a video for you (as does any video producer worth her or his weight) – but only if you have the infrastructure for it. If you’re a digital ghost town, save your pennies and bootstrap your videos.
First, what do I mean by ghost town? Meaning, if your website is getting next to no traffic (you can check with Amazon’s Alexa tool), if you have zero SEO juice (can check with SpyFu), if you don’t have a YouTube (the 2nd largest search engine, and you’re not on it!?!), and if your Facebook is collecting cobwebs, then it’s a safe bet that you don’t know a thing about digital marketing.
It’s okay, I’m still learning too.
The fact of the matter is an ace video will not suddenly produce hundreds of leads for you. Chances are, like everything else you’ve haphazardly waded through online, your video will amass a few views (half of which are from you).
If you spend thousands of dollars on a quality video with no marketing strategy (if you’re the ghost town online), then chances are you’ll play the blame game, and if you’re not committed to being a quality leader, you’ll point the finger at the video producer as though it’s their fault. I talked a great deal about this need to own your mistakes before blaming others in my 2nd book, Nobody Told Me There Was Mustard On This Sandwich: Take Responsibility At All Levels Of Filmmaking. You need to look at the man (or woman) in the mirror and accept you’re at fault for breeding an online ghost town and then hoping a video producer will solve all your online traffic and lead generation problems.
Don’t shoot the messenger. A quality video (better yet, a GREAT story) is one tool in your toolkit to reach your people, your buyers, with your message. If you aren’t committed to a comprehensive online marketing strategy, you’re doomed to fail. Don’t pin it all on the producer.
Truthfully, I don’t want to do a video for you if you’re a one-man-band or one-woman-band. I have nothing against you – I’m for you, I want you to succeed, and that’s why I created this post. I want you to tear it up with video, but the reality is you can’t afford me and even if you could, without that infrastructure in place, you’ll likely blame me when the video fails to turn viewers toward your product or service.
I can be hired to consult and advise (filmmakers/video producers - consider this service instead), but I can't produce the video for you. I don’t want your nasty reviews online. I’d rather sacrifice the short-term gain of a few thousand bucks for the long-term gain of a sterling reputation. My business can fail tomorrow, but I’ve worked hard on my reputation.
Then go shoot a YouTube live video answering another question. Rinse and repeat until you’re comfortable and actually seeing some results. (More on that in a second.)
But my brand…
You have no brand if you have no videos. I had a client do a few videos once and never use them - anywhere online. What were they waiting for? I don't know. But action is better than no action - figure out what didn't work later and improve or iterate.
What’s the expression about Rome and a single day? Get started muchacho.
3. Robert Rodriguez
He’s a brilliant, entrepreneurial director, and if you haven’t already (this is for my fellow filmmakers here), read his autobiography about his start in Hollywood. It’s inspiring, and if you finish it (yes, filmmakers, you need to read), you’ll find your courage meter going up.
For business owners, non-profit founders, or church leaders (or any decision maker toying with videos), here’s a morsel of Robert’s wisdom:
Your first 40 films will be crappy, so go ahead and shoot them to get them out of the way.
Sub “films” for “videos” - you don’t need Malcom Gladwell levels of practice or mastery, but you do need to commit to videos.
When your first 12 videos fail to gain traction, do you quit like the average bear, or do you lean in? We’ve established videos are a vital component to your online messaging, and video consumption will not slow down. Gone are the days of 1845 and the newest Charles Dickens’ classic hitting the book shelves. Your video messaging has to either entertain or inform your buyers within the first few seconds, and if you walk into this world half-heartedly, you will fail.
When you’ve shot your first 100 videos (why be average, why shuffle your way through any of this?), answer below in the comments section the answer to this question: what worked well?
4. Why you don’t need a fancy video camera or tons of lights – do this instead
Every week it seems, the same hopeful filmmaker hedges her or his career on the camera they’ll be using for their next video. Shucks, I still get asked about this:
Tsk, tsk, tsk. My response is always the same: use the camera you already have.
UK-based Simon Cade still shoots on his Rebel T2i, and that camera is about 7 years old in 2017, if not older.
I still shoot on a Blackmagic Pocket Camera (5 years old or older in 2017) and a Rebel T4i (ditto).
It’s like the old question given to Stephen King: “what kind of pencil do you use?” As though it was the pencil he used that pioneered his storied writing career… egad! It’s you – not the hardware so much. Sure, a Red Camera’s footage looks better than an iPhone’s, but go shot-for-shot with a talented cinematographer, and you’re going to get pleasing results with both.
If you have to bootstrap your way to doing videos, don’t shell out tons of bucks for gear you don’t need right now (if ever). Start small, and try this on for size:
Something to keep your phone upright.
YouTube app or even iMovie to trim and add some basic edits.
That’s it. 5 ingredients. Start with those.
Step 0: know what you’re trying to accomplish and how you’re going to entertain or inform the viewer. It’s the same when you cold prospect or follow up with a warm lead – you need to know what you’re doing. Don’t improvise like Michael Scott when he “filled in” for Dwight at the “best salesman” award ceremony.
Step 1: set up your camera on something that won’t move. Heck, books work here. You just need something sturdy your gato can’t knock over.
Step 2: make sure you have plenty of daylight coming through the window. Position yourself so the window is pouring light in on your side. This will create a soft, natural contrast to your face. If the light however comes in straight on you, then you’ll have a flatter look. Don’t – turn your shoulder to the window, and presto!
Step 3: put a few objects in the background to give some sense of depth (nothing is worse than a boring white wall, but if that’s all you have, then here’s what you can do to dress it up).
Step 4: turn off as many mechanical noises as you can (fridge, heating, air, etc.). Shoot your video when it’s quiet. You don’t want kids screaming in the background or your neighbor firing up the leaf blower outside the window.
Step 5: hit the record button. Speak your mind. Finish the recording. Until you’re comfortable with editing and capturing (or procuring b-roll), don’t sweat the fact it’s just you the whole time.
Step 6: trim using the free YouTube app or another app (like MPEG Streamclip if you’re on a desktop). Publish!
Step 7: (Bonus step) download Filmic Pro for your phone to control exposure, focus, etc. for your next video – when you’re comfortable with the basics and you want greater control over your image.
Step 8: embed that video in a blog post. Use that video’s description to write related content. It’s a perfect marriage between text and video that SEO will love, especially if you’re making people all learned and what-not. If you’re just staring at the camera and mumbling, you need to get pumped up first and start over at step 1. Better yet, if you’re a bore (unless you’re Steven Wright), find someone who’s energetic and pay them.
Step 9: this is the most important step, regardless of whether you paid someone to create your video or you did it yourself – promote the snot out of your video. So many rank-and-file social media users make this mistake. They post their content once and hope it’ll find its way home to its audience. Wrong! Post, re-post, and re-purpose. One-and-done is never one-and-done!
When you’re ready to level up, go to the school of Google University and YouTube University for loads of free education. Heck, even iMovie will allow you to make basic edits and overlays, and you can learn more about that tool at the aforementioned schools.
But Jake the film guy, I just bought this nifty light and I dropped big bucks on a camcorder!
I don’t care. I’m telling you need to focus on your delivery as you would in public speaking. What are you going to say in front of the camera? Figure that out first, then learn how to “work the crowd, keep eye contact, and minimize the shuffling of your feet as you speak.” Know what I mean Uncle Bob? Your mechanics as a speaker can be great (your video dressing can be phenomenal), but if your message is flat, you’ve failed. Go back to step 0.
Your first video is going to be bad. It’s going to be awkward. Unless you have a rich background in talking in front of a camera, accept that you’ll be awful in front of the camera. That’s why I mentioned the third point about Robert Rodriguez. Commit first and get some grit!
In time, you’ll get creative. You’ll find ways to broaden your videos. Your production value will grow. Heck, look at my humble beginnings versus now:
The Postman - YouTube
Powers & Principalities - YouTube
If you want an instructional (non-narrative) before-and-after, it’s the same story:
How To Get Out Of Obscurity As A Budding Filmmaker: Step 1 - YouTube
Do's And Don't's When Applying For Film/Video Work - YouTube
I’m still finding my voice and style for instructional videos. I’m okay with my learning curve because I’m committed, and I’ll be a part of what the Almighty’s doing through film and video ‘til I’m 6’ under. I hope and pray you’ll do the same if you’re a filmmaker. Or, if you’re a decision-maker in your organization, commit to videos as a part of your online messaging. When your first 100 cold prospects chewed you out, cursed you, or hung up on you, did you quit? If you’re still in business, clearly you didn’t throw in the towel!
5. Okay, so when do I need a big, bad expensive video? And why?
→ First, you might be sick of janky-looking iPhone videos. Or embarrassed by your current stable of videos – either way, if you can afford a quality producer, this might be a sound reason.
→ Second, you might want an animated video. If you can’t find a joe in your backyard, you can consider finding a freelancer on Upwork.
→ Third, if you have more than one employee, you’re already in the groove of delegating and recognizing your time is more valuable elsewhere (like growing the top line of your business and finding quality people who can do the same).
→ Fourth, you might want quality sound in your videos as well. Or graphics. Or a hybrid of animation and live-action. Maybe you need stop-motion-animation. Or drone shots. Or special-fx. Or underwater videos. Or maybe it’s a live event altogether with too many moving parts for the one-man-band. At that point (or any of these points), find a team.
My team and I are the best video producers this side of the Mississippi (we’re also the most humble), and we the best price and the best value. Call us at 702-907-0220 if you’re in a pinch, if you’re tired of failing to reach your buyers, or if you’re growing, and let’s see if we’re a good fit for one another. But! Before you consider Jake the film guy and his gang, you need to brush up on all the odds and ends that make up a video, its price, and so on so forth. I put together a 21-item checklist of what you NEED to hear when you talk to a video producer. If they (or even me) fail to address these items, proceed with caution – if you’re tired of getting burned by wannabes, get the list below in the bonus bundle.
As promised, I’ve got a video of this exact same, simple setup that you can emulate. I want you to be successful with your videos. It takes time, and it takes patience, but I know you can get there. After you’ve shot your first hundred videos, comment below.
I’ve also got a list of 20 video ideas you can steal. A lot of the one-woman or one-man businesses have no idea what to do in front of a camera. This list will give you a dose of inspiration to get started. If you’re the best at what you do in your field, then share your expertise a la Bob Ross and his insanely fast paintings.
Lastly, I’ll give you direct access to the 21-item checklist of time-saving, headache-sparing pro tips you’ll need before you ever have a conversation with a video producer, whether my team or someone else.
Just hit the blue button below to join the newsletter. I won’t spam you with junk. I won’t sell your information. This tribe of microbudget filmmakers is a niche tribe, and I promise to be a good steward of your email. Uncle Ben always drilled it into my head, “With great power, comes great responsibility.”
Fellow filmmakers, if you're dabbling in video production, you'll be pitching your services to old geezers and young entrepreneurs and everyone in between. The barber shop down the road without an Instagram page? They're a tough sell. The digital marketer downtown who does SEO, Facebook ads, Adwords, website design, etc. can't possibly be great at everything. So sell them on the beauty, utility, and ROI of video!
Business owners, you need video. It's 2017. It's not 2003. Your buyers want to see who you are, what your service or product is, and they want to window-shop from home. A page full of text may have worked in 2003, but as Dylan mused, the times they are a changin'. Face the music, you shoot videos of yourself and your family on the weekends. Your buyers do too! It's a powerful tool! People believe what they see, not what they hear, and people love video!
Filmmakers, you have ample opportunities to take your God-given passion for film and video to the businesses right in you backyard. They win with a video, and you win with more experience. Comb through this list, find the facts that resonate with your prospects/clients, and learn your pitches. Sell people on the value you bring them. Don't cut prices to accommodate the tire-kickers.
Microbudgeters, stick around 'til the end. There's a BONUS for you that'll give you some inspiration and models to study in crafting your pitch, communicating your value, and more.
Businesses/Owners NEED video and piles of engaging, quality videos because:
0. It gets people out of obscurity
Videos are easy to digest. Word on the street is 80% of people remember an online video ad.
That's why I made this short, unskippable 6-second bumper ad on YouTube. I call myself "Jake the film guy" because I want to stand out from the other Jake's in the world AND because State Farm forever owns the name with their infernal ad.
So, tell a story. Be memorable like Amazon or Sainsbury:
1914 | Sainsbury's OFFICIAL Ad | Christmas 2014 - YouTube
Even if it is informational, stand out. There are so many ace commercials you can learn from as you navigate this world of video.
1. Most people are visual learners
Almost 2/3 they say - that's a lot of buyers who don't read or can't read.
My wife learns all her makeup how-to tutorials from YouTube. Shoot, when I needed to learn how to replace a p-trap, I went to YouTube. When I was a mechanic in the Air Force, I would have used YouTube if I could have!
More than half of all people watch online videos every day at a rate of almost 2 hours every day. It's great news for filmmakers like you and me, and it's bad news for business owners who still think Friday nights at the discotheque are far out.
2. People read a book a year
This is one of my favorites, and it's a staple in my 30 and 60-second video pitches. From the sales guru Uncle G: the average bear watches 750 videos a year, reads a book a year, and worse, half of all books sold are romance novels.
Bottom line: people don't read. People like video.
N.B. Ever heard of "leaders read"? Filmmakers, we need to read - daily. I recommend learning sales, marketing, and leadership every day - and make it a point to READ a real book that cover topics from one of these areas. Yes, we have the best excuse to watch films and TV as we are constantly learning from those who have gone before us, but neither of those mediums are sufficient. Read!
3. Video has an ROI
Every business owner thinks about ROI (return on investment); understandably, they care about turning $1 into $2 (or better). Jolly good! Great news! 83% of businesses report seeing an ROI with video. Not only that, most marketers agree it is the type of content with the best ROI. Wunderbar! Even shoddy-looking iPhone videos do well when the information or story are great.
A business can't afford your services?
"Oh... that's too expensive."
"EXCELLENT! Wait 'til you see what it does and the VALUE I'll bring."
"No, really, I'm broke as a joke. There are cobwebs and banana peels in my business account."
"Great! Sit by a window and use your iPhone to shoot a 30-second welcome video."
"I can... do that? What about outside by the pool?"
"No, do it inside where you can control the noise."
If a business truly can't afford your services, don't be stingy with information - inform, and move along. There are 7+ billion people on God's green earth, and they need your vision and skillset as a filmmaker.
For those business owners and leaders who can afford quality video production, they're likely to recoup their investment - and then some.
4. Video means faster growth
Businesses that use video grow revenue 49% faster year-over-year than those businesses that are content to party like it's Y2K.
Now, some small mom and pop businesses (by their own doing or by the Peter Principle) are content to stay small. If so, call 'em out!
"Do you want to stay small?"
"Of course not! You want to leave something for your grandkids' kids! Let's roll cameras!"
5. Page ranking matters
A business with a video on their site is 53 times more likely to show up on the first page of Google.
That's a whopper.
6. People stick around longer
Video cuts down on bounce rate (how quickly people bail after landing on a page). Intuitively, that makes sense, right? People have something to engage them when there's a video, so they stick around longer. This tells Google your site is the cat's pajamas.
So reference your site in your video's description and embed your video on your site. It's a perfect marriage.
7. People who watch an explainer video are more likely to buy a product
Yep - 74% of people who watch an explainer video for a product go on to buy that product. Egad, Brain!
8. Most internet traffic will be from video
If this isn't one of the most compelling reasons for you, then you're probably still lamenting the death of the 4:3 aspect ratio and CD's. Time to smell the roses! Cisco says 90% of internet traffic will be from video by 2019; Forbes says it's 80% and by their estimate, it'll be by 2021. Whether the conservative estimate or not, video consumption is growing by leaps and bounds.
Heck, even Zuckerberg believes Facebook will be mostly video by 2021.
9. Video is shared more than anything else
Adult smartphone ownership is nearing 100% in the US. 92% of people who watch videos on their mobile devices share the videos with others. What's more, videos are shared a monstrous 1200% more times than text and links combined.
Yowzers. Get off your bum and go shoot a video or call up a pro.
10. Video has the best CTR
On average, it has a CTR (click-through-rate) of 1.84% - that's the highest rate of all digital ads.
It's great for landing pages.
It's great for explaining your widget.
It's a deciding factor in a buyer's mind.
11. Live streaming is free
People watch live videos even longer than pre-recorded videos. It doesn't cost a dime. If you have a YouTube or Facebook account, you can do a live video from your phone. It's that simple. I'm sure Amazon Web Services ain't too fond of it, but hey, that's technology for you.
12. Video can be cinematic
With the advances in prosumer and consumer cameras and gear, it's very possible to have a cinematic video for your business/organization. This example is an instant classic. It wouldn't have been possible 20 years ago and no decision maker would have bought into such a visual treatment even 10 years ago:
Freeze! NZ Police’s most entertaining recruitment video, yet! - YouTube
But now you too can do something equally fun, cinematic, and memorable. Call up a pro down the road from you or in another state if you must for you big idea to reach your buyers.
13. Videos are no longer for the big guys only
Obviously, your quality, your reach, and more go up with a larger budget. But for $7,000 or less. Let's say you throw it up on YouTube, and suppose it lives there for the next 2 years. That's less than $10 a day, which you already spend on your power bill every day at your place of business. The electricity won't bring in new customers or clients, but a video can, and its shelf-life is solid if you do it right.
14. Videos have longevity
A picture will be forgotten days from now. But your video - if compelling, original, funny, etc. - can last years. That Sainsbury 2014 Christmas video is still powerful, still emotive, even today.
Ditto "Where's The Meat?"
15. Videos can be used anywhere
Thanks to YouTube, videos can be shared on all social media platforms, embedded on your website, slapped in the middle of a slideshow/presentation, emailed, SMS'd - there are no limits. They're super portable. Gone are the days of lugging the box set, remote, and VHS on one big rollaway cart to watch the latest blurb on a tape. Nowadays, it's okay to watch a video over someone's phone, even in a formal meeting.
16. It gives new life to testimonials
I gotta hand it to these guys at Vivint (solar company). It's not too flashy, but neither is it a cheesy iPhone video testimonial with poor exposure and awful sound - it's just right:
Chaz from Hawaii - Vivint Solar - YouTube
If you're going to do a testimonial video, make it something you can be proud of. Cheap begets cheap.
17. It shows off new ideas or products
Before you even bring your gadget to the market, tease it! Marvel does a phenomenal job of this with their teaser promos!
Action...Avengers: Infinity War - YouTube
And of course, Apple does a fine job of this too. All the juggernauts do. It doesn't have to be any different for a small business of ten or a small business of one.
18. It lets new customers see YOU
Use it to intro yourself (for the Cadillac of examples, think of the dollar shave club guys - love 'em or hate 'em, they make a splash) and if you want, the receptionist at the front who will be the first point of contact. Or, answer questions from social media. Either way, it's disarming, especially for service-based businesses, to show WHO YOU ARE. Every doctor, dentist, and healthcare professional (for example) should have a welcome video from the top brass!
19. Video allows behind-the-scenes demos
Show off how your doors are built. The best chefs had their cooking shows to share their knowledge and they KNEW people couldn't duplicate them. Same goes for Bobby Ross and his glorious afro. He taught people his methods to further his brand, cement his reputation as a master, and he did it because he knew he was the MAN. There was no other Bob Ross (just disciples - even his son) and there probably won't be for some time because 20+ years after his death, the man's likeness is still on the shelves, still on YouTube, still relevant. Smart man - he doubled down on video.
Bob Ross - Lake at the Ridge (Season 31 Episode 11) - YouTube
Video is powerful. Take your phone and start recording. Something is better than nothing, but please have some passion in your voice and be memorable. Don't rest on your laurels, don't put people to sleep.
Time to expand?
When you're ready to reach your buyers with your offer and you want a quality video you won't be embarrassed to share, give me a call: 702-907-0220. My team and I will set you straight, and you can get an exact quote in the first phone call.
Whether my team or someone else, I want you to be successful with video. You can't die in obscurity! So, I put together a detailed checklist you should peruse before hiring me or any other video production company. It'll save you hours of headaches and frustration as you navigate this world.
Your turn - what else would you add to this list? Comment below!Bonus Time:
Fellow filmmakers, part of this blog was born out of frustration with the lack of unified information on the web. Everyone wants to teach the latest camera or the best vlogging microphone, but nobody wants to teach the soft skills we TRULY need to be legit filmmakers, skills like sales, marketing, and leadership. I'm no Nolan, but I will be a part of this industry, telling stories of hope to the masses 'til I'm 6' under - same as you. Everything I learn, good, bad, or ugly, I'll share with you.
I want you to join the Bold Nation newsletter. Mail goes out about once a week, I don't sell your information to anyone, and I genuinely want to encourage and empower you in your filmmaking journey. Today I'm offering a look at my 30 & 60-second video production pitches, my message I leave for voicemails when no one picks up, my pitch for the gatekeeper who usually answers the phone, and a video of today's post.
Recap: when you join the newsletter, you'll get
my 30-second video production pitch
my 60-second pitch
my voicemail pitch
my gatekeeper pitch (you know, the admins who screen the calls)
access to the video version of this very post (for those who don't read!)
Fellow microbudget filmmakers, at some point (if you don’t quit, you eat your veggies, say a prayer or two, etc.) you’ll gain enough experience behind a camera (whether editing, directing, motion graphics, etc.) you’ll be ready/able to land a job. Maybe on a film set. Maybe as a video producer for Uncle Bob’s Auto. Maybe as a wedding videographer. There are so many niches you can pick with film and video. The sky’s the limit, really.
Question is… what the heck do you do when you’re trying to land those jobs/gigs? What about what NOT to do?
If we’re going to lead larger crews one day and tell stories of hope to millions and billions, we gotta always be training. Always be pitching. Always be trying. Got a job already? Great! Pitch producers for their time so you can learn from them. 5 minutes on a phone with even a talent agent will do wonders for your morale.
Don’t have a film/video job yet? Keep creating. Keep learning. You’ll get there, if you don’t quit.
Until then, here are some brutally honest learns I’ve picked up along the way. I’m no David Fincher, but I’ve been a microbudget filmmaker for several years now, and I’ve had more misfires than the Millennium Falcon’s Hyperdrive in The Empire Strikes Back. Let’s dive in with the do’s.
DO:1. Leave Your Card Everywhere
I have two sets of business cards. One is awful-looking. I wasn’t smelling the roses when I had these made on a thin card stock. They were made with Vista Print and they look like it.
I leave this one almost everywhere now. When I go to the gas station, I leave my card. When I get groceries, I leave my card. I have piles of them, and if all I need is to get my name and contact info out there, this card is better than nothing.
I’m committed to my family, my future crews, and I’m committed to sharing the message of hope through film and video in non-cheesy ways. If we don’t speak up, no one will hear we’re ready to roll cameras.
My other cards are from Moo. If Vista Print is where you take your kids for their first car, a Geo Metro, then Moo is where you go when you need a solid SUV.
These I give to people when I have a film/video opportunity. The cards simply say I’m in digital film/video, and my contact information is below my “title.”
They’re thick too – about four times thicker than a standard card, and they don’t feel cheap. I chose rounded squares because I want to stand out. The guys at Moo even sent an extra 30 cards with my first order of 100. Great customer service? I’m coming back! You want to go with Moo? Here's an affiliate link - it won't cost you a dime. Instead, this link will give you 20% off your first order and I'll get a small credit on their site. It's a win for both of us.
If you’re looking for a Cadillac, then you go to the guys who print metal business cards. I think they fire up a forge and pound out your cards with Thor’s hammer, one at a time, a la a Dark Ages blacksmithing. These guys are amazing. I’m headed there, and I hope you are too. If we believe in our abilities as producers, then show people you’ll bring the best attitude and service – it’s all in the details.
If you’re brand new to offering your video production skills as a service, never fear. There’s a whole how-to right here.
But Jake the film guy, how does this help me find work?
Whether you have a job or not this very moment in film/video, leave your card everywhere. Businesses, whether chock full of employees or just a business of one (you), die because of obscurity.
2. Make Your Branding Consistent
I started out with a really bad-looking design when the earlier iteration of this site was launched as churchfilms.com.
Egad. Talk about Windows 95 clip-art.
I’m by no means a great graphic designer, but the newer look is serviceable and what’s more, it’s leaps and bound beyond the original “look.”
I have this icon everywhere online - even my personal Facebook and Linkedin. You should be doing the same too. Choose colors that are balanced, meaningful, and pick something you’re not embarrassed to plaster everywhere.
3. Make Your Contact Info Readily Available
Obviously, you want your contact info on the left margin of your business cards, if not the top-left corner.
But make sure this is true on your social media, your website, heck, even the shirts you wear.
I wear the same shirt every day.
On the back, it’s got the old URL. For example, my gym was giving out their branded shirts like Halloween candy, and it hit me shortly after hitting my one-year mark in business that I was advertising for them. If I don’t believe in my abilities as a video producer, wearing their guano makes sense.
BUT I DO B’LIEVE in my abilities, so I picked this very simple shirt to wear, and I wear it every day. I have a tank and a hoodie version as well for the seasonal changes. I want to encourage people and be able to refer people to this site.
Where else can you make your contact info readily available? I haven’t gone the car decals/wrap route, but that doesn’t mean you can’t.
4. Customize Your Pitch
So many lazy sales people blast out nameless emails. Don’t be that gal or guy. Find out the decision-maker you’re looking to connect with, and if it’s a W2 job, learn who the other influencers are by name too. I’m willing to bet half or more of all applications fail to address the decision-maker.
5. Always Know What You’re Doing In Your Followups
I once made a followup call to a decision-maker, fully expecting to have to leave a voicemail. I knew EXACTLY what I was going to say in the vm, but guess what, against all odds, the decision-maker answered the phone.
I was a deer-in-the-headlights.
I stumbled my way through the conversation and hung-up on myself before he could offer his salutation. If ever I was in the top 10% for the gig, I was in the bottom 10% by the end of my chat, and I knew, and I knew he knew I knew it.
Hard lesson, but a necessary one.
6. Creatively Persist With Your Followups
I talked about this in another post, but it’s worth repeating here.
a. Frequency – develop a schedule and commit to following up. One and done doesn’t exist when trying to get attention. I was invited to a breakfast with a producer because I committed to the work of following up. One email, one phone call, one of anything is NOT ENOUGH.
b. Vary it up – don’t just call and ask for “a status update.” You’ll be in the trash heap before long. Instead, use email, fax (can do for free within reason), Amazon, hand-delivered messages, showing up at their place of business, call up a radio DJ and ask for a shout-out, leave a Facebook comment, etc.
c. Be creative – send a snail mail invitation to a movie. Send a loaf of bread and say you’d “LOAF to do business with them.” Send a William Shatner e-card and say “hi.”
7. Train Every Working Day
Even with proper training every working day, you’re bound to have problems like I did in the 5th point. Tires blow out every now and again, even if your car is well-maintained.
But that’s no excuse to go to the gym and work out once for three hours and call it good.
Train your brain. Rehearse your pitches. Stay alert. Stay ready. Discipline isn’t kind to those on the weak sauce.
8. Know Your Pitches
I’ve got a 15, 30, and 60-second pitch for my video production services. I’ve got a pitch for Powers & Principalities. Just like I have to train (sales/marketing) every working day, I need to be able to rattle off my pitches – with energy – at the drop of a hat.
At the same time, don’t show up to a party and only talk about yourself. Meaning, if you’re in a place to pitch your services or your film, say what is necessary, ask great questions, and try to close the deal. Don’t take it as an excuse to deliver a 5-minute monologue without checking in with your audience. It was the same with teaching. Talk, ask questions, get feedback and engage your crowd. Every pitch should end with opportunities to close the deal and second to that, give more information if needed.
DON’T:1. Do Work Without An Agreement
I made a colossal mistake in a W2 job application once. During the interview, I was asked if I’d do a project for the team. It’s natural in our line of work; after all, a coach doesn’t want to hear how well you can tackle. He wants to see you tackle.
If a project is for fun, if it’s not going to be used by the group you’re looking to get in with, then by all means, go for it, but still write up an agreement stating YOUR WORK WILL NOT BE USED.
If it is going to be used, discuss payment up front. Don’t be afraid to blow the deal. Remember, there are 7 billion other people on Earth.
I didn’t discuss payment up front. Blunder.
As the interview process got down to the negotiation table, I learned of final revisions to be made before the video would be live in the group. I.e. used in their world. So, like any electrical contractor would do, I sent my invoice for the work rendered. I gave them a fair market value, shaved off hours from the total bill, and it was very comparable to what it would have cost them to have me in that role, working for that amount of time (remember, your “cost” to an employer is at least 1.2x what your salary is… meaning if your salary is $60,000, your employer actually spends $72,000 or more on you every year).
They pushed back.
Rightly so – I didn’t have a written agreement. I lost the job opportunity, but I wasn’t afraid to lose the deal. I was more concerned I didn’t approach the project with a written agreement. We agreed on a sum for almost half what I billed them because I didn’t have an agreement.
Guess whose fault it was? Mine.
Give a potential opportunity 2-4 hours of “work” if it’ll allow them to see what you can do and beyond that, get a written agreement your work
a. won’t be used for commercial purposes,
b. will be compensated to the tune of x dollars.
If you’re lost in the sauce when it comes to video production contracts, get a solid template for FREE to save yourself from these kinds of dilemmas.
Then use the darn thing.
2. Shotgun Everyone
Don’t make a template and blast everyone with the same template. Remember, customize your pitch.
In addition to customizing, you’ll want to go a mile deep with 5-15 different people. Applying for a W2 job? Pick a handful and follow up ‘til the job is closed. Don’t blast out your resume to 100 different groups: I guarantee you’ll get ZERO bites. Learn about a few different organizations, set yourself apart from the other weak-sauce applications they’re fielding, and smoke that first conversation with facts. Show ‘em you did your homework. You can only do that when you go a mile deep with a handful of groups.
This principle is true even with one-off jobs like the ones you can find at staffmeup.com. You don’t want to blast 50 different editing jobs. Pick 5, learn who the decision-makers are, and go all-in.
Everyone can submit a resume. But you’re not everyone, and it’s your job to show them.
3. Get Obsessed With Gear
Gear changes all the time. The GH4 made a big splash in 2014, then Panasonic made a few smaller derivatives, and then they released the GH5. They’ll be on the GHX 3000 in 5 years. It’s a vicious cycle, and technology always changes. Pick gear that will last a solid 6+ years (entirely possible) and farm out the bigger jobs that require the bigger guns. If you want to be a director or producer, you won’t be running cameras forever. Get used to finding and working with a DP. A great DP keeps all her or his own gear relevant anyways OR know what’s relevant.
If you’re a DP, you probably already have a great C300 package or something similar, or you (or the production) will rent a Red or Alexa package anyways. So, don’t bother with the newest mirrorless camera. Get better at using the gear you have like Sir Simon Cade. That kid is still using a Rebel T2i, and he’s jolly good at it.
In case I haven’t beat a dead horse yet, gear doesn’t find you the next job; it may be a tool on the next job, but YOU are the reason you’ll get the next job – your technical competence is important, but your ability to sell your skills, over-deliver, show up ahead of time, stay late, work hard, and contribute are far more valuable.
For example, I once had a subcontractor who could easily deliver all the technical requirements of the job (and did), but I didn’t over-communicate expectations. I was at fault for not going the extra mile, and as a result, I sweated the deadlines, heard a lot of excuses, and I nearly paid for it with losses. Even though I’m responsible to over-communicate expectations, the experience was awful and you can bet I’m not hiring the sub again.
4. Go Into Piles Of Debt
Every big business leverages debt to grow their business. I too have used debt at various points in my business, but obviously not on the scale of Coca-Cola. Dave Ramsey will tell you to never get into debt (except possibly for a house), but Dave Ramsey also doesn’t coach you on building a video production business or a feature-length film. Use some debt (like Paypal credit) to finance purchases as needed and then be an adult and pay it off. Don’t fall into the previous trap of going gear-frenzy, financing $45,000 worth of gear, and then failing to make a single ad for a client. Savvy?
5. Show Up Late
15 minutes early is on-time. Showing up on-time is late. This isn’t just for military folks. In the business world, the person who shows up late (or later) doesn’t care (or doesn’t care as much).
Once I was nervous enough I had to pull over at a gas station and relieve myself. The stop cost me and I ended up being late. I owned the tardiness, but I was still late, and I set a bad first impression. Guess who didn’t land the job?
My friend Terry routinely shows up a half-hour ahead of when he’s needed. I bet he hasn’t been late for an appointment in decades. Smart man.
6. Point The Finger
Biggest drawback of any leader or public figure (next to a scandal that closes down their business and destroys their livelihood, not to mention the livelihoods of all who worked for ‘em)? Failure to take responsibility.
Don’t make up excuses. Don’t blame Uncle Bob. Just don’t. You’re at fault, always. Accept it now. When poop hits the fan, you’re at fault. When your subcontractor shows up late, it’s your fault for not over-communicating.
I have a super-simplified formula below for what it takes to be a filmmaker on the international level like Nolan or Scorsese, and responsibility is a huge component of it. Start practicing now, with your family, with your team at work, with your customer service rep at Verizon, and with the guy ringing up your groceries at the store.
7. Give Up Trying… Unless…
a. You absolutely blow it. Sometimes you just know there’s no going back. Count your losses, learn from your mistakes and press on.
b. You get zero communication from the other party. You can only follow up so long. I pick someone new to pitch only after getting ZERO responses to about 14 varied, consistent and creative ways of following up. If I really want to work for Uncle Bob on a project, Uncle Bob’s going to hear some straight-laced, some zany, and some creative followups over the course of 16-26 weeks (about 14 contacts in all… and the timeline is super compressed as needed). If I can’t budge Uncle Bob in that time frame, the gig’s already over and I failed to be loud enough. There’s 7 billion other people in the world – move along.
Grant Cardone believes in following up ‘til you die. Grant Cardone also has an army of people that make up his businesses. ‘Til we get there, sometimes, you just have to know your side of the Mason-Dixon line.
c. You get a cease-and-desist letter. I only have one to my name. I’m not a bully, but I believe in following up because I believe I’m better than my competitors, and I believe I’m meant to learn how to pitch big ideas that’ll require lots of guts. I don’t take option a. or b. lightly, and I’m bound to get another cease-and-desist in my lifetime. It’s a slap on the wrist; if you get one, smile, nod, and move along (they’re not the droids you’re looking for).
8. Quit Praying
There’s a story of this guy named Daniel from centuries ago who lived as an outsider of sorts. He wasn’t alone either; a lot of his countrymen were exiles too. He made it a point to pray for his host nation… and himself. He prayed regularly too, even when the long arm of the law was on the hunt for folks like Daniel who were bent on praying.
I encourage you to keep praying. There’s a lot at play when we pray, even when we don’t see fruit immediately. There are a lot of moving parts in the world, both seen and unseen, and when the answers are “no” or non-descript, see it as a chance to get some grit in you.
If you’re serious about film/video, and if you know you’re capable of leading others on a film set, and if your ambitions are bigger than “I want to make a movie,” then I hope and pray (every day) you’ll dig your heels in. Grit is something we all need in this business, much more than the latest tech. I’m convinced..
We've all been there. As microbudgeters, there is always an interim between video production jobs. Regardless of whether you do videos on the side or full-time, there are gaps. What you do in those gaps is critical, and it shouldn't be an excuse to rest on your laurels. Use this time to regroup, train, and find new opportunities!
If you stick around, at the bottom of this post, there's a bonus video bundle for those who join the newsletter and
don't know how to setup an unskippable bumper ad on YouTube
want to see an example of such an ad
Note: Make the most of your "free time." Heck, if nothing else, pick up a book and LEARN. Grant Cardone says the average bear reads a book a year, and half of those books are romance novels. If you read a nonfiction book a month, you're doing well. A library card costs only time and you can request books for pickup from your computer.
1. Learn more about your ace skill
Say you're a great editor. A lot of us one-man-band types are better at editing than any other facet of filmmaking. Let's be honest with ourselves; it's the most time-consuming component, it's where we are the pickiest, and we all want to edit our own pieces for fear of delegating. We're great editors, if nothing else than by virtue of time spent doing it. Malcom Gladwell would agree (if you haven't read his book, pick up a copy or rent one); we achieve mastery by sheer brute force of thousands of hours given to a craft.
If I spend 30 mins a day playing drums and only 15 minutes a day playing guitar, what instrument I will be more proficient at in a year's time?
So it is with editing.
What then? Niche down.
Are you exceptional at multi-cam editing?
Or perhaps a tangential skill to editing, like...
Spend more time learning your *ace* skillset. Go 20 miles deep with it. For me, it used to be flat 2d-animation (in the context of "editing," which some would argue is unrelated). I'm nowhere nearly as talented as this guy, and I'm okay with that. I'm not insecure about my animation, and it's not my career path. But while I'm on the microbudget side of the industry doing client work, if time permits these days, I'll learn more about using After Effects for 2d-animation. I spend "free time" nowadays learning from books on historical leaders and current business books. I want to be a director and producer, so I train to be one. I learn sales training daily, and every working day, I'm pitching folks in TV for their time.
Where are you training?
Yes, we have a golden excuse to watch TV and movies because we're always absorbing the technical details, the plot, and a dozen other things. But we can't watch a bunch of films and call it good. It's the same with going to church or studies during the week. Without practice and implementation of the principles we learn, we're full of knowledge but low on execution.
2. Follow up on the unsold
If you're in video production, chances are you've had conversations with people wanting to know more about your services.
And chances are, for whatever reason, you failed to close the deal.
It's not their fault after all; it's yours for not being able to close them and serve them through your God-given passion for film and video. I'm guilty of this daily. I've blown job leads for clients, for employers, for colleagues, and I'll always blow leads, but I'd rather blow an opportunity by trying or pushing too hard than not trying at all.
Pick up the phone. Call the unsold. Fax them. Show up at their place of business. Ask to do business with them:
Hey Uncle Bob, I'd love to do a video for you - what problem are you trying to solve these days?
So much of our line of work requires persistence and initiative. Yes, creativity plays a part in filmmaking, but honestly, grit goes a long ways too.
P.s. you don't need a fax machine to fax people - just a .pdf and a computer. Use that link above; while it's a dying technology in 2017, some businesses still use it.
3. Find new prospects
In this day and age, there are millions of people who can pick up a camera or their phone, shoot in some kind of V-log, F-Rog, or B-log style and call themselves filmmakers.
Which is great - that means more stories of hope.
But that also means you have to be louder and make more noise to get attention.
When my son rounds the s-shaped corner in the gym, I tell him to shout "Hey! Excuse me." He'll do it eventually. Repetition is key; he's so small, most people don't think to look down when they're barreling through the s-corner. It's a tight space, and my boy (as of 2017) is not yet 3-feet tall.
I'm getting better about being loud in person too.
I'm Jake... the film guy! Not that State Farm guy!
You're welcome State Farm for the link.
There are two ways to find new prospects:
1. 1980's way of sales: cold calls, door-to-door sales, radio ads, TV ads, billboards, print, etc.
2. Today's way of sales: digital ads, emails, etc. plus all of the 1980's methods
Both are still valid. If you have no idea how to do #1, there's an entire writeup here. It's how I ran business in 2016, and going into 2018, I'm learning the second method.
4. Let your circle know you're on the hunt
Call up your friends. Family. People you vaguely know. Let them know you're between jobs and would love to know whoever it is they know.
Uncle Bob, Jake the film guy here. Who do you know in need of video production right now?
Uh... I guess I know Curly Sue from work... her kid's got a softball skills video she needs done...
Softball Skills videos pay peanuts, but if you're starting out, hey! Jump in. Serve, over-deliver, and get paid. They ain't bad to break the ice with if you've never done paid video work.
I'm really bad at this deliberate, intentional, and daily ask of people in front of me. I'm making a deliberate effort to course-correct. We owe it to ourselves, our families, and our crew, past, present, and future, to make the asks of EVERYONE we know.
Be obnoxious, be a servant, and be loud. Ask. We have not because we ask not.
Think I'm kidding? Try falling into the trap of "if you build it, they will come." Seth Godin is right, not just about social media, but his wisdom applies to our films and our video productions as well: build it, nurture it, entertain, engage, and maybe folks will stick around for the long haul.
5. Cold pitch producers and agents for their time
I shot the first 12-minutes of my pilot Powers & Principalities in the spring of 2017. Like I mentioned earlier, I'm in the process of cold pitching producers and agents for their time. Of course I want to get my show made, and I will get it made. Right now, I'm trying to convince these fine folks to give me some of their time so I can soak up their wisdom. So far, it's a slow-burn, but I'm in 'til I'm 6' under. I post my learns as they come on the microbudgeter Facebook page.
If you have a movie or show on deck, you should be doing this every working day anyways.
If we're going to tell big stories, and if we're going to reach millions with stories of hope, we have to think big. Start practicing your pitching skills now, start learning now, and start shaking hands with folks now. Don't wait for the heavens to part for you.
I'm terrified of the phone too. Pick it up. Crush that fear, it ain't from God anyways. Even if you get the snot beat out of you on the phone call, you're still alive, right? Call. Chances are it'll be a voicemail anyways. Leave a voicemail.
If you have no movie and no show on deck, then for the same reasons given above, pick up the phone, pound out an email, and send a courier pigeon to start learning from the industry veterans now. Why pretend to be a filmmaker without putting in the hard work now and later as well?
If you're without a completed project you're trying to explode (for example, your feature is finished and you want to distribute it or your pilot is finished, and you want to expand your show into a series), and if you're ramping up for your next film, I recommend starting with the budget after you have your idea. How much are you trying to raise?
In the business world, it's impractical to order 200,000 gizmos to find nobody wants to buy 'em.
Start with your idea and sell people on supporting the film. Don't find all your locations, actors, and don't do a 5th draft if you have peanuts to fund the project.
If you're trying to raise between $5,000 and $10,000 for your short film, I have a super-detailed guide here. It's not for the faint-of-heart or weak-willed. It contains a bonus for a visual pitch deck you can adapt and send to your investors to show this is a real project and not a flippant idea. And if you're in need of an actual slide deck to plagiarize or customize (knock yourself out champ) that's fully editable, I've got you covered there too.
6. Make an ad for yourself
If you're in the business of doing corporate or small business video work, then you might as well make a creative ad for you.
If you don't believe in yourself, why should anyone else?
I made two. One is for unskippable YouTube bumpers. More on that in the next section.
The other is a little bit longer and I created it as a creative followup for a company. As the guys behind Base Camp said in their byproduct "ReWork," create byproducts! Meaning, if you've already put in all the work of doing project A for project B, see if you cobble elements of project A into a paid product. It might just be the solution someone else needs for their problem. I did that with my shotlist template in the store because I was frustrated with other "templates" floating in cyberspace for us hapless filmmakers.
Now, I wouldn't have created such an elaborate video ad for someone without a secondary plan for it. It's also an ad for me. You can see it below when you join the Bold Nation newsletter.
Facebook ads are typically reserved for consumer products but there are consumer services being advertised on Facebook (chiropractors, graphic designers, et. al.). You won't find B2B services advertised on Facebook, not often, but I strongly believe it's possible, and I'm currently learning how. I've always promised I'd share everything I learn (good, bad, and ugly) along the way, so the person I'm learning Facebook ads from at the moment is Miles Beckler. If you're considering Facebook ads, I'm not the guy to learn from.
If you're considering Google Ads, you have one advantage right out the gate: your ads are shown to people who are specifically looking for your service.
When YouTube rolled out 6-second (unskippable) bumper ads, I knew I had to give it a try. I don't care if no one clicks the ads. For 5,000 impressions of these bad boys, it's about a whopping $5. While 100% market penetration is a pipe dream, that means thousands (up to 5k in this instance) now know who Jake the film guy is, and I purposefully made a ridiculous bumper ad in the style of an early 90's sitcom intro - font, jingle and all. Jingles are powerful, and I don't want to die in obscurity, so if I get a jingle stuck in someone's head that I'm there film guy in my town, that's a win.
Do you want to see the two video ads I use? I'll go the extra mile for you (Bold Nation, make it a part of your DNA: over-deliver, always) and record how to set up an unskippable bumper ad on YouTube. The Adwords format is always changing so by the time I upload it, it's entirely possible they'll have re-formatted the whole shebang.
I'll also have a link for this post's video included as well. If you can't read/don't read, I gotcha covered.
Recap: when you join the newsletter below (I don't sell emails or spam you with solicitations for bailing peanut farmers out in Pahrump, NV), you'll get links to:
Video of this post for those who can't read/don't read
Video walkthrough of setting up your first YouTube 6-second bumper ad
My 6-second bumper ad
My longer ad
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Standby lads and lasses.
Your turn - what do you do between video jobs to stay current? Comment below!