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Deciding that you want to make a video is the easy part. Choosing a production company to work with is slightly more challenging, but I’d encourage you to go with a company whose representatives you enjoy working with closely. That’s because making a video is an intensely collaborative experience, especially when you are the subject matter expert and/or the one who will ultimately be showing the end product, be it on your web site, at a meeting, or in front of a large conference audience. So here is part one of the Media Beyond guide to working with a production company: Pre-Production.

Why Are You Making a Video?

A responsible production company will ask you some variation  of this question.  Budgets are not always best spent on video, but if you’ve done your homework on your audience,  and know you’ll find them with video, it is the most effective means of telling your story.

Who Is Your Audience?

If your answer is ‘everyone’ you should take a moment to pause.  Even Coca-Cola knows that their audience isn’t ‘everyone’ – and almost everyone drinks Coke!  You need to establish with your production company if the audience will be internal to your organization, external but familiar with the subject matter, or totally unexposed to the story you want to tell.  This will make it easier for your script to be pitched at the right level.

Where Will This Be Seen?

Producers will have different approaches to video based on the venue and context in which it will be seen.  If you’re convinced you want a ten minute video, but you want it to psych up the crowd before your annual convention, you may not realize your idea is a bad one, but a good production company can help you pump up your audience and tell your story without overstaying your welcome.  If it’s going to the web as a deep-dive training video, the emphasis is going to be on clarity and coherence more than flash or pizzazz.  If your video is going to be broadcast on television or cable, there is a whole set of technical considerations that has to be addressed early to budget correctly.

When Will This Be Seen?

While knowing deadlines is obviously important, knowing if a video is time sensitive or ‘evergreen’, or will be part of a live event, will influence the style in scripting, production, and beyond.  A cautionary note here – trying to re-purpose a single video for multiple uses is difficult, and requires separate, distinct planning for each use.  While much of the footage captured and work done can overlap, there is a tendency to say ‘we’ll just make another version’ without planning.  That’ll sting. So don’t do it.

What Kind Of Impact Should Your Video Have?

There are 2 responses required of this question.  The first is on the emotional level – should a viewer feel happy, sad, alive with possibility, convinced of an argument?  The second is on a physical level – what should a viewer do after watching? Follow a link? Write a check? Hug a stranger?  What does success look like to you?  If you got a million views and only 1 new customer, would that be worth it to you?  Be clear about specific goals and how to measure them.  You may surprise yourself with the difference between the story you think you want to tell, and the story you need to tell to achieve those results.  Work with a production company that cares about what you care about.

What Other Videos Inspire You?

There is a language gap between most professionals – the code we speak to each other in our offices can often make no sense to the uninitiated.  The video production world is a little different, because so much of the terminology is part of the vernacular, given the popularity of video and the recent explosion in amateur production – but defining a common language early is essential to a fruitful collaboration.  Using visual examples is a great way to get on the same page without spending a lot of money on storyboards and wasting time with wrong notions.  Find videos that you want to emulate, from both a visual style and from a storytelling approach (the desired impact.) A nice production company won’t feel threatened, but will rather appreciate that you want to establish a shared understanding early.  Keep in mind you may not be able to afford the video you really like – but you can probably get something similar with the right partner.  Keep looking until you find someone who asks you these questions and really listens to your answers.

Did I miss anything?  Leave me a comment if you think there are some more important questions.  In part 2 of this series, I’ll delve into the nitty-gritty of outlines, pre-visualization, script writing, and the importance of having it all on paper.