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August 2017

5 Important things to note before choosing a video production company

By | Business, Video Production | No Comments

Video is the new language of the internet. You can see what kind of impact video is making online just by looking at the major platforms. Instagram with Stories and Facebook with FB Live. Video will become the next language of the internet until something like VR comes along and replaces it.

So everyone with a phone basically can shoot a video. But not everyone knows how to do it right. What’s the right concept, the right equipment, the right angles, the right direction, the right lighting …. the list goes on and on. For your company to grow in terms of branding and also in terms of sales, it is vital that you look at video as a way to communicate with your clients and your potential clients.

And more often than not, working with a kick ass video production company will get you there. But what are the things to look out for while choosing a video production company to work with?

Here are five most important points.

1. Do they value add to your concept?

adding value

Many video production companies are technically sound. They know about lighting, what cameras to use, what constitutes a jump cut, etc. I mean technical knowledge is important but to create a really good video, it’s just not enough. A good video production company will be able to add value to the concept and story, which is really the foundation of any good videos. They should also be able to propose and suggest ideas on styles, even choices of actors.

For instance recently, a big agency that hired us as the production house was sharing with us their concept. It’s a cool concept about a mock food vlogger and it’s done to promote ready packed meals. The entire series will be done in a mock reality vlogging style.

I thought it was a really good idea but the agency also shared that they wanted to start the series with a backstory flashback video to show his motivation for becoming a food vlogger. I thought this would be a mismatch of the style as it went into some kind of hyper reality sequences. I suggested that the backstory can be told in the same reality based vlogging format so that it is in line with the style of the entire series.

The agency felt it was a good idea and suggested to client to change their concept. The client agreed and we created a video series that was more coherent and just much more engaging for the audience.

The bottomline is this: The video production house must have the experience and the understanding of the audience and story to provide more value to the agency or the client. It should never consider itself just as a technical production house.

2. Are they nice people?

nice people

Which brings me to my next point. I have met many producers and directors and even cinematographers who swing to the other extreme and would challenge the client or agency on their concepts. They are so fixed and preoccupied in their own vision that they fail to see the big picture. But most importantly, they fail to see that the client is the one engaging them and they do have the final say.

I guess it all boils down to whether the culture of the production house is one of culture and attitude. Some artistic people just tend to be more temperamental and stubborn, thus creating a more tense and aggressive working environment. I find such environment tends to be a bad place for creativity to breed. I always choose to work with nice people who can gel with me. I hate drama and I would rather hire a company that is perhaps not as talented but are nice people to work with than a bunch of talented people who are just basically assholes.

3. Is the Director top class?

film director

The director is often a very misunderstood professional. This is because technically anybody can be a director. And what does a director actually do? Most people think of a director as simply the guy who shouts “Action” and “Cut!”. Actually this is not even true since the Assistant Director is the one shouting the commands on set.

It is indeed true that anybody can be a director but to be a GOOD director, that is extremely difficult. A good director needs to know and understand many different facets of a shoot. The technical aspects of cinematography, the psychology of actors, what makes a good story and a good character, how to develop tension within a scene, how music and sound affects a scene, etc.

A good director will be the key deciding factor if your production does well. So never underestimate the importance of who is directing your video. And it’s always good to check out the director’s showreel to get a sense of his/her style, taste and talent.

4. Is the company hiring in-house or freelancers?

production crew

Many video production companies are actually small set ups and they hire freelancers when they have shoots. In house crew or freelancers both have their pros and cons. If the company have its own in house crew, the quality is generally consistent and they also do things a bit faster in general. They will probably also have greater flexibility in terms of shoot schedule and they can probably give you better rates in terms of shoot days and even over time pay.

For freelancers, the advantage is that you can choose the most suitable crew for each project. Different camera operators might be good at different types of shoots. For instance, some specialize in action cinematography, some are good at weddings, while some excel in drone videography. They in turn have their own crew that they like to work with.

Generally, I find that freelancers tend to produce better quality of work. But they are also much more expensive than in house crew. Additionally, timing and scheduling will be a bit more difficult with freelancers. So it’s really up to what is needed for the project to determine if in house or freelance crew work best.

5. Do they have passion and pride in their work?

passion

The last and probably the most important point is whether the people in the video production company have passion and pride in their work. Whatever the job or the project entails, the most important aspect is that the people working on it has a passion and pride in doing the job. Without that, the work will mostly be mediocre and it will be a dread in the whole production process as well. Passion and pride are hard to define. It all starts from a company culture and what type of people the company hires.

But it’s easy to detect passion and pride. The people speak with a twinkle in their eyes. They might even argue with you on certain aspects of the production. It shows they really care. I always look for passion first in hiring. Whether it’s hiring a new staff or hiring partners to work with. Without this ingredient, the end product can never be great. It might be good at times, but NEVER great.

And we all want to strive for greatness isn’t it?

Three Mistakes to avoid if you want to make a BRILLIANT short film

By | Films and Movies, Ramblings, Video Production | No Comments

Just last week, a former colleague of mine who was working as an editor in my company asked me to meet up for lunch. To give some context to this story, this guy was a junior editor in our company and had recently moved on to join another company for a slightly better pay package and a chance to work on more narrative type of video content. I had wished him well and told him to stay in contact and if I could help in any way in the future, I would.

This editor was also a short film maker and has directed several action short films and has dreams of becoming an action movie director. While I had always applauded his effort in trying to go for a genre that is not a conventional route for young film-makers to go, I had been telling him that ACTION is a tremendously difficult genre to do WELL. The keyword here is of course WELL. Anyone can be an action director, or for that matter, literally ANYONE could be a director, but to do it WELL is a whole different ball game altogether. But to do well in the action genre is many times harder than the conventional art house, drama, comedy or even the horror genre.

In the short one hour meeting with The EDITOR, in which he showed me his action short film, I very quickly identified 3 main issues, which I thought would be the same issues for any short film makers. That’s why I decided to write the learnings in this post. So here we are. Three Mistakes to avoid while making your short film. Enjoy!

#1 Mistake : Care about everything else except STORY!

story

Way too many film makers worry about the aesthetics and not enough about the story. This is a recurring theme in all my dealings with many film-makers. They spend time researching on the aesthetics, on the latest technology, cameras, lights, toys, but not enough time devoted to studying story, story arcs, turns in stories, how to build characters, how to create tension, etc. The list goes on. While many film makers do not write their own script, (for instance David Fincher) but all good film makers have a deep knowledge about STORY and about CHARACTER and about the human condition.

If the story is not good, no amount of beautiful shots or brilliant cinematography is going to save it. But people can generally forgive a badly shot film with a good story. Now am I saying that you must be a great writer before becoming a great director? No! You can work with a great writer if you are not good at writing. But you must have enough self awareness to know that you are not a good writer to begin with. Then you can actively seek to learn more about how to tell a good story, or you could just partner with a good writer. There are tons of resources out there on the internet which teach good screen writing. Copies of academy award winning scripts are also there to be read and studied.

There is no excuse. Get your story right! It’s like the foundation of a house. If it’s not done right, rest assured that the house will crumble in due time.

#2 Mistake : Spend money on the all the wrong things!

spend money

When The Editor told me that he spent close to 25,000 dollars for his short film and actually went into debt, my mouth opened wide in amazement. What the hell was he thinking? Let me clarify why my jaw dropped. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t spend money to make a good short film. But I was shocked at where he spent his money on.

His film was peppered with nice aerial drone shots, some nice cinematography, a rain scene which was unnecessary and make up with some blood on the actor’s faces which was not even evident. I asked him what he was trying to achieve in this short film. He thought for a while and then remarked “I hope that after watching this short film, investors or sponsors will give him money to make his next short film.” I immediately smiled and asked him matter-of-factly “Why would someone do that?” Unless you impress an investor so much in your short that they want to invest in a movie that you direct. It has happened before. Lights Out is a good example where the film maker went from an online horror viral short to a box office sensation movie.

But it was clear that the director had chosen horror as the genre to showcase his talent in doing horror scenes. But The Editor had spent money in all sorts of things that are not even related to action.

For instance, much money was spent on the rain scene to build drama for an unwarranted love story. Drones were spent for nice interesting shots of the city. But how does any of these relate to ACTION? Shouldn’t he be spending money on the stunts, on stunt choreography, on art direction to break stuff to showcase the action?

And you know what’s the worse thing? He ended up in debt cause he insisted on shooting another day for scenes that were totally unnecessary in the storytelling. On a side note, please don’t go into debt just to make a short film. If you have to spend money, work in all kinds of jobs and save money! Don’t EVER go into debt just to make your short. I have seen to many film makers go down that rabbit hole and has never met one that has come out of it.

#3 Mistake : Worrying that people will steal your ideas!

steal ideas

This is a personal pet peeve of mine. You know what I’ll do when someone writes me an email claiming they have written a fantastic screenplay and asking me if I am interested to read it? Oh and by the way, before he sends me the script, please sign an NDA. I’ll immediately delete the email and if I could, I will reach into the computer and then bitch slap the fellow who sent me the bloody email.

There are two aspects to why this is my pet peeve.

Firstly, ideas are worth shit! It’s the execution. Ideas are everywhere. Everyone from the toilet cleaner in my office, to my wife, to the top director in the country has a bloody idea. So what? Ideas are worth shit until they are executed upon. And if your idea is really so brilliant, trust me, people will PAY you. Which brings me to my next point.

Making a movie is a bloody expensive business. And I am not referring to those student projects or home video projects where a guy scraps together a story and asks his friends to film and then churn out a 90 minute video footage of epic horrible proportions. I am referring to an actual movie which has a distribution and which will hit the cinemas and generate real money. Because of the fact that movie making is a really expensive investment and business, investors and film makers are more than willing to pay you if you have a brilliant idea. Why would they steal your idea or screenplay so that they can start looking for millions of dollars to invest in the project and NOT pay you? Does it even make any sense?

Lastly, if you possess a negative mindset where you are worried that people around you are going to steal all your brilliant ideas, then how are you going to share your work? In today’s world of youtube and FREE stuff on the internet, the only differentiating factor is your talent. You got to produce as much content as possible and then share it freely with the world. And if you are truly talented, trust me, someone will spot it. Someone who might just change your life. But if you are so scared that people will steal your ideas and don’t even dare to share any of your works, then you can quit right now. Don’t become a film maker. Be a copyright lawyer instead.

I’m only kidding. Be a safety box designer.