During the summer, we ran a contest giving away a free corporate video with a value of $10,000. As with most companies running marketing contests, we had several goals for the project and the contest. First, we wanted to generate survey results that we could use for publishing our own data about a few key questions we asked marketing professionals to answer while submitting to the contest. Second, we wanted to generate leads and find other companies interested in video production in general. Third, and by far most important, we wanted to produce a high-end commercial piece that showcases our creative and artistic talents. For many of our clients, we have become a great “go to” company for affordable, straight-forward corporate video productions, but we haven’t had many opportunities to showcase creative, fun work that would win us clients looking to make showpiece videos.
After looking over the companies that submitted to the contest, Mr. Formal immediately stood out as a prospect for a fun video. I came up with an idea to create a wish fulfillment piece where a character, nicknamed James Blonde, pulls up in an Aston Martin to a mansion, meets with a nefarious criminal boss (who is actually a pretty lady), and then realizes he is daydreaming. He awakens from his fantasy in a Mr. Formal store, with a sales lady (played by the same actress) asking him which suit he wants. He points to the middle suit, his James Bond-inspired suit, and becomes another happy customer.
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The idea came to me when I started thinking about the brand, and clothing in general, from a consumer point of view. Why do people dress up? Why do people wear certain fancy clothes? Guys may have to rent a suit for a wedding, or another fairly boring but obligatory event, but we can’t make an exciting, fun ad out of a sense of obligation. Ultimately, guys want a sharp suit because of how it makes them feel. Who is the ultimate example of looking great in a suit? James Bond! Once I examined the underlying reasoning and feelings associated with finding just the right suit, I knew I had the perfect idea for a fun, clever commercial.
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Planning for a shoot with greater complexity requires quite a lot of time and effort. Aside from pitching the idea to Mr. Formal, I had to write the script for both a 30 second spot and a 60 second spot, so that both versions made sense and had minor tweaks that need consideration for production. For instance, the 60 second commercial spot has additional dialogue involved than the shorter, 30 second version. I had to location scout a Mr. Formal location that logistically worked for a one-day shoot by being close to the mansion location. Once I had an idea for the shooting locations and script approval, I needed to start putting together a cast and crew.
For my cast, I had in mind working with my friend Evan Honer, who played a small role in my short film The Phoenix Project. I knew Evan had the right comic sensibility and look for the role and I’ve been looking for an excuse to work with him again for years. I also connected with a fellow director, Jason Rosenblatt, who is an award-winning indie filmmaker in Portland. Jason agreed to serve as my 1st Assistant Director and was instrumental in bringing aboard the rest of the cast and crew. Besides Jason’s recommendations for other cast and crew members, we decided to fly the company’s top cinematographer, Victor Vongpraseuth, from Arizona to shoot the contest video for Mr. Formal.
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Victor has been a great asset for the company and has endeared himself to many of our clients, often leading to clients offering to pay extra for Victor to travel out of state. While we pride ourselves on nationwide video production with no travel costs, we also pride ourselves on great customer service; if they want Victor, we give them Victor!
With wardrobe being such an important part of the shoot, we had to arrange fittings with our three primary actors. Fittings mean additional costs as well, but everyone has to look just right. A shoot like Mr. Formal involves a hair and makeup artist as an essential crew member, but also a talented production staff to make sure lighting and sound are perfect. I decided if we are making a high-end video, we are also commissioning custom music, which is why I roped my friend Ramin Kousha into the project almost as soon as I had the idea for it. Ramin scored my feature film, Amy Alyson Fans, and also my short film, The Phoenix Project. He is an immensely talented composer who even wrote the music for the SyFy mega hit Sharknado. Though Sharknado may be a campy joke, Ramin’s musical skills are the real deal.
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In the end, a project like Mr. Formal’s James Blonde commercial would have a cost to client of closer to $18,000 if it was a commissioned work rather than a contest giveaway. We were perhaps too ambitious trying to make a high-end project that would actually be a $10,000 cost to client, but there was no point in making a cut-rate video project when we wanted to showcase our full creative talents. In 2017, we will be looking to create several more free high-end videos for larger clients to build our creative portfolio. The goal is to show our existing clients and potential clients that we are not just the “go to” company for affordable, budget video production, but a great creative team ready to tackle any size of project.
Ultimately, I believe as a business owner that my responsibility is to show clients our creativity, not just tell them about it. Our next blog entry will delve a bit more into the actual production on the Mr. Formal commercial and how the creative process works with a narrative corporate / commercial video production. Having directed a feature film with a full crew, I feel at ease directing larger creative projects and believe that JLB Media Productions is especially qualified to be handling larger work at all budget levels.