Corporate video work at lower budget levels is not much of a producing challenge compared to feature films or even short films, but making sure the process runs smoothly is part of what makes a production company worth hiring. Producing a video production of any kind involves several basic elements, the first of which is an examination of the script or concept that is the basis of the whole project. In the filmmaking world, a script is like an architectural blueprint that helps guide the process, but in corporate videos a script is often missing, so how do you proceed? Much more so than narrative storytelling, corporate video producing starts with a finished idea and works backwards. In other words, a client wants a video similar to the one completed for ABC Company, so the producing process works by figuring out the similarities and differences between an already-produced video and the current project.
If a client expresses interest in creating a business overview video to post to their Website, the production company asks a series of questions that are relevant first to budgeting then to producing the video itself. How many people will be interviewed? Where will the interviews take place? Can all of the interviews be shot on the same day? Will B-roll (additional video elements that play along with the interview commentary) be recorded at the same location or in multiple locations? After a discussion with the client, we gather the details: 4 interview subjects from the company, filmed in one location at their corporate office, with various B-roll involving other employees and business around the office. Only part of the full picture comes together from the previous information, though.
In a business overview video as described, an immediate concern is generating visual interest. If all we have is some B-roll around the office of employees typing away at computers, or holding a meeting in the conference room, and then talking heads speaking about the business, we have a boring corporate video that viewers won’t watch for more than 20 seconds if we’re lucky. As a producer, now I need to start thinking about what makes this company interesting. What do they do? How do they do it? Who are their clients?
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In one particular example, our video for Passport Online in Beaverton, Oregon, we used stock footage, motion graphics templates, and other graphics to provide more visual flair. Knowing what the company does (travel agency work), we understood we would have graphical elements like finished Website images, stock footage of beautiful places, and motion graphics showing their business relationship and service structure.
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To give clients an accurate quote, we need to have a full understanding of what the viewer sees throughout the video. If we think we need an extensive amount of stock footage to augment the recorded B-roll, we know we need to increase the budget for such footage. If the client is providing many additional graphics, we want to gather those elements before filming begins so that we can start editing immediately upon footage arriving to our Los Angeles location. For office B-roll, we want to have a plan for what we intend to film before the day of the shoot so that anything needing staging is ready to go. The lobby needs to be presentable and clean, the conference room has to look nice, office cubicles that will appear on video should be tidy, etc.
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Another big element of any producing job is paperwork. On short films and music videos I have produced in the past, I’ve generated an entire medium-sized binder of paperwork from photo / video / audio release forms, cast and crew deal memos, location releases, insurance paperwork, script copies, etc. On our corporate video work, all cast and crew sign deal memos generated through DocuSign, the client signs a contract that outlines the working relationship and expected deliverables, and on many of our shoots we have additionally prepared materials for the client and videographer. For instance, on senior living shoots we provide a checklist to the communities to prepare for filming, reminding them of important concerns and issues that have come up in past shoots and informed our preparations. Videographers receive a “check in” call and paperwork that reminds them of best practices for our corporate shoots, followed by a schedule delivered before the shoot.
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Scheduling in the film production world is usually handled by the 1st Assistant Director in conjunction with the considerations of the Unit Production Manager and other department heads (director, director of photography, production designer, etc.). In the corporate video world, scheduling falls to the producer and is based on budgetary concerns and the shot list. Typically, we will allocate about 30 minutes of setup time for interviews and 15 minutes of takedown time, so even a single interview will be a one hour block on the schedule. If we have 4 interviews, we’ll try to schedule somewhere between 2 and 3 hours for interviews depending on the question list prepared for the interviews. We can fit 6-8 interviews in a 2-3 hour block as well, but only if we know each person will be making very brief comments from a small list of questions.
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The more complicated the corporate video, the more producing time required to make everything come together accordingly. With shoots involving actors, a casting director may need to be brought aboard or the producer will handle casting as well. When more extensive graphical work is required in post-production, a separate motion graphics artist may need to be brought onboard for the project, which involves obtaining a quote for the scope of the work before the client is handed a final budget. Occasionally, additional gear needs to be rented or a studio location secured, which often means needing to provide insurance certificates (provided by the carrier or broker) to the rental house or studio listing them as “additionally insured” for the day or days of production.
The overall most important job for a corporate video producer is to make sure the finished video matches with the vision from the client. We strive never to promise more than we can deliver and to be honest and upfront about what to expect. If a client wants to emulate a much more expensive video, but on a lower budget, we have to be honest about what they can expect to see and where cuts need to be made. Ultimately, businesses succeed on repeat customers — most of our business each year is from returning clients — so if you cannot make a project to the client’s specs on their budget, be upfront and honest. Ultimately, clients will either appreciate your honesty and find a different way forward or they will choose another company and realize the hard way that they cannot achieve their vision on a cut-rate budget. Either way, you win as a businessman and producer when you run your career with honesty and integrity rather than taking the quick buck.