Join Anthony Q. Artis for an in-depth discussion in this video Five things to clarify with your subject, part of Video Production Techniques: Promotional Videos.
Any time you're doing work for hire in addition to the creative vision you also want to make sure that both you and the client are on the same page about the scope, execution, and delivery of the project. More often than not when filmmakers describe a nightmare or difficult client interaction, they also share a good deal of the blame. It's up to us, before a single frame of video is ever shot, to clearly outline the whole process. Manage a clients expectations and put it all in writing so that there are no misunderstandings or surprises that end up costing us 20 extra hours of work or having to deliver items that we didn't budget for.
So let's break down five important questions you want to have the answers to before the cameras roll. Number one, do they need you to just shoot, or to shoot and edit? This is a huge factor in the ultimate amount of work involved. In general, editing may easily take at least three times as long as just the shooting. And often a lot more than that depending on how complex the edit is and how many elements will be involved. Are they expecting some animated sequences or special effects? Do you have to whittle down 15 hours of footage to five minutes? Are you going to have to spend time locating archival footage or photos in the library? If so, it's a type of task that can easily add a half day to the job.
There are many seemingly subtle considerations that can quickly add up, so think it through carefully and do all the mental math. Number two, what is the rate? You also want to make absolutely sure that before you shoot a single minute of footage, that you agree on the final cost of the production itself, the schedule of payment, and any extra delivery items. By extra delivery items I mean anything beyond a single edited video such as additional versions. Sometimes clients will want a short and a long version of a video.
Or they may want a version with timely information such as an event date and location. But they might also need a second evergreen undated version that they can show anytime. Things like creating extra DVD copies, outputting various file versions, or directly publishing to sites such as YouTube or Vimeo. Can all all up to much more time and effort than you may have originally planned for. Think it through, plan it out and set your rate accordingly. Most importantly make sure that you've clearly communicated this rate in writing. Whether it be a contract, written quote, email or text message.
The more formal the better. You just want to make sure that if there is any misunderstanding later on you can quickly pull up your written communication and enlighten your client as to exactly what they agreed to pay and the scope of the project. Number three, when is payment due? In the same vein as setting your rate, you also want to clearly state exactly when payment is due. If you're renting equipment or paying crew or other professionals upfront to assist you, you want to make sure that you get some payment beforehand to pay your people if you don't have enough money already set aside.
Or don't feel comfortable funding these initial costs yourself. Probably the most common option for payment is half up front and half due on final delivery, but you could also do a third up front. A third at the time of shooting and a third due upon delivery if you want to be covered at each phase of production. Whatever you decide, again verbally tell the client and also put it in writing. Number four, what is the scope of the project? Another thing you want to have clear is exactly what you'll be shooting.
Are interviews going to be part of the project? If so, how many interviews will you shoot? With how many people in how many different locations? This simple question alone left unanswered could easily expand the scope of the project threefold. There's a big difference between shooting three back-to-back interviews in the same room on the same day with the same lighting set-up and shooting three interviews on three different days in three different locations. Are you shooting just a single short promo? Or do they need a campaign of several different videos on different aspects of the business? The bottom line of going over these things beforehand is that you're just trying to nail down all the different things your camera may be rolling on.
And how much time and effort the project will ultimately involve. Again, think the whole shoot through step by step, weigh the work and quote your rate accordingly. If you don't clarify little details like this ahead of time, you could easily end up working on a video for less than minimum wage without even realizing it. Believe me, it's a lesson you'll only need to learn once. And number five, the most important one is what do they have to do. One of the biggest things you can to do to make life easier is to your clients to help up with the production as much as possible.
I always like to make sure my clients have some skin in the game and are active participants in the production. There are a number of things that you can ask clients to do to make your video production easier and more effective. Specifically some of the routine things I often ask of clients are securing shooting spaces, taking location photos, getting the okay to shoot from venue owners. Selecting interview subjects, arranging interview times with subjects, providing hard drives and more. Often your clients will have preexisting relationships with the other parties involved in the video project.
So it usually makes more sense to have them handle certain phone calls and emails and scheduling that could otherwise burn up a lot of your producing time. Arranging even a single interview or securing even one location can often take four to seven emails or phone calls before it's all said and done. Give your clients a shoot date and time frame and let them arrange the interviews, some locations, and other matters. This is just a practical matter because interviewees and locations are usually going to be their own people in their own facilities anyway.
If the client wishes to shoot in a location that they don't directly control, I will ask them to secure the necessary permissions and make sure that the location is suitable for our video needs as far as lighting, space, and staging. They will also find out if there are any special rules or requirements such as insurance permits ahead of time and give me a warning. As for interviewees clearly specify in written what qualities you're looking for in an interviewee as far as ability to speak on given topics, be comfortable on camera and diversity. You want to try to make sure that certain groups of people are not over or underrepresented in your video.
If I were doing a video on the local symphony orchestra, and interviewing a sampling of members, I want to make sure that I didn't just end up interviewing the string section. Instead, I try to get some horns and percussion in there as well. In this case, I told my clients Doug and Bruce of Creative Letterpress, that I needed them to identify several other interviewees related to the Print Shop, so that saved me the entire job of casting the video. I also specified that we should only use people that feel comfortable speaking on camera, and especially want to talk to anyone that's particularly passionate and knowledgeable about printing.
Another thing to decide early on is who will provide the hard drives required for the project. You or the client. If the answer is you, remember you'll need to make the time to purchase a new hard drive, or put out a little more money ahead of time. So don't forget to charge the client accordingly in your final quote. Once you've figured out all the things you need the client to do. Put them in writing in your statement of work and discuss each to make sure you're still on the same page. Not only will having your client directly involved in all of these things make your life easier and save you both extra time and money, but it will also make your client more invested in the success of the video production.
Rather than minding, I find that the vast majority of people are more than happy to wear a producer's hat for a little while, and do something different and more exciting than their daily routine at work. Hey, it's filmmaking, and it's still plenty sexy, and an easy sell for many people. So use that appeal to make the production easier and more successful.
- Attracting clients
- Crafting a concept
- Producing a statement of work, budget, and contract
- Assessing your resources
- Scheduling the shoot
- Working with cameras
- Editing the footage
- Using text, music, and visual effects
- Setting your rate and paying the crew