5 Keys to a Smooth Video Production Partnership

If you’re a marketer/project manager/producer of any sort, and find yourself responsible for managing a video production partnership, it can be a daunting task, especially if it’s your first time. Hiring an external team can be nerve-wracking, especially when you’re handing them a lump sum of cash and praying that, on the other side of this partnership, you’re left with a video that you can be proud of. That’s why we took a step back and wrote these 5 tips to help ensure you have a smooth, fruitful relationship with your video production partner.

Director of Photography, Dave Stewart, on the set of our Neat Loans production.

  1. Have a budget range in mind.

Budget “range”? You may be wondering why I didn’t just say “budget”. Well, when you’re in the midst of kicking off a relationship with your preferred video vendor, it’s likely you may not have the creative approach to the video 100% locked in. In fact, you may only have a vague idea of what you’re looking to create, and plan to lean on the production company to help you with creative development. In any case, if the creative approach to your video is still in flux, so is the cost of the video! This brings us to what is often the biggest sticking point in the entire video production process - the yin and yang of budget versus creative.

More often than not, when we’re approached by a client, it is critical that their video be attention-grabbing, story-driven, and evergreen. So, it’s our intention to do everything we can to ensure that’s the case. We will do anything to avoid making content that feels underwhelming to our clients, and any production company worth its salt should feel the same. However, if a client comes to us with high expectations, a loose idea, AND a fixed budget, our ears perk up.

As we begin to develop an idea, the number of production days, the cost of those production days, and the amount/cost of post-production shifts to fit the demands of the idea. In response, we sometimes hear, “Well then why don’t you develop an idea to fit the budget?”. It's a great point! We can - to a certain degree, and this is the point that brings us back to our thesis - we’ll do our best to hit your budgetary target, but if your goal is to execute the best idea possible, be ready to be flexible. Sometimes the cost to produce the best idea for your video doesn’t exactly align with your fixed budget.

Hidden Woods Film Co. owners, Dave Stewart and Aidan McCarthy, in a pre-production meeting.

  1. Have reference videos ready to share.

As a Director, my favorite thing to hear from a client is “...and here are some reference videos we liked.” During the early stages of creative development, oftentimes everyone has a slightly different idea in the back of their mind as to what they imagine the video to sound, look, and feel like. The fastest way to get everyone on the same page is to have a solid point of reference. By sharing reference videos that emulate the style and tone you’re looking for and calling out specific characteristics you enjoy in each, your production team will have a much easier time dialing in the creative approach to your project.

Our company reel spans a multitude of styles. Which look are you aiming for?

  1. During creative development, not all feedback is good feedback.

This is a big one. Something we’ve noticed time and time again during creative development is how an exciting idea can be revised to the point where it loses its luster. This tends to happen when there are layers and layers of management giving feedback on an idea, and the project manager requests that all of it be addressed so that everyone is happy. Fast forward - no one is happy.

The problem here is that, for example, one person will think the idea is too serious, another person will think it isn’t serious enough, another will want it to be more dialogue-driven, and another will want it to be more conceptual. I’m using extremes here, but the point is that oftentimes “meeting in the middle” means making something that doesn’t have any bite, or engaging edge. What you're left with is a soft, round idea that everyone will say “yeah, that’s fine” to, but actually excites no one. If you’re trying to appease everyone, you’ll entertain no one, and your video investment will be a flop.

We’ve found that the most helpful way to avoid this is to remind all parties of the ultimate goal, which is usually to make an engaging video to fulfill a marketing need. Before you reach out to a video production company, circle up with your team and decide on a style and tone for your video. Only then can your production team strive to dig deep and make something exceptional within the given genre.

A still frame from Hidden Woods Film Co.'s project with consulting company, Prosci.

  1. Don't over-schedule your production days.

Inevitably, at some point before production begins, someone will recommend that the production team pack our schedule a little tighter in an effort to save time and money. After all, the crew is already on site, so why don’t we move a little faster or push an hour longer - right? Well, maybe, but consider the cost/benefit.

I’ll be the first to admit that sometimes “the push” is unavoidable in video production. However, from a Director’s point of view, I can confidently say that the best content is captured when there’s a little extra time to experiment, whether that be with a cool lighting technique, more dynamic blocking, or an alternate approach to the delivery of a line of dialogue. No matter how much pre-production has been done, you can’t escape the fact that once you’re on set and watching a shot unfold in real-time, there are little tweaks you’ll want to make that you won’t have time for unless you’ve accounted for it in the schedule.

Hidden Woods Film Co. on the set of our production with Neat Loans.

  1. Consolidate your post-production notes.

I’ll close this out with a simple, but super helpful tip. As you head into post-production, hopefully your video team has outlined a schedule that has a limited number of “rounds of revision”. These are opportunities for you and your team to give feedback on the video, and for the post-production team to do what they can to address your concerns. Nothing will bother your post-production team more than a bunch of feedback coming in from multiple sources at various times. Not only because it blurs the lines of each round of revision, but also because one piece of feedback might affect another, which affects another, and so on. Do your Editors a favor and compile everyone’s thoughts in a single place before sharing them. Only then can they develop an actionable strategy to move the video in your desired direction.

Hidden Woods Film Co. Director & Editor, Aidan McCarthy

By Aidan Sëan McCarthy

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