Your team of PROFESSIONALS – Part 5: How to make a (good) promotional film
This is the latest instalment in our How To Make A (Good) Promotional Film series. If you missed previous posts or want to go right back to the beginning and find out what it’s all about, click here. New instalments will be released every Friday. Click here to have them emailed straight to your inbox the moment they go live.
Good films need professionals. I say this not because I want you to pay to work with us (though that would be nice). I say it because I have seen what happens when you don’t use professionals. It doesn’t usually go well.
Operating a camera, recording sound or editing a film are specialised skills. Equipment is becoming more and more accessible which is great, but just because you can afford to buy a camera, that doesn’t mean you are qualified to use one.
So who do you need and where do you get them from? Well, you’ve got two routes:
Route one: Agency/production company
This means engaging a ready-made team. Not only will they sort out your crew, they’ll also do everything else. A good company will work with you from the initial ideas stage, to presenting the final piece, and perhaps even through to distribution. They’ll guide you through the process, or just take of it off your hands completely and only involve you in the important decisions.
If you are planning to hire a production company, then they should help you work out everything we already discussed in Parts 1-4. However, there is no harm in better understanding those things yourself.
Pros and cons of using an agency
- Less time and hassle
- No need to deal directly with crew members
- They’ll cover all bases and think of the things that you might forget
- Their films will have a standard of quality which will be met for your film
- If something is not as expected, you can query it
- They are experienced in making films; you may not be
- It will work out more expensive overall (but with the right company you’ll see that value back many-fold in the quality of the finished product)
- You don’t get to live out your unexpressed Steven Spielberg dreams
Tips for finding the right production company
- Check their previous work
Do you actually like it? Do you want a film that looks and feels like that? The work should speak for itself.
- Talk to them
Tell them what you need, talk about your sector and its challenges. Do you feel like they understand you? Do you feel like you’re in safe hands?
For a standard 3-4 minute film using live footage and featuring interviews, you should be looking somewhere between £3,000 and £12,000. Cost depends on various factors including; the number of days filming, crew, equipment, travel, graphics etc.
I’ve put a Sample quote at the end of this post to show a breakdown for one of our standard 1 day shoots. You can use this for comparison, or as a useful guide for working out your own budget if you go down the DIY route.
Option 2: The DIY Route
If you don’t have the budget to hire a ready-made production company (or you want to find out first-hand that there’s more to this than you imagined) here is a list of who you might need.
This is the person who will film the footage. Variously called: Camera Op, Self-shooting Director, Director of Photography, Videographer. (These do all mean different things, which does matter within the industry, but not really to you).
This is a separate person who will record the sound. You don’t have to record sound separately, but you get a better quality by having one person with the correct equipment focusing solely on sound. If you don’t have the budget for it then your camera person probably can handle basic sound, but definitely check this with them first.
This might be a camera assistant focused on helping the camera person, or a general assistant to carry things, set up equipment and get tea. Assisting is an art unto itself and it makes a huge difference when done well. If there’s a lot of equipment or you’re trying to fit a lot in one day on a busy, large or difficult site, I would recommend having an assistant.
If you have gone down the DIY route then chances are this is you. That means it’s your job to organise everything and everyone, and make all the decisions on set. You will be expected to provide everything from refreshments and directions to the toilets, right up to deciding if a shot is good enough, what should be shot in what order, and who to interview.
We’ll cover post-production later but this will add to your crew list. You will at minimum want an experienced editor. You may want to splash out on a separate sound editor or a picture grader.
Most freelance professionals come with their own equipment but make sure you have talked about what you are hoping to achieve, and therefore what equipment might be needed. If you require anything beyond a basic camera/lighting setup then you will most likely be expected to pay for the additional equipment. This might include GoPros, drones, extra lights, tripods, sliders, jibs, track etc., so be prepared for this and make sure you know what extras you want before the shoot day.
Some fancy equipment can add a lot to the final look of a film, but you don’t want to spend the whole shoot trying to work out how to put something together. If your camera person isn’t confident about a piece of equipment and hasn’t used it before, now is not the time to try. So only add extra equipment if it has been recommended by the crew, if there is time and space for it, and if there is someone on set able to operate it.
Now that you have your crew in place, you can start to prepare for the shoot itself. Part Six: Preparing for shoot day.
Want to know more about our film service? Take a look at our website.
Have a film you want to make? Get in touch with our resident film producer.
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