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Questions to ask before a video shut.

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Jason DittmerQuestions to ask before a video shut.
by on Apr 8, 2008 at 3:50:25 pm

I work at a company that produces TV spots, web videos and videos for other mediums. My boss needs me to make up a list of question for our sales rep to ask our clients before we begin our video production. They don't want to bother the client with a bunch of questions during production. They want to get all the information upfront. I'm stuck. I don't know what to ask them. Is there any examples of documentation like this anywhere?


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Mark SuszkoRe: Questions to ask before a video shut.
by on Apr 8, 2008 at 5:23:57 pm

Well there are two separate sets of questions to be asked, after the number one question: "how much money we talkin' 'bout?"

Set one has questions all about the needs analysis: what the customer wants and needs to convey, to what audience, in what manner, with what kind of creative approach, on what schedule and within what budget, with what kind of measurement of success, etc. From those kinds of questions we derive a creative treatment and a script (and a real budget and schedule) and maybe storyboards, so the production arm has a guide for what to do and what it is supposed to look like.

The second set of questions is practical stuff for the director and crew: details of the locations, breakdown of shots, their lighting situation, where are the windows and where does the sun come up, power needs, heating/cooling needs, food, i.e. craft services, props, sets, costumes, the acoustics, logistical items like where to park, how to find the location, travel expenses, special needs, how to get in and out(security), bathrooms, electrical power, places to change, makeup, places to meet/prepare, crowd control and security, insurance, permits, payroll, union stuff, clearances, releases, legal bric a brac, etc etc etc.


For lots of great leading questions from the set one category, I recommend the latest new edition of John Morley's "Scripwriting for High-Impact Videos." Just came out this week. Even if you don't write the scripts, this book has a lot of great information to organize the project. Used copies of the first edition are also on Amazon. No, I don't get a sales commission, but I should ;-)


The other guys and gals here can contribute questions to ask for the list of questions in category two, I'm sure.

One other thing: IMO, If you can, you should probably be sending out an experienced production person to sit-in with the sales person at these meetings, unless the sales person is well-versed in production methods. The tech person can sit passively like a fly onthe wall, and just take notes to share later, but their perspectivecan really help the salesman not just win a sale, but prevent him from to over-promising or missing important factors that will bear on the final budget, timeline, and profit.


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Craig SeemanRe: Questions to ask before a video shut.
by on Apr 9, 2008 at 6:37:56 pm

[Mark Suszko] "One other thing: IMO, If you can, you should probably be sending out an experienced production person to sit-in with the sales person at these meetings, unless the sales person is well-versed in production methods."

This is should be part of whomever next writes a business article for the COW. This may be the single most important thing in making sure the client's needs are met and the production company makes money. So much money is lost and so many clients are unhappy because there was no tech person able to interpret at the point of sale.

In my big facility days, although I wasn't attending the meeting in person, it was not uncommon for a sales person to get me on the phone to cover these bases during a sales discussion. With other clients it often meant setting up a pre production meeting to map out the end to end workflow before anything was shot.




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Don GreeningRe: Questions to ask before a video shut.
by on Apr 9, 2008 at 8:32:09 pm

Last Friday, April 4th my wife fielded a call from someone inquiring about how much our one day rate would be to do a cooking show pilot with multiple cameras. The person said it was ultimately going to be for broadcast but that it didn't have to be shot in HD when we asked that question.

They had no location picked out, no script or storyboard, no talent hired, hadn't thought about editing at all but the caller did ask about a jib and a steadycam. Oh yeah, and they need the pilot fully completed by the end of the month. So, I'm stating again that even though they had nothing in place they still wanted a fairly accurate price. My wife asked the caller to send a detailed email outlining their goals and budget, basically to see if this was even a serious inquiry. Nothing so far.

Do others here get phone calls like this? BTW Mark, my wife read your response to this thread and is printing it off for reference. No wonder someone gave it 5 bovines.

- Don


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Craig SeemanRe: Questions to ask before a video shut.
by on Apr 9, 2008 at 8:58:17 pm

ALL THE TIME and it they seem almost exactly the same as what you got. More often than not it's a cooking show but I've gotten other "reality show" types.

My first question is do they have a budget target they'd like to hit for a complete shot (shoot and edit). Even if it's just a number that pops into their heads you'll at least know what their "fantasy' is. The alternative is to give them an amount maybe based on a one day three camera shoot plus five days of post (or whatever you think it'll take you on a low budget show).

Odds are if they can't even fantasize amount they're just poking around.



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Mark SuszkoRe: Questions to ask before a video shut.
by on Apr 10, 2008 at 12:48:59 am

" BTW Mark, my wife read your response to this thread and is printing it off for reference. No wonder someone gave it 5 bovines. - Don"

Note to self: tell mom she's overdoing it again.:-)

*****

I don't know that it's worth a whole article, but it might be useful one time as an exercise to imagine the same basic project, interpreted for three very different budgets. At each budget level, you make trade-offs based on the famous triangle, both logistical and creative. Being able to communicate to a client what these differences bring to a project may be an effective way to upsell them on investing more money. At the very least, it shows them that you really know your job, that you're not tricking them just to rack up the bill, and that your approach is more well-considered than some competitor's approach, and has their best interests at the foundation.

For example, based on the budget level, your camera moves may include a jib or steadicam on the high end, a simpler wheeled or tracked or skateboard dolly on the middle, or just lens zooms on the bottom end budget. You can shoot single cam and fake that it's two-cam by shooting twice as long using extra takes from the second angle, trusting that your actors can repeat their moves take after take and nail it.... or you can pay the rent for two cameras and do fewer takes when time is the most precious asset. When your "actors" are pros, single-camera works, but when the talent is not good or consistent, often the only way to get matching shots for continuity is to be rolling extra coverage on every take with a second camera. In this one area alone, if you can get a client to understand and appreciate what these differences bring to his screen aesthetically, I think you're going to have a more productive relationship with that client and in meeting his expectations and budget.

Another example of that could be: location shoots versus studio chromakey, and if you are trying to hide the fact it is chromakey, or are you playing it up as an obvious, virtual/cartoony, aesthetic choice.

Is this a budget that would support using stock footage versus the cost of new shooting? When you make these choices, you are deliberately shifting the production emphasis from the field acquisition to the post production phase, trading off shoot time for edit and effects rendering time. When you crunch the numbers, what works out as more cost-effective? "No-shoot spots", as they are called, can be exceptionally cost-effective, particularly if the copy supporting the premise plays to the strengths of the footage. You get a higher-end look for a bargain-basement rate. But go too far in that direction, and you look cookie-cutter... you'll want to take some of the money you saved by not shooting, and spend it on better scripting, to really pull this trick off.

In the example of the tire-kicking caller with the hypothetical cooking show, your conversation could have included a discussion of the option to live-switch the show and cut down post to a minimum, versus shooting all-iso cams and building a cut in post exclusively. The costs for the two options may or may not be close, depending on other factors.

You walk the client thru the variety of choices to be made, based on what the budget allows, then they realize this is more complicated than getting a ballpark number for x number of hours' work. Then they tell you what they want to pay, and together you figure out what they'll NEED to pay. Then they either agree and you work, or they don't, and you saved yourself a lot of grief and gave it to some other competitor.

Either way, you're ahead.






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Mike CohenRe: Questions to ask before a video shut.
by on Apr 13, 2008 at 5:35:24 pm

Sometimes you can ask "what's your budget" and sometimes not.
Sometimes the response to "what is your budget" is "well, we don't really know how much something like this costs."
In that case, if you want the job, write up a proposal and send it to them - giving a price right away before you think it through is a mistake.
For a tv pilot cooking show, I would figure 100,000 minimum, and let them negotiate down until you either agree or agree to walk away.
Mike


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David Roth WeissRe: Questions to ask before a video shut.
by on Apr 10, 2008 at 2:37:35 am

[Mark Suszko] "For lots of great leading questions from the set one category, I recommend the latest new edition of John Morley's "Scripwriting for High-Impact Videos." Just came out this week."

I've been doing the whole enchilada, including writing scripts, for a long time, but I bought the book last week on Mark's recommendation.

A great benefit of Morley's book is that it offers very eloquent ways of communicating ideas and concepts to clients about the purpose of what we're actually try to accomplish for them that you can use during the pitch and before you ever write a script. That's very much worth the price of admission.

David Roth Weiss
Director/Editor
David Weiss Productions, Inc.
Los Angeles

POST-PRODUCTION WITHOUT THE USUAL INSANITY ™


A forum host of Creative COW's Business & Marketing, and Indie Film & Documentary forums.


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