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RFP for production companies - What would you want?

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Brian Tetamore
RFP for production companies - What would you want?
on Mar 4, 2011 at 10:50:26 pm

So, now I find myself on the other end of an RFP. I'm consulting with an ad agency to assemble an RFP for a government project that will include three separate videos. The budget is actually doable from my own numbers. But yes, they have already mentioned going with the lowest bid unless we can provide a compelling reason to spend more with a specific company. The latter is my preference.

As a production company, what would you expect/prefer from an RFP?

From the other side of the equation, how would you use the RFP to weed out potential production companies that aren't up to par when it comes to the clients and final products requirements?

The Visual Rabbi
TheVisualChurch.com
"Crafting Visual Messages to Engage and Persuade"


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Mike Smith
Re: RFP for production companies - What would you want?
on Mar 5, 2011 at 11:53:52 am

You have to decide what your priorities are, in terms of cheap, good or fast ... No doubt you have an approved budget level in mind.

1 Shortlist companies based on quality of work.

Build a long-list of possibles, from the COW, contacts, local trade directories, web, wherever.

Review reels from companies you could work with, whether local or, perhaps, via remote link if you are used to remote working. Try to see at least two whole videos, and avoid compilations of effects, clips and highlights.

Probably unless you are selling to designers and video techs it's editorial quality that you want to prioritize : do their videos tell interesting, compelling stories that move audiences like your target audience?

2 Qualify your best preferences can work in your price range.

Contact your best preferences and ask for budget range information - what did the productions you liked cost their clients, and what is their floor price for a x-minute your-style production. They may resists telling you too much, but at this stage you just want to know if they can work happily in your approved budget range.

3 Prepare a brief covering everything you, as a producer, would want to know.


Delivery requirements. (DVD? webfile? Master material? Edit timelines? Copies? Whatever you want) Audience. Objective. Any specific desired content or style pointers. Stuff you like. Related web, ad or print material you use. Resources you can supply in terms of people, places, contacts. Schedule - and make this realistic, allowing for your buying and admin processes. Target budget. How many people / companies you are inviting.

If you are really going to choose on price, tell them. And when people build to a price, they need to know what corners it's OK, or not OK, to cut. So tell them.

Caution, though: you're heading towards a process that supplies just *exactly* what's requested and contracted and nothing more - so if you don't spec a tripod, don't expect one. And if you change the spec after contract, what extra charges will you face?

You have to decide if you are aiming to build a conflict-oriented, price-dominated negotiation - you'd better be good at this, since your suppliers will be - or are trying to find creative, committed film-makers interested in making a fair return on producing the best work they can for a given project, client and budget. This will influence who you approach and how you approach them, who you choose, how your videos come out, and the eventual overall cost.

There's a lovely example from the UK building trade (one of many great examples), where a museum contracted marble cladding to fit in with an existing marble area, using the common name of the marble in the contract. One cute contractor offered a much cheaper price than the others - and got the job. The marble went in (it costs millions) - and didn't match. When the client complained, the contractor was able to prove that the material he used matched the contract spec (though not the common usage of the term in dispute). The contractor was not liable, and the museum had to choose between accepting the mismatch of paying heavily to have the work redone ...

3 Invite your top 3 or at most 4 to tender proposals.

Include a personal covering note or email. Explain what of their work you liked, and why.
If they ask for a pre-meeting to discuss and start research, say yes.


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Brian Tetamore
Re: RFP for production companies - What would you want?
on Mar 5, 2011 at 3:54:52 pm

"If you are really going to choose on price, tell them. And when people build to a price, they need to know what corners it's OK, or not OK, to cut. So tell them. "

That's good.

And yes, the standard MO is to go with the lowest priced qualified bidder. Unless, we can argue that a more expensive bid is worthwhile. The Ad Agency has asked that we create an RFP that allows us to compare apples to apples, so I'll likely put up specs that are exact, but make it clear that could change based upon final scripting and thus the final bid.

Any thoughts on that? Maybe we just contract for the script and pre-production first, and then settle on the project contract from that?

The Visual Rabbi
TheVisualChurch.com
"Crafting Visual Messages to Engage and Persuade"


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Malcolm Matusky
Re: RFP for production companies - What would you want?
on Mar 5, 2011 at 6:01:52 pm

Do you have a completed and approved script? If not, your RFP is moot. Depending upon how a script is written, budget can swing wildly.

Malcolm
http://www.malcolmproductions.com


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Brian Tetamore
Re: RFP for production companies - What would you want?
on Mar 5, 2011 at 6:13:46 pm

Yeah, that's my current line of questioning. Do I contract with a company or script writer to write the script and then put out an RFP? Or, could I contract with an RFP for a suitable production company based on experience, demonstrated storytelling, gear specs, daily EFP rates, hourly edit rates and so forth, and then once the script is green lighted, write up a contract for the production?

The Visual Rabbi
TheVisualChurch.com
"Crafting Visual Messages to Engage and Persuade"


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Malcolm Matusky
Re: RFP for production companies - What would you want?
on Mar 6, 2011 at 3:29:55 am

Being that you are the client, that's your call. Buttttt....!!!!
Bidding on an RFP without a "locked and approved" script" is an exercise in futility for a production company. If you want to hire a Producer to get the entire job done for you, for a fixed amount, that is a different story, but from your posts it seems you are the executive producer so it's your responsibility to hire a scriptwriter and then contract with a production company. Otherwise everyone will be unhappy with the finished product, as it is unlikely it will be the same scope as you envisioned it.

The budget all depends upon the script: ie, "the aerial view of the factory shows the CEO getting out of the limousine...." well that shot cost $5,000.00! or "from across the street pan across the expanse of the factory and zoom in on the sign..." that shot cost $50.00 You get the idea.

From my perspective I pass on all RFP's because if you don't want me to make a film about you, then I don't want you for a client. I am a person first and a company second; but that's just me. There are plenty of production companies who will bid on any job, they are companies first and people second! That's the nature of the business, I run a "boutique" shop, not a large concern by any stretch of the imagination. I am a "creative producer" in H-wood speak.

If this process is daunting to you, hire a producer, get the script locked and then have the producer write the RFP for you and evaluate the bids. Pay him and then retain him/or her/ to monitor the shoot as it progresses till finished product is delivered satisfactorily.

Malcolm Matusky, MBA
Malcolmproduction.com

Malcolm
http://www.malcolmproductions.com


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Malcolm Matusky
Re: RFP for production companies - What would you want?
on Mar 6, 2011 at 3:32:02 am

Forgot to mention, what is your budget? If it's $10~20K just hire a local shop and hope for the best, if it's a couple of times that you can go through all the hoops.

Malcolm
http://www.malcolmproductions.com


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Brian Tetamore
Re: RFP for production companies - What would you want?
on Mar 6, 2011 at 4:53:57 am

Good stuff. Thanks for the input.

What makes video so difficult to bid is the fact that the final product is invisible until it is scripted. So, yeah, I'm leaning towards getting a script done before a contract.

The Visual Rabbi
TheVisualChurch.com
"Crafting Visual Messages to Engage and Persuade"


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Mark Suszko
Re: RFP for production companies - What would you want?
on Mar 6, 2011 at 7:12:59 pm

Malcom has shown you the way:

Without at least a proper Creative Treatment, or the script that comes out of the Treatment, you have no compass or map for any part of the trip.

The Treatment process allows everyone to get a really good grasp of the type of imagery to be captured, the number and type of people in the cast, the number and type of locations, and thus one with some experience can get a real idea of the time involved in getting all these shots and then editing them. And at the treatment stage it costs nothing to make changes with a pencil line, versus the expense of re-shoots in real life. This is why I say a good script-writer and treatment do not cost; they SAVE money. And help guarantee success.

May I recommend a great book on this by a friend, Now in a second revised edition,
John Morley's handbook on corporate script writing:



http://www.amazon.com/Scriptwriting-High-Impact-Videos-Imaginative-informat...



contains among many good chapters, a walk-thru of the Creative Treatment process, that will help narrow down your costs and save you headaches and money.


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Richard Cooper
Re: RFP for production companies - What would you want?
on Mar 7, 2011 at 4:10:07 am

IMHO, our take on RFPs is this, we just walk away.... Just not worth our time.... This may seem a sour attitude, but the reality is this: If a company putting out the RFP is only concerned about the lowest bidder, then they get what they pay for and they deserve what they get.
You would be best to develop a relationship with a creative shop that does excellent work, one that you trust. The PAY THEM to produce a video for you. The lowest bidder very rarely works to the clients advantage.... I leave you with a short, but true story....

We spent close to 40 hours over the course of a six month period developing a concept with a potential client, a state agency. Every one was excited. They came to us SPECIFICALLY because they saw our work and said "WE WANT THAT!!!" They said that they really wanted to proceed in this direction "stylistically" and they were convinced that we were the only house that could accomplish this specific look, so we developed a solid concept with them for a highly stylized video to promote said agency. It was all a go. I even threw in some extras to sweeten the deal for them... and just as we were to sign the contract, they said "...oh, looks like we need to put out an RFP but don't worry, we want you to do the video, we just need to jump through the hoops"

So when we received the RFP from my "friends" at said state agency, I was surprised to see that their RFP was literally a "cut and paste" of our original proposal, right down to the payment terms, the little "extras" we proposed to sweeten the deal... even the time line we proposed!
So, we sent in the response to the RFP with the numbers that we had discussed... I think it was about a $20-$30,000 project. Not huge, but certainly not chump change... We get a response three weeks later... They had decided to go with another company and thanked us for submitting.... my jaw hit the floor when I saw that the winning bid had underbid us by $1200.00....

What did they get for their $1200 dollar savings?... a video that was 6 months late and stylistically not even CLOSE to what was originally discussed. I don't even think they shot it in HD!! Not to mention that the video was never used for its original intent. We never did see it once anywhere that we had discussed for distribution and exposure... and I will leave you to imagine why the video was never used.

But it seems that they got the video that they deserved.


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Mark Suszko
Re: RFP for production companies - What would you want?
on Mar 7, 2011 at 4:07:46 pm

Richard:

Been there, done that, got the t-shirt.:-)


The enemy of what we do is the "commodity mindset"; the idea that creative work can be commoditized just like buying cases of oil, pallets of copier paper or desk chairs or standard PC boxes. The wrong assumption made by those individuals is that our work product is totally uniform from company to company, person to person. Nothing could be further from the truth.


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Richard Herd
Re: RFP for production companies - What would you want?
on Mar 7, 2011 at 5:58:02 pm

Below, I asked a question about the line between charging for being a producer and just passing out numbers. The general answer was "when you think you can get paid for it."

Sounds to me like you could be managing the preproduction (writers, creative directors, the agency, and client), the production (shooters, actors, makeup), and the post production (editing, VO, color correction).


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Brian Tetamore
Re: RFP for production companies - What would you want?
on Mar 7, 2011 at 7:04:02 pm

Great comments. Truly appreciate your input.

Creativity is almost impossible to put a dollar value to. As my financial buddy would say, personal work energy versus money. And that is the condundrum we face in our industry. We produce a product that is at first invisible, and is birthed from the creative mind. Clients just have a hard time attributing the value of that pesonal work energy.

I'm pushing the ad agency to produce a creative treatment first, and then use that for the RFP. We have talked at length about this issue, and they do have the option of going with a higher bid as long as they can provide a compelling reason to do so. That is my hope. As I mentioned from the very beginning, this is a new place that I find myself - in between the production company and the client. It is my hope to make it a win/win.


PS: What seems so wrong about this whole process is we are talking government money. They have the money budgeted. It has to be spent. I don't fully understand that mentality, but it almost seems insane to worry about price when it's possible to afford a good production company rather than the cheapest. Certainly makes you wonder where all the leftover money goes, doesn't it?

The Visual Rabbi
TheVisualChurch.com
"Crafting Visual Messages to Engage and Persuade"


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Richard Herd
Re: RFP for production companies - What would you want?
on Mar 7, 2011 at 8:46:07 pm

I have no qualms charging top dollar for commercial production because I know my clients plan to generate millions of dollars in revenue from my stuff.


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Patrick Ortman
Re: RFP for production companies - What would you want?
on Mar 7, 2011 at 11:54:24 pm

I almost want to know which agency this is so we can avoid them. Sorry, but they do seem clueless about how to get great video production work. At least they hired you, and hopefully you can guide them.

We also laugh and throw away any RFP that won't state a budget range or have any sort of solid parameters. I don't know how you're going to do your job in this case and give them a RFP that's "apples to apples", really. I think you've got a lotta work ahead of you, educating the client as well as doing all you can to do your job the best way possible in this situation.

And I have to say, I think over the last 15 years we've not gotten a single client by answering an RFP. Like the others, here, usually an agency or client approaches us based on what we've done, what we can do, etc. I'll echo some others who've stated that great creative projects depend on building great relationships with excellent creative studios. I don't ever want to get a job because I'm the cheapest guy out there.

----------------------------
PatrickOrtman, Inc.
Los Angeles Digital Agency and Video Production Company


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Brian Tetamore
Re: RFP for production companies - What would you want?
on Mar 8, 2011 at 12:01:24 am

Patrick,
Believe me, I totally understand your perspective.

Question though. How do you get clients if you won't accept RFPs? In this case, we are talking State government.

Second ?: Is it not relevant to request an initial production company presentation of their experience, gear, and basic rates? If a company chooses, they can leave portions of it blank.

Save gigs where i personally knew the client, I've never won a project without going through some sort of proposal process.

The Visual Rabbi
TheVisualChurch.com
"Crafting Visual Messages to Engage and Persuade"


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Malcolm Matusky
Re: RFP for production companies - What would you want?
on Mar 8, 2011 at 1:51:05 am

Anyone who has been around for a while has been burned by this process. The only time I would consider going through a RFP process is if I had absolutely nothing else on my desk, and I mean nothing! There are companies/producers out there who can make a living doing this, probably a good one, but they have to have the personnel on staff to handle all the "BS" this process entails, I don't, and many very creative and capable people don't either, because they are in this "business" to do great creative work that is inspiring, not just punching a clock, making a buck.

Cable companies make commercials too, they just happen to suck, but they are cheap! And if cheap is the most important thing, that's not my business. (what cable companies don't give away is airtime, they charge a lot for that, while screwing independent producers)

"they have the money budgeted, so they have to spend it" I absolutely love this, no wonder the government is "going bankrupt" with a fiscal mentality like this we really are screwed in this country.

This has been a great thread, very informative, from the client and producer side.

Malcolm
http://www.malcolmproductions.com


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Patrick Ortman
Re: RFP for production companies - What would you want?
on Mar 9, 2011 at 12:40:03 am

What Malcolm and others have said- through word of mouth and the previous work we've done, primarily. When clients come to us, they almost always have been on our website- which includes all the nitty gritty stuff, like what kind of work we do, the gear we shoot on, etc. Then, we always have them fill out a project worksheet to get an idea of the scope of the project.

One of the things in our worksheet we need to know is your budget range. We've stopped working with prospects who refuse to talk budget with us from the start, because far too many decisions- both creative and technical- flow from the client's budget. If a prospect thinks that by telling us their real budget they'll somehow encourage us to rip them off... well, they're wrong, and like Ben Folds sang "if you can't trust, you can't be trusted".

The client worksheet serves as the basis for an initial meeting, either in person (much preferred by me), or virtual. Usually the client is looking at a few other companies, and that's OK. But I'm interviewing the client as much as they're interviewing us. When we talk, I don't do a dog and pony show. I listen to the client, talk about their project, and do my best to get a feel for what they're trying to do.

That meeting is important- and every time I've skipped my gut feelings after an initial meeting, I've regretted it. I'm sure it's the same on the other side, too, when you're looking for a good director or video production company or whatever. You need to connect with each other. We're not pumping out assembly line stuff, or at least we shouldn't be. Like others here have said, there are companies that do that kind of work, and they're the ones who typically do a lot of responding to RFPs. That go to the lowest bidder. And which pump out vast quantities of suckitude.

In the end, we give an estimate. Not a creative treatment. Not a mockup or anything that reeks of spec work. Just an estimate, along with perhaps some notes on things we've talked about in our meeting(s).

Deciding to take on a client is a lot of work for a creative studio, even if you do your best to screen out the bad prospects, as we do. So anything that puts a barrier between us and the prospect- like an RFP does- makes it a dealbreaker for us.

----------------------------
PatrickOrtman, Inc.
Los Angeles Digital Agency and Video Production Company


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Bill Davis
Re: RFP for production companies - What would you want?
on Mar 21, 2011 at 2:48:17 am

House painters charge by measuring, adding up a host of line items, calculating paint coverage factors, listing labor and materials needed - then add a profit margin or fee to cover their overhead.

Portrait painters NEVER charge for how much paint they use, or how expensive the canvas is. They charge for ACCESS TO THEIR TALENT AND EXPERIENCE. Period.

There's a lesson in that for anyone who sees themselves as a creative talent rather than a simple business person.

You want to paint houses - go right ahead. It's honest work and people need it.

You want to work beyond housepainter wages - you've GOT to learn to get out of the freekin' line items and work on the big picture. Reputation and extraordinary ability earned through years of craft study and a constant inward evaluation as you push toward creativity and excellence.

Your call as to which level you are currently cruising at, and which game you want to spend your life playing.

Good luck.

"Before speaking out ask yourself whether your words are true, whether they are respectful and whether they are needed in our civil discussions."-Justice O'Conner


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