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Who should a start-up post production/VFX company target?

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Camille Villes
Who should a start-up post production/VFX company target?
on Dec 27, 2019 at 1:03:05 pm

Hi All!

I am planning on putting up my own post-production studio as a "soloprenuer" for now. I want to operate over the cloud and I already have freelancers/home-based artists in touch. I've been getting remote projects but I was wondering who should I officially target as a start-up company? I'm quite confused on who gets a say on what VFX company should work on a project - is it ad agencies? directors? production houses? In short how do I get invite to bid for commercials and films as a startup VFX company?

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Bob Zelin
Re: Who should a start-up post production/VFX company target?
on Dec 28, 2019 at 10:45:46 pm

without any prior clients, no one will take you seriously. Get some clients - then you can start a company. You just don't show up, and say "I am the greatest After Effects/NUKE/Fusion guy in the world - here I am - you can book me now !". No one will care.


Bob Zelin
Rescue 1, Inc.

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Mark Suszko
Re: Who should a start-up post production/VFX company target?
on Dec 30, 2019 at 4:22:57 pm
Last Edited By Mark Suszko on Dec 30, 2019 at 4:24:37 pm

Bob is correct here, as usual.

It is a bit of a chicken-and-egg problem, which is why my standard advice to new people starting out with an editing boutique and no track record is to build a portfolio and contacts thru doing PSA work, even "spec" spots. Do stuff for causes and projects you personally believe in supporting. You pitch directly to the organizations, not to ad agencies or studios, at first. You're bringing clients free stuff. Everybody likes free stuff.

Helping a charity of any sort is never a bad thing, all by itself. But there is good karma attached to helping charities with their media campaigns, because the kind of people you intend to eventually work for, people with money and influence, people in large corporations, also are involved in these charities, and when you can't get in their front door to get a meeting, you might find that you can exploit this charity work you have in common with those potential patrons, to network with them and get on their radar. You may find them contacting you first, because you're a known quantity and you have "mindshare" in their heads. When their corporate internal meetings decide; "hey, we gotta do a video about xyz", your contact will say: "Oh, I already know a guy/gal." That's the whole ballgame right there.

I call this "getting in thru the kitchen door". Back in the day, you might meet these people on a golf course or whatever, and some still do. The overall point is to contact them in an outside, neutral, social context first, letting them become aware of you as a person, in a setting where they don't have all their usual barriers and filters up.

Second, the spec spots make for a useful portfolio addition, if you know how to market it. Every time you do a spec spot you have to try and create some buzz about it, thru press releases about it, thru attractive public presentations, both online and physical. Entering the spec spots into competitions can help a lot with your "earned media" profile-raising efforts. You gotta keep getting out there and tooting your horn, showing off your skills. This helps risk-averse clients see that you are "for real".

And now, you are no longer "some guys I never heard of". Now you're "Award-winning creatives who've worked with people I know".

Something I'll say about pricing and value:

When you give them the spec work completely free, you don't have any further obligations attached to it; i.e., they can't really call you back and ask you to re-edit something for free, they have to take it or leave it. It is very important though to attach an invoice to the free work when you deliver it, one that states the value you put on it, plus the notation that it's been comped.

If they then tell you they really like it but need a tweak, you can offer to convert their project to a billable hours project at that point, referencing the rate from the previous invoice, or you can walk away if they don't want to pay. And you should, because if you don't, they'll keep you on the hook doing the free work until doomsday. Because you've told them they can. And everybody else will hear that you're a pushover as well. You may never be able to negotiate a fair rate in that town again.

This isn't so much about getting a big payday from the first gig: it's about establishing the rules for the ***NEXT*** gig. The one with the big payday. And all the ones to follow.

If you are truly desperate to work with them, you can do the job as if it's regular billable time at your real day rate, but always invoice them with a message that "this is what it is worth, but we've discounted or comped the work by this amount, in this one instance".

What you're doing by this is benchmarking the actual value of your work and time, on your own terms, so that the next negotiation, for a *paid* gig, will start at the rate you're asking for, not one the client sets. It's funny human psychology, but people give more respect and value to something when it has even a token amount of real money attached to it, compared to being a totally free gift... This is the same principle that keeps people returning their empty shopping carts to the rack at the local Aldi's, in order to retrieve their 25-cent deposit.

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