Champagne Look, Beer Budget
So What Budget Did You Have In Mind?
Let’s face it. Corporate videos usually fall into one of two categories:
a) What you want to do, or see on screen will cost more than you have a budget for, or,
b) How your video producer would like to approach the project would cost more than the you want to spend.
The compromise is seldom perfect, but it can be pretty bloody good – which is usually all it needs to be.
As a producer I prefer to think of the budget – no matter how ridiculous it seems to me- as just another parameter I have to work within – another challenge. And we should all be used to dealing with those by now.
When a client asks me how much a production is going to cost, I always ask how much they’re willing to spend. When they reply "X dollars" I tell them I’ll then give them the best $X video in town!
The next thing I do, if I’m coming up with the concept for (writing) the video myself, is to not let the budget stifle the creative juices- thinking big then scaling it back if necessary. Find cheaper ways of getting an expensive/more creative look rather than tailoring small ideas for a small budget.
I’ll get on to some suggestions for achieving this shortly, but in the first instance one way to cut the pre-production- (writing) budget- is to do as much leg-work as possible – collecting script info, arranging props or shooting locations, scheduling the talent/performers/presenters if they’re from your own staff etc.
Not only does this cut down on the producer’s billable time, but it also gives you a better understanding of what’s involved. It also gives you further ‘ownership’ of the project if you’re directly involved in producing it rather than watching from the sidelines. This is all very well if you have the time to put into it, and isn’t what you hire a professional for (you don’t often call a plumber or electrician and then ask what things you can do for him to make the repair cheaper) but in this case we’re talking about screwing the maximum out of a budget to get a result you can’t initially afford.
Utilising the your staff or associates as performers, extras, or even presenters, is often an option as a ‘free’ source of talent. As presenters or narrators I always think they’ve got more credibility than outside talent anyway.
Where possible I’ll use interviews with staff (or suppliers, or customers) to tell the story, as it’s more interesting. It adds flavour and gives more visual options than straight voiceover, or even a ‘presenter to camera’ situation, which takes more setting up.
In-house ‘talent’ also have an innate understanding of the subject matter, but it’s crucial to get any script to them as far in advance as possible, even if you don’t want them to learn it by rote. The nerves are much less if they have a clear understanding of what’s expected.
Having said that, depending on the situation, often, professional talent will be more cost-effective in the long run. What might take in-house talent all day (with all the extra takes to coax a reasonable performance, remember script or just look believable) a professional performer may knock off in half that time, without the stress, and with a more ‘professional’ looking result. In many cases that half-day presenter fee is a lot less than the extra crew time.
The same principle goes for crewing. I always work with the minimum crew I can but occasionally hiring 5 people may mean the production company can work quicker and complete the shoot in a day, as opposed to 12-13 hrs with 3 or 4 people. The saving in crew costs can be quite dramatic. Again though, to stretch the budget further it may be possible to provide your own people to carry out non-technical roles- catering, ‘running’ (fetching and carrying!), crowd control, props acquisition, etc.
It’s usually cheaper to shoot on location than in a studio, unless, of course, a studio look is specifically required. Locations will often require less lighting and set up, although extraneous noise can sometimes be a problem. However I find if you visually establish where the location is the audience is usually pretty forgiving.
I’m often shooting in supermarkets and retail environments – possibly the worst location for sound and certainly for lighting– but as long as the scripted message is clear and not fighting with the background audio, after a few seconds of listening it’s usually not an issue.
Jobs that require long-distance or overseas travel are an expensive prospect, but if the producer really wants the job and it’s not practical to source local crew you could try offering to cover the cost of a small (2person) crew’s airfare, accommodation and reasonable expenses if they’ll cover the labour and equipment? I know I wouldn’t mind a week in the Islands or warmer climes mid winter! In fact any change of scenery is often a welcome break from the ‘day to day’.
Most of these ideas aren’t original, but they may get you thinking of other ways you can get a better result with limited resources. As a wise sage once said, “Good ideas are thought of, great ideas are stolen!” But also remember that with video, the highest quality seldom comes with lowest bid.