Lower Production Costs in 7 Easy Steps
There’s nothing more embarrassing than asking your client for more money. You agree on a price and if the production goes over budget then it comes out of your company profits. This is the honorable way of doing business. Sometimes things change with the client’s requests and there is reasonable room for renegotiation but if everything falls your way and you still go over budget then you need to re-plan on the next project. Experience is the best way to understand what costs will arise and how to best plan for them. Until then, knowledge is a decent road to take. Let the experience of others provide some useful tips on how to cut costs.
Production Brief – Research is always the first step in any project. Study what the impact of the video will be and how much you have to work with. The client may want a video that is not going to have a very profitable result and this is something you might not want to venture into. On the same token, the client might present you with a very unrealistic budget. It’s your company’s job to guide them to the best options.
Actors – Professional actors can run you up the wazoo. There are plenty of aspiring talent that is just begging for any screen-time possible. Most casting websites have a non-paid option. See:
And these are just a few. There is also the option to cast your own company employees. You will find many of them begging to do this job and if they can handle the task of delivering lines in front of a camera you are obtaining them for their regular salary. This can sometimes cost even more than an established actor but it does give a realistic touch. If in the case, you do want to hire an actor with some Hollywood credits get to know people out there. You will be surprised who may want to work with you. There is the story of Zero Impact Home, an ecological company in Sherman Oaks, who wanted to make a “Back to the Future” parody as a promotional video. One of the producers of the video attended the same church as actress Claudia Wells from the original film. She was more than happy to provide her services to help with a cause she believed in and all it costs the production company was her specific request of a 12 pack of Diet Barq’s Root Beer.
Music – I’ll never forget the story of a video game that came to my production office stating they had blown their entire million dollar advertising budget procuring the rights to 30 seconds of “Free Bird” and needed something on the fly for no budget at all. There is no need to be one of those idiots. Library music cues are efficient and precise for any task. There are public domain options for songs older than 35 years as well. I recommend finding local musicians and forming in a symbiotic relationship between promoting their music and the product. Regional audiences will definitely respond to this.
Schedule – Plan your shoot days as efficiently as possible. Try to maximize on all locations and hours. Doing pick-up shots and re-shoots is the most costly part and real pain for consistency. If you are paying someone by the hour it is best to make the most use of their time when they are around. Don’t ask people to show up early only to have them wait around. Know when you will need which crew departments when and plan it into the schedule. This also has the effect of showing you appreciate the crew’s time. When securing locations determine when it would be cheaper to shoot. Some places are not open on weekends or nights and you could use this to your advantage.
Graphics – Ask yourself if the video needs specific graphics and texts. How animated do they need to be and is it truly relevant to the message. Is this addition a gimmick or is it informational. Gimmicks can be thrown out unless the client really wants to go that angle. Information should not be over provided, the idea is to connect with the viewers and entice them to do further research for the full information.
Equipment – Before your company buys any new equipment, ask yourself if this is going to be worth it. Technology advances all the time. Smaller and newer production companies will struggle at first to procure the right equipment as well as clients. It may be beneficial to rent certain cameras or audio devices until you can afford to buy one. Used is always a good option so being in contact with some of your larger competitors can do you some good there.
Editing – The final product may be a 30 second video that took 12 hours to shoot but the time it spends in the editing room could be an undetermined length. You can do the editing in house but remember your time is valuable as well. There are some ways to make things easier on your editors such as pre-cutting clips and being specific with your time codes. You could also hire a freelance editor to do the creative work and then do the finishing rendering yourself. The best way to learn how much an editor will cost is to learn how they think. The video below will give you some aspect as to how they will consider charging you to make their time worth it.
A lower budget proposal may help you land a job over your competitors and can often increase profit margins but there is no shortcut to good work. High production value does not mean wasting money but these tips can be a valuable resource if your clients agree to it. You are in the business of pleasing those who pay you and showing them that a nice project can be obtainable for less money is always welcomed.