Where your money goes in video production

The cost of video can be steep, enough to make you wonder if it’s worth the investment. Yet, a well-placed and promoted video will tell your audience more information in a minute than probably all of the written blurb on your website. So, it’s definitely worth considering putting video into your content mix. But, let’s first understand where the money goes.

In our opinion, finding the story is the most important element of making a successful film, but we know that customers usually want to start with the budget and what the cost of video will be.  It is putting the cart before the horse, but let’s clear up the issue of cost.  The cost of video can vary wildly, but on average to produce a broadcast quality corporate film (not TV ads), you can expect to pay between £1000 to £1500 per minute of finished footage.

Shocked? Well I hope not because there is more than you imagine to making a film and remember you can get it cheaper but you take risks with your quality.  Add celebrities, posh locations and other extras and the price goes up – order in bulk, shoot in your own locations and keep it simple and the price goes down.  One last point on price – it’s not really ‘per minute’ the truth is it’s easier for us to make a five-minute film than it is to make a two-minute film and the most effective films online are short – but companies will rarely go below £3,000 because of the infrastructure costs of getting a crew on the road and post-production.

So back to the story.  I always advise customers to get the professional storytellers in to help you with your message; they will see the story that you need to tell.  That story could be a safety message to staff, a campaign to go out on Instagram, or a full blown digital advertising campaign.  Once you have the story, you work with your creatives to find a compelling and informative way of telling it.  Now we come back to budget because obviously if you want a helicopter shot of the Med coast or Pixar animation quality or Brad Pitt that may push costs up a just a tad.  Here’s a quick list of where you or rather we may spend your money:

1. Writing the story up

Meetings and research to find and create the story, and research to find out where and how you’re going to make it happen.

2. Production management

This is the cost of someone tying everything together, booking crews and locations, risk assessments, call sheets, filming permissions etc. We include our costs of insurance and other liabilities in here too.

3. Pre-production

This is where your creative plans the shoot – create shooting schedules and maybe scripts, interviews are planned and questions written, locations are chosen, style and crew are selected.

4. Cast

Free if it’s you and some colleagues/friends – more bucks if it’s a professional presenter or actors, etc.

5. Filming days

Hold on to your hat this can be expensive BUT good planning will keep this within your budget.  A professional crew would expect to work 11 hours for a shooting day so you get a decent amount of work out of them.

Here’s what needs to be paid for:

The essentials:

  • DoP – (director of photography) – the camera operator to you and me – their kit will be extra – so again good planning will keep this under control.
  • Sound recordist – sound is the big marker between cheap ‘self-made’ films and quality productions – just compare the national news to local news – sound is often the difference.
  • Director – this is your creative on set who has a grip of the whole story – who will do the interviews and direct everyone – they are also the person on set you can speak to as a client – essential.
  • Location – If it’s at your place no charge, but expect to pay at least £1-1.5k a day for a great location.
  • Expenses– all crew expect to have travel and food paid for – it can add up so keep an eye on it.

The Extras 

  • Camera assistant – this person can actually save you money depending on what you need to shoot and are like a mini grip – see below.
  • Runner – again they are inexpensive and keep the work flowing (they are also often tomorrow’s directors and producers).
  • Make up – a wonderful and not expensive extra that makes a big difference to how people look on film – you won’t see anyone on TV or a film without it!
  • Grip –  this is usually a person(s) who puts technical kit together like big lights, track and dolly shots, or small structures – usually bigger shoots need these.
  • Set designer– these are people that make places look amazing – they find props and dress locations – they’re not expensive and can create that wow factor depending again on your story.
  • Stunt co ordinator/specialists – if you want something dangerous or technical to happen you need stunt/specialists – not as expensive as you might imagine and it can set you apart on YouTube – but if you need them they’re not just for Hollywood.

6. Post-production

This is the slowest part of the process – on average an edit suite will produce no more than one minute of finished film per day.  You have to pay for the kit, the room it’s in, the editor and an edit producer to guide the film.  Yes, this can be shortcut – you can use an editor who has their own place and kit but you still have to pay for that in their fee.  Sometimes customers visit the edit but usually we upload online rough versions of the film for feedback.  To save yourself money keep your changes objective rather than subjective and keep the pool of people who give this feedback to a minimum or your film will take an age to finish.

7. Music

This is a thorny issue – the fact is that music belongs to someone or at least most of it does and especially the good stuff.   Your production house will probably have a deal with a big music library keeping the costs down.  You can’t have the latest Justin Timberlake hit though because unless you’re a broadcaster there’s no deal in place to use it and to buy it would cost many thousands of pounds.  There is some free music out there and if I played it to you you’d recognise it from TV ads and online video – it’s ok… but a £100-200 a film will buy you something a bit special from a library.

In summary

So film – it costs – and I bet £1500 per minute doesn’t sound so steep now you’ve seen what can go into making it.  But the real beauty of film is, that if you do it right, you will truly engage your audience, quickly.  Not only will it be effective for your immediate message, but it can live and move around spreading your values and messages to all sorts of audiences.

Not only that but if you stick with a good production outfit they will keep all the rushes for you so you can quickly cut new versions of the film and that library of shots will almost certainly drastically cut the cost of your next project.

In conclusion – get your story straight – employ professional storytellers to help you – agree on an idea and get it costed – and go make something special.  Oh and don’t worry about formats or where it needs to go – any professional production house can version it to just about any format out there from your smartphone to a cinema screen.

Also ask for help from production people like us – they/we are not lawyers – much of our advice is given free just to help you decide if a film is the right step – there’s no point in us convincing you to produce a film unless we can be sure it will give you the return on your investment.

If you’re considering creating any type of film for your company, we can help you at every stage of the process, from deciding if it is the right tool for you, guiding you through production, and promoting it to the right audience(s). See more about our Video Production services here. If you’re ready to get started contact me for an informal chat.

By Christine Jones, Tiger Mouth