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What marketers can learn from indie filmmakers

Social & Digital

What marketers can learn from indie filmmakers


Today, marketers’ jobs have become increasingly more complex, says Anna Ji. With so many different channels to constantly have to create content for, it can become a time consuming and costly endeavour.

Anna Ji 150 BWThe marketing role has evolved to include making YouTube videos, corporate videos, employee recruitment videos, product videos, explainer videos and a never-ending supply of Instagram videos, so much so that now their roles have evolved into being akin to an indie filmmaker.

But, while marketers may learn about messaging and strategy in university, most marketing programs don’t teach video production skills, which has now become an essential part of their day-to-day role.

And video production can be expensive. The digital video marketing industry has become a $135 billion industry in America alone, with the average business now spending $20,000 a year creating video content. It wouldn’t be uncommon to spend $10k on hiring an outside video production company to get a single two-minute corporate video, while other companies spend thousands of dollars for a few Instagram videos.

Not every marketer has that kind of budget to play with, but today, given the availability of new technologies and the right know how, marketers can embrace their inner indie filmmaker and master the art of creating great content on a budget. Here’s how:

Figure out what you want to say

The first step is figuring out what you want to say and how you are going to say it. If you are doing an employee recruitment video, for example, what are the key messages you want to get across about the company? Who could you interview in the company to get that message across? What b-roll (additional footage) do you need to shoot to convey that message – for example, exterior shot of the office, footage of the team working, footage of people playing foosball.

Apple’s employee recruitment video has shots of people working at a whiteboard, sit-down interviews, scenes of people working at their desks, Apple’s products being manufactured etc.

Not everyone is good in front of the camera. Some people freeze up or speak in monotone voices, so if you are planning these types of shoots, consider those in the company who are more enigmatic in front of the camera. Plan for the key questions you want to ask them during the interview that will get them giving the answers you want to convey to your potential employees, customers or investors.

Also, you may need to interview several people from the team to get plenty of soundbites that you can use to hook people’s attention.

Figure out your brand voice

You also need to consider the visual language you’ll be using. Are you a young tech start up that wants to appear hip and fun? Or do you want to present yourself as more serious and professional to get the attention of C-level execs and investors? Or do you feel you have your own unique voice, which can’t be compared to anyone else? How will you convey this?

The legendary Fyre Festival promotional video wanted to create an aspirational, exclusive feel, which it did incredibly well. Even if the end result didn’t match the initial promise, the video got everyone wanting to go.

Read the case study: How Shutterstock went globally Fyral with $2000 » 

Fyrestock pig in water — Nejron Photo:Shutterstock Video

Figuring out your brand voice will touch everything you do – from the type of shots you take, the people you film, the music you use, your fonts and so on. You should consider creating a brand identity for your videos as early on as possible so they all have the same look and feel. Your customers will hopefully know what to expect in every video you make.

Before you watch GoPro’s latest video you know what to expect. You know you are in for a slick action sports video that looks cool and makes you wish you were hang gliding over the Amazon right now. Successful Instagrammers and vloggers know all too well how to create unique branded content that matches their personal branding. You can always learn something from the masters. Scour YouTube, Vimeo and Instagram looking for content you love that you feel could work for your company – but try to put your own spin on it too.

It’s all about the team

If you hire a full service video production company, they can be very expensive. But if you assume the role of an indie film producer – who are used to making films on micro-budgets – you can individually hire the team yourself and get the same content done for a fraction of the cost.

A key person for creating great content is a professional cinematographer. They also go by the titles of a director of photography (DoP) or videographer.

If you post a gig on Craigslist, ProductionHub or Mandy you should get plenty of bids from local cinematographers hungry for work. A top cinematographer working on Beyonce’s latest music video can charge $2000 a day, but you can also get a really good find for $300 to $500. There are also lots of talented, straight-out-of-university students who may even do it for $150 if you are working on a micro-budget.

Having a professional and experienced cinematographer to get those beautiful, well taken shots really ups the production value and your brand voice. As professional film makers, they can also bring creative ideas to the table. They may have some great suggestions of shots to takes and cool new angles that make your content look awesome.

One important consideration is sound! It is crucial to get crystal clear, good quality audio. If you can afford it, you can get a separate sound person in also. If not, work with the cinematographer to find the best solution. It may involve getting the intern in the office to record additional audio on their iPhone. It wouldn’t be the first time.

The edit

When you have all your footage shot, now it’s time to edit. It’s often said that the film is made in the editing room. When you add music, graphics and additional footage to tell your story, that’s when your video really comes to life.

While editing used to be something that was left to the professionals, with the advances in technology editing software, it has become relatively easier. And with ready-to-go templates, now anyone can become an editor themselves.

If you personally feel it’s something you can’t do, then with today’s social media obsessed generation, you may not need look far within your existing team to find someone who can cut a really compelling video.

The trick with editing is to get your message across in as short, to-the-point, yet engaging way as possible. The most common considerations are:

  • Add intro and outro music
  • add graphics to introduce the purpose of the video – eg ‘why you should work for us’
  • add your company logo, and
  • if you are doing any interviews, add lower thirds – graphics that explain a person’s name and occupation

People generally don’t like to watch the same shot for too long. If you watch any ad, documentary or movie, the content on screen is constantly changing. When someone is doing a sit-down interview, we see them for a few seconds and then we cutaway to a different shot to visually show what they are talking about.

If you weren’t able to capture relevant footage to match what they are saying, Create has stock footage embedded into its platform, otherwise sites such as Ponds5, iStockPhoto and Shutterstock are just some of the many websites out there that offer great stock footage.

Media planning

So after you have got the hang of creating your own content and have realised how easy and inexpensive it can be (when you know how), then you can start planning for the future. You can set aside filming days where you can hire your cinematographer for a day and film enough content for your various channels to last you several months. Consider the usual media events – Valentines Day, St Patrick’s Day, Father’s Day, Mother’s Day, Halloween etc. What kind of content can you create for all the different channels to stay connected with your customers?

Like most things, there is always a learning curve, but when you get beyond that, creating content can become one of the most fun parts of a marketer’s job. And the more you master it, the more ideas you will have. And who knows, one day you could be winning awards for your video that you made for under $300 up against agencies who had 50 times your budget. With video content, creativity is key and creative ideas win out every time against bigger budget productions. But most importantly, make sure you have fun trying!

Anna Ji is director of product and growth at Clipchamp

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