Every business or outreach video project has a client. The “client” is the person who requests, approves, or supervises the required video project for the company, agency, or non-profit that is contracting for the video. (or, “Customer”.)
The video “producer” is the one person the client sees as being responsible for the conception, organization, direction and production of all of the elements of the video- the person who in essence will make the video a success. That person may be a one-person band or work as part of a larger internal or external organization, but ideally the client and producer both have something to gain or lose. (Or, “Supplier”.)
This is a simplification, but the client has the power (money) and the producer has the product (talent). So they really need to work to achieve their common goals in an atmosphere of mutual respect.
Doesn’t… always… happen.
In this two part series, I look at ways that Clients and Producers can poison that atmosphere.
The end result is almost always a deadline and / or budget crunch, andthat’s serious business, as many projects are on hard deadlines and fixes budgets.
Depending on the importance of a video (new product intro, major motivational opener for a meeting, apologia for some catastrophe, corporate image) the “client” has a lot to gain or lose. I can attest to promotions, raises, bonuses, corner offices and other goodies bestowed on some of my past clients.
So the client has a vested interest in making sure the producer has focused goals, needed raw materials, quick progress reviews, necessary sign-offs from superiors, and everyday accessibility on the client’s part to answer questions and provide whatever is necessary to meet deadlines.
The following five “don’ts” are based on real life experience.
5. Don’t let the producer meet the people commissioning the video and signing off on the script.
This should add at least two or three rounds to the scriptwriting process, which, if he is on a fixed budget, will definitely hurt your producer’s budget and bring you both closer to deadline death.
4. Don’t specify false deadlines.
I’m not talking about fudge time here- I’m talking about creating such short lead-time for a project that your video producer has to cut corners and sacrifice production value or “think time” in order to deliver “on time” for the false deadline. Inevitably, you won’t like the product, and then you will reveal that the producer actually has four more weeks. This results in the producer essentially making the video twice. Of course, you won’t want to pay for it twice.
3. Don’t provide needed source materials, interview subjects, products for glamour shots, etc., on a timely basis.
If you’re too busy to meet these needs, delegate. You can poison the attitudes of subcontractors and crew, and your own reputation, when the producer says “We’re waiting on the client”.
2. Don’t show up for an edit review drunk, with your significant other in tow.
This really happened.
We were producing a sales piece (multi-projector slide show) for a client pitching to a major potential customer. Hundreds of millions were at stake. We had to turnkey the project from concept to finished project in 7 days. Monday we got the project.
We were working up against the clock on the subsequent Sunday night, when the client (who had been in absentia much of the time) called to say he was in the area and could he get a sneak preview of what we had (we needed through Monday to really polish, but proud of what we had so far, I of course said yes.)
He showed up drunk (drink in hand) with his significant other, also drunk, as they had been at a restaurant across the street. We played the show for him. He turned nasty and played client, telling us it was “shabby” and needed work. I’m not sure what he saw, but I am sure he was trying to impress his sweety.
It took a ton of convincing to keep my teary-eyed crew in place to finish the show ’til early the next morning after that experience.
1. Don’t review by committee.
This ties in with number five. If I have met only you, there is nothing more dangerous than putting me or my crew through a review by committee. Another true story. We had landed a big market presentation video for a major publisher. Market presentations sell the potential advertisers on the buying strength of a local market and the ability of the publication to reach that market. In other words you’re selling ads and ad rates.
We developed an excellent rapport with two people who acted as our clients (representing the two main department involved- big publisher.) We eventually finished the script and were proud of it and knew it was on the money. The two clients (who knew where everything was going creatively) asked us to visit their building for a final script review. One of them met me in the lobby and brought me up to the advertising floor (“you have a floor?”)
We walked toward a conference room, opened the door, and at four connected conference tables set in a square were 20 people. I mean, practically the whole ad and marketing senior staff. I got to sit in the donut hole in the middle.
The review actually went very well, but suffice it to say times have changed and a committee review today (what with corporate job paranoia and all) might not go as well. I do know I have one less year to live on my clock, because I think my heart stopped that day.
So, fellow producers, we feel each other pain, been there, suffered that.
But wait- we’re not perfect either.
Next time, also from personal experience, five ways Producers can make their client’s lives a living hell.