“The most powerful person in the world is the storyteller”- Steve Jobs
Why is it that when you watch a film, show reel or even a short social media video advertisement, it sticks in your mind, more than the words you read in a book or website a week ago?
According to Wyzowl, Video marketing Statistics 2022 - 96% of people turn to videos to learn more about a product or service. Truth is, the majority of people would rather watch a video than read a page of text, and just like anyone else, companies need video too - more so now than ever.
Film intrigue, inspire and excite people; but there is no need for mystique.
Storytelling and making videos with impact are about creating thought-provoking and inspiring narratives from base elements - it can be a magical process. But clients considering commissioning film content are sometimes put off by its seeming complexity. They have had little or no experience with the process and are unsure how to do it.
This guide will help you understand how to create a film whilst juggling the creative, organisational and business needs, we talk about the strategies that we use, as well as some of the more commonly used terms in the industry. We have also included one of our latest projects to show you how we used all these strategies for our client Omnia Foundation as you get to see the completed show reel
“Visual storytelling of one kind or another has been around since cavemen were drawing on the walls” - Frank Darabont.
An essential part of what shortstories' do (or don’t do), is avoid using technical terms when working with our clients. We like to keep things simple, clear yet comprehensive and don’t normally use distracting jargon. We do, though, know the importance of it, which is why we have included a few that you may come across when working with film production companies.
When making films for business, a script is a detailed document that shows how the producer is intending to create the video. It gives an overview of how the ‘story’ is likely to unfold and what techniques are going to be used to tell it. (By ‘techniques’, here we mean will it be animation, or talking head interview, or text on screen, or abstract imagery, or shots of people etc.) If we were building a house, the equivalent of a script would be the architectural drawings. The script guides the film production process to a large extent.
If you’re not familiar with how to write one, this guide on How to Write a Video Script by Wistia is a good start. It is good to know that as many different ways there are of creating a film, there are just as many different ways to organise a script.
shortstories' creates these ourselves based on individual projects. A typical scenario for us would be:
It’s a simple process.
This is a type of checklist used on the set or the location, specifically for filmmaking, that informs the film crew what they should film and how it should be done. This isn’t typically shared with the client as its main purpose is to direct the filming and guide the crew.
Cameras nowadays have a much higher resolution and powerful capabilities compared to previous years. One of these is the 4k camera which has a horizontal resolution of about 4,000 pixels.
This is big, and in some scenarios, 4k is the best you can use, while in others it may be overkill. It's best to ask the production company why they choose to film using this high resolution, and if it will increase your budget.
Two types of shots generally used in most videos are – the main and the supplemental; the supplemental is what’s referred to as the B-roll. In the case of an interview, for example, it will illustrate what it’s about.
This is something that we ask clients to consider closely before we start shooting. We need to know what opportunities to film will be available to us. B-roll helps to illustrate the story and bring the message to life.
It helps to add an extra visual layer, hence making it more appealing and interesting, and its purpose extends beyond the aesthetics; it makes for a smooth transition between scenes and can cover jump cuts within scenes. It is an essential part of the editing process.
Extending the house building analogy for a moment: the b-roll is the choice of brick or the colour paint you will use on the walls - that’s how important it can be to the finished appearance.
You may also hear the term ‘sweetening the audio’ (improving the sound by various means). The audio is such an important part of the finished product but is seldom considered accurately
We may use the phrase 'mixing the audio' during budget discussions with the client, as we allocate time for this.
“Sometimes reality is too complex. Stories give it form” – Jean Luc Godard
The creative, organisational and business needs all need to be considered throughout the filmmaking process. At various points, one will require more focus than the others. Overall, a balance needs to be achieved to ensure an eye-catching and appealing film is made on time and on budget and fulfils business objectives.
The worst thing you can do for your company is to pay for a film that blends in with the rest of the crowd. This is why we dissect every idea and element when it comes to ours. Below, we’ve included our process as well as a few case study examples for you to look at.
When you make a film, be sure you know why you are doing so. Crucial questions to be addressed early on include:
At this stage, it is better to have no preconception of how the video will look - this is better worked out later.
Forget about pretty pictures and the emotional impact you want, for now. Focus on what the key messages of the video need to be and how it fits into your overall business strategy.
Be rational, cool and clear.
CASE STUDY: designMAD is a design agency based in South London. Their business advisor had been recommending to them for years that they make a video. A combination of camera wariness and lack of knowledge about what it would entail meant they put it on the back burner. They also did not know what kind of film to make. By using a simple video brief form, the process begins. The form focused their thinking - led to some interesting internal conversations and took the pressure off of them to come up with ‘The Big Creative Idea’.
Watch it here
This is one of the most creative stages of the whole process because it sets out a vision of how the business messages can be married to a suitable style and produced within budget and on schedule.
At shortstories', when developing a proposal, we work from a simple form that serves as the client’s brief. We base the proposal on the contents of this form. The proposal becomes a document that every stakeholder on the project can understand and work with. It shows the direction of travel and how we will reach the destination.
The proposal creates a clear framework for the production, but flexibility and adaptability should be maintained - nothing should be set in stone. The proposal document gets the ball rolling in terms of deeper conversations. The creative approach will need to be refined after these discussions and better ideas will come to the fore as the conversations develop. Approach, budget and schedule can then be agreed upon and finalised.
Whilst not precluding change, development and improvements, once the proposal is written and signed off, an experienced producer will have a close idea in their head of how they intend the finished film to look. Onto the next stage.
CASE STUDY: CIMSPA is responsible for the development of and professionalisation of the physical activity sector. They are helping the UK become fitter and more active. They host an annual conference where companies and organisations within the sector share ideas and best practices. It is a much anticipated, busy and thriving event that they were keen to film. The event had three different theatre-style presentation areas with simultaneous events as well as dozens of stands. What to film? We could have had 10 camera crews there and not have had enough time to film everything that was going on. A comprehensive edit would have lasted 10 hours. Nobody would watch that. So, we asked CIMSPA to define their reason for filming the event. In the end, they agreed on three key messages that they wanted the viewer to learn from watching their film. This created a focused and watchable, short film that communicated those messages as well as gave a sense of the vibrancy and dynamism at the event.
Watch it here
Stage 3 is a combination of the organisational and the creative. If a script needs to be written, or a set needs to be designed, or a director appointed, or actors cast - this is the time. Additionally, the locations and crew vehicles need to be booked, the contributors’ diaries need to be coordinated and risk assessments need to be researched and written.
The workload here is mainly on the production company. The client should feel assured that everything that needs to be done is being done.
Communication, as ever, is key. This is a time to iron out all the details before going into Production. The producer and the client should be closely aligned in order to prevent nasty surprises in Production or later, in Post-Production.
CASE STUDY: Wigan Warriors needed a film to celebrate their 150th anniversary. It was a poem written by Tony Walsh. The original plan was to have Tony recite the poem on camera - he is a superlative performer and knows the poem inside out. During a pre-production discussion, other ideas emerged. It was agreed that the narrator of the poem needed to be someone more closely identified with Wigan (Tony is from Manchester). Several candidates were discussed and, in the end, it was agreed that the poem would be read by one of Wigan’s all-time great players: Martin Offiah. Clear and regular communication facilitated this decision.
Watch it here
This is the domain of the director and camera operator. Whilst a producer is responsible for everything that happens behind the camera, the director and camera operator look after everything in front. It’s a highly creative stage of the process and the better organised it is, the more creative it can be. But it’s a creative process that has to keep an eye on the clock.
Practical realities always determine how far the pursuit of creativity can stretch.
This is the most unpredictable stage. Whilst everything should be done to put perfect plans in place, sometimes you have to improvise. On a shoot for Wigan Warriors, we had planned to gather a large group of players and former players in the centre of Wigan town. A last-minute surge in Covid cases meant this wasn’t possible. But it is good to embrace change and work with new opportunities that arise. Flexibility is key.
New ideas constantly flow at this stage. Whether you can spend the time exploring them will depend on the schedule and how the new ideas fit into the framework of what you need to achieve. So, the producer and director always need to be cognisant of the business purpose behind the film and make sure the creative ideas always serve that purpose.
Business objectives must also determine how far the pursuit of creativity can stretch.
CASE STUDY: When LeadEQ asked us to make an identity film for their consultancy business they wanted to showcase something unique and fascinating. An aspect of their work involves getting clients’ teams to work with horses. It’s a way to stretch the participants and take them out of their every day comfort zone and it gave us a ready source for shooting some lovely pictures. But, there was a danger with this golden opportunity. We had to be mindful of the messaging they wanted to relate to the pictures of the ponies. We needed the audience to understand how seeing the ponies fitted with the work of the consultancy. You can see how we placed the business messaging alongside the pictures in the film below.
Watch it here
This is usually the most time-consuming and labour-intensive part of the production. Once again, creativity is central: the vision of the editor meets the vision of the producer, director and writer. Sometimes, this new creative input takes the film in a new direction. But it always has to be married to the original purpose.
Crucially, it is the time when the messages the client set out at the very first stage are realised and brought to life. Feedback from the client is critical and an early draft of the edit is useful to double-check that the client is happy with the direction.
If you were building a house, the draft edit stage is equivalent to checking the foundations are in the right place before constructing the walls. The draft edit can often appear flat and unimpressive, but it’s important to know that the structure is right before progressing.
Once this is established and agreed upon, then the magic happens. A talented editor will pull together pictures, visual effects, music and sound effects to create the best-looking film possible.
CASE STUDY: With the Competence app, we used well-targeted messaging to help make technical details more palatable for the viewer. The film was to showcase how the app is supporting recruits during basic training in the British Army. In our initial conversations, the client was keen to use many screenshot/demo clips showing the practical operation of the software. When we compiled this at the draft edit stage, it became clear that the demo clips were actually confusing the key messaging. They were creating an information overload for the viewer. We agreed to be more selective when using screen grabs of the software - and built the film more around the b-roll and interview clips to drive the narrative.
Watch it here
This is when the production company hands everything back to the client. Once the edit is signed off, final checks are made and the client uploads the video file(s) to the platforms they wish to use.
A robust method of measuring the success of the video is essential:
It can be any number of things.
The typical metrics when measuring film for any company should be the following:
If a viewer watches past the first 3 seconds of a film, they will most likely continue to watch it past the first 30 seconds. The benefits of making a video are varied and unique to each company and its business objectives. The rewards they bring are sometimes surprising and unanticipated.
Pivotal to changing the lives of many student learners, The Omnia Foundation, previously known as Karalius Foundation has requested a new identity film, which we recently completed. The purpose of the Foundation is to develop and deliver high-quality education to disengaged pupils with the view to re-engaging them into society.
Watch it here
Everything from their rebranding, name change and how they have advanced in their development needed to be captured.
The previous film we created for them in 2020, for Karalius Foundation made a positive impact and as such, they commissioned us to make a new one. The footage you will see portrays various activities showing the students stimulated, engaged and supported by the staff. You can read more about it here
"In our experience, a client never regrets making a video; in fact, they usually wish they had made one earlier." - Phil Pickard - shortstories' Head of Production
We want you to get the most out of our guide so we have included some helpful resources on film production and video marketing that you can use when either creating a high-quality video or learning all about how the process of video production happens and how to leverage it for your business and more. For those who are just getting started, we’re vouching for you!
“The older I get the more I look at movies as a moving miracle. Audiences are harder to please if you’re only just giving them special effects… but they’re easy to please if it’s a good story” – Steven Spielberg
We are always sharing insights into film and production from our personal experience.
See how we do it: send us an email to email@example.com if you would like to discuss your next film project.