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Where to find great video people

December 23rd, 2005

This issue is about how to find
great video people in your local
area and how to pick the one
that’s right for you.

But first…


Subscriptions to the letter have been
growing by leaps and bounds.

At this point, it must be because you’re
sharing it with friends and colleagues.
Thanks. I appreciate it.

Second, the topic of video advertising on
the Internet has created a torrent of
e-mail, bigger than anything I’ve seen
in a long time.

If I don’t get back to you personally right
away, it’s because the volume of mail has
been sky high.

I do read everything you send and appreciate
all the tips and pointers.

— More about "do it yourself"

I received quite a few e-mails from people
who appreciated my "make or buy" advice.

Several people said they’d gone ahead
and tried to do their own video production
by buying a ton of gear only to discover
afterwards they didn’t really have the time
or inclination to do it themselves.

If you wonder why I know so much about
this topic, it’s because I’ve learned it
the hard way over the years myself. 🙂

I also had the priceless experience of
working inside the film and video production
business for a year with a seasoned pro, so
I got to see first hand and up close what
it takes to do it right.

— How to find video vendors and partners

No matter where you live, there’s  probably
a lot more video people around than you

Here are two good sources of "good enough"
video production services:

1. Wedding videographers
2. Community colleges

Also, you can run an ad at craigslist.org
More about this later.

Wedding videographers are busy in May and June.
The rest of the year, they’re sitting on their
hands. They’d love to hear from you.

Community colleges can sometimes be a gold
mine of talent.

Over twenty years ago, I took a TV production
course at a community college in Central
New Jersey.

The school had a full blown, professional
three camera studio with all the bells and
whistles. The instructor was a guy with massive
experience as a television producer.

The faculty are often available for moonlighting
and if not can often point you to sharp students and
local freelancers.

— How to select the right video guy (or gal)

Ted Nicholas once told me that if only one out
of ten people you do business with actually
performs, you’re lucky. This is especially
true for vendors.

The secret is to identify and weed out the dogs
as fast as possible. The good guys don’t need to
be trained or taught manners. You just need to
find them.

— Nine steps to a great video production partner

1. Cast as wide a net as possible

Once when I needed a perl programmer,
I actually evaluated over 300 people.
The process took an entire week.

The pay off? He was fast, he was gifted
and he was a total pleasure to work with.
Five years later, he is still a treasured
resource. The time and energy it took to
find him was time well spent.

2. Don’t educate them at first

All you really need to say in the beginning
is that you are looking for someone to make
short and simple promotional videos for you
and that if it works out, there’ll be a stream
of work down the line.

That’s music to the ears of videographers
who often live a "feast and famine"

3. Ask for their reel

"Reel" is the industry term for a sample tape.
It’s the equivalent of a videographers business

If they don’t have one or can’t get one to you
easily, they’re most probably not serious.
Cross them off your list.

4. Don’t believe what you see

Now you have a pile of reels. Look through
them and throw out the obvious dogs.

What’s a dog? Bad sound, shaky camera,
bad lighting. If their reel is weak, their
actual work is going to be horrendous.

Don’t assume that what’s on the reel
is stuff they actually made. Yes, I know
it’s shocking, but some people lie. They
put other people’s work on their reel
and present it as their own.

Don’t believe what they say on their web
site either.

I once hired a guy who called himself
an experienced director. On his web
site he had a picture of himself
next to a state-of-the-art 32-mm
camera, the ones they use in Hollywood
and on very high end commercials.

When he and his ‘crew’ arrived for the live
shoot, they could barely get their camcorders
to work!

Yes, there was a picture of a 35-mm motion
picture camera on his web site and yes he
was standing next to it. And later I learned
that that was the full extent of his experience
in film making: standing next to a 35-mm camera.

Here’s two ways to avoid being on the
receiving end of an experience like

5. Get and speak to multiple references

Speaks for itself.

6. Never give someone you’ve never worked
with a big, serious project right off the
bat no matter who recommends them

Always start out with a small project and
one that doesn’t really matter.

Make one up if you have to.

This way if they screw up – and remember
Ted Nicholas’ observation that 9 out
of ten so called business people are flakes
– you’ll only lose a little time and money,
not your sanity.

7. Treat your vendors right

When you find a capable, reliable video
guy that you can work with – and you will
– treat him right.

Remember: "A business lives and dies
on the quality of its vendors." If you’ve
been in business for any length of time you
know that’s true.

Be a great client which means:

1) being easy and reliable to work with
2) being appreciative – and patient when
things go wrong (but not TOO patient)
3) paying a fair rate

Don’t be one of those business ‘geniuses’
who spends their lives beating down vendors
on price.

The biggest winners I know in business
– guys who’ve built nine figure a
year companies (yes, 100,000,000+ a year) –
all make it a practice to treat their vendors
like family.

Once you find a great vendor – and it may take
some trial and error to find one – your goal
should be to become his favorite client. This
does not mean showering money on them or becoming
their best buddy. What it does mean is paying fair
and being fair.

8. You’re the boss – know what you want

There are many very talented film and video production
people who have never and will never come up with
a worthwhile content or marketing idea on their own.

So don’t look to them for content, marketing
or business advice. That’s not their function.
Generally, video folks know less than nothing about
marketing, advertising, and selling – even if
they’ve worked on TV commercials.

Their sole job is to put your vision in video

You’re the one who has to provide the vision
which in video means the script.

Think of video folks the same way you think of
web designers or programmers. Talented people, but
only useful to you when they are following your
clearly thought out directions.

(In the video world, before-the-shoot planning
is called preproduction, the actual shoot is
called production, and the editing and finish
work is called postproduction.)

By all means, seek out and listen to their advice
about sound, lighting, sets, wardrobe, camera angles,
etc. but it’s up to you to get straight what you
want from them *before* you call them in to shoot
a project.

By the way, most camera people are editors too
or work closely with one, so you can reasonably
expect to get the whole job from shoot to
finished project done by one set of hands.
A good thing.

9. Craigs list is a good source of talent

Besides wedding videographers and
your local community college, check out
Craigs List.

I remember Craigs List when it was just
a small little thing being run by a group
of ex-hippies in San Francisco. If that’s
your recollection too, it’s time for
a major update

Craigs List has evolved into a massive
free classified ad service and talent
bank that has local outlets in over 100
cities worldwide from Albany, NY to Zurich

Just reading the tv/film/video ads section
will be an education in itself.

To use this resource…

Go to Craigs list, find your city, and then
go to the "jobs" section and click on

Link: http://www.craigslist.org


You WILL find a great video person to work
with, but probably he or she won’t fall out
of a tree at your feet.

Cast your net as wide as possible, ask
for reels, be quietly skeptical, check
references, try them out on a small project
first, know what you want – and when you
find a good one, treat ’em right.



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  1. May 12th, 2006 at 10:34 | #1

    Thank you Ken for a simple but powerful method to produce effective video content even if you’re a complete newbie to video. Many of the “gurus” who are promoting online video are doing their list a disservice by focusing on the message to the exclusion of the medium.
    The typical example that is easily found online is the person sitting at their desk and talking into a webcam that has a wide-angle lens which causes the person’s face to look disproportionately large compared to the rest of their body. This look is intentionally used by video producers when they want someone to look funny, so if you’re using this method to motivate someone to take action (opt-in or make a purchase), you may be shooting yourself in the foot by using video in this manner. But don’t fret, this beginner’s mistake is easily remedied by taking Ken’s advice and finding video production talent in your area. I live in the Chicago area and am very eager to work with smart marketers to produce effective online video. I have years of video and photography experience, but I’m just getting started as a marketer, so I welcome the opportunity to combine forces with other marketers, especially those who subscribe to Ken’s blog.

  2. May 28th, 2006 at 20:08 | #2

    Getting the video production guy is just one of my chellenges. How do you write the storyboard for what you want them to produce? Unlike a static print ad, this medium requires sound, voice, setting, models, staging, etc. not just words and a graphic on paper.
    Love what you’re getting into!!

  3. May 30th, 2006 at 08:38 | #3

    There are lots of books on how to do this and I imagine there are free web sites that explain it too.
    The answer to this and just about every question on the Internet is “google it” and see what comes up.
    That being said, creating storyboards is not that different from writing prose. Start with the words you want to use and then do a rough sketch of what images you want to go with the words.
    It’s not rocket science, but it is a new skill. One way to “grow into” it is to start paying close attention to how images are sequenced together on TV programs and in the movies.
    Finally, there are people who do this for a living who have lots of experience behind them. Work with them. Study with them. Read what they’ve already written about the subject.
    You don’t need an Internet guru to teach you this stuff at $1,000 a throw.

  4. Ellyn Davis
    December 6th, 2006 at 12:44 | #4

    Don’t forget churches. Most decent sized churches have a media department with the camera equipment and editing software to make videos of services and special events.

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