The Video Production Process – Part 1

This is the first of three posts that will explain our approach to the video production process. Part One focuses on the elements of pre-production.

When I first got into the TV commercial production industry, one of the producers I learned from told me that the first step of any production is to grab a notebook and start asking questions. The essential ones come first: who, what, when, where, why, followed by the big one – how?

Film production breaks down into three parts. Preproduction, the first step, is typically a process of answering as many questions as possible. Some of the answers are obvious, but others continue to evolve through the next two phases, which consist of the shoot and post production.TribePictures_ProductionProcess-1Let’s start with the basics. So, you want to make a video. Why? Your team has given a great deal of thought as to what the purpose of the video is before you even reached out to Tribe. We will explore the work you’ve done in depth. We then can help you harness the power of film to make a connection with your audience and leave a lasting impression.

We need to start by understanding your audience. Who are they? Not just the basics – customers, employees, stakeholders, investors, recruits, etc. At Tribe we look more deeply into their circumstances and demographics to help determine what motivates them. What do you want them to know or understand about your company, product or service? What preconceptions or obstacles to your message are already in place? Who are they, really?

What are your key messages? What do you want your audience to think, do, feel, say or buy (buy into) as a result of having experienced this film? What is the tone you would like the film to take? Is it compelling, motivational or inspiring? Is it entertaining, lighthearted and joyful? Does it communicate an urgent need or a call to action?

When? There are a few “when” questions to be answered. When do you need the finished video? When (and how often and for how long) will you use it? When can we schedule the shoot? That often leads to the next who – casting.

Who will be in your film? Are they real people (i.e. non-professionals) or actors?

Regardless, we want to meet them prior to the shoot to determine who will be best on camera. With actors, that’s a matter of working with a casting director who will bring a selection of performers for each role into a studio, where we’ll audition them to see if they’re the right fit. When working with real people who are essentially asked to “play themselves” we start with a process we refer to as background research. These are brief phone conversations with those being considered as possible cast for your film. To avoid any feelings of rejection this initial interaction is referred to as research. These folks are often subject matter experts on your message (or their part of it), so they won’t need to study or prepare for this conversation. We listen to them tell us their story in their own words. By talking to them we discover things we could never uncover without the benefit of their unique perspectives.

We also discover if they are likely to be good on camera. No matter how smart or accomplished they are, some people simply don’t have personalities that come off well on camera. We are looking for dynamic, charismatic, articulate, engaging, attractive, honest and genuine people. This is the cast that will make the best connection with your audience and leave a memorable impression.

The question of where often follows, especially when we are capturing the workplace environment of your employees. The locations for your film contribute in ways both subtle and obvious to your message’s overall impact. We ask what facilities you want to highlight? Is there an activity going on in a particular place that is important to illustrate in the film? Is there a geographic component we need to capture? For instance, for most global organizations it’s important to show not only North American locations, but people and places that are clearly Asian, European, Latin American, Middle Eastern or African. Just a few B-roll shots or interviews will give your film a truly global feel.

The background or set will also contribute a great deal to the overall look and aesthetic of the film, lending color, depth and visual interest. Some productions call for studio shooting with set design and construction or even green screen technology that can magically position your cast in any environment. We’ll talk about all these choices as we work with you to determine where to shoot.

Ok, so how do we do it? Now you’re really into the nuts and bolts of preproduction. Determining how we will accomplish any creative idea is where a producer’s expertise really shines. There’s always more than one way to skin the cat, as they say, and any plan is always subject to change (which it usually will). With film production it’s a given that you must be nimble and flexible when it comes to planning. How we tackle a project has a huge impact on the budget. At Tribe, we pride ourselves on our ability to figure out the most cost efficient solution to production opportunities.

So, how can you accomplish what needs to be done in the timeframe you have, for a budget that is affordable and makes sense for your organization? The three essential elements of schedule, creative approach and budget are inextricably bound. A big part of my job is pricing and managing budgets so that our clients’ expectations are met. We ask what the budget limit is on your production right up front so that we can help to design an affordable film.

A major factor in figuring out how we will produce your film is knowing what your budget limitations are. We start there and come back to you with an approach that is within your range.

Alternately, we can present different approaches with associated prices to let you choose based on price, as well as on other factors like style. To help you decide, we might share examples of other similar films we’ve done or show you work we admire that reflects the parameters and specs of your project. We’re happy to look at past work you’ve done too so that we can get a better idea of the level of production value your work reflects.

At all points during production, Tribe works in collaboration with our clients, listening at times and leading at others. One thing you can be sure about is that production will always be an inclusive process. Together we explore all of these questions and then turn the answers into a film treatment. This document will help you to envision what the finished film will look and feel like. Often the film treatment is the first step toward a script or shooting board (more on that in Part 2: Shoot!).

Once we understand the who, what, when, where, why and how of pre-production, we can present you with a creative approach – usually in the form of a film treatment, a script or a storyboard – along with a detailed budget and a timeline. This is our pre-production plan. With your approval on all those elements we will launch full steam ahead into production.

Any questions? Feel free to send me an email at

Check out Part 2 of the Production Process – Shoot!

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“It’s one thing to understand the role of video in business communication, it’s another to know how to use video to solve actual business problems. Vern Oakley gets that.”


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