While online video is becoming a more important strategy for both profit and non-profit organizations, there is a perception that video is expensive and difficult.

Story based filmmaking does require time and attention to detail.  It is different than creating a vlog video, but done right can garner a larger audience and a deeper emotional engagement.  

And the good news is that there are things you can do to make the filmmaking process easier and more affordable.

Four Essential Questions

There are a few things you can do to get your project done successfully, within budget and on time.

  1. Define your goals, what is the story you want to tell
  2. Define your key audience, where will they be watching
  3. Define your visual style, how will it mesh with your brand
  4. Define your budget range

These four elements are the foundation for the planning process.  And for organizations, this is the one of the most overlooked parts of the filmmaking process-planning.

Why plan?

Planning takes time but keeps your project on time and on budget.   

Once you have defined your goals/audience/visual style, the filmmaker is able to find creative ways to tell your story in a way that meets your objectives and fits your budget.

These elements, goals/audience/visual style build on and interact with each other, so if you change one, you potentially change the entire filmmaking requirements.  So it is important to be clear at the beginning of the process to avoid time and budget overruns.

Let’s look at these elements or objectives one by one:

Defining Your Goals/ Story

In general, for a short video, you want to get this down to one core concept.

For example:

  • We want to show how easy it is to use my product.
  • We want to show how this product changed our customers life.
  • We want to show how this thing is harmful and demonstrate the need to take action.

What is important is that you begin thinking of your goal/story as something that is tangible.  So rather than making a film about how great our product is, pick one attribute that you can show as in the above example, showing how easy it is to use the product.  This gives a tangible visual direction for the video.

Defining Your Audience

If you are making a video for everyone, you are making a video for no one.

While you may want everyone to watch your video, the video must be designed for a specific audience.  Your audience will want to see themselves or people they care about represented in the video for the story to hit home.

Is it designed for busy executives who would benefit from your products ease of use?  Or for busy programmers?  

Will your fitness product have the power to change the lives of people who are highly motivated to exercise or will it be of more benefit to people who lack the motivation and need help?

Is it designed for people who believe in your cause, for the funders, or for people on the fence?

When defining your audience, think beyond basic demographics and look at behavioral attributes, emotional states, and current level of engagement with your topic or product.

Defining Your Visual Style

If you are a visual person with lots of ideas, this might be overwhelming.  If you are not very visual, it might be intimidating.  ‘

I recommend two steps to help you get this task done in just an hour or two.

  1. Look at your own marketing visuals.  What are your company’s fonts and colors?  Do you want to conform to these or find a different style for this specific video or series of videos?  This will influence the video’s titling style.
  2. Look at the videos produced by your favorite brands for inspiration.  Are there specific videos that you love?  Are there videos that tell the type of story you want to tell in a way you love?  Save these links.

This is a starting point to talking about visual style.  In a future blog post I will address an entire article to creating your Video Vision Board.

Defining Your Budget

Defining the budget can be a bit tricky if you do not have experience with creating video.  While video is getting more affordable, if your story requires high quality slow motion cinematography, the camera may rent for between $1,200 - $2,400*.  And that doesn’t include any of the gear required to get a steady shot (tripod, dolly, steadycam).  

You can still make a video on a smaller budget but the story you tell may have to be told differently or more research may be required to find different techniques of getting achieving your vision.  

It is important to define your budget range early in the filmmaking process because this will put boundaries on the number of shoot days available, type of equipment that can be rented, number of crew on set, type of animation and graphics that can be created and set a cap for music budget.

Crafting the Story

Once you’ve defined your Goals, Audience, Visual Style and Budget the filmmaker can begin crafting the story.  

Your goals and audience will be the foundation to the story, what is being told.

The visual style and budget will inform the ways that story can be told.

Once the approach is defined, the filmmaker will start planning the production.

Planning includes:

  • Creating a script and storyboard 
  • Specifying the number of shoot days
  • Location scouting
  • Preparation for actor casting calls
  • Defining interview style/ interview questions designed to illicit story (beginning/middle/end)
  • Clarifying other elements (animation, narration)
  • Completing equipment research (*I just spent an hour doing more research into a camera with slow motion capabilities and found a camera that rents for $145.)

At this point, new ideas may inflate the production schedule.  Having gone through the definition and planning process, you’ll be in a position to make an informed decision about increasing budget or changing priorities.

Having clearly defined goals is key to creating a story-based video that inspires, engages and connects with your audience.  Planning is the foundation of a well produced video no matter what your budget.