Film-maker and editor James Harrison’s top 5 tips for making a truly effective promotional film.
In this age of moving image overload, using video effectively to tell your story is essential, especially if your film is to have impact. Many of today’s corporate videos comprise not much more than a bunch of loosely edited sequences with no sense of logic; add to that poor quality sound, misjudged music, and an anodyne voice over, these badly executed videos lack any real sense of purpose.
There are some very good reasons why engaging a professional filmmaker is preferable to doing it yourself or hiring someone with all the gear and none of the know-how.
Just with builders, chefs and solicitors, vets, farriers and brain surgeons, the true professions are framed around an honest mix of talent, ability, and experience. Just as few of us can be expected to understand the complexities of the law or how to fix brains, the same is true of filmmaking. Genuine experts have their place and we would be foolish to ignore them, even if it’s tempting to cut costs and do it ourselves.
However, whether you chose to produce your own video or engage a professional videographer, here are some basic tips to consider when setting out on making a film:
- Start with the audience: it’s tempting to come up with a great idea, turn it into a film, sit back and enjoy the fruits of your layouts… and then wonder why your YouTube audience isn’t really getting past the first thirty seconds. It’s crucial you know just who exactly the audience is for your film. A class of 14 year-olds is a very different audience to a specialist group of research scientists.
- Keep it simple: work out the story you want to tell, and crucially, what it is you want to leave your audience with. Working backwards is no bad idea. Decide your message and then assess how best to convey it.
- Give yourself time: it’s vital you build in a realistic delivery and sign off period, allowing for revisions; give yourself a sensible period for planning, production and post-production/editing. Sometimes creating a short film can be time consuming. Even 30 second TV commercials can take months to plan, film and edit. Professionals can work smart; if you’re going it alone, you may find the process takes longer than you think.
- The right tool for the job: while for the basic talking head stuff, a smartphone just might do the job (but please get the sound right!), anything more really needs the touch of a professional videographer, someone who has the right equipment and knows how to use it. The same goes for editing software. Windows Movie Maker has its place, but not if you’re looking for a professionally finished production.
- Communication: remember that your videographer (even if it’s you!) should understand how the finished film fits in with the overall comms or marketing strategy; the professional videographer will create something that builds on your brand and image, endorsing the product and enhancing how your customers engage in what you do. Above all they (or you) shouldn’t be churning out useless window dressing — it ought to be a well-thought out piece of work that creates impact for both you and your target audience.
I understand all too well that maximising profits and keeping down costs is an important focus for businesses, but as we’re seeing with so much online video nowadays, in the long term less doesn’t always result in more. We all instinctively know that cheap marketing, when badly designed and poorly executed can be more damaging than something carefully considered and thought out, and while the “stack ‘em high and sell ‘em cheap” mentality might work for the discount supermarket, most stores would think twice about spending only a few quid on advertising and promotion.
In essence: you get what you pay for, and just with other forms of digital communication, online video production is no exception.
James Harrison is a Wiltshire-based independent film-maker, director and editor with over 35 years of experience – much of it spent working for the BBC, across radio, TV news and online. His passion for filmmaking is built around the essence of fireside story telling, putting people centre-stage, and allowing their personal narrative to determine the shape and feel of the films he makes.
Matter PR works in partnership with James Harrison Productions to offer a range of film and video services – creating campaigns that help you deliver real impact with your target audiences. If you’re interested in using film in a communications campaign get in touch.