Coronavirus: Video Production Advice

Coronavirus Video
There have been a few interesting articles about how to respond to the current crisis, particularly from the tech industry as they can draw upon experience from the Dotcom crash and 9/11 in the early 2000s and the 2008 crash.
 
However, the tech industry has some key differentiators from more traditional industries such as video production. Firstly, the tech industry is aware of, and inured to, bootstrapping as a concept. The rewards are potentially much greater and employees often have stock options or some kind of direct investment in the company and its success. Also, tech companies build things with code and the ability to pivot is inherent to the industry. I’m not saying it’s easy to pivot, far from it, but it is absolutely possible for a company that uses developer time as its raw material to recognise and exploit opportunity across a wider scope than say, a video production specialist.

In theory video production could pivot but the skillset and customer base is completely different to tech. So what would companies pivot to? Developers can code something else but the option for filmmakers to go and shoot something else is less clear. It’s a highly competitive industry with a relatively fixed cost base for labour and equipment so margins are low and being squeezed all the time. We feel like we’ve responded pretty well so we thought we’d lay out some of our actions in case they’re useful for anyone else in a similar position.

What could we do?

Firstly, we’ve been updating our website with long overdue case studies and breaking our expertise down into the sectors we have lots of experience in. An often useful resource for video production advice is The Advertising Producers Association, which we are members of.

They have been holding large scale video conferences for Production Company MDs to have Chatham House style discussions on ways to get through. We’ve been combing through the updates and have found some genuinely useful tidbits in there but also mooching around elsewhere for clever ideas. There aren’t many but we think there’s a lot to be said for getting basic things right.

Prior preparation and planning

As they say in the Army, prior preparation and planning prevents p*ss poor performance. We started prepping early. As company directors have a legislated duty of care towards their teams we began to do basic things at the end of February such as ordering hand sanitiser. We also put songs with 20s choruses on the wall in the toilet but this was more for fun.  As a sidenote, we implemented a slightly less formal system of shouting at people across the office who were touching their face, but this was mostly because it was funny at the time and we were all shocked to discover how much we love touching our faces. We didn’t order extra toilet roll but this was because we order it in large batches for the office and we had plenty, plus we were anticipating that working from home was the most likely approach and we wouldn’t need it. We did do some early searches for things to stock up on in quarantine and every single article we read on this from mid-February onwards had some variation on “think about the things you use regularly that you may run out of, such as toilet roll”, so we do wonder how much these articles were the shotgun blast that started the avalanche of loo roll stockpiling.

 

Two questions

We sat down as a team and asked ourselves two business continuity questions at the end of February:
 
If we have to stop coming into the office, what would we need to do to continue working?
 
If we can’t go out to shoot, what can we do to safeguard existing revenue and bring in more elsewhere?
 
The responsibilities basically broke down into three areas. Client obligations, staff duty of care and cashflow. Admittedly, making that Apollo 13 gif didn’t quite count as critical but fun is important too!

Some Answers

We run off a RAID5 NAS server with cloud backup for live projects and deep glacier storage for archiving. So, further copies were made of all live projects to ensure so that when it came to it both of our editors could grab drives, Macs and and go. This meant that when we made the decision to work from home, the hard work had already been done. 

We looked at our contractual obligations and looked at what we could possibly negotiate to take a break or reduction, with some success. Some didn’t reply, some gave us a flat no and some were open to discussion. We don’t want to name and shame those who wouldn’t help but also those who would discuss it asked for the arrangements to be kept private so all we can suggest here is ask. You never know.

We then did a forensic crawl through our cashflow and cancelled things where we could. This was a balancing act because every cancellation decision we made has a cashflow impact on someone else. Whilst an argument could be made to say that other companies’ or individuals’ cashflow positions are not our problem, we recognise that some of our suppliers aren’t in the same position of strength that Vermillion finds itself in at this crunch period. We’ve always believed in behaving responsibly. For example, we cancelled some of the software that we use infrequently but we committed to paying our cleaners regardless of whether they come in.

This meant our own cash position needed some bolstering. Our payment terms usually involve 50% in advance and 50% upon completion. As the majority of our clients are larger corporates we tend to take what we’re given when it comes to payment terms. This often makes life hard for us because freelancers expect payment on 30 day terms regardless but we weather that storm most of the time. In early March we started to become more militant about it and the finance departments we spoke to were amenable to this.

We contacted all of our clients to ask if any existing projects could be moved from being shoots to being animation. None of them could but one had some they were in the early stages of scoping out and were interested in exploring how it could be done as animation. [Update: We’ve had one move from being a shoot to being an animation.]

We suggested other things our clients could be doing. In one case we managed to move a company from being a potential client to an actual client by offering some motion graphics and it’s fair to say, we delivered the hell out of that one. We didn’t make a huge amount of money from it but we proved ourselves to be good, fast and cheap, which shouldn’t apparently be possible but there you go. 
 
The call to work from home was made pretty early and has been executed very smoothly indeed. We do twice daily Zoom meetings and we’ve been making more use of Slack since we moved to the remote model.
 
It’s a developing situation but the key principles we’ve adhered to have been these:
 
  • Make critical decisions as late as you can, you never know when new information will be available
  • Make people centred decision early if you can
  • Speak to people. All of your customers, suppliers and staff are eager for information and reassurance. This is particularly true around payments. It’s better to know early that someone isn’t going to pay you so other arrangements can be made.
Hope that helps. Never thought we’d be writing anything called Coronavirus: Video Production Advice but here we are.  We’re happy to chat with anyone who thinks we might be able to offer guidance or just wants to talk things through.

Top 20 Films You Might Have Missed

top 20 films you might have missed

There’s a lot of top 20 film lists out there. But whenever we see them they usually consist of the stuff we’ve already seen. It looks like we’ll be spending more time at home for a little while at least. So we put together a list of films to get you through the evenings. This isn’t our favourites, mind you. But it’s one of the great tragedies of the film industry that so much good stuff doesn’t get the air time it needs and disappears without a trace.

So here are some of the things you might have missed. And where you can get them. It’s broken down as follows. They’re in no particular order. Just grouped together by platform. Click to jump to that point.
 
 
The last lot is stuff we haven’t seen but have on our watch list in the next couple of weeks.
 
The great thing about this is Netflix have launched a feature that allows you to stream a movie or show at the same time with friends. It has a chat window and synced play/pause so you can all watch it together. Check out Netflix Party.
 
If you’re a bit bored poking around then we’ve been doing a lot of website updating recently so you could check out some of our other pages.
 
Want some inspiration? Here’s our Top 20 Sport videos.
 

Based in Birmingham and want some video? Here are some reasons why you might choose us.

Otherwise, enjoy our top 20 films you might have missed!

NETFLIX

 

Blue Ruin (thriller) – NETFLIX:

Revenge thrillers normally have people Bruce Willis drawing on the skills they learned in the Navy Seals. Not this one. The ‘hero’ lives in his car on a beach and is scavenging food when  he finds out his parents have been murdered.

The Guilty (thriller) – NETFLIX

This is a man on a phone for 90 minutes. We’ve deliberately made it sound terrible because of just how genuinely good it is. Some films based around a single good idea don’t know how to end. This one totally does.

Calibre (thriller) – NETFLIX

Two lads go hunting in Scotland for a stag do. Then things go tragically, nail-bitingly wrong. Master of Suspense Stephen King took to twitter to state how much he loved it. So, you should definitely check it out.

Long Shot (comedy) – NETFLIX

 

This is probably about the most high profile film on here. It’s kind of a surrender movie. i.e. You’d only put it on if you’re trying to please literally everyone. But it’s still good fun and sometimes you just need to sit back and smile.

You Were Never Really Here (thriller) – NETFLIX

Joker, despite all its awards, divided critics and audiences. For us, this is the better film. With the same ingredients, Joaquin Phoenix, mental health, wrong side of the law, Lynne Ramsay crafted something mesmeric.

Apollo 11 (documentary) – NETFLIX

We promise you don’t have to be a total space nerd to enjoy this. The Apollo 11 mission is captured in incredible detail, with beautiful imagery and a completely impressive sound design track. It’s definitely worth your time.

 

AMAZON PRIME

Booksmart (comedy) – AMAZON PRIME

This one really is as good as they say it is. A film about kids in their final year before heading off to college, yet it contains almost none of the typical high school cliches. The two female leads are unashamedly nerdy and totally brilliant. Feel good Friday night fun.

 
Kids building a hideout in the woods and doing dumb stuff. This is basically our childhood except for the building the hideout. Easy watching. Great fun.

NOW TV

Sorry to Bother You (don’t even know how to describe it, comedy, I guess?!)- NOWTV

The trailer is a con. It makes you think it’s an amusing, slightly odd film about cold calling. Which it is. But at a certain point in the film it just goes completely turbo in all kinds of insane directions. At the end you’ll rub your eyes and wonder if that really happened.

 

Tully (drama) – NOWTV

We caught this on a plane. We think a good film is good for everyone, but if you’re a Mum struggling with the GIGANTIC expectation on you, particularly right now, this is a genuine, unexpected joy.

rentable on other platforms

Victoria (thriller) – AMAZON and others (£1.99 to rent)

Imagine trying to do 1917 but doing it actually as a single shot for the ENTIRE FILM, but without being Sam Mendes and having the Who’s Who of British acting popping up every time the action slows down. Well, Victoria is that. It’s so good.

Hell or High Water (drama/thriller) – Pretty much everywhere except NETFLIX

The thematic follow up to Sicario is, without getting too film buff about it, a slice of modern Americana. Looking at the clash of old values in the new uncaring world. But don’t let that put you off. It’s a mesmerising watch. And it’s got Lebowski in it as a slightly racist US Marshall.

Mississippi Grind (road/gambling/buddy movie kinda)- YOUTUBE, PLAY £2.49 APPLETV+ £3.49

Ben Mendelsohn is that actor you recognise but can’t place. He’s also incredible. For proof check out The Outsider. But this has also got Ryan Reynolds who’s so charismatic you’re almost obligated to hate him.

A Prayer Before Dawn (drama) – AMAZON £3.49

It’s that young lad from Peaky Blinders who works out that selling drugs in Thailand is a sub-optimal career path. Then it turns out he’s quite good at fighting. We’re being a bit glib about a somewhat brutal and compelling true story.

The Way Way Back (feelgood) – AMAZON £3.49

Sam Rockwell is like Ben Mendelsohn except you do recognise him. Absurdly talented and also pretty damn charismatic here too. This is one of those ‘family go on holiday and find themselves’ films, except it’s really good.

Game Night (comedy) – PLAY, APPLETV+, YOUTUBE £7.99

OK. This is cheating. You might have caught this one. But also you might have ignored it because it’s one of the repetitive Jason Bateman comedies. EXCEPT, it’s really, really good fun. Another one of those that will please everyone.

OUR WATCH LIST

These last few are the ones we haven’t seen yet but plan to get through in the coming weeks.
 

Uncut Gems (thriller) – NETFLIX

Everyone says it’s really tense. And everyone says it’s really good. If you’re surprised that it’s got Adam Sandler doing acting in it then you probably haven’t been paying attention.

The Little Hours (comedy) – PLAY, YOUTUBE £2.49

The trailer’s got nuns making loads of sex jokes.

The Invitation(psychological horror) – NETFLIX

See, there’s loads of good stuff on Netflix if you know where to look! This looks creep as.

Good Time (thriller) – NETFLIX

You can tell pretentious film people because they talk about directors quite a lot. If you find yourself in a room with them just say ‘I’m looking forward to seeing what the Safdie Brothers do next’. Because they did this before they did Uncut Gems and this is also meant to be pretty awesome.

ENJOY, WASH YOUR HANDS, LOOK OUT FOR EACH OTHER.

BEING ON YOUR OWN ISN'T THE SAME AS BEING ALONE.

GET IN TOUCH IF YOU NEED ANYTHING

Top 10 Sport Videos

sport video swimming

What makes a great sport video?

Where to start? It would be so easy to fill a list like this with Nike or Under Armour videos. And there’s a few in here. When your budget stretches to the best of everything, it easier (but not easy) to create the best. So many of them use the same formula; sports star voiceover + some stock footage of sports star + some new footage of sports star. If you have a scroll through any of the leading brands’ YouTube channels you’ll see that this absolutely can work (see numbers 20, 14, 12, 11 and 3). There are a few made entirely of stock footage of the star (none of those made it). But it doesn’t always work and the best of these always have something different about them. 

The one thing that all of these of our favourites have in common is that the sports commercial, like sport itself, is at its best when it’s about something more than just the sport. Compare Manchester United’s thirteenth Premiere League victory to Leicester City’s first and only.
The great ones raise the hairs on the back of your neck. 

10. Another baseball film? Another baseball film about Derek Jeter’s retirement? It’s interesting to see two different brands approach the same event. This one evokes the same sense of community sport brings. We just like this one more.

9. People will tell you that a sports team is like a family. This will take one minute to show you that there’s nothing quite so family, as family itself. A beautiful and emotional film featuring WNBA star Ella Delle Donne and her sister.

8. Bet you’d forgotten this one hadn’t you?  Nike knows very well that its core market isn’t elite athletes. The Find Your Greatness campaign launched in 2012 and this simple, elegant spot tells us reminds us that, like Obama said, yes we can.

7.  Sometimes a campaign comes together perfectly. The creative fits the brief, the mood fits the moment and the work just flies. This Girl Can is one such campaign. And it persuaded 1.6M women in the UK to start exercising.

6. American Football is unusual amongst sports in that if you don’t make it to the NFL then you stop playing. And not everyone makes it. Far from it. The Sandman and its portrait of youth and endurance is a testament to the hopes that we know will mostly not be fulfilled. And it’s worth watching just for the one very long shot that starts at 01:47.

5. This one earns its place in the top 5 because it contains every creative transition you could think of. Some films are an exploration of a single idea. This is one where the creative box got emptied onto the floor and they played with everything. The edit is sublime. The just music works; metronomic, relentless and wonderful. We love it. And Bebe Vio is amazing. Be inspired by it. Please.

4. Turns out you don’t have to be a sports brand to make sport videos. Procter & Gamble usually leave the advertising to their many, many household name brands.  But this is a smart way to bring them all under one umbrella and jerk the odd tear or two along the way. Amazing work.

3. Nike’s marketing department spends $1.4Bn per year telling us that sport is everything. Then in 2018 the Dream Crazy campaign centred around Colin Kapaernick telling us that some things are more important. It paid off. The Kapaernick part of the campaign generated $165m of  brand exposure.

2. London 2012 and the idea of an ideologically united Britain seems like a distant, impossible memory now. The sun was shining, the Olympic hype was building and things couldn’t really get better. Then this  ad dropped. It is genuinely a magnificent piece of creative, executed brilliantly. And the summer of sport got a few fantastic weeks longer.

1. It is simplicity itself to describe Michael Phelps, and any other athletes on this list, as a machine. But it does an immense discourtesy to the years of training and sacrifice necessary to reach the pinnacle of not just your sport, but like Serena Williams at #14, the entire history of your sport. We don’t think any other film speaks to that as well as this one does. This is our top sport video.

Hope you’re feeling inspired!

You can check out our sport experience here, or one of the many sport videos we’ve made here.

If you want to talk about making something. Then drop us a line just there >

Thanks for your time.

Photo by Pete Wright on Unsplash

Top 20 Sport Videos

top 20 sport videos

We put together our top 20 sport videos. A fellow producer looking for references when he was pitching for some work and he knows we’ve been doing sport videos since the very beginning of Vermillion.  We’ve got a Pinterest board with tons of our favourites on. In scrolling through we thought it would be nice to share our top 5. Then we couldn’t decide. So 5 became 10. Obviously 10 then became 20.  Then we got told if we didn’t go home we’d be in trouble. So 20 you’ve got. But if you need references or inspiration for great sport videos then this might be a good place to start.

We haven’t gone for most popular, most views or most famous. These are just our favourites. But as they’ve racked up 388,876,027 views between them (as of writing this) so we aren’t the only ones who think these ones are good.

So, this is no more scientific than just being the stuff that we like. And this top 20 sport videos is just in the order that we like it.

Each to their own, but this is ours.

Enjoy.

But we’re certain there will be things in here you haven’t seen (in particular Sandman at #6).

 

20. The Haka seems to be the very soul of New Zealand’s rugby and the nation’s devotion to the game. The way it’s interweaved into this makes it stand out from a lot of other content. Plus it’s a rare occurrence that the sports star is a better actor than the actors.

19. This one is just all about the voiceover. We’ve seen the VO ripped and put against other montages but the original is still the best.

18. Arian Foster is a former NFL running back for the Houston Texans. After retiring in 2016 he became a musician. This film is set against a poem of his. And it’s about the adversity and pain athletes conquer. Where art inspires art we should pay attention. 

17. We love the edit in what is now a fairly old Adidas spot. The sound editing is as impressive as the visual editing here. Also, subtle juxtapositions of slightly different sounds all the way through make this something we’ve returned to again and again for inspiration.

16. Sport can inspire a lot of negative emotion. But one thing it does so well is inspire community. As a British company we’re not huge baseball fans, but you don’t need to be to see what Derek Jeter meant to NYC.

15. This one’s a familiar story of a kid saved by sport. It’s not the only one in this list. But it shows that you can tell a whole story without a single word spoken.

14. We often see the words “in the wake of #metoo” as though it’s something that’s passed. This Serena Williams commercial shows that it is merely one aspect. It is the breaking bow wave of a long building moment, in a battle that’s far from over. Serena Williams is one of the greatest tennis player of all time. And she’s tired of your sh*t.

13. Very few people get to play against their heroes. And very few sports have the career longevity that makes it possible. This spot about Rory McIlroy growing up is a lovely tribute to the idea that hard work can put you in the game with your idols.

12. As with Anthony Joshua the rags to riches story is a common one in sport. But Lebron James’ social activism shows him to be not just an extraordinary athlete, but an extraordinary human being.

11. Years from now science will advance to the point where we will discover that it is genetically impossible for Dwayne Johnson to be this awesome. He’s even got his own tequila brand. But until then we’ll have to assume he is a real person. This is less about humble beginnings and more about what true hard work can get you.

That's the first half of our top 20 sport videos

You’re halfway there folks. Hope you’re enjoying the list of top 20 sport videos.
If you’re thinking about producing your own sport videos then please do check out our sport

SEO Resources for beginners

SEO resources

Here’s a bunch of SEO resources we put together. It’s useful for us given that we’re total newbies at this so we’ve put it here as well for other SEO novices. We get most of our business from referrals. Plus we do quite a bit of networking. On top of that we have some cold calling stuff going on. But we’ve never put too much attention into the website. So, this year we decided to change that and we’ve been doing a crash course in  SEO.  Also, we figured that whilst the tactics change, knowing the basic principles is one of those life skills that probably never goes out of date.

ASK REDDIT

One name that comes up consistently in SEO is Neil Patel. But we’d noticed on the Reddit SEO Forum that there’s not a lot of love for poor old Neil. A lot of people thought his approach wasn’t suitable for anyone serious about SEO, despite the fact he ranks incredibly well for everything SEO related. So, I simply asked the forum this question “if not Neil Patel, then who, or what?” If you want to see the Reddit post it’s here. But I’ve always found the Reddit interface a bit difficult to follow so I went through the list and put them all here.

Whilst we have absolutely no desire to rank for SEO this is the easiest place to put something and make it useful. Anyway, hope this list of SEO resources is of use. If you did happen to want to know about our films instead of SEO then check out the work page here, or here’s a blog post that tells you a bit about our world view. 

The ANSWERS

The figure in parentheses represents the number of mentions each site/personality received.

Ahrefs (5)
Moz
(5
SEOroundTable
(4)
Search Engine Land (
4)
Semrush
(3)
Bill Slawski’s blog
(3)
Matt Diggity
(2)
Matt Woodward
(2)
Rand Fishkin
(2)
Brian Dean from Backlinko
(2)
Niche pursuits
Mangools
Matt Bentley
Dori Friend
Kyle Roof
Ted Kubaitis
Robbie Richards
Matt Cutts
Glen Alsopp
support.google.com
https://econsultancy.com/seo/
https://www.searchenginewatch.com/
Search Intelligence Agency
https://www.blackhatworld.com/
https://www.stateofdigital.com/
Tools:
https://www.deepcrawl.com/

 

There was also one recommendation for a podcast.
https://www.authorityhacker.com/podcast/

This list is accurate as of today, 29 Feb 2020. It’s unlikely other people will comment on the thread now but hopefully you’ve found this list of SEO resources useful.

The Future of Video Production

Future of Video Produciton

Last week we got to hear Sir Martin Sorrell speak to members of the Advertising Producers Association about video production companies. There was a detailed focus on his company S4 Capital, its strategy and how it sees the future of advertising in general but also how this affects production companies.

Since his exit from WPP he’s set up S4 Capital and the driving force behind their strategy is faster, better, cheaper. It was a fascinating hour listening to him talk about the failings of the advertising industry. In particular his thoughts on how S4 is exploiting the way in which an industry that prides itself on looking forward is so firmly rooted in the past. 

content creation - disruptive innovation

We were there because we’ve recently re-joined the APA, the organisation that represents advertising production companies but with a strong focus on the larger companies doing the $1M Nike commercials. It’s an industry that’s caught the same cold as the advertising industry. To a certain extent it has struggled to move on from the huge margins and absolute control of the 1980s. The fact that smaller, content creators and video production companies are eating their lunch is the sixpence these huge ships are trying to turn on now. A closer look at this phenomenon can be found in Clayton Christensen’s disruptive innovation book. The case study on US steel mills and how Intel leveraged it for huge profits is fascinating. The book is great but the case study is here.

silicon valley surprises

The clearest example of the need to think in a new way was on an APA led, UKTI trade mission to Silicon Valley in 2013. The group visited a bunch of tech companies. Big ones like YouTube, Netflix and AT&T Labs but also relatively smaller ones like Blinkx (now Rhythm One) and Radium One (ironically now also Rhythm One!) It was genuinely startling to see how little knowledge most production companies had about what happens to their content after it’s signed off. Very few had any awareness of, or interest in, some fairly standard concepts; analytics, big data, dwell times,  A/B testing etc. Tellingly most of the group were unfazed by Silicon Valley’s lack of interest.  Seven years on and in light of Sir Martin’s comments it’s definitely interesting to see how the video production industry has changed. Or not, in some cases.

Video Production - Direct to client

It was on this trip that we started to shift our focus towards direct to client relationships. Having this direct relationship has allowed us to build stronger bonds with the client. More control over the creative process sits with us. Finally, these direct clients tend to defend suppliers that give a good service when a relationship comes under cost scrutiny. Although we still do agency work but it’s only about 5% of turnover now.

Production companies are waking up to this slowly now. We saw a training course recently on how to do direct to client work.  We didn’t go because it’s already our core business but it also looked a lot like a course on how to become an agency. The focus was on how to replicate agency roles. Who does the copywriting? What about Account Handling? Where does Creative responsibility lie? This was fascinating for us because Sir Martin was not asking how to fulfil these functions. He was asking why would you try.

Typewriter for old school video production

Answers

He seemed to think that there are answers for production companies that want to innovate their business model. But it is definitely not to innovate into an advertising agency.

This makes a lot of sense to us, as demonstrated by our business model.

 Typewriter Photo by Florian Klauer on Unsplash

A Company Mission Video with vision and impact

Company Mission
Many entrepreneurs have their company mission in mind before they even launch their startup.   And this often survives the scaleup process virtually unchanged. But it’s not that often we see a company mission video that says what the company stands for in a creative and interesting way.
 
Having a well-defined purpose that the company lives and breathes can have astonishing effects. And this can be about more than just driving growth.  We’ve written elsewhere about the importance of a company mission. But here we want to explore how using a company mission video to bring that to life can have real impact.
 

Mission Statement

Patagonia is the goto case study for this stuff. Google delivers about 1.06M results for “Patagonia Mission Case Study”. One of the top results is Mission Statement Academy with a succinct summary. Also, a detailed and genuinely fascinating reads is this one from the Journal of Accountancy. It delves into the ways in which good accountancy practice can support your mission.
 
But rather than re-tread well worn paths we want to explore how they use video to talk about their mission.  And look at the value derived from doing so.

 

PATAGONIA

The company was created by explorers and their core customer base continues to be explorers. As a result, their customers are people who appreciate the fragile beauty of our planet. They want to witness and experience it firsthand. Balancing the need to explore and protect is where their business model thrives. For 45 years Patagonia’s was “build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis. In 2018 it became “we’re in business to save our home planet.” This evolution tells you a lot about how deeply this has become embedded as our environmental situation has worsened.

Company Mission & Worn Wear

There are many ways this mission is demonstrated. For example, they give away 1% of profits, offer community and charitable grants, and report internally on key mission metrics. Further, their Environmental Activism playlist racks up nearly 5M views on the top 3 films alone. But it’s the Worn Wear programme that we find most captivating.
 
What is Worn Wear? Here’s a handy explainer that doubles as a company mission video! This shows how simple it is to have Patagonia repair damaged clothes rather than buy new ones. You can donate the items for recycling into new clothing. Or you can sell old items in exchange for store credit against new or other worn wear.

\fo

Animation is a simple and cost effective way of working with concepts and ideas. It explains how Worn Wear works in a clear and simple manner. Also, it reinforces a point we make often, that video is rarely the final step in any sales process. It merely moves the right people closer to buying.

Whereas this film puts a human face to the process of repair. And it further shares their ethos by using an employee case study. It feels as handcrafted as the work she does repairing Patagonia wear. They now run the largest garment repair centre in the US, employing 45 people.

Then there are stories that resonate with anyone who uses clothing for a specific technical purpose. These are about having favourite running shorts or lucky socks. The attachments we build with those items is common to all of us. Personal stories are the cornerstone of branded content and the brand itself is often incidental.

Results

These 3 films show how Patagonia is communicating its purpose. These are all fairly indirect examples but still make it clear what they stand for. The statistics show that nothing is optimised for SEO or social. However, brand awareness, diligent PR and just having something really good to say is working.

Each of these videos is embedded in a number of other sites as media outlets and commentators have amplified their message for them.
  • The precursor to Worn Wear, Common Threads repaired 30k items in 18 months
  • Common Threads drove sales up by 30% to $540M in 2012
  • Worn Wear contributed $1m of sales within six months of launch
  • Revenue in 2019 is rumoured to exceed $1Bn.

Conclusion

The lesson here is not that every company needs to be ethically driven. But communicating about it consistently and repeatedly drives awareness into your core customer base. Obviously, There will always be people who believe the same things that you do. Creating company mission videos to  explain and amplify Patagonia’s purpose provided tools to others to do the work for them, working as a force multiplier for PR, marketing and sales.
 
Nothing here was tremendously expensive to produce. Admittedly, Patagonia have been able to produce these at scale. But all they’ve done is emphasise the same point in different ways to different segments;  surfing, climbing, running and many others pursuits. It doesn’t need to cost the earth to elaborate your mission in a way that’s interesting and shareable.
 
Clearly, Patagonia is the low-hanging fruit when it comes to talking about a company’s mission. And, not all companies have a mission with social impact. So here are some other, lesser-known but interesting companies to explore.
  • Tumelo are shedding light on the contents of your pension so consumers can make ethical and informed decisions on where their money is invested
  • Flo have created 100% organic feminine hygience products and are using a proportion of the proceeds to tackle period poverty
  • Leesa are a mattress manufacturer that believe everyone needs a place to rest their head and heart.
If you want to know more check out Yvon Chouinard’s book Let My People Go Surfing or listen to his episode of NPR’s How I built this.

Our Company Culture

Company Culture

It may surprise you to find that there’s no specific legal requirement for creative companies to paint motivational quotes on the wall. Nevertheless we recently joined that particular crowd. We’ve been working hard on being slightly more explicit about the company culture we do have, and how we shape it into where we want it to be. We’ve written about the importance of culture here with an example of how we help build it here. and our work with it here. This quote is a big part of that. Because I cannot for the life of me remember where I first read the quote I’ll have to resolve to come back here and update this if I ever come across it again.

Why this quote?

The reason this one stuck out, and why it has ended up on the wall, is that I can’t even begin to remember the number of times I’ve sat down with editors and directors after a shoot and it’s been explained to me why a particular choice has been made, why this shot isn’t quite as good as they wanted or why one shot cuts to this shot and not that one. Indeed, I’ve done it myself many times.

Whilst that information can sometimes be nice to have it’s of no real use because the end product, the film, must be able to stand alone. It has to exist in the wild and achieve its purpose without the creators there to explain it.

It’s one of the reasons why directors have a big propensity to be either become, or even start out as quite difficult. Every single detail is ultimately their responsibility. So, as David Fincher says “you may as well take all the credit because you’re going to get all the blame”.

Our company culture is very much one of personal responsibility, teamwork and being able to rely on each other. If everyone has done their job properly we shouldn’t have to explain to anyone why something hasn’t worked.

Other Options

There were a couple of other options. One of my favourites is Antoine De Saint Exupéry’s “If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up the people to gather wood, divide the work and give orders. Teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea”. But aside from being lovely it’s a lot of letters to paint and it didn’t feel quite as apposite for us.  It feels more aspirational and less about our particular company culture. This one did though. It doesn’t matter what we wanted a film to be to be, or why it didn’t become that. It only matters what it is.

Intention is nothing, outcome is everything.

Credits

Thanks to the wonderful Jim at Seven9 Signs for the work. As a company that does national and global work, we’re firmly proud of our Birmingham heritage. We pride ourselves on the work we’ve done here. And it’s important to us to work with local artists and companies where possible. Because we like it when local companies choose to work with us. It’s genuinely impressive watching someone paint something like this entirely by hand. Check out more of his work here and on instagram. Also, thank you to Tom Cullen of I Choose Birmingham for recommending Jim.

Top Tip: Send Thank You Cards

Showing Vermillion MD Lee Kemp doing a keynote at the launch of the DCMS Creative Scaleup event
Last week I spoke at the launch of the DCMS Creative Enterprise Scaleup Programme. Vermillion was one of three companies speaking on the day, talking about our experiences of running creative businesses in the region. We were asked to speak about both the challenges and the opportunities presented by working in the West Midlands and it was a refreshing opportunity to go through some of our own thinking that lay behind our strategic decision-making of the past couple of years. I’ve laid out some of our challenges here because we got really great feedback from the room and over the years we’ve sat down with some baby production companies that have reached out for advice. Yeah they’re competition but also we’re confident enough to stand on our own two feet.  Hopefully sharing it here will help some others get over the brick walls we’ve foolishly run head first into.
 
It’s worth bearing in mind that 94.8% of creative businesses employ fewer than 10 people. This is particularly staggering given that the creative industries are worth £101.5 Bn to the national economy. This means a very significant proportion of people in the creative industries are dealing with challenges that would generally be under the purview of ‘management’. If stats are your thing check out the links at the end too.
 
Traditional Industry
 
Filmmaking is a relatively old and traditional industry. The sort of huge revenue-generating, financially exploitable macro innovation doesn’t tend to happen in our bit of the industry, it’s in the physical tactile part of the industry (cameras, LED lights etc) or the bit where our creativity is injected directly into your eyeballs (distribution, metrics etc).  We tend to be more micro-innovation; three good ideas in response to a brief or a client problem.  One might argue that we could be developing our own IP, and we are, but it takes time and so is everyone else. Once you get past the point of shooting everything yourself then you need crew and crew are generally a fixed cost (see below).  The key part of where we (and other production companies) differentiate is sector expertise, it is not pretty pictures.
 
Top tip – differentiate. Find your niche. Ours has traditionally been agriculture and rail but is increasingly moving towards fast growth businesses (more on that later).
 
Barriers to Entry
 
I think there are three key factors dramatically lowering the barriers to entry into the filmmaking industry; technology, education and mindset. The consequence of lower barriers to entry leads to a crowded market place and increased competition applies downward pressure on pricing.
 
Prior to the launch of the Red One a digital cinema camera would cost over $200,000. Today a Sony FS-7, the camera we shoot much of our corporate work on, is about £7k.  With a metabones lens adaptor and Canon lenses you can be shooting fantastic 4k imagery in no time. Furthermore lighting has moved from being heavy, expensive equipment to relatively cheap, lightweight and low-powered LED technology.
 
In conjunction with this the education establishment has recognised the industry as a fertile opportunity for vocational degrees. Many graduates go into other industries or crafts within this industry, but a good number set up on their own with a lower price model that works in exchange for experience. While most learn the value of a sustainable revenue model fairly quickly they’re replaced by a new cohort each year.
 
The final, and most important, point is about mindset. The smartphone means there’s a cinema quality camera in every pocket. You can argue the distinction about cinema quality all you want but it’s unimportant, almost nothing we make is seen in the cinema. The ubiquity of the technology means there has been a huge change in mindset over the past decade about our ability to create our own content and some people have organically that they love it (hello TikTok).
 
The barriers to entry are now barely speed bumps which means the field is crowded.
 
Top tip: Hire them. You should be growing out of doing it all yourself as soon as you can anyway. Out of nowhere we found two young production companies were eating our lunch. Thankfully one of them has made themselves effectively unhireable because of their atrocious service but the other one, who were the triple threat (good, fast and cheap) now work for us. In other cases we’ve hired people as directors or crew.
 
Big Brands
 
Over time the pack falls away and only the viable companies are left standing. In a crowded market companies seek to differentiate and move up the value chain. We’ve certainly done so but this comes with its own interesting challenges because inevitably bigger brands tend to have less flexibility around the payment terms. Even if you’ve delivered the best, most viral piece of work on the planet, you haven’t delivered it to the finance team and they’re operating under an entirely different set of rules and pressures. Try and remember that these 60-90 day terms aren’t the fault of the person you’re on the phone to on a Friday afternoon. From a business perspective this means that cash is just more expensive for small businesses. We often get freelancers just telling us to not take this work; we’re an established production company on a growth curve and even we don’t feel like we can turn down paying big brand work. All we can do is plan, communicate well and try and win enough work to offset it.
 
Top tip: send thank you cards to finance people.
 
No Retained Work
 
I spoke to a production company last week that had signed a contract for retained work. It’s only the second time I’ve come across this since I started making films in 2004.  Until you start building up any kind of reserve you’ll have to kill to eat every single month. Surviving in this kind of marketplace takes time, patience and nerves of steel.
 
Top tip: Communicate well with your suppliers; most will appreciate your honesty and most will tell you if they’re desperate for cash.
 
 
Highly Unionised Labour Force
 
Once you start working above a certain scale you will require crew, who are highly unionised. A lot of what I’ve discussed above results in downward pressure on prices but the cost of production doesn’t actually change that much. Most production companies exist between the hard place of clients with limited budgets in a crowded market place and the rock of fixed (unionised) production costs so the decision ultimately comes down to how much margin are you willing to make on any given job?
 
Top Tip: Know your own value. Be willing to fight for it. Be willing to lose work over it.
 
This was only the first half of my talk last week. The second half was about how we as a company have overcome these issues and the opportunities we’ve gained as a consequence. These are largely around positioning and structure and I’ll blog about these in the next couple of weeks.
 
FYI the other speakers were Coventry based Imagineer and Simworx in Kingswinford. Both were great. Imagineer is an arts organisation which comes with its own challenges but they have a very clear mission. Simworx are a particularly fascinating company building immersive reality roller coaster rides and have successfully scaled up by several orders of magnitude in the past few years. Check ’em out, they’re both awesome.
 
Some creative industry stats, as promised:
 
Economic Impact – https://www.creativeindustriesfederation.com/statistics
A Regional Slant – https://gbslep.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/West-Midlands-Creative-Industries-STATS-2019.pdf
Launch of the DCMS Programme – https://gbslep.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/West-Midlands-Creative-Industries-STATS-2019.pdf

 

We’re recruiting for an editor

We’d love you to be part of our team making all kinds of films. From our long history of filmmaking in Birmingham, to our global sports work, and others. We want someone great.
 
This role involves editing high quality promotional films and other content.
 
It is about taking responsibility for every aspect of post production, from planning through to editing, design, some motion graphics, data management and archiving on any given film. You will be the voice of post in the company.
 
This role balances three main areas. Preparation; ensuring you are fully briefed and aware of requirements on projects at quoting or pre-production stage. Editing; high-quality, creative editing of film projects. Archiving; ensuring that all projects are archived in a well-ordered and easily retrievable state.
 
As a relatively small team we generally have 10-15 projects on the go at any one time. We pride ourselves on being agile and responsive to our customers so sometimes you’ll be required to invest yourself deeply in a single project and other times you’ll be dipping in and out of multiple things. This necessitates an ordered approach to work, managing your files and workload in a way that means you, or someone else can come back to it after a long break and pick it up quickly.
 
Our projects range from large-scale commercials shoots where we may deploy our in-house editor to work alongside production, acting as DIT and providing rough cuts on location through to much smaller corporate shoots.
 
Though the main skillsets are outlined below, previously sucessful candidates have usually brought something additionally useful to the role, whether this is proficiency in shooting/lighting, 3D animation or coding. This isn’t necessary but has helped in the past.
 
Specific responsibilities include, but are not limited to:
 
– editing
– a base level of After Effects skills (but the higher your proficiency the happier we are)
– estimating post production requirements on projects
– ensuring production has a clear understanding of any technical or creative post requirements, prior to shooting
– keeping time-recording logs, comparing with estimates and alerting the producer when budgeted time is 80% exhausted
– ensuring production has sufficient data management facilities for shoots
– proficiency with Adobe Creative Cloud as well as other necessary software
– being actively involved in client relationships during post production, but also at other times, as required
– being aware of deadlines across all projects and, in conjunction with the producer, managing your workload accordingly
– keeping abreast of technology developments and sharing appropriately with the rest of the company
– identifying your own training requirements
– ensuring IT infrastructure in post production is fit for purpose and current, within reason
– providing creative input into all projects
– maintaining a wider interest in editing, new techniques and new work
– embodying the spirit and personality of the company
– Other duties are required.
 
KPIs
 
– Ensuring client projects are delivered on time
– ensuring time logs are maintained
– ensuring post production is completed in accordance with company processes
– ensuring company processes are fit for purpose
– ensure projects are archived correctly and remain retrievable.
 
Salary negotiable and commensurate with experience. Whilst we are very flexible in our approach to work, this role is full-time, based in our Birmingham office and predominantly office-based.
 
To apply please send your CV, a covering letter and links to your work to hello *at* vermillionfilms.com.
 
We will only respond to applications sent to the email address above.

 
Photo by JC Gellidon on Unsplash