How to make a good corporate video (or: All that glitters ….)

In my experience there are four main kinds of film that get made:

  • Good ideas that are well executed
  • Bad ideas that are well executed
  • Good ideas that are badly executed
  • Bad ideas that are badly executed.

I’ve always tried to make well executed films. However some of the ideas haven’t been the best!

One of my clients put it succinctly: ‘You can parcel it up and roll it in glitter but at the end of the day it’s still a turd.’

And that’s perfectly true.  Sometimes the idea isn’t that great and you have to do the best you can, but after it’s all over you walk away knowing one thing.

It was actually a festering pile of crap.  

So why does this happen and more important, how did we get there?

In my experience, a filmic f#ck-up boils down to four main areas:

  1. An insistence in proceeding in one creative direction when others were better. Often it’s one person’s hobby-horse, or a way to show this person’s bosses how creative they are. People with little knowledge but lots of ambition can be dangerous to the integrity of the creative message of any film. As a supplier there’s little you can do about this – apart from walk away if you can. So do you have a person like this in your marketing department?
  2. Lack of budget for the creative ambition. I’ve been called in many times where the creative solution to a good idea for a film was fairly obvious but budget precluded doing it. Many times I’ve walked away and seen the project crash and burn in the hands of another producer. (Often someone who’s been talked into it!) Sometimes I’ve offered to work with the client and try to ‘approach’ the idea at a far lower budget.  That hasn’t been successful in some cases, although often the client said they were pleased!  More often than not these days I’ll decline a commission where I don’t think there is enough budget – and I’ll be honest and say so up front.
  3. Moving goalposts and mission creep. Interestingly there is no rhyme nor reason why in some companies there is a lot of this and in some, none whatsoever. I’ve got to thinking it’s a personality thing from the team’s leader that filters all this noise out! But rapidly moving goalposts and/or mission creep can eat up limited budgets quickly and more importantly, dampen the motivation of those involved in the project. We’ve all been there – we’ve done our best work and then it’s all been binned, so you know what that feels like.
  4. A lack of understanding of how to specify and buy creative services. I worked more than once on large projects where the person who’d been put in charge had no experience of working with creative people or buying creative services. They eventually realised they had to re-think how they dealt with creatives and briefed things in. In the meantime the project floundered and only just got back on track to meet deadlines. Have you got someone like this working with you?

Any one of these factors can easily and rapidly turn your project into poop.

Of course these issues don’t normally happen in isolation – often a combination make it even more difficult to get a project back on track. And get it on track you will need to unless you want your film to end up on one of my ‘horror-show’ reels I show to students!

So now I hope you’ll notice the warning signs a bit earlier.

Last, if you or your company is heading towards making a corporate video, these might be some of the internal signs that the project could go off the rails in a larger company (I’ve seen them all!):

(a) someone parachuted in (often a pal of the boss) to run the project, who’s a self-acknowledged ‘expert’ in corporate video. (It sometimes turns out that they were – 20 years ago!)

(b) turning the project and/or brief over to a design agency or PR company without any relevant film-making experience because ‘they know us’, or worse: ‘we pay for them anyway’.

(c) Someone within the organisation who’d normally take a back seat suddenly pushes themselves forward to head up a ‘management committee’ to oversee the project.

(d) Someone who’s been pushed into heading up the project who has no idea why the company is embarking upon such a ‘waste of money’.

Over the years I’ve had to deal with all these types – and many more besides, all of whom make the actual creation of a film less than the enjoyable process it can be. Being able to spot them (and the carnage they can wreak) will help you create a great corporate video!