Bonnie Durkin is a New Jersey-based videographer who's been in the business nearly 20 years. Like many EventDV readers, she shoots weddings, bar mitzvahs, and other personal events, but her D-Vision Video studio has also found a great deal of success branching out into other markets, and enjoyed a lucrative stream of bookings with local sports and school-oriented projects like video yearbooks, graduations, and other school events. She's also a 2004 WEVA Creative Excellence Gold winner in Social Event Production. She has recently released two DVD-based training titles focused on these alternative markets. The discs combine a highlight reel on DVD-Video with a ROM component, accessible on any PC with a DVD-ROM drive, that includes PDF-based instructional material.
The PDFs are rich in instructional content, ranging from equipment recommendations to marketing strategy to discussion of different types of events to cover and packages to offer, with insights into what these packages should include, how to sell them, and what to charge for them. For videographers who have focused exclusively in weddings and personal events, culture shock may set in quickly; school and sports productions require a whole different business model. (Durkin also notes that videographers taking the leap into school and sports will fare much better if they like teenagers and know something about sports; there's that type of culture shock to be expected for those branching out into this area as well.) But as you might expect, the equipment needs and skills required are very similar to those used in wedding video—they're just applied differently. And as stage event specialist and EventDV "Stage to Screen" columnist Ed Wardyga likes to say, one of the best things about the schools market is that it's not "market-based"; that is, when your business model hinges on selling $30-$50 videos in quantity to a built-in market, the state of the economy won't have nearly as large an impact on your bottom line as when your livelihood depends on whether your average wedding booking is $1,500 or $5,000.
Wardyga also likes to say that your "built-in" audience is a lot more dependable when the kids in your video are on the younger side (say, preschool and elementary school vs. high school), and Durkin's market is clearly high school-oriented. Capturing the School Market includes both video examples and extensive text discussion on what Durkin calls "The Senior Memory Package," a 90-120-minute senior-year wrap-up, usually delivered in August "before the kids go off to college," that consists of three events: Prom, Commencement, and "Project Graduation," which Durkin describes as an "all night party sponsored by the parents on the night of graduation" in all New Jersey schools. Durkin goes into great detail on the Memory Package, explaining what to focus on in each event (especially the must-have shots), how to shoot it and capture the audio, and how to edit it. She also goes into how to target the right schools, how to market to them (right down to the costs of printing flyers), how many schools a videographer can realistically expect to cover, and what percentage of families will likely buy the tape based on the average income level of the school ("30-40% is good, 50% is great!"). If you're even considering getting into the school market, this is indispensable stuff—hard-earned insight on how to do school videography right and make it as profitable as possible.
Durkin also makes her opinions strongly felt here—it's her training product, after all. She's a firm believer in single-camera shoots for school events, based on audience expectations, the effectiveness of a single, three-chip camera in effectively capturing a school stage event, and the cost-effectiveness of not having to enlist a second camera operator or do a switched shoot. She also relies on her own lighting and sound. Many of the same principles apply to her sports video work, which focuses on high school (varsity and JV). She makes an especially good point about choosing music for high school sports videos: "I listen all year long to top 40 radio to keep abreast of the music they are listening to. I use these songs in their video. They are current and reflect the era perfectly." As a videographer moving into the field, the last thing you want to do (unless you want to get out of it just as quickly) is to rely on the songs that reflect the era when you went to high school.
She also includes some helpful insights on how to balance school and sports shooting with the typical unsteady diet of wedding production, and acknowledges that there will always be overlap, especially given the three-season consistency of sports work. She also notes that "producing sports videos is an incredible marketing tool for all the other video-related services you provide. In the last year alone, I have picked up 3 weddings, 4 Bar Mitzvahs, 2 Sweet 16's and 14 photo montages, just from clients who saw my [sports] videos."
All this advice sounds great (as does all the marketing and strategic detail on both discs), but the real question with this, as with any training DVD, is why should you listen to her? One reason is her recognized success in the field, but the real proof is in the video material on each disc. Durkin unquestionably knows how to make satisfying school and sports videos, and provides excellent examples of the production techniques and priorities she describes in the text that accompanies each disc, such as the graduation "money shot" and a "Big Game" 2-camera football video. You won't see the cinematic and fussed-over grace of stylized wedding video, but Durkin also makes clear that sports and school videos are different animals and it's neither cost-effective nor appropriate to produce school and sports videos the way you approach wedding video. With school and stage videos, it's much more of an add-titles-and-ship-‘em-out process; with sports videos it's simply a different set of effects, substantially less camera motion, and more consistently high-energy pacing.
Of course, some rules of event video (especially where families are involved) apply no matter what the genre: "Remember to deal with the Moms. They will be your most valuable asset, and most importantly make them cry."