By regarding ourselves as more than wedding/event videographers, we invite a whole world of possibilities. It makes our work more challenging and exciting as we attempt things that are outside of our comfort zone.
When I started my video business in 1988, I was also selling space in one of our local cemeteries. As we hired new salesmen, we needed to train them. I talked to our sales manager, told him about my video business, and offered to produce training tapes. He hired me for what became my first professional job. The tapes turned out to be quite successful, and the cemetery used them for many years.
One of the people who saw the training tapes was the sales manager from Granit Bronz, a granite company in Cold Springs, Minnesota, that was about to launch a new campaign to promote its mausoleums. I was asked if I would like to submit a proposal for a promotional video. I gave a proposal that was not only competitive financially, but promised something that no one else had mentioned: In the introduction to the video, we would “fly” a mausoleum into a cemetery to grab the viewers’ attention.
I got the bid, and immediately went to work on the project. The first thing I did was to put together a team of people who were experts in their fields. I hired a professional narrator, an animator to “fly” in the mausoleum, a scriptwriter to put the concept together, and a shooter to do the videotaping. I did all of the editing and graphics work. I was stretched by the project—and so was my equipment—but I succeeded and the client was pleased.
It is said that fools rush in where where angels fear to tread. I don’t advocate jumping into a project blindly, but taking the right approach reveals a world of possibilities waiting for us. Here are some things that we can do.
First of all, do your homework. Learn all you can about video, video production, and the tools you have at your disposal. Find out what rental equipment is available and what it will cost. More importantly, locate talented people in your area whom you can use as resources. Meet them and begin to build relationships with them. One of the video production houses I contacted called me a few days later and asked if I could help out with some camera work. I did the job and they were pleased, beginning a wonderful relationship. They would often pass on jobs to me that were too small for their company. And when I needed their help, they were always happy to reciprocate.
Second, be alert to the opportunities around you. Several years ago I was picking up some rental equipment from a local company when a customer came in and asked if he could have dubs made from Hi-8 tape. The person behind the counter was about to say “no” when I interrupted and asked to speak to him. I told him to tell the customer “yes,” and that I would do the work. As a result of that chance contact, I did all of the Hi-8 work for that company for the next several years.
Third, be creative in financing. I was contacted by a young man whose company was planning on producing a video on a very tight budget. He thought working through a smaller company like mine might be cost-effective. I offered to do it for free—providing that they would go through me for the 5,000 copies that they needed. I gave them one day for shooting, and two days for editing. Anything beyond that would be billed at an hourly rate. I negotiated the best price I could through a local duplication company; added $1 to the cost of each video, and the company was thrilled with their “free” video.
Fourth, be willing to be stretched. Just because you haven’t done a certain type of video project doesn’t mean it is beyond your capabilities. For several years I was flown around the country with my equipment and a couple of shooters and produced videos on the spot for large conferences. I found that I enjoyed going to different parts of the country, and also enjoyed the challenge of producing videos in a short amount of time (perhaps this was the beginning of my 24-hour turnaround time for funeral videos). It was intense, challenging work, but there was real satisfaction when the job was completed and the customer was thrilled with the results.
Fifth, be clear who you are working for. When working for a committee, you can often get bogged down with each person telling you what to do. Have one person that can sign off on your project, and make sure their expectatuons are clear. I am currently producing a training DVD for a new education tool. Even though there are many people involved in the project, there is only one person that I need to satisfy. Knowing this, I sleep a lot easier.
Twin Cities sportswriter Sid Hartman once wrote, “If opportunity comes, start knocking.” Every day we discover new ways to use our video skills. We need to take advantage of these opportunities, and let people know that we can do the job. Remember: We are professional videographers who also enjoy shooting weddings.
Alan Naumann recently published The Complete Course on Funeral Videography", an updated and expanded version of his popular Business Everlasting training DVD. A featured speaker at WEVA 2004-2007 and a 2006 EventDV 25 honoree, he is based in Minneapolis, Minnesota.