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Making History: Saturday Night at the Movies
Posted Sep 26, 2006 Print Version     Page 1of 1

Years ago, the movie industry also owned the local movie theaters. Hollywood would produce the movies and show them in their studio-owned theaters. Each week, they would show trailers, or previews, of their own upcoming movies in the hope that the audience would come back the following week if they were enticed by the preview.
     I am in the business of making history—or at least a compelling record of history—via video, and in a small way, I am running my business much like Fox, MGM, and Paramount did in the old days of the Hollywood studio system. Each week, I need to create new feature productions to be shown at various events in the Greater Boston area.
     The audience at these showings may have seen a production from a few weeks ago, so I need to keep my projects fresh and creative. This can be a challenge!

Every Monday morning, I meet with Dina Canducci, my senior video producer, and we map out the Video Histories, Legacy Biographies, and Wedding at the Weddings (aka Same-Day Edits) that we will produce in the upcoming weeks.

Our creative formula is to tell the history of a family. How we tell that story is where the creative process comes into play, and it is not the budget of the client that dictates this creative process.

Our fees for producing a family history project start at $595 for a 100-picture photo montage and go upwards of $10,000 for an "Over The Top" Video Legacy or Wedding at the Wedding. The common denominator of our pricing system is the size of the audience that will watch our video.

How many potential clients watched your demo videos last week? 5? 10? 15? 438? Last week, I had 438 potential clients view my work. No, they did not come to my studio. I showed my work to 438 potential clients at two large weddings where I produced a Biography/Wedding at the Wedding portraying the lives of the Bride and Groom.

The first Bride paid $2,700 for her Wedding at the Wedding on top of my $4,000 wedding production fee. The second Bride paid $500 for her Wedding at the Wedding on top of my wedding production fee, for the same production.

Both videos were fabulous. With one I made a hefty profit, and with the other I took a loss on the balance sheet. Or did I?

The Bride who paid only $500 for her Biography/Wedding at the Wedding came to me a few months before her wedding and told me that although she wanted me to produce a video to show at the wedding, they decided they were way over budget and would cut that item from their wedding day. They loved my Wedding at the Wedding demo when they saw it and booked me a year ago, but because of budget constraints they were going to cut back on my wedding fees.

I told her I understood her budget dilemma. I did not tell her my own budget dilemma: that I was counting on her fee to help pay for my upcoming mortgage payment and a new DVD burner.

I don't like the expression about turning lemons into lemonade, yet I wanted to make this into a win-win situation for this bride and for my company. I told the bride in a tongue-in-cheek way that I would produce her Wedding at the Wedding for the $500 as long as she would "guarantee" to me that 10 potential clients attending her wedding would book me as their videographer for their upcoming events. I also told her that in return for producing her video presentation, I would be allowed to have my logo at the beginning and end of her video. My final stipulation was that after the video was shown, she would thank me that night, by name, in front of her guests for doing a "great" job. All this for $500.

When I got to the Ritz-Carlton Hotel, I noticed that the Bride had not cut her budget on the flowers, the rented chairs, the huge wedding cake, the 10-piece orchestra, or the three Hummer Limos that brought the Bride and her entourage from her house to the church. Only the Wedding at the Wedding budget was cut. Yet that was fine with me!

Our video was shown, after dinner, and was a huge success; the guests watched the Legacy Biography of the Bride and Groom and their families and then applauded loudly as they saw our Wedding at the Wedding. The Bride was happy that her guests loved the video, and so was I. To me, those guests were 200 potential clients—in a Ritz-Carlton crowd, no less—viewing my product and perhaps even imagining seeing their own lives so movingly captured on the big screen.

Much as Hollywood loves to show movie trailers to get people to come back to the movie theater, I love showing my video presentation, even if I take a loss on the bottom line. I know someone in the audience will come up to me after the video and say, "Did you do that? May I have one of your cards?" and the Steven Spielberg in me will smile as I shake hands with my new potential client. You can't pay for that kind of advertising, and when fair-to-middling jobs beget lucrative ones, you don't have to.

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