Executive Decisions: Proactively Building a Contact List
Posted Jan 23, 2006

I've done some of my best proactive planning as a corporate video producer for the price of a cup of coffee. OK, maybe for the price of a few cups of coffee, since the get-togethers I've had with freelance production pros have involved more than one trip to the local coffee shop. On occasion, the investment has been nothing more than lifting the phone to my ear or taking a few minutes for a meeting at our studio. This time has been spent building relationships with talented, experienced individuals who can help make our corporate projects a success, and the networking has resulted in our assembling a contact list of writers, performers, and specialized production crew that our company can rely on when the demands of a project require that extra firepower.

In my event video work, I always anticipate being able to complete any job that comes to us exclusively using our in-house team. As a corporate video producer, however, I recognize that I need the flexibility a larger talent pool offers. Following are some examples of production professionals on our proactive contact list.

Writers. Scripting is an essential part of every corporate job we produce and the responsibility for creating a workable script almost always falls on us. Sure, we'll have corporate clients from time to time who say they already have a script, but even under those circumstances the script still needs some adjustments before production begins. I've done quite a bit of writing in my day; I love kicking around big-picture ideas and I'm not afraid to tackle scriptwriting duties, but whenever possible, I prefer to bring in a scriptwriter who will focus exclusively on that task.

Where do I find these scriptwriters? Sometimes they find me by sending a résumé and samples of their writing, and sometimes I meet them at local production association meetings. Each time I meet a writer who seems like a good match for the work we do, I make it a point to learn more about their work, see the videos that resulted from their scripts, develop a professional rapport, and keep in regular communication with them. Using this approach I've assembled a contact list that includes several talented individuals that I can turn to for different types of projects. I know their rates and capabilities and I keep in touch with them often enough to know their availability to work on a freelance basis.

Talent. The vast majority of corporate videos we produce include the use of a performer either as voiceover talent, on-camera spokesperson, or on-camera actor within a scene. Voice talent is the type most commonly used in our productions, and there are a wide range of resources available that can help you build your contact list. An Internet search will return a vast array of professional voiceover artists who have their own home studios and can record and deliver a script within a short amount of time at a reasonable rate. My list includes artists I work with on a regular basis that I've never met face-to-face.

I also work often with local talent agencies for both voice and on-camera talent. Most metropolitan areas have several talent agencies, and many have Web sites that include streaming media samples of their clients' work. Many talent agencies also send out CDs of their voice talent or DVD demo reels of their on-camera talent. Get to know your local agents, talent, and rates for union and non-union performers. We've worked so often with certain local talent that we have dubbed them "The PixelPops Players." Our contact list of talented actors includes a diverse group experienced with teleprompters and earprompters, comedy or drama, spokeperson work or scenework.

Specialty Production Crew. We shoot the vast majority of our corporate video projects ourselves, but we have a strong and constantly growing list of seasoned production professionals that we can call on for freelance specialty assignments as needed. This list includes teleprompter operators, directors of photography, and crew with specialty gear such as Steadicam rigs. Our list also encompasses local soundstages and audio recording studios.

We often use a professional teleprompter service on our corporate projects and find it to be a great investment. We could purchase the prompter equipment and do it ourselves (and maybe someday we will), but the real value of hiring a prompter service is the experienced professional who runs the prompter. Whether the on-camera talent is a corporate executive or a professional spokesperson, I know that the prompter op is going to help us get the smoothest read possible. The rate is built into the contract, and using the service gives me peace of mind that the job will be done right.

There are fewer circumstances where we hire a director of photography, but I take every opportunity I can to get to know the work, rates, and personalities of the freelance DPs in my market. When jobs come up that require specialty lighting or Steadicam work, I don't want to guess whether I can get it done or how much it will cost. Referrals, the Internet, and local association meetings have been a great resource in helping build this part of our list.

Some of our contact list has been assembled in the mad scramble that follows an urgent client request such as, "I need helicopter footage immediately!" But I've attempted to think ahead and create relationships with a wide variety of freelancers that I can call on when needed. By proactively developing this network of trusted video production professionals, I approach potential corporate clients with greater flexibility and absolute confidence in our ability to get the job done right.