Review: Hal Landen's How to Produce Day-in-the-Life and Settlement Videos
Posted Jun 18, 2010

If you know me, you know that I'm always on the lookout for new ways for you to make more money. Well, just the other day, I was talking to my sailing buddy, Hal Landen of VideoUniversity.com. He's just released a how-to guide called How to Produce Day-in-the-Life and Settlement Videos. Sounds a bit legalistic, doesn't it-unless you're a Beatles fan. Which means you're probably wondering what this guide might have to do with events and weddings and such.

I wondered that too, but thought I'd check it out. I've got to say, it's certainly worth looking into. After all, some of you already shoot day-in-the-life pieces for weddings and even for your own websites. This requires pretty much the same skill set. Besides, no matter what your feelings about lawyers, wouldn't it be nice if you got them to pay you?

By shooting creative and interesting "Day-in-the-Life" and "Settlement" videos, you can expand your business in the legal field beyond shooting depositions. These videos can have a huge impact on legal cases, even though most are never seen in court. It's a way for experienced video producers, such as yourself, to add powerful attorneys as clients. Hal's how-to guide explains a bit about each type of video, how it's used, and what you need to know to add both to your repertoire.

Day-in-the-Life and Settlement videos both tell the story of a person who's been hurt in some way and is suing another party. Your client is generally the plaintiff's attorney, and the plaintiff is the one who's suing. These lawsuits, usually for wrongful death, personal injury, or class action suits, can result in millions of dollars in damage awards. So the lawyers are interested in portraying the damages in a very convincing way.

The Settlement video is used before trial to induce the defendant to settle out of court. It can be a very moving, highly emotional portrayal of a clients' pain and suffering. If the case goes to trial, that's where the Day-in-the-Life video is shown. This video must follow rules of evidence and depict "just the facts," as they say on TV. The attorney you work with will have very specific reasons for including or excluding certain scenes. He or she is the video's executive director.

One area of difficulty in producing certain legal videos is the question of admissibility. The attorney and the video producer have to make sure the video makes its point without violating any of the rules. In order to be shown in court, a Day-in-the-Life video can't show any excesses of pain, grimacing, suffering, or other emotional extremes. Much of the effort of the plaintiff's attorney and video producer is to balance the facts with just enough of the emotional or physical consequences of the accident or incident to sway the jury and not cause the judge to throw it out. But, as Hal's guide points out, the goal is to get the defendant to settle out of court before trial (perhaps after viewing the Settlement video)-for big money-and when that happens, the Day-in-the-Life video never makes it to the courtroom.

How to Produce Day-in-the-Life and Settlement Videos includes a chapter on marketing. And it's here that you'll find tricks of the trade to help you launch this type of business. It includes information about how to develop contact lists of attorneys for direct mail, how to take advantage of networking opportunities, and what types of advertising work in this niche. This chapter even covers recommendations for establishing a website that will attract the attention of trial attorneys.

As Hal cautions, this isn't an arena for beginners. "This kind of work requires that you already be a skilled documentary producer," he says, "one who can produce the kind of video segments seen in news magazines or scripted documentaries." Although the book contains some advice for videographers, such as interviewing tips, much of the material is legal background. You'll find a nice summary of how lawsuits work and a "crib sheet" of the inner workings of this business so you'll have the tools you need to succeed.

Priced at $77, How to Produce Day-in-the-Life and Settlement Videos and the accompanying Federal Rules of Evidence equal about a hundred pages. Included with these are a glossary of legal terms, a directory of all the state associations of trial lawyers, and a sample billing log. There's also a password-protected website where you can see samples of Settlement videos. Considering all that's included, I think this is a good value. It's what you need to know, without any padding. It's instantly downloadable, and available from videouniversity.com.

So far, I've refrained from telling any lawyer jokes. So, how many lawyers does it take to revitalize your video production business?

It only takes one, really.

Once you've produced your first Settlement video, your professional services will be in demand. The background information, resources, marketing tips, and practical suggestions in Hal Landen's guide will set you up for success in an often overlooked area of legal video production. No joke.