Corporate Video Versus Movie Making

corporate video puppetFor all those film students who are graduating from different colleges and some film schools, one of the first choices you have to make is money or art?  (It’s a trick question we’ll address below).  You’ve just spent two or four (or six) years studying film and video.  You’ve learned to shoot and you’ve learned to edit.  You might have learned how to work with a crew.  You’ve problem-solved and you are now looking for that job (career) you’ve invested so heavily in both time and money.

If you’re driving goal, you’re burning obsession is to make narrative feature films, then really this article is not for you.   This is for the film and video professional who enjoys shooting or editing one person corporate stuff, or working with a three to five person crew in the corporate buildings of America.  I graduated from a University with a BA degree in Radio/Television (technically a degree in Communications with a major in RTV).  I wanted to be a filmmaker, but didn’t understand the difference at that time.  My first job after college was as a “field producer” (a catch all term meaning I was that one man band traveling all over the country shooting).  But more often than not, I found myself shooting in company offices, making marketing videos for corporations, or doing training videos.

About five years in, I still wanted to make a movie.  So after a few more years of getting ready, I left my corporate video production job and made the leap to feature films, which I did for over ten years (and five movies).  BTW, those were ten hard years as I starved myself and my family to chase it.  I returned to corporate video with a new found passion (where I could combine the “art” of movie making, with the projects my corporate clients were looking for).

BTW– I’m not as keen on hiring freelancers who are frustrated filmmaker wanabee’s.  If the corporate video job I’m hiring for you is a “bummer” or something that you”have” to do, I’m not as interested.  That lack of passion will permeate your work.

So this brings us to you.  How do you get started making a living in video/film production?  You’re still reading, so I’m assuming that you’re not the one saying “feature films or nothing!”  Here are some tips to getting started.

Freelancing in the Corporate Video World

When I graduated and started fulltime with a company, I didn’t know you could freelance.  I accidentally fell into freelancing and before long was making pretty good money.  My biggest client (production company) realized they could save money by bringing on someone, offered me the fulltime job.  If I said no, they’d find another person and I’d lose that significant freelance work.  So I said yes and took a huge “pay cut” and increased my hours.  So today, there are many production companies looking for freelance people.  We hire PA’s, Audio, Camera Operators and DP’s.  Occasionally make-up artist and other specialists.

Corporate Video Freelancing Tips

  • corporate video production attitudePut yourself out there.  To get started freelancing, you need to get known.  Go to networking opportunities.  In Dallas, there is a Dallas Producer’s Association– the perfect place to shale some hands.
  • Volunteer if need be.  The whole point is to get yourself known.  Volunteer.  Get on the set.
  • Shine.  Here’s the most important part.  When you do get on the set, you need to shine.  You need to have a great “can do” attitude, whether it’s getting coffee for the client or lugging that equipment up two flights of stairs.  I can tell you about three or four out of ten get my attention on the set.  And when they do, I can promise you it’s not necessarily ability, but attitude.
  • Appearance.  You’re working in corporate USA.  You don’t need to wear a business suit (it will get snagged and dirty).  But your clothes need to be nice business casual and clean.  (Visit our Facebook page here and scroll down for the “Dear Freelancer Article).  If you’ve have a lot of tats and body piercings, just know it might be a little harder to get established in corporate video.  That image is great for the feature film work, not so good for the boardrooms of the corporate video world.
  • Don’t Say No Too Often.  If we call you and you’re not available, that’s okay.  By the third or fourth time in a row, we will probably stop calling you.  When corporate video production companies are crewing up a shoot or project, we usually call people that come to mind first.  So be on our minds.  Which brings us to…
  • Followup.  It’s okay to send emails out to production companies reminding them that you’re available.  Once a month is fine. Once a week is overdoing it.
  • Lots of Baskets.  It’s always a good idea to not put all your eggs in one basket.  Have several production companies giving you business.

The corporate video freelancing world can be highly enjoyable.  You can actually earn more money than a staff job and work less hours.  You have freedom and flexibility in your schedule.  It can be very rewarding.

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