Are you proud of every commercial photo or corporate video production you’ve done? Have you ever found yourself explaining to someone, maybe even a client, about how a project you worked on could have been better, but you were held back by the lack of a big budget? That’s understandable to a point, but I think there has to be a certain standard of quality with any production, regardless of budget.
Personally, I feel that one thing that makes a director or visual creative valuable is their ability to make the most out of what they are given. By being crafty and strategically using a small budget, even a one-person crew can come away with a successful project. I was recently in this exact position, and instead of giving my client the bare minimum of what they were paying for, I went the extra mile. Here’s why.
My business, Wilkinson Visual, was recently hired to produce a short web commercial. When we were first approached about producing this video, a few ideas were discussed between the owner and I, in person. The client told me that they had “some budget,” but wanted to get some options from me to consider.
The options I offered ranged greatly and I explained them in detail, noting the kinds of shots and setups we would be able to do, and how it would affect the final story. My client ultimately decided on the least expensive option, which meant there was no budget for extra crew, gear, shoot days, or doing proper interviews. All it afforded was me shooting with a basic kit for a half day, and then making an edit within a few weeks.
Having a small budget didn’t mean the video would be bad, it just meant it wouldn’t have as many elaborate, controlled shots as I wanted. I saw a lot of potential for creative visuals with this particular project, so I decided that I needed to figure out ways to get the most production value, while not adding crew, gear, or shoot days. Did I have to do that? Not according to the budget per se, but I felt it was worth it to spend some of my own time to develop ideas that would make the most of this shoot. Everything came down to this: the final video created wasn’t going to be a reflection of my client’s budget– it would be a reflection of the quality of work that my business can produce.
You might be curious as to what I specifically did– honestly it was any number of small things, that when added up made the difference. Bringing a few extra items I already owned, asking for help from strangers who were nearby during certain shots, and spending some time helping my client with the script. Technically these were all things that by definition in the contract, I wasn’t responsible for, but all it took was extra planning.
While this isn’t my usual approach for a promotional/commercial production, by working hard and being flexible on what personal gear I used, the final production value increased tremendously. Again, this would be a reflection of my work, so to me it was absolutely worth it.
I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, as I’ve noticed more and more production companies offering a “budget” service for clients, but when I see the work, it’s subpar. Did the client get what they paid for? Probably. Is that production company going to attract larger businesses with bigger budgets though by doing that? I’m not sure they will.
So what do you think? Do you accept a production job at its offered rate, and provide a product that matches the budget level? How do you compare $25,000 projects next to $2,000 projects on your portfolio then? This experience really got me thinking about my pricing models, so I’d love to continue the conversation in the comments, thanks for reading.