I need a corporate video – where do I start?

First check out different production companies’ work online and on their social media channels. If they are any good there will be plenty of interesting and varied projects to look at. Ask for client recommendations, or look out for relevant testimonials if you can. Have they done work in your market sector? Do they make films you like the look of? Does it have the kind of quality you would expect to see on TV? Are they nice people?

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Once I have a shortlist, how do I choose?

Don’t ask 10 different companies for complete creative proposals, with treatments, storyboards and so on – that should come later. If you have chosen 10 ask each of them for a credentials document that outlines their approach and case studies of relevant work. Be honest; if you have a budget range in mind let them know, so the examples they give you are also in that range. Some might politely decline, others might need more information, but they should all know what you can achieve for that budget. A good production partner is precisely that, someone who wants to work alongside you to ensure you get the absolute maximum from your investment. Use their experience wisely and you will get better, more cost effective results.

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OK what’s next?

Based on the initial response narrow your choice down to two or three companies that you want to meet and invite them in to present their initial thoughts. You’re going to be working closely together so you have to be sure the chemistry is right and you can only do that successfully face to face.

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How do I get the brief right?

Be as clear as you can be on your objectives, budget and audience.

For the production company, getting a complete picture of any new client or product, either before pitching for a project or after commissioning is essential.

Every company and communications task is different. The differences help to define the personality of the business that we need to project, as well as the kind of information to be conveyed in the finished film.

Before our first meeting we would typically ask our client to send us any information that they believe is relevant to what we need to communicate. This might take the form of web links, briefing or research documents, internal presentations, press releases or marketing literature. It’s always useful to know if there is a firm delivery deadline and at least a ballpark budget.

Deadlines focus the mind and will affect cost. An indeterminate or distant delivery date can make it difficult to quote accurately as there will almost inevitably be more opportunities to revise the approach during the production period. Generally deadlines are a good thing, so everyone knows where they stand.

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What’s the best way to communicate the brief?

Whilst solid written background information is invaluable it will never replace meeting, ideally face to face. Making a film is a collaborative process and the openness and chemistry in the relationship has to be there from the outset. Most of the best projects we’ve worked on have started with meetings where energy flows and ideas take shape. We’ve been told by clients that our ability to grasp a product formula is astonishing and that we get to know clients better than they know themselves.

Those are compliments we like – as a production company it’s our job to understand a product or business from the inside out so we can project it in the right way. That means getting to know the audience and competitors as well, so we can pitch the message exactly at the right level.

For the launch of a piece of new technology it is invaluable to talk to the designers or engineers behind it. They have lived and breathed the product for a long time and along the way have had to overcome obstacles and solve a whole series of technical problems to meet customer needs. That gives them a unique and usually very illuminating insight. Similarly, time spent in conversation with the sales team is invariably time well spent. They are at the sharp end, encountering any barriers to sales every day so their opinion has real resonance.

For a consumer audience we may also need to know if there is any existing relevant research that might guide the way we approach the film – What are people looking for? How are your competitors addressing their needs? What does your product do that gives it that elusive edge?

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Why are video producers like better management consultants?

The MD of one high profile hospitality business once described us as “like really good, less expensive management consultants – and at the end of it all I get a film!”

Because we have worked with literally hundreds of organisations across a wide range of market sectors and our work is usually deadline driven, with a tangible, measurable result at the end we tend to get to know businesses more quickly, more instinctively and maybe less formulaically than most management consultants. We really value this and so do our clients – that way the videos we produce as their production partners becomes integral to the business strategy and can help reflect the real ethos and ambition of the business.

The process of commissioning and making a film should really help you to gain a different insight into your own company; if it doesn’t and you find yourself having to constantly tell the production company what to do, maybe you are not getting the service you deserve.

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How do I know they have understood the brief?

The production company should send you a comprehensive contact report summarising all the key early research meetings.

This will be the basis of the creative brief and is the beginning of a series of checks and balances that will ensure you end up with the film you want, so you need to check it through, correct any inaccuracies and the creative stage can then properly begin.

Bear in mind that all this could happen in days rather than weeks.

Our current record for production of a finished, approved and distributed corporate film for a new client, including shoot, animated CGI graphics and all post-production from initial brief to delivery (for a conference in the USA) is 7 days – although admittedly this is kind of tight!

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How do I manage a video budget?

Any creative treatment should be produced in line with your ballpark budget guidance.

Once you are happy with a treatment, the production company should have enough information to finalise the budget. Sometimes the simplest ideas work the best and a good production company will always try to come up with a solution that is driven by practicality as much as an original creative spark. Budgeting for production is all about the time taken and resources used. A proven, thorough budget system to ensure accuracy and consistency is essential. Ours is a 280-line spreadsheet, regularly reviewed and refined to reflect changes in production facilities and ways of working.

Once the budget is approved a purchase order should be raised and billing is normally phased over two or three stages. Production work tends to be front-loaded, with the shoot being the most expensive element of most projects and production companies also have to carry a lot of third party costs – freelance camera crews, filming expenses, model costs, studio and set-build fees and so on.


So it makes sense for everyone’s cash-flow to break the job up into separately invoiced portions. Unlike say digital agencies or PR companies, monthly fixed fees are virtually non-existent in production. Most production companies will bill 50% at the start of a job for immediate payment, with the remaining 50% billed at the end, for payment within 30 days. For longer projects billing may be divided into three. The production industry is made up of lots of small, specialised businesses who depend on prompt payment. Fortunately most clients understand this and will adapt accordingly.

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How do we make sure we stick to schedule?

Before the project begins you should have an outline production schedule from the Producer, showing all the approval stages so you can make sure that those who need to see the project at each stage of delivery are available to provide their input and sign off. The production company’s Production Manager is usually responsible for ensuring that both schedule and budgets are adhered to, keeping a close eye on every element of the job and working with the Producer to highlight and anticipate any timing issues before they become a problem.

The ability to use the Web to approve work remotely has become essential here.

We recently completed a series of corporate films for a client based in France, working in tandem with colleagues in California and the UK.

Following an initial pitch via teleconference (we had met before!) and an online Keynote presentation the whole job was produced remotely and delivered for approval via the Web with various storyboards, scripts and edit versions uploaded, comments made and amendments completed quickly and efficiently.

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What will I need to approve?

Typically a production company will submit 2 or 3 alternative creative treatments, approaching the same communication task in different ways.

The treatments will reflect a style of film or television you will recognise – using visuals only (filmed or animated graphics), actors, models, presenters or a combination of any of the above.

The approach taken will depend on the individual job and budget.

These may be purely written narratives or storyboarded by an illustrator.

Some directors might offer “mood boards” or “mood reels” compiled from the Web to illustrate an idea but our preference is for a hand drawn storyboard where the film is envisaged frame by frame, sometimes accompanied by examples from other films we have made of any specific visual techniques.

It’s a tried and tested method of bridging the gap from creative concept to finished film – and it means that the client can clearly see the route the film will take.

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What else do I need to approve?

If agreeing the brief and budget is the first of the approvals you’ll be asked for and the treatment is the second, finalising a script is the third.

If we are making a documentary style film with a voice over this may not actually be the final script, but rather what is known as a shooting script that will dictate the scenes that need to be filmed. The narrative can be tweaked afterwards before a voice over is recorded

For interview based films (for instance case studies or testimonials) we may supply a guide to content instead because the real script only emerges in the edit suite through what the interviewees say. In this case we know what we want people to say and prepare open-ended questions to get the answers we know we need.

If it’s a drama or presenter-led film then any dialogue or pieces to camera in the shooting script will need final approval – whilst we can usually make changes to voice over narrative quite late on in the process, it’s impossible to change what actors or presenters say in front of camera!

We always prefer to present finished creative treatments and scripts in person – if a script is actually read through out loud, ideally alongside a complete storyboard it makes a big difference to simply seeing it on the page and you can begin to get a real feel for how it will engage and inform your audience.

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What else does ‘pre-production’ involve?

With the script approved, hard working and far-sighted members of the production team will have been quietly lining up shoot dates and assessing locations, cast and crew availability in the background. Any professional production company is the creative and administrative hub for a much wider network of skilled technicians and professionals – directors of photography, camera operators, sound recordists, production assistants, data wranglers, runners, make up artists, props stylists, casting directors, animators and many more.

The best of them tend to have busy diaries so the earlier you can pencil dates with them the better.

Similarly with locations – it’s important to be able to recce where we will be filming well in advance so any potential problems for access, power, sound, lighting and so on can be identified and addressed ahead of the shoot, saving stress and precious time on the day.

It’s always nice to meet the people we will be working with on location too. The prospect of having a film crew around can be a little daunting, but if you have the chance to make contact first and reassure them that it really will be all right, normal life can still carry on and actually it should be fun it makes a world of difference.

We’ve filmed around the world in all kinds of locations – from factories to castles, luxury hotels to busy shops. Wherever we go we usually manage to make friends – maybe it’s our easy-going northern charm, or just saying “thank you” a lot. Whatever it is we are well looked after as a result and everyone involved gets to enjoy the experience, making the job for our client that little bit better.

If we need a specific kind of location, for instance a house or apartment to shoot a home interiors film or a drama sequence we may need to use the services of a location finder who will already have a list of possible locations based on our brief.

One commercial shoot we did required three very different types of doorway, all of which we were able to film on one quiet street with amenable and friendly residents and a handy Tennis Club “unit base” for crew, clients and agency, thanks to our resourceful location finder.  Result: a comfortable, efficient filming day that helped save time and money.

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What about casting?

Casting is another essential element in the pre-production mix. If you are choosing one or a number of actors or models to be the public face of your business the way they look, sound and act on camera matters a lot.

Sometimes a job calls for a known TV personality or actor. We have written scripts with specific people in mind to help make the story more memorable (always ensuring they are available and within budget first).

The production company will deal with agents over costs, the contract and any restrictions on what the famous face (or voice) can or cannot say or do.

If we are casting an unknown model or actor we would usually recommend using a casting director. She or he can then use their experience to put a suitable shortlist together from a casting brief prepared by the producer and director with the client’s input.

The casting itself will happen typically over a day in a centrally located studio.

As well as seeing at first hand what they can do casting is also a way to get to know the actors or models as people and to see if they have that innate personal confidence and chemistry that will translate from a crowded studio or location set into a genuinely believable performance.

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Where do we go from here?

Following the shoot comes the edit and all the other post-production elements that make up the finished film – graphics, colour grading, voice over recording and music. It’s the production company’s job to make this all happen so that at every stage the film gets closer and closer to what was envisaged back when the storyboard was first presented. If it doesn’t exceed your expectations we would be disappointed. Having a complete, polished film in your hands (well, digitally at least) within weeks of the first meeting is incredibly satisfying.

Files are produced for the Web as well as presentation viewing so the film looks equally good wherever it is shown – from a cinema screen to a mobile phone. Video makes brilliant, engaging online content and showcasing it on your web site, YouTube, Vimeo and social media channels is all part of the production company’s job. You’ve made your film, now make it work for you!

To discuss your video project contact us or fill in our our online form for a quick quote

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If you’re planning to harness the power of video for your company, service or product we would love to talk. Of course we’re happy to travel – our work takes us all over the UK but we also have clients in mainland Europe and the USA.

They choose us because we know exactly what it takes to bring brands to life on film. And we’ve been doing it for more than 20 years.

You’re also very welcome to come to us. Our production base is in the heart of beautiful Chester – both Manchester and Liverpool are neighbours and London is just 2 hours by train. We’re passionate about where we are, as well as what we do, and we like to share that passion.