Video Producer Elizabeth Halford explains how creating behind-the-scenes videos of your projects can help you build your filmmaking brand
One of the ways my brain works when I’m coming up with strategy for brand or marketing collateral is to find ways to give the big idea legs – to take this thing we’re already working hard to create and splinter it off into as many pieces as possible. This is good for the client and great for the agency, if you play your cards right.
When working to support UK production house Global Fire Creative, I saw an opportunity to do something which required very little effort but provided huge returns, behind-the-scenes [BTS] videos. This allowed us to take the big things we were already doing and use those opportunities to provide added value to the client, while also suppling brand building pieces for the agency. The result? Giving those pieces of content the legs to walk right into the line of sight of potential clients and do a little jig. And, it worked wonders.
You already have cameras in hand. Just point one of them at the crew. While that’s the basic idea, it takes a little more effort than that. So here are six points about how I made it work for my agency.
Identify worthy opportunities
Not all jobs are worthy of a behind-the-scenes piece. While many an agency posts Instagram Stories or Snaps here and there, and calls them ‘behind the scenes’, let me be clear that what I’m talking about here are storytelling pieces with production value. Yes, they include BTS footage, but they also have a storyline, foresight and a genuine reason, a why.
This starts with accurately identifying the pieces that will be worthy of the effort. We made BTS stories for jobs that ticked all (or most) of the following boxes:
- The client was a notable brand
- The project involved many moving parts from within our organisation. A piece to camera with a two-man crew isn’t worthy, unless the story you’re telling is how much you can do with a small crew.
- The client was a corporation we wanted to penetrate more deeply in order to spread out to other departments.
- There was a captivating story we could tell about our capabilities through the piece.
In short, you need a strategy. Groundbreaking, I know, but stick with me.
These pieces are not an afterthought kind of gig. You need to nominate a crew specifically for each piece and treat the main crew as the characters. Focus solely on yourselves as the client. This also means the piece you’re getting paid to create isn’t compromised by attention being splintered in other directions. It also means that the thing will actually get finished and see the light of day. How many times do agencies get busy and leave their own stuff on the cutting room floor?
My behind-the-scenes pieces have their own producer and shooter. They have their own storyboard, sound treatment and general vibe. They are made to reflect the brand of the filmmaker(s), not the client we’re working for. For these pieces, it’s all about the brand we’re building.
Watch via YouTube.
Write the story
The goal here is to highlight your agency’s capabilities with an interesting story, not a gratuitous display of camera gear. Your most important viewers are potential clients and they don’t care about your camera. They care about what you can do for them. Note: if you can’t help yourself and you want to show off your kit, find a creative way to do it. In the video above, we used some light graphics to point out our gear without focusing too heavily on it. No one likes a hard sell.
My favourite example of a storyline from one of my BTS pieces is this video with storylines about the logistics of filming in multiple locations and making a whole video, all in one day. Good stories have an element of conflict so having a dedicated camera person meant that during filming – when I was confronted by a security guard – it was caught on video, which injected a bit of conflict into the story.
Stories you can highlight with your BTS videos:
- Your team and their roles. I featured myself as a producer, the sound guy and director in this piece.
- Your client and the relationship you have with them. There’s a great moment with our client in this video – he outright says that they think their ideas are good and they see the value we bring to their business when we challenge those ideas. If you have clients willing to be that honest, get them on camera!
- Your attention to protecting the client. If you’re particularly wonderful at pre-production for high-risk shoots (filming in or around trains and water, or shooting in public places for example) this is your opportunity to talk about that and show the value you bring by protecting your clients’ reputation and assets.
- Anything you have identified as a unique selling point can be rolled out as a video story showing you in action. If you produce music in-house, do your own storyboarding, have your own green screen or a talented in-house motion graphics team… Tell those stories in a way that entertains the audience.
It’s easy to make a BTS video about the filming process, but start way before that by filming idea sessions, storyboarding, voiceover recording and client meetings. Film everything or write these things into the story and film fake stuff if needed. Filming on an iPhone is fine – not everything needs to be the highest production value. In fact, filming lo-fi can make the final footage you cut into the video look that much more slick. So don’t avoid filming the location-scouting day just because you only have a phone on you. In the embedded video earlier in this post, you can see we filmed some of the logistical planning that happened weeks before shoot day.
Splinter it into shorts
This whole practice is about the ways in which you can take an existing effort and give that content legs by turning it into something you can also use for your own marketing. And in that same way, this piece can also be splintered into multiple pieces to further extend its usefulness.
An example is this BTS video that I produced, shooting all over the world. At 03:22, we discuss how we produced the piece of music for that project in-house. We were able to cut this section into a video of its own, which can be shared when talking about our in-house music production capabilities. That section is a story in itself.
Delivering to the client
I typically see BTS pieces from agencies being used on their social platforms or blogs, and that’s great. But what’s even better is when your client also pushes the piece out to their networks. This acts both as marketing for your own brand and an extra piece of collateral they can use for free.
Internal communications clients are always in need of interesting items they can push out via their internal platforms. So they enjoy getting to say: “Here’s a behind the scenes of our latest video.” And the engagement can be great.
It’s important to remember this checklist for making a BTS piece your client will want to share too:
- Include the client where possible. Film a piece to camera with the client and include them in the video. Make sure the questions you ask them support the storyline of the piece, don’t just ask them to say something nice about working with you.
- Be careful about sharing classified information about the company in these videos. Not only will their legal team make you pull it off your site, they won’t share it in-house and you could lose them as a client. Always show them in the best light.
As an aside, the benefit to you as the agency is that when the client shares, they’re inadvertently advertising for you and aligning themselves with you as their video provider. So make sure your visual brand is represented. My crew always wears branded shirts, and we used a sting at the beginning and end of the videos to make sure everyone knows who they were working with for their big budget stuff.
Your clients are busy people. Make it easy for them with a checklist of some of the ways they can utilise this collateral you’ve given them as a gift. Things like using it in their email signature and pushing it out internally, and externally if they’re willing!
It’s been said that agencies are their own worst clients. Having worked with a few, I know this to be true. So although making marketing pieces for yourself can be impossible without using up precious billable hours, you can – at the very least – make use of the opportunities before you when doing the work that pays the bills.
About the Author