I was asked to give a talk recently about how to work with freelancers, so I've done an edited version here. 

Firstly, should you even make a film? The easiest time to edit film is before you've shot anything, so pick an interesting topic. If you have a story about a blind skateboarder, then that needs to be a film. 

These things make for good films:

Action // human stories and emotion // convincing people of things (we are just showing you how it is...) // engaging new/different 'audiences' // setting tone

This handy flowchart by Adam Westbrook says it better than I can...

Here, he pushes the notion that story is key, and it is certainly a great way in. One person's story can draw you in to focussing on those more abstract ideas. Concepts that are often harder to engage with on their own. 

Make sure you are always noting down stories and characters that you come across in your work. People who tell the best tale of your discovery/product/service/intervention. If you have an interesting story and character, it is kind of difficult to make that boring. And rather than a production company spending time and money seeking out this person, you will be meeting them in your daily work, keep your eyes peeled and store them up!

Online film is a massively growing area. More people are using snapchat, gifs and emojis to communicate tapping into our increasing comfort in visual communication. YouTube is the second largest search engine in the world. So you need to be the answers to people's questions in that space. And you need to be more comfortable talking about the film medium.

I really encourage everyone to try and watch (good) films, like a producer. Why are they doing these things? How are they working on me... If you work in comms/media then you work in 'film' the video people are not going to be experts in... marketing, publishing, education whatever else. They need your input on that side of things, to make the best product. The more you can talk to them and have opinions on film things, the better.

The easiest way to make a value for money film is to bring all the skills in at the right time. Before you call up a filmmaker, I think you should get as close as you can to answering the following questions.

  • Who is target audience? - If you attempt to make the film for 'everyone', then it's pretty likely that 'no-one' will feel strongly connected to it.

  • What do you want the audience to think/feel/do after they've watched it?

  • Style - are there any existing examples of style and tone that you like?

  • Emotion/humour - is there some emotional punch, how can we include that effectively?

  • Volume of Information. 3-5 key takeaways - How much do we need to get across in the film, vs engaging them, and setting people up to go on to look at a report, website, or an event?

  • Alternative? - Does it really need to be a 'film'? Could it be a photo gallery, audio slideshow, or a 20 second film clip in a written article?

  • Budget - how much do we want to invest in this piece?

  • Defining success - so that everyone's expectations are out on the table.

Some food for thought...

Check out what is effectively an advert for some email software... Not expensive to make (because it's a great idea, admittedly had by a huge ad agency) , all done in screen recordings! But it tells a very captivating story. If your 'thing' is more interesting than email, then you can probably tell a great story about it.

In terms of style I just love this film about John Baldessari, going to be expensive/impossible to replicate. And you shouldn't, but if you like the irreverent style, tone, and collage of images. Note that stuff down! Examples of tone/style will come in handy when you speak to creatives in the future. Use these examples to spark a discussion, about feel, style, ambition of production value. 

Buzzfeed films have an interesting tone. They seem to ask the question. 'What does the internet want 'Buzzfeed's opinion/take on?'... Then they push out a lot of video content in a huge variety of styles, all in the voice of Buzzfeed.

What is your equivalent 'voice' what do people want your take on?

Of course if you really like something someone has made, just get in touch with them and see if there's a way you can collaborate, they've proved they have the skills already.

When approaching freelancers/production companies:

  • Pick a budget that you have in mind, set your expectations to that (Be ambitiously realistic).

  • Make it as interesting a proposal as possible. Aim to feed their soul and their showreel. Good people want to make interesting work.

  • Give clarity over the things you want to control.

  • Freedom via boundaries. You give them all the information listed above and let them focus on how to creatively join the elements together to achieve your objectives. To focus on making something cool, striking and creative. That's the best use of their time.

  • Have an opinion on multimedia, start cultivating this now. But also, if you don't feel strongly about something, go with their ideas, focus on the important things you do have thought out opinions on.

My rule of thumb is that typically, on non-major issues, whoever feels stronger is right. 

Google 'freelance filmmaker' and you'll find lots of great filmmakers out there for a range of budgets, have a chat with them, they all want to make cool fun stuff, and so do you.

Seek inspiration from things like the Vimeo Weekend Challenge (make a film in a weekend) and the 24 hour radio race, (yes you guessed it) and go and make something yourself. If film seems scary, that's a cue to go make something and see what you learn. If, for your next team building exercise you make a film, it will be 800 times better than that other terrible team-building exercise thing you did last time. And you will have learnt some valuable technical skills too.

And if you are in an organisation, support those who are interested in film. There are many gaps in the market here. These are core skills in the modern publishing/comms game and it's such a bonus to have people who get multimedia. It's not going away, it's expanding, so encourage people to experiment. They will be slow to start off with, but once they are over the hurdles, they'll have some extremely in-demand skills, that your competitors didn't invest in.

Keep in touch:

Twitter - @thomhoffman

Website - http://www.thomhoffman.co.uk

YouTube - producerthom

I also do consultancy about multimedia things, so if you want me to come and give a talk to your organisation, get in touch.