There are currently around 1,354,000 companies on the Internet from Europe alone that describe themselves as professional film productions or video productions. But how can you find out which is the best possible partner with competence?
The large number of, at least in theory, available production partners often makes choosing a competent video production company difficult. Or even torture. And sometimes even flying blind. You don’t have to! Here you will find a list of points that you can use to better assess the competence of your production partner.
You need to know
- It is in the job description of a producer to be able to convince. If you can’t do it, you won’t stay in business long. But because leading and seducing are close to each other, the choice solely about the person is dangerous.
- Even watching showreels is only of limited help. It is not possible to use this to estimate whether a video was created under smooth conditions. You can’t tell a good captain by a fair-weather voyage.
- It is therefore advisable to pay attention to the following aspects as well: The problem-solving skills, the experience with other, comparable tasks, the scope of expertise, the technical competence and, last but not least, the talent of the participants, who play a key artistic role in the planned project.
The competent evaluation of a production company
The first step in evaluating the competence of a production company is usually a vision of previous work (showreel), usually supplemented by a look at the career and reputation of the company. If, after the first, number-based kick-out round and on the basis of indicative offers, a personal exchange with possible candidates for a cooperation takes place, it becomes more demanding for the client.
Not because these get-to-know-each-other sessions are often uncomfortable. But because many producers are unusually nice and above-average charismatic people with great communication skills. That this is so, has its reasons. “Being able to sell” is part of the job description of a commissioned film producer. But just as a gigantic flat-screen TV doesn’t make a boring video more appealing, words equate to competence.
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If you can’t convince people with your expertise, you won’t produce films with your company and won’t stay in business for long. But how, symbolically speaking, can the other competencies that are really relevant to success be identified during the first contact after working through the standard list (showreel, research, target budget)?
The competence to recognize incompetence
This article lists, in no weighted order and without any claim to completeness, a selection of other important criteria that can be of importance when searching for film production companies and video makers, in addition to showreel and reputation.
Problem solving skills
Every film is a project. Every project brings surprises. Pleasant and not so pleasant. If the project risks have already been carefully evaluated and discussed at the start of the project, or even better parallel to the conception and with the setting of the project parameters, then different scenarios are already available for each case (at least mentally). Those who are really at home in the project business, like filmmakers and video artists, master the scenario technique in their sleep. See also: How many decisions does a film or video need.
A problem can never be solved in only one way. Anyone who says that either hasn’t looked at options or is incapable of doing so. Arguments like “That’s just how it’s done…” or “There’s just no other way” do not show competence, but are usually nothing more than cheap excuses. In film production and in the production of videos, regardless of whether it is a feature film or an image video, it is the same as in life: complex problems can rarely be solved with one-dimensional solutions.
Those who are well versed in their profession are not (or only rarely) afraid to share their experience and expertise with colleagues and customers, but are usually happy about every exchange and every chance to put their own experience to the test. Every great film is a universe and every product film is a bespoke shoe. Every film and every video is the sum of a multitude of different experiences of the creators. Whether logically argued or openly declared as a gut feeling: experience is an invaluable decision-making aid at all stages of the value chain for moving image production.
Having a wealth of experience means having experienced a lot. Those who have experienced a lot always have the power of experience. However, those who use their experience to unsettle others involved in a project, whether for negotiation reasons or to strengthen their ego and their own position of power in a film team, weaken themselves (see also the Filmpuls article 5 Deadly Sins for Producers and Production Managers in Film). Film work is always teamwork. No matter whether CEO videos, an image film or advertising videos are realized. Every experience is the sum of the work of a multitude of people. It is only through comparison with other points of view that one’s own experience is freed from subjectivity and becomes truly valuable.
You either have talent or you don’t. Talent has nothing to do with justice or competence in the true sense of the word. Talent cannot be determined by democratic votes or given as an honorary position. One of the truest definitions of talent comes from old Goethe: the talent of the artist, according to the prince of poets, is the power to create “the inexpressible”.
Even if Ed Wood and many crude B-movies are cult today, there is only one thing unspeakable about these works: the absence of artistic talent. What may pass for wacky entertainment in a work of art like “Attack of the Lederhosen Zombies” has the opposite effect in the genre of commissioned films: the viewer immediately senses the intention of the sender in films that have been “nailed together” by the director and screwed into a plot by the editor in the editing room. And acknowledges the talentless assault on his wallet and intelligence with the strongest possible consumer remedy: denial.
The more controlled a communication wish is to be transported, the greater the number of specialists required for this. A specialist, the name says it, cannot be a generalist. The generalist who would (theoretically) know everything would no longer be a generalist, but a specialist. Regardless of whether they are specialists or generalists, one thing remains the same among professional exponents of both genres: the awareness that one cannot know everything. Only the ability to admit to oneself and to the world that one is not Superman, but also just a human being, shows the professional handling of expertise and competences. Because: gaps in knowledge that are actively named can be filled.
If there is an unwillingness to learn something new (or even worse: if the inability to update one’s knowledge dominates) it becomes difficult. Technical revolutions have always swept the industry like tsunamis (from silent film to sound film, from analog film to video to digital video). The disruption is far from over. Constantly acquiring new specialist knowledge is also becoming a recipe for success in moving image communication. Anyone who says otherwise is either clairvoyant or has little sense. In auteur filmmaking, there was a longstanding argument about the “poor films well” claim made by one journalist. What is indisputable is that Dumm does not film well, but at random. And most movies are too expensive for that.
Fascinating and astonishing as the innovations may be, technology in film, like text in language, is only ever the means to an end. Without a doubt, technology needs a fair amount of competence. However, technology is first and foremost used to transport information and emotions. Therefore, good producers and production companies always have an explainable, comprehensible reason for using a technical means of production.
If you only talk about competence in the technical field and about the possibilities of technology, you are focusing on the wrong priorities as a producer. Granted: There are videos and impact goals that only become actionable thanks to technology. In-depth knowledge in this area is desired, required and necessary. After all, images and sound have to be digitally processed after editing, not to mention the possibilities of 2D and 3D animation. However, if a producer places too much emphasis on his technical knowledge, he quickly risks the suspicion that he is trying to conceal a lack of content or dramaturgical knowledge. Netflix cinematographerAdrian Teijido explains in an interview that’s worth reading, “The best advice I can give a young cinematographer is try to free yourself from technique and think as a storyteller.”
To be fair, however, it must also be said that it is not only in the area of film and video formats that a Babylonian mishmash of terms prevails. In this respect, the following applies not only to the film itself, but also to the processes and words associated with its production: asking questions and looking closely prevents misunderstandings.
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