How much does a film cost?

Posted by Nick Francis
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Creating content costs less than ever. New technology has put the power of production studios in our mobile phones. We are all savvier than ever about how a film goes together. You have everything you need to create and share content right now. Even for professionally produced content these advances have fed a drastic reduction in the time and cost of creating a like-for-like piece of work over the last decade or so.

That having been said, in order to ‘cut through’ to our audience online we should be sharing more content than we ever have before – so it’s just as well it’s cheaper. Because of this there has been a significant move towards getting as much mileage as possible out of all the content that we create. ‘Content atomisation’ – taking the central piece of content and then reediting and repurposing it to maximise the mileage. The cost of each output has fallen, even if the cost of the overall project is often the same.

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How much does a film cost?

This is one of the most common questions people ask. There are a few different ways of answering it but to save beating around the bush, the simplest answer is that an average Casual Films project for the financial year to 2019 was $18k in the US and £15k in the UK/EU.

The key word there though is project, as often these can entail a number of different outputs and reedits. More usually we will create a series of films that cost more in the $/£60k -100k region. Some projects extend into the hundreds of thousands, but these tend to be many outputs in one.

What’s the reason for the average film value?

Because at around $18k/£15k we begin to be able to add significant value to the project with our proprietary production process. Our pricing is defined by the amount of time that it takes to create each project. Different roles in the process cost differing amounts depending on their experience, expertise and impact on the project. At this budgetary level there is enough budget for two or three days of creative - to get a great idea - some producer time to make it all happen, a day or two to shoot it and then editing, sound design and some animation if necessary. They will be able to create something fairly sparkly, as long as they don't need to work around too many fixed costs - travel, talent, specialist equipment.

What’s the cheapest film we can make?

The lowest that we tend to start a project is around $/£8k, although if we have an existing relationship then we can and do go a little lower. We tend to not compete for projects at the really low end because there are lots of smaller producers and freelancers out there who do a decent job at this level. We’re not able to add the same value we are when the projects have a little room for a bit more creative thought and sparkle.

As a rule, if this is your first question we’re probably not the right company for you. We compete on being able to create things happen for your business with video – optimising for return on investment rather than being as cheap as possible.

Can you work to my budget?

The process of filmmaking is creative, so the budget becomes an additional constraint that the creative thinking needs to work around – like the timeframe, branding or specific messaging. Because of this, it can be extremely flexible – it’s possible to fulfil the same objectives for significantly different investment levels. On the other hand, quality, in-depth thinking and delivery take time, and time costs money. If you need to shoot in a number of different locations or include significant amounts of complex animation these are hard costs which are challenging to work around.

Promoting your content

For years, there has been a disconnect between where marketing money gets spent and where the real potential lies. In studies, researchers have found that the quality of creative messaging is responsible for up to 75% of a campaign’s success. In spite of this, as much as 90% of the overall spend is often still focused on the media budget.

"75% of a campaign’s effectiveness is defined by the quality of the creative messaging"

- Google

Traditional television marketing became so successful largely because of how strong the metrics that were available to support it were. One of the major challenges that online content has faced over the years is the challenge of showing direct causation between money spent and the return on that investment.

But this isn’t necessarily about spending more money on marketing than you already are. Creating and executing a comprehensive and effective content strategy can be about redistributing the money you’re already investing. Why, for example, are you spending hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars on the production of TV commercials when the vast majority of your audience watch them for the first time as a small image on their Facebook feed, momentarily pausing before scrolling onwards, and paying very little attention to them?


We'd love to talk to you about this or anything in the production process. Drop us a line or send us an email: projects@casualfilms.com to book a call back with one of our producers.

Topics: Production process, Being a better commissioner, How-to, Project management

What is a story and why do they matter to communicators?

Posted by Nick Francis
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“Story Story Story”

- Sir Ridley Scott, one of the greatest living filmmakers/storytellers, opening the New Directors’ Showcase at the Cannes Lions in 2018.

Stories are all around us. We use them to entertain, to amuse and to inform. They also form the underpinnings of nations, companies, families, teams and even money. Storytelling has become a buzzword in corporate communications. A search of LinkedIn finds that nearly 800,000 people describe themselves as storytellers, or list storytelling as a skill. But there is good reason for this.

Stories are central to how we define our reality. They define belonging, and the concept of ‘them’ and ‘us’. This is because every cultural arrangement relies (no matter how loosely) on a shared set of understandings. This makes an understanding of stories essential for those interested in creating and strengthening cultures of any kind.

What is a story?

Simply put, a story is an encapsulation of cause and effect. Our brains link facts – A leads to B, B leads to C, and so on. This gives rise to the three-act structure: the ingredients, the reaction and the outcome. The reason this is a more effective form of communication than just giving facts is that it mirrors how our brains have evolved to process information.

Story structure activates the brain in a way that simple facts do not:

“Don’t drink the water, it’s not safe” isn’t as memorable as... 

“Sarah drank from that smelly stream, and she has been in bed, writhing in agony, ever since.”

When we hear the facts linked as a story, we can’t help but visualise Sarah’s experience. This creates an emotional reaction over and above the simple facts and embeds it into our brains. Because of this, information relayed as a story is far more likely to be remembered than the same information shared as bare facts.

Conflict is essential to great stories…

Good stories are about conflict; they include a degree of jeopardy in the achievement of the effect or outcome (i.e. A plus B could lead to C, but it could also lead to D, E or F). The greater this unpredictability or jeopardy, the more powerful the emotional connection, and therefore the greater the impact of the story.

This gives nearly all great stories a recognisable structure. Look at any of the great myths – ancient or modern – and you’ll find the personable figure of the underdog, who sets out against great odds to achieve a significant (and almost unattainable) goal. In doing so, they enhance themselves and grow. In his excellent book Into the Woods, renowned screenwriter John Yorke examines the mechanics behind story structure. He argues that, while the subject of the story (the protagonist) might not get what they initially wanted, they achieve the thing that they actually needed, and that is far more valuable.

The reason for the success of this type of structure is that it mirrors an insecurity that lies at the heart of all human beings. Built within our psyches is the belief that we are the underdog facing the challenges of the world. Different types of stories resonate with different target audiences, but the underdog against the world resonates with us all.

John Yorke Into the Woods Casual Films

Story and Memory

The paradox of the online world is that, while it has never been easier to reach an audience, it’s still difficult to connect with them. There is so much noise in modern communications, but great stories give you the opportunity to reach past your audience’s overstimulated heads and reach their hearts. Emotive stories do this. Used effectively, they enable you to get people to take note and remember what you want them to.

The facts that stories lace with emotional connections become far more memorable. Bear with me here… In the early days of Casual, I used to go to breakfast networking groups, to meet and learn from other entrepreneurs. At one meeting, the topic of the conversation was, “What makes great customer service?” As we went around the table, the various business owners present gave their two-cents’ worth: “Well, I think it’s about sharing my mobile phone number and then not letting it ring more than twice when they call” and “I think it’s about sending a card for your clients’ birthdays”. Each business owner took their turn to give their ideas. When it came to me, I had a story about something that had happened recently and was fresh in my mind.

“A good client of ours rang our office at 4pm on a Tuesday afternoon. They had a very important pitch, and, for one reason or another, the film that they had been waiting for from their internal video department hadn’t come. She told me that the pitch started the next morning at 9am, and it would be severely compromised without the video. I told her not to worry and that if it was humanly possible, we would get it done. Four of us stayed and worked until 2.30am, finished the film and sent it over to her. She played it and they ended up winning the business. “This is what I think is good client service.”

About a year later, I was at a conference and I introduced myself to one of the other delegates. I was slightly taken aback when he said, “I know you; you’re the guys who are really good at client service.” He had been at that networking group, and had heard the story I shared. It had stuck in his mind long after the associated facts of the rest of the group had faded. I’m telling you this to illustrate the enduring nature of information that has been made to resonate with a broader narrative.

Making the intangible tangible – brand, values and the ‘foundation myth’

The previous example illustrates another key asset of stories in the business context: they allow the communicator to make relatively intangible ideas – such as customer service, brand or values – tangible. It can be challenging to communicate what is meant by an abstract brand slogan. If the communicator builds that definition out with a story, it gives it a form and context that is accessible and ‘sticky’ (or memorable). In this example, the relatively abstract concept of ‘customer service’ is given a clear form through a simple story.

Apple Big Brother 1984 Casual Films

Apple’s iconic Think Different’ slogan is perfectly encapsulated by Ridley Scott’s equally iconic 1984 commercial for the launch of the original Mac computer (even though the slogan itself didn’t feature for the company until 1997). The spot features hundreds of drone-like, monochrome men in boiler suits all captivated by a large, Big-Brother-esque face on a screen in front of them. From the back of the room, a young woman in running kit, including red shorts, runs in and hurls a large hammer at the screen, destroying it. It ends with a voiceover saying, “Find out why 1984 is not going to be like 1984” – a clear, if implicit, punch at the established order represented by IBM. Anyone who saw that ad could see the essence of what Apple stood for then and what it continues to stand for now. To explain what was meant by the slogan could have taken many hundreds, if not thousands, of words, but video allows it to be captured and understood simply, in a handful of seconds.

This attribute makes the format really useful for internal/employer communications. Every company now has a set of values, which it expects its staff to live their working lives by. These values are far more effectively communicated through a story than a slogan. A value with a story becomes a behaviour. A behaviour is easier for the employee to understand and act on. Saying, “This is what we mean by excellent customer service, integrity, give more, etc.” is a great way to get staff to exhibit those values. Video is an effective way of illustrating these stories to them.

The powerfully aligning nature of narrative is part of the reason that foundation myths hold such a powerful sway in the business world. Yes, the company may now be a global behemoth, but, once upon a time, it was just a small group of people with an idea and a desire to go against the system. These founders faced almost impossible odds (conflict/jeopardy) but overcame them with guile and a belief that what they were doing was right. No matter how large and successful the company becomes, there will always be the underlying narrative, which can be mythologised, and used to engage and motivate staff and other stakeholders.


If you find this interesting check out Nick's book: The New Fire - Harness the Power of Video for Your Business. You can preorder it hereNew Fire Book Image

 

Topics: Being a better commissioner, How-to, Content Strategy

Using Data to Inform Your Content

Posted by Nick Francis
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“The biggest difference between Don Draper and now is data.”
– Keith Weed, Chief Marketing and Communications Officer, Unilever


Not long ago, to get any kind of information on a target market, marketers needed to send out surveys or run focus groups. This made the process extremely heavy. For example, the census that the US government runs every 10 years takes several years to compile. This means that all the information it contains is out of date before anyone gets their hands on the latest copy. This has all changed now that the number of smart devices in circulation has exploded. We track how many steps we take, the places we visit and web searches effortlessly. There is also a huge amount of data accessible to video marketers. We can use this to create content that we know your target audience will want to engage with. This makes the understanding and use of data an extremely important tool for video marketers.

Netflix, House of Cards and Big Data

Netflix shows just how far companies can go when using data to inform the types of content it shares. Its flagship series, House of Cards, is a massive hit with its subscribers, with 86% saying that they were less likely to cancel their subscription because of the show, according to a survey by Cowan and Company. Back in 2011, the company took the massive step of commissioning two series of the show in one go, 26 episodes, for over US$100 million – US$3.8 million an episode, without seeing a single one!

  • Is that bravery or foolhardiness? It was actually a careful calculation based on big data. Before making the decision, it knew a number of key relevant facts about its users:
    A significant number of users had watched the whole of the David Fincher directed movie The Social Network.
  • The original British version of House of Cards had been well watched.
  • People who watched the British version of House of Cards also
    watched Kevin Spacey films and/or films directed by David Fincher.

This allowed it to make a judgement call that the new series was worth its investment. Having this information also allows it to target users with other content that they might like. It’s also able to see who is at risk of giving up their subscription by seeing how much they have been using it over the past month.

Why does this matter to you?

Obviously, Netflix is in a strong position as it’s able to directly track how its subscribers access its services on a person-by-person basis. There are ways that you can use data without having quite such an in-depth view, though. For example, A/B testing a number of different creative treatments/video names/thumbnail images before choosing the one that resonates most successfully with our audience is a form of data optimisation we should all be doing.

Beyond this, you can see in greater depth than you might at first glance. You have access to a surprising amount of data if you choose to. Many of the clients I’ve worked with in the past haven’t been able to make the most of the data they could be collecting. This is usually because of concerns around hosting and data security. There are some very powerful platforms that can host video securely, giving access to in-depth information, but it requires the clients making a choice to utilise them. This has been an argument that we’ve lost more often than not.

Given this fact and the natural limitations that you’ll have when you first start using data, it’s important that you don’t give up on the experience and intuition of your team/suppliers. Data can provide a grounding for decisions, but it’s important that you weigh the information up and make a rational choice based on what you have. Data can give you the insight that will help you to optimise your product and improve your value proposition. You just need to look at what you have access to and how this can help you.

Challenges to Data

The quality of the decisions you’re able to make as a result of a piece of data is only ever going to be as good or reliable as the underlying data itself. Because of this, you need make sure that you can trust all of the data that you include. As we’ll see, the seemingly unstoppable rise of data has, to an extent, been checked by a number of setbacks.

There are a few shortcomings of the data-led approach, which mean that those nice luvvies in the creative department shouldn’t be sweating too much just yet. Firstly, while all that data can undoubtedly be used to improve the background understanding that informs a creative idea, the information still needs human creative thought to establish the idea itself. Secondly, by becoming too data-centric, there is a danger that you end up travelling down a creative rabbit hole, only ever producing variations on the same work you’ve done in the past, because that’s where your best/safest dataset is. Finally, you need to be certain that the data is telling you what you think it is. For example, the most commonly tracked video data is views and engagements – shares, likes and comments. While it might be good for your self-esteem to know that your video has had over 1 million views since you shared it, it’s not going to help with your strategy if all of those people are either bots or from the wrong target group. The more trustworthy detail that you can get, the more useful data will be as a tool.

Oath Storytellers and Chevrolet - Case study

As the number of data points available to content commissioners increases, they are able to use the data points to make ever-more-insightful observations about the types of content you should be producing for a given audience. This is particularly true for businesses – such as publishers (The Wall Street Journal, Condé Nast, CNN, etc.) – that have built up a wealth of data from the past work that they have shared.

Take Oath – formerly Yahoo! – for example. It has over a billion monthly users. Each of those users’ actions is tracked, which builds up a picture of their online habits. Oath suggests that it receives and records 4 trillion data signals per month. This breadth of information allows it to judge what will and won’t be successful for certain demographics.

Going There Anna GasteyerOath for Chrysler - Going There with Anna Gasteyer

For example, Oath’s content studio was commissioned to produce a series to promote family cars for Chrysler. From its data, it was able to tell that, of its users who were in the market for a family car, 51% were female, 73% were married and 70% had children. It also knew that millennial parents/ expecting parents using Oath were 46% more likely to agree that they like the same products that celebrities use. It also knew that comedy was their favourite genre. Through all of this information, it was able to understand the type of content that would work best for the target audience, and create a series of comedy in-car interviews called Going There with Anna Gasteyer. Supporting this, it had a digital site with a variety of supporting content aimed at enticing mums, based on the search terms it knew they used. This led to increases in the click-through rate (+33%), purchase intent (+6%) and brand trust (+5%) among the target audience.


One really useful use of data is in understanding what the best lengths for video are online. We pulled together the best information into a white paper to help you maximise the impact of your work. You can download it right here.

 

Topics: Production process, Being a better commissioner, How-to, Content Strategy

A chat about The New Fire - Harness the Power of Video for your Business

Posted by Nick Francis
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Co-founder Nick seems to be in a marginally better mood recently, probably because he has finally finished his book: The New Fire - Harness the Power of Video for Your Business. Here we ask him a few questions to give you an idea of what to expect.

If you would like to purchase a copy, please follow this link. Firstly, they're almost certain to sell out (Bezos is rubbing his hands together in anticipation of the launch already). Secondly, as an early registerer you might win a free copy! So, what are you waiting for! 

Anyway...

Why is the book called The New Fire?

Video is the New Fire for a couple of reasons:

Firstly, fire and storytelling have always been closely linked. Using fire enabled us to get the nutrition required from our food to grow our brains, enabling us to have thoughts that focused beyond the immediate – why are sabre-toothed tigers so… bitey?’, rather than simply ‘that sabre-toothed tiger is going to eat me, I need to run away now.’. It also lengthened the day, which gave us the time to use our newly enhanced brains to think abstractly and construct abstract narratives - to tell stories. This is why storytelling is such an effective means of communication. Our brains literally evolved to make sense of information through them.

 

saber-tooth-catSabre-toothed tiger - rather 'bitey'


Secondly, I’ve always liked the metaphor of video as fire. They exhibit many similar qualities. Used effectively, it can be sustaining, providing energy and power for your cause. It can ‘light a fire’ in your audience’s hearts and minds. Get it wrong and it can burn, damage and potentially kill you. In the online space, video spreads rapidly, enlightening or burning as it goes. Often with world changing ferocity. A fire of its time – the shocking LAPD/Rodney King case in the early ‘90s captured global attention because it was recorded for all to see. Now cameras are everywhere and distribution is immediate we all have that capability to create fire in our hands right now. Video has moved from being in the hands of the few, the privileged, who used it to broadcast their message, to being in the hands of the many – more or less everyone – who can use it to narrowcast to the few. This has huge ramifications for all of us, particularly business communicators.

This is why the Technological Revolution has allowed video to fully come of age. After 400 millennia fire was only harnessed with the Industrial Revolution and the invention of the steam and internal combustion engines. These transformed it from being a relatively raw asset – providing heat and light – and channelled it to power rapid advancement. This is the headspace that we need to be in when considering what video can do for us as modern communicators.

 

Why did you write this book?

I wrote the New Fire because this evolution has happened so fast that even for those working in the industry, it can feel pretty overwhelming to get your head around. I wanted to help people to make sense of it by breaking down what video is, how it has evolved and what this means for businesses and brands.

I also read a lot of business books and am yet to find a comprehensive account of brand video. There are ‘how to do it yourself’ books, there are books that look at marketing generally, there are very technical books which breakdown strategy. I haven’t yet found one that focuses specifically on corporate video. This has traditionally been a bit of a back water but this ignores the drastic evolution that has happened over the last decade. The UK government’s Independent Review of the Creative Industries published in 2017 didn’t include brand/corporate video content as a category, it didn’t even mention it. This is an estimated $8 billion global industry!

There are thousands of companies that have grown up over the last decade, producing stunning work for global businesses. As a member of this thriving industry, I wanted to represent the changes that have happened and to help both parties to get more from the relationship. 

 

Who should read this book? 

  1. Senior executives who want to understand more about using video content to engage staff, explain/promote products/launch or build a brand. The New Fire breaks down the assets that make video such a valuable tool so that you can think, speak plan around it from a position of understanding. From conversations with clients, senior execs and others working in the industry, I realised that there is often a bit of a knowledge gap between video practitioners, who tend to be a bit more clued up, and their bosses. This book specifically addresses that gap.
  1. Corporate/brand video commissioners who want to understand how to work more effectively with third party producers. The book breaks down each phase of the commissioning process from writing an effective brief and defining your audience to producing a cohesive content strategy.
  1. Marketers who want more detail on how and why one of the most potent tools in their armoury is just that. This book will help you to use it more effectively, improving returns from your campaigns.
  1. Recruitment/HR/Employer Brand professionals who want to understand how to use video to attract, recruit and motivate staff.
  1. Video producers/production companies/filmmakers working in business video who understand the process but might like a little more context.

 

What is it about?

The last ten years have seen a revolution in the way that video is used. Broadband Internet, DSLRs, camera phones, virals, YouTube, YouTubers, 3G, 4G, drones, consumer editing programmes, virtual reality, 360, augmented reality, interactive, all these things and more have completely changed video from the unidirectional tool for the privileged and put it in the hands of the masses. The most powerful communications tool yet invented can be used effectively. This has drastic implications for all of us, but it significantly changes the communications landscape for business. The pace of change has been such that to work in the way that many companies do, is to under realise the potential of this awesome platform.

The businesses that have realised the potential are creating huge value. Look at Red Bull. Okay, this may seem like an obvious example to use, but bear with me. They have created a whole brand media infrastructure which generates value for the core brand in a way that is indiscernible from the brand value of their core product. Every time someone sees a young lunatic heading off a jump upside down at 60 mph, they are reminded of Red Bull’s brand promise – that it ‘gives you wings.' 

josh-sheehan-red-bull-x-fighters-madrid-double-backflip

Obviously, if you’re an accountancy firm, or a bank, motorbike backflips aren’t necessarily going to chime with your brand. But if you understand who your target audience area and what makes them tick and then see where that intersects with what you stand for as a brand, you can get a huge amount of value from using video. That could be in direct ways – increasing sales by explaining your products or recruiting better staff – or less direct ways – like improving brand perception which ultimately sells more and allows you to charge more. However it’s used, the potential to build brand value is such, that businesses need to think about their content production as an additional product. This means that businesses need to think like broadcasters. They need to have a specific plan to deliver value for the business through content production. Whether they like it or not, they have a content channel and their audience expect them to use it, because if they don’t their competitors already will be. The New Fire breaks down how to do exactly that. 

 

Why is purpose such a valuable resource for content creators?

Using your business purpose as the cornerstone of your content is the best way to create impactful work. Having an anchor point which all of your creative can be linked back to also ensures that the content that you share through your ‘channel’ is coherent and relevant to your brand.

Business purpose has been such a hot topic over the last few years, underlined by Simon Sinek’s excellent book – Start with Why – “people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it”. (Check out his extremely popular TED talk.There are lots of reasons to have a purpose beyond the simple profit motive.  For one, it’s a really effective way of improving engagement among your employees. You should think of your purpose as your company’s ‘North Star’, the idea or principle which can be used to inform every decision that you make. This makes it a powerfully aligning element for any business. It is hugely valuable externally too. Because it is your North Star, all of your content should have your company purpose woven into it. This can happen naturally if you feature members of your staff who are often the manifestation of your values. In other instances, it might be necessary to be more explicit in understanding how a project’s creative concept links back. 

Doesn’t mean that all your content should be about your purpose, but it should fit within the same orbit. To look at the Red Bull example earlier, their purpose can be summarised as: we give people the energy and inspiration to fulfil their dreams. For the MotoXer, that might be to try to kill themselves (sorry – do massive backflips) but it can be equally relevant to helping conceptual artists to create their art. This gives them a huge amount of space to create work which reinforces what they stand for as a brand. ‘People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.’ 

Once you have clarified this you can create content which allows your audience to decide whether your values align with their own. If they do, then you will be on your way to building them into being fans and ultimately raving fans – the people who do your selling for you. I’ve oversimplified there, but creating content of this nature, which is very light touch on the selling side is one of the best ways of building a resilient and ultimately profitable following online. 

Errr… why have you written a book about video?

Ha – I wrote a book for two reasons.

Firstly, it’s essential to understand your audience and the way that they consume information. This book is for people who come in contact with video within their business and want to know more. According to Inc magazine, most senior execs read 4-5 books per month. I wanted to communicate them in the format that they would be most comfortable.

Secondly, video is an excellent communications medium, but it’s not perfect for everything. There is a huge amount of information in there and I wanted people to be able to take the book, read it, peruse it and refer to it whenever they need to brush up on something. Want to understand the power of purpose? It’s in there. Need to set a budget? It’s in there? Want to know the difference between psychographic and demographic audience segmentation? It’s in there. Whatever it is, I’ve tried to make the information as accessible and as easy to refer to as possible.

I am looking at producing more video around it, but it turns out that writing a book takes up quite a lot of time!


You can read more about the New Fire and purchase your very own copy here: www.newfirebook.com

 

Topics: Being a better commissioner, How-to, Purpose driven video, News, Content Strategy

Producer Felicia's Dos and Don'ts of filming in the extreme cold

Posted by Nick Francis
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Time, tide and shooting schedules wait for no man nor woman nor icy blasts. So said no-one. Ever.

With this in mind, this week Felicia and some of the team travelled to an absolutely freezing (-23ºF/-35ºC) Chicago. As every day is a school day at Casual Films - and because you never know when such things might be helpful - here we share some of the dos and don'ts of shooting in the Arctic winter.

Do work with a top notch crew. The more things you can depend on the better. Particularly when the hotel door lets you down too...

9076deee-10c4-45ea-b64b-15c0dfbc0c41-2

Don't trust that your flight will get you to Chicago during a Polar Vortex. Felicia had 2 tickets booked on 2 separate airlines, just in case.

Do have a safety briefing before the crew starts for the day. Crew safety above all else.

Don't panic when the - decidedly not top notch - snow removal guy quits at 5 am on the morning of the shoot.

Do hire a different snow remover guy who was better, friendlier and cheaper than the original guy was any way.

Don't tell your mom where you are or what you're doing because she will worry and ask you to text her every night when you're back at the hotel (true story).

Do make sure you keep hands, ears and batteries warm before use. Cold drastically reduces their operating time, particularly the batteries.

WhatsApp Image 2019-01-31 at 15.40.08Do hire as many powerful lights as possible in an attempt to make it look and feel sunny inside.

Don't touch bare metal without gloves on - you've seen Dumb and Dumber right?

Do check the minimal operational temperature of the equipment you're using, realise you're well below what it's supposed to be able to handle and embrace the fact there is only so much you can do when it comes to outsmarting Mother Nature.

She will always always win. But you might just get what you need from your shoot before she does.


If you're unsure about how to light and film a house in the freezing cold of the Northern Arctic winter, or a street near you, you can book a call with an excellent producer, like our very own Felicia, by clicking right here.

Topics: Production process, Being a better commissioner, How-to

YouTube’s content structure: Hero, Hub and Hygiene/Help

Posted by Nick Francis
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In the same way that traditional broadcast channels have schedules and different types of programming for different audiences/time of day, so can your business. You don’t necessarily need the same breadth of programmes that they have. But it is worth thinking considering how your audience interacts with the different content that you create or curate.

A few years ago now the helpful people at Youtube published their guide for content planning. This defined three different types of video which reflect the different ways audiences access content online. They called this structure: Hero, Hub and Hygiene.

Hero Hub Help-1The hero, hub and hygiene/help content structure

YouTube realised that the user is drawn into an online video channel in one of two separate ways – they either see something that catches their eye, which gets them to click on it and watch it, or they type in a search term to find out about something that they are specifically looking for. Once on the channel, they should be encouraged to subscribe. From then on, they are sent notifications when the channel is updated with new material; this leads to the necessity of regular magazine-type content. These different types of content give rise to what they have termed hero, hub and hygiene/help.

Hero

This is the really eye-catching, click-bait stuff. It is more akin to traditional TV advertising as a type. This is where you ‘go big’ to raise awareness of your brand and the other content you are sharing. It is often ‘chunked’ or divided into shorter clips or images, and used as a promotion for the channel itself in banners on other sites. Because of this, its purpose is to catch the audience’s eye with the concept, image or title as they browse elsewhere. They then click on the link and are drawn into watching the video, before being served the other content hosted on the channel.

Deutsche Bank - Agile Minds-1

Deutsche Bank: Agile Minds - hero content is not necessarily about spending lots of money

Hub

This is the ongoing magazine-type material. This should be updated regularly with the goal of getting the audience to check back in to see what the latest show is. This is designed to be ‘pushed’ out to existing subscribers; this means that they will receive a notification when there is some new material for them to have a look at. They then click on this and revisit your channel.

Marriott - Wandernaut Show 01

The Marriott Wandernaut Show

This animated series was shared internally to allow staff to hear from key leaders and keep up to date with what was going on across the business. These films gave staff members a reason to check back in and be involved in the company channel.

Hygiene/Help 

Tesco - Lighting

Classic help content: How to Light a Room for Tesco

This is the content that people actually search for – how-tos, guides and instructions. This type of content is designed to pull users into your channel through search results. Initially, YouTube called this ‘hygiene’ because it is about things that people need to do. They since changed this to ‘help’, because that better reflects what it is/does.

How they work together

By using the three different types to complement one another, it is possible to draw an ever-increasing number of subscribers into your channel – an initial goal of any channel operator. How this works can be seen in the following diagram:

Hero Hub HygieneHow it works: building an audience with the hero, hub and hygiene/help content structure

Your audience find Help content by searching for key words or phrases. This leads to a gradually increasing number of subscribers. Having subscribed they continue to be able to access the Hub or magazine style content you share. Additionally, tentpole Hero content is pushed out drawing larger numbers of viewers back onto the channel. These videos cause the viewer numbers to spike, with subscriber numbers increasing proportionately. You then continue to build trust with your subscribers by sharing content which they genuinely like and value. We'll look at that in more depth next time.


Whatever you are trying to achieve with your content. Whether you want to create a simple how-to or a multistage campaign, it's essential to set off on the right foot. To help you to do this, we created our guide to help you create briefs which are better thought out, clearer and more likely to get you the result you're after. Click here to download it:

DOWNLOAD BETTER BRIEFS 

Topics: Increase brand awareness and appeal, Being a better commissioner, How-to, Content Strategy

What are the roles in video production?

Posted by Nick Francis
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There are a number of different people/roles involved in the production process. We’ve included this brief list so that you can keep up with whom is responsible for what. Each company may work in a slightly different way, but the responsibilities are more or less the same. Nearlyall of these functions are needed on every production – even if they are all performed by the same person. Larger budgets allow for more time, and more time allows for more people.

Just producingA producer, just y'know producin'

Preproduction

Creative/scriptwriter

The creative comes up with the main idea (or ideas) and then creates the initial proposal document, which will help you understand exactly what you’re getting. This may include the mood board (a collection of images that give an idea of what the project will look like), the storyboard (a shot by shot – usually drawn – illustration of the structure of the video) and any additional references that might be necessary.

He/she also writes and refines the script.

Producer

The producer is the organiser. He/she is responsible for bringing together all of the elements required for the production. He/she is the lynchpin 

in that they are responsible for making sure that the film is delivered on brief, on budget and on time. As part of this, he/she will pull together the project costing and schedule, which will be added into the initial proposal document at the outset of the project. He/she will also be responsible for all the bookings for the project, from crew, equipment and onscreen talent to travel. He/she is usually the main point of contact for the client throughout the process.

Production

Director

The director is responsible for the artistic vision of the project. He/she works with the script and the producer to plan the execution of the shoot. On set, he/she will have a clear idea of what he/she wants the finished film to look like, and will coral the rest of the team to achieve this. The days of the ‘auteur’ film director – one who will happily trample over anyone to achieve, with a distinctive, unshakeable vision – are happily behind us. Most good directors now – in particular, those in the fast-moving world of brand films – are able to think on their feet, lead a team and use an in-depth understanding of their craft to adapt to the world around them.

A director directingA director, watching a live-feed from the camera to make sure all is in order. Well, that or Netflix.

Director of photography (DoP) / cinematographer

The DoP is responsible for the camera / camera team and the way each shot looks. This means that he/she will often operate the camera (shoot the film) and do the lighting on set. Usually, having a separate DoP is reserved for larger productions.

Self-shooting director

Casual Films self-shooting director

As technology has become easier to use and budgets have shrunk, it has become more common for a director to play the role of the DoP at the same time. This leads to them being referred to as a self-shooting director. Self shooting directors now tend to shoot the majority of online videos.

Camera assistant / focus puller

The camera assistant is responsible for looking after the camera and lenses. He/she is also responsible for marking distances and keeping the shot in focus. (Only used with more high-end or DSLR cameras.)

Focus puller, DoP, Dolly GripA panoply of roles! In L-R order - camera assistant/focus puller, DoP and dolly grip who is responsible for operating the dolly, which is what the trolley the car sits on is called.

Sound recordist

Erm, they record the sound. They can make all the difference to a production that has been shot in a noisy location. He/she is most likely to say, “Can someone turn that air conditioning off?”, and is least likely to say, “Don’t worry, we can get rid of that police siren in post.”

First assistant director (AD)

The first AD is responsible for helping the director to achieve his/her vision. He/she is the one who keeps the production running to time and makes sure that everything is in the right place at the right time. When used, he/ she is the director’s mouthpiece on set. (Only used on larger productions.)

Gaffer

He/she is responsible for the crew who set and move all of the lighting. If there isn't additional crew present, they will roll their sleeves up and move the lighting themselves. (Only used on larger productions.)

Grip

He/she is responsible for mounting, positioning and moving the camera the camera (if equipment is being used). (Only used on larger productions.)

Grip workSome classic grip work

Spark

The electrician. Lots of production lighting requires huge amounts of power. To keep things working/safe, it’s necessary to have a professional spark.

Postproduction

Editor

The editor is responsible for ‘finding the film’. They watch all of the shots, and then select the ones that he/she feels best tell the story that was outlined and agreed on in the preproduction stage. He/she will also have a significant hand in the impact of the finished film. It’s amazing how important the editor is to the quality of the final film. Often, a poorly edited film can terrify on first viewing, only to be completely turned around once someone who knows what they are doing has taken the reins. 

36520007Dan, an editor in his natural environment

Animator / motion graphic artist

Animators bring 2D illustrations, 3D models and inanimate objects to life. He/she is skilled at imbuing inanimate objects with the movement required to generate emotional connections with the audience. He/she may also be responsible for creating the design and storyboards for the animations.

 

Paper animatingRaych doing a little table top animation

Dubbing mixer / sound engineer

The dubbing mixer / soundie sorts out all of the audio levels in the final video, and adds any sound effects and audio flourishes. These play the important role of tying the audio and video together. The sound engineer will also make sure that the music that has been chosen fits to the edit/ animation perfectly.

Colourist / colour grader

The colourist is responsible for the look of the finished film. Sometimes different shots might look different because of different lighting/colouring during the production – he/she can iron this out. He/she may also stylise the film, which is changing the way the video looks by increasing the contrast between colours or changing the colour saturation (a bit like adding filters on Instagram). While colourists used to work only on larger productions, consumer-accessible grading programs are making this step integral to nearly every production.


We hope that helps. Whatever you are working with all these fine people, it's worth starting out right. You can make sure that you do this, by downloading our guide to writing a briefing document right here:

DOWNLOAD BETTER BRIEFS

Topics: Production process, Being a better commissioner, How-to

Using Interactive Video for Attraction and Recruitment

Posted by Nick Francis
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What is Interactive Video?

Interactive video allows the viewer to choose their own path through the content. It uses a similar methodology to traditional 'choose your own adventure' books. These would allow the reader to read a page and then ask them to choose what should happen next in the story. They were able to do this by flicking to a different page, depending on the desired choice. Interactive video platforms do the same thing, but they automate it, so that all the viewer has to do is click the button they desire and it will lead them through to the next step in the story. This allows the viewer to control their experience.

Why is it useful for recruitment and onboarding?

Interactive video is an extremely useful tool for recruiting and training because it gives the audience more opportunity to find out information on their own terms. It also allows the recruiter to working in tests and gamification which can make for a more valuable, enjoyable and socially sharable experience. Another benefit of interactive, is that it encourages the audience to engage more closely with the content. It is a far more involving experience, which leads to a more proactive response when it is finished.

 Experience a role, company, position

Allianz Global Investors - The Investment Factor

Then there is the benefit of allowing a potential candidate to ‘poke around’ and learn more about your business, the role and what they can expect from the job. This is illustrated by the ‘Investment Factor’ which Casual UK produced for Allianz Global Investors. Allianz GI wanted to help graduates to understand what investment bankers actually do. They also wanted to combat the negative perceptions in the market. 

We made a similar film for ABinBev with recruitment marketing agency, Havas People:

AB InBev's Interactive Culture Fit Tool

This case study video demonstrates the power of interactive to illustrate company culture and what is expected of new joiners early on in their career. Brewer ABinBev commissioned the project in part to combat the number of people who applied for roles with the company and then were shocked to find that every day wasn't spent tasting or drinking beer. 

Both of these videos won Best Interactive at the Recruitment Advertising and Design Awards in London.

Interactive and Virtual Reality (VR) 

One interesting way to use VR is in showing off different areas that your potential employees might end up working. You can see how this might work in this example, which while not strictly recruitment, does a good job of introducing the viewer to the space at the Old Vic Theatre: 

Casual Films - VR Case Study - External

Forgive the fact that this has the same music as the Allianz GI film - we're so cost-effective, we seem to have reused it!

Casual's Top Three Tips for Interactive

1. Have a reason for it being interactive.

Too often commissioners/producers use different production/distribution methods as a crutch for poor storytelling. It is essential that the fact that it is interactive serves what you are trying to communicate. Build it and they will come doesn’t work here. Look at the examples above if you need a little inspiration.

2. Plan, plan, plan. 

Looking at a decision tree, it can be scary how complicated they can be. There are a number of specialist providers who can help you bring the whole thing to life. All you need to do is have a clear plan with a scene list and then shoot each scene as you would if you were making a normal film with a linear narrative. The key is working it all out logically on paper and then, when you’re happy, get going.

3Get to the interactive early. 

It’s useful to establish for the viewer that the video they are watching is actually interactive. Too many interactive videos fall into the trap of having too much establishing material before the viewer gets to make a decision on anything. They know that they are supposed to be making decisions and so get bored quite quickly if they have to wait. It can be something really simple, but get them to engage early and establish the mechanic for the rest of the video.

If you are thinking about creating some interactive video, and we would recommend it, because we love it. Drop us a note on: hello@casualfilms.com and we'd be happy to discuss how to approach it, no strings attached.

 

Topics: Attract and retain the best candidates, Being a better commissioner, How-to, Interactive Video

Attracting and recruiting tech savvy grads with video

Posted by Nick Francis
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It’s a common challenge. All businesses now are tech businesses and so need the best tech savvy talent to survive and thrive. The big problem is that the best talent wants to work for the FAANG companies: Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix, Google. Not only do these companies seem glamorous to a young grad from Birmingham – Alabama or the West Midlands – they have impossibly deep pockets. They put forward a compelling offer – so what should you do?

Avis in the early 1960s was perennially second place in the market. Try as they might, they just couldn’t dislodge Hertz from number one. They turned to advertising agency Doyle Dane Bernbach, who decided that rather than a weakness, their No 2 status was a strength. It meant that they couldn’t afford to be anything other than the best. The ‘We Try Harder’ slogan was born. In the end is ran for 50 years and became the arguably the best challenger marketing campaign ever. It was so successful that for a time, worried Hertz execs joked that Avis would soon have to stop running it, because it would cease to be true. 
 Avis No 2 Manifesto     

At the time, the idea that a company would admit that it was anything other than the best in their market was anathema. It opened the door for a whole new way of thinking about and marketing challengers in the market place – think DDB’s ‘Think Small’ ad for the VW Beetle. If we jump forward to the modern world, the ability of companies to be open about their shortcomings is a valuable part of building trust with your employees. We’re living in the 'Age of Transparency'. They know you’re not perfect, so don’t jeopardise your relationship with them by pretending you are. Fess up to the reality. Through this you can capitalise on the opportunity that is open to you.

Your Greatest Weakness is your Greatest Strength 

 

“Every adversity brings with it the seed of an equivalent advantage”

- Napoleon Hill

 

In his classic book, Think and Grow Rich, Napoleon Hill tells the story of his deaf-mute son, Blair. He was examined by a wide range of doctors and hearing specialists, all of whom told him that he would never be able to hear. This was the early 20th century, so hearing aids, support, even normal life was beyond most people in a similar condition. Despite this, throughout his early life, Hill told him that the deafness that he was born with was in fact his greatest strength. Blair put complete faith in his father that it was.

He persevered through schooling with very little in the way of external help. This made him extremely driven to succeed. When he wanted something, he would work to achieve it. His elder brother on the other hand did not have the same disability and so lacked this hunger.

Blair was completely deaf until he received a hearing aid, while at college. He was completely blown away by being able to hear for the first time in his life. He contacted the hearing aid company and worked with them to improve their marketing so that they could reach hundreds of thousands of deaf-mute people all around the world. He created a school to teach similar people to hear and speak for the first time in their lives and helped many thousands. Has he not had the belief in the opportunity that his weakness offered him he would never had been able to change the lives of so many people.

Great. What does that mean though?

The point is that you are in the position of a challenger. The fact that you are not a FAANG company is your greatest strength. These companies are great in many ways, but they are not as young and fast moving as they once were and tech is the heart and soul of their businesses. If you are a financial, automotive or drinks brand you can offer the whole tech experience, but you also have a whole other level on top of that. This represents an exciting challenge for those who want to grasp it. The point is, you can’t beat them at being them, you need to beat them by being you. You need to be bold, be different and be real. What do we mean by that though? 

 

Vodafone - Equal in Work (2)

 

Being Different: Vodafone

One of the challenges that Vodafone has is that most grads think of them as a company which operates mobile phone shops. In reality, they are a hi-tech communications company with opportunities for staff members to travel and work all over the world. One thing which makes them particularly special is that they have an extremely accepting and inclusive culture. Because of this, they have set out to be the No.1 employer for women and LGBT+.

This means that they can share really engaging and thought provoking and content like the video above. It is an extremely clear illustration of their purpose as a business. Through sharing this in a wide variety of their content they allow potential employees to decide to align themselves with the brand. This leads to better recruits and far more engaged employees. We will share another post on the value of purpose in recruitment and engagement soon. Watch this space.

 

BMW - Social Banner - Facebook (2)

Being Bold: BMW

Few clients are willing to be really be bold when it comes to it. We start many projects with high aims, but the reality is that it takes guts to go for take the breaks off. BMW are a company interested in how they can attract the best tech-grads to help them become a transportation provider of the future. In order to deliver on this goal, they need to attract top software engineers who can build and integrate the technological complexities that make a modern car a driving computer. This is a challenge for a company that is over 100 years old and is not necessarily the first example that a possible recruit would think of when listing tech focused companies to apply to. 

The BMW Facebook page benefits from lots of views, but too many of them were bouncing off. There was also a disconnect between the consumer (outward facing) brand and the employer (inward facing) brand. The brand Facebook page is a delicious (if you like that kind of thing) collection of glossy car shots, while the recruitment page left a little more to be desired. Luckily, they had lots of material from the main brand which could be repurposed into something very different to the traditional employer brand. They wanted to use that to sell the excitement and energy of a job at the company. With the addition of a some specially shot narrative footage and sound design, the Facebook page was transformed. Leading to significantly better visitor retention - differentiating the page for visitors. This was only possible because they we willing to push it and do something different.

 

Capital One - Tech Profiles 'Jasmine'

Being Real: Capital One

These profile films for Capital One, are designed to show the personality of each interviewee without getting in the way with any overt brand messaging Your audience are extremely adept at spotting 'spin' - this is particularly true for ultra savvy techies. It's important to remember also that if you are featuring your employees from the same target group, you need to let them 'talk their language' to their contemporaries. You need to make sure that they sound the same, but are effectively subject matter experts. It's too easy for brands to want to control the precise messaging featured in their films, but this is almost certain to alienate the audience and damage the content's effectiveness.
 

So...

In reality there are a wide range of ways that video can help you to target these hard to reach grads. Each of these three approaches work for their audience, but there is no reason why they shouldn't work for you. There is nothing from stopping you from combining one or more of them. The most important thing for you to do with any project is to be really clear at the outset what you are trying to achieve.  We pulled together a worksheet to help you to start off any project on the right foot. You can download it right here:

 

DOWNLOAD BETTER BRIEFS

You may also be interested in the Attract and Recruit the Best Candidates with Video page. 

 

Topics: Attract and retain the best candidates, Being a better commissioner, How-to

Cause marketing - actions matter more than words...

Posted by Nick Francis
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Cause marketing - marketing with the dual aim of bettering society and driving profit is more important than ever. Important because frankly, society and world need all the help they can get, and because it’s a really effective way of improving the way your audience think about your brand.

Casual Films Cause Marketing

Cone Communications has been running an annual study on the efficacy of cause-related marketing. It found that this is no longer a differentiator, unless it is also accompanied by a genuine effort by the companies to demonstrate they are achieving an actual impact.

 “[Cause marketing] is no longer a competitive differentiator unless it is also accompanied by a genuine effort on the part of companies to demonstrate how their efforts were making a real impact on achieving results.”

– Cone Communications

Unfortunately, this shows it’s not enough to simply talk about the great projects that you are putting money into. Audiences are far more likely to talk about what a brand did than what they said. This means that, in order to make taking a more conscientious approach work for you, you actually need to get your hands dirty. You must ‘live your purpose’. It should shine through in everything that you do. Failure to do this leads to a perceived lack of authenticity in the eyes of your stakeholders, which, thanks to social media, will do disproportionate damage to your brand.

It is also important to get intricately involved in the causes that you wish to benefit in order to avoid the charge of ‘jumping on the bandwagon’, as Pepsi found with their Kendall Jenner protestors spot...

 

Getting it wrong: Pepsi and Kendall Jenner

Whatever cause you decide to get involved in, it’s essential that your brand has an authentic attachment to the cause. This cannot just be lip service. It is also extremely important that you understand the nuances of the issue and don’t trivialise it through superficial understanding. Pepsi’s Kendall Jenner commercial shows her giving cans of Pepsi to police officers, seemingly with a view to reducing tensions at a Black Lives Matter protest. The idea that Jenner, who is white, could turn up and solve the situation with a can of soda was seen as extremely insulting and out of touch. Social media did the rest, culminating in the 18-year-old model sharing a video, with her crying and begging the forgiveness of the masses.

Casual Films Kendall Jenner Pepsi

It might be tempting to move away from cause-related marketing as a result. The key point here is that if you are going to take this route, which you should, you need to get involved at the root, make a difference and then tell that story. It is not acceptable to simply say, from a disconnected position, that you ‘believe’ in good causes. It is necessary to actually become involved in them, to understand them and to benefit them; to use your considerable might to work towards a solution, no matter how small the step you enable might be.

 

Greenwashing

greenwash

/ˈɡriːnwɒʃ/

noun

Greenwashing is marketing that intentionally overemphasises the green credentials of a business activity, while downplaying the actual negative impact. As a term, it was first used by Jay Westervelt in an essay criticising the hotel industry for their habit of leaving cards in their bathrooms asking their guests to reduce the amount of washing that is done by not leaving their towels on the floor, from where they would have to be washed. Westervelt showed that, far from being motivated by the environment, the hoteliers were in fact motivated by the reduced costs it would incur, thereby increasing their profits.

It is not a new thing though; in 1969 alone, public utilities spent more than US$300 million on advertising their green credentials – more than eight times what they spent on the anti-pollution research they were touting in those ads.

Greenwashing became more elaborate through the 1970s and 1980s, to the extent that in 1990, on Earth Day 20, one-quarter of all goods launched in the US were marketed as being “recyclable, ozone friendly and compostable”. In 1985, Chevron launched their People Do series, which was aimed at those who were societally conscious and hostile to the company. The ads featured bears, eagles and animals, and underlined how hard the company’s people were working to protect wildlife during their work. These ran for 15 years and became a textbook case of how successful greenwashing can be, leading to a 10% jump in sales and a 22% jump among the hostile audience target group.

Greenwashing in the current ‘post-truth’ age is alive and well. The bottled-water industry, for example, leans heavily on imagery of the natural world in its marketing, and trumpets the reduction in plastic used in its bottles, while its products continue to have a severely negative ecological impact. Only 31% of plastic bottles consumed in the US are recycled. With so much demand for ‘green’ products (72% of millennials will pay more for environmentally sustainable products), it’s not surprising that businesses are keen to stress their credentials.

 

If you're interested in getting a few more tips on how to make better, more effective videos,

you can download our our TOP TEN tips right here:

Download Top Ten Tips

Topics: Being a better commissioner, How-to, Purpose driven video

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