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No Film Crew? Tiny Budget? Be Prepared - Part 2

Last month we released part 1 of this blog post where I went over a few points regarding the trials and tribulations of having to shoot a video without the support of a camera crew (read it here). I mentioned a few lessons I learned along the way since one-man-band video shoots are still very common for me here in Vienna.

In this part 2 I expand a bit more on the subject and share a few more "tips" which I hope all you fellow filmmakers, videographers, camera operators, video shooters (or whatever we call each other nowadays) might find useful for your own video shoots:

Let the Client Know

If your client is hell bent on just hiring one person (you in this case), let them know you’ll be doing the job of 2, 3, 4 people and that more likely than not, something’s got to give. The chance of something going awry will significantly increase.

You never know, the smallest thing like telling your client that even equipment set-up and take-down time will increase dramatically by the simple fact that you won’t have at least an assistant there to help you carry your gear from point A to point B to point C could end up resulting in having them allocate their own staff members to serve as your own personal “caddies” during the shoot. It’s happened to me plenty of times and it actually makes a difference when you’re dealing with multiple cases of gear and having to lug around lights, tripods, cables, bags and cases all over the place.

Camera crew with gear

Go Above and Beyond the Budget to Deliver an Unexpectedly Amazing Product, and Your Client’s Hands Will be Tied…Sort Of

Disclaimer: This won’t always pan out as expected at all and could result in a possible major waste of resources and time (hence…money). If you’re a videographer just starting out and don’t have many clients, this could be the occasion to give it a try and who knows, you might get lucky. Obviously this shouldn’t be done with every client, so pick your spots strategically. It’s easier said than done and I only bring it up because it worked for me in the past a few times here in Vienna. However it’s up to each individual film and video professional to decide for themselves whether the extra effort and energy is worth their time.

With that out of the way:

Some years back a potential long-term corporate client looked into hiring me to shoot and edit a few high-end testimonial videos for their brand. They insisted on wanting to hire only one person to do it all with minimal equipment, no extra camera operator, no sound recordist, no DP, no director, no assistants, and no production manager (talk about high-end huh?). They were basically pushing me around claiming they had other video shooters lined up willing to do it should I be unwilling to accept their terms and tight budget.

I knew there was potential that they would end up wanting more videos in the future so I made a plan: Since I had nothing to lose and had no real prospects for any future video jobs at the moment, I figured I’d just go completely all-in overboard with this one project and wow them. Then if they ever returned for more videos, I could make my demands.

camera operator during corporate interview

I basically worked way over the allocated budget for post production, I took every single piece of gear and lighting equipment I had regardless if it was budgeted for or not, I created a thorough concept and storyboard even though they didn’t require nor expect one, I did multi-camera interview shoots with cinematic lighting while using a slider (they only “wanted” one camera and apparently didn’t even care about lighting), I spent an immense amount of time on text animations and custom graphics for the final video although they didn’t budget that in whatsover etc. etc…I basically gave them way more than what they paid me for and what they expected....Stay with me, I know what you're thinking.

Needless to say, taking everything into consideration, the videos would have ended up costing them at least 3 times more than what they actually paid me. Well, they were very impressed and satisfied with the final product…great, now what? Did I just waste my time? Well therein lies the risk, if it’s a one-time video shoot and the client never hires you again, maybe.

cameraman shooting B-roll

I got lucky and they came back about half a year later wanting more videos. They wanted the same concept, same quality, and at the same price as the ones I filmed and edited before. Now I was the one with the upper hand, my turn to push them around a bit. I politely explained that for the same budget I would be completely incapable of producing the same style of videos as the previous ones.

I told them I was way in over my head last time when I accepted the budget for the video job (slight exaggeration on my part) and that I completely underestimated how much time I would need in post production to edit the videos. I said I couldn’t afford to take all that gear to the shoots without charging for the equipment anymore, and if they would want me to do it all over again they’d have to budget in a small video crew to support me on the shooting day(s).

Videographer with corporate client

Client: “But it worked out so well last time, let’s just do it the same way”.

Me: “I can see how it worked out well from your side, but it didn’t for me, I’m really sorry, no hard feelings”.

Client: “Well we have videographers lined up willing to do the same thing for the same price…by themselves”

Me: “That’s a great offer and you should definitely take it! I absolutely cannot afford to do that again, I actually lost money the first time around. As I said, I was way in over my head. Once again, no hard feelings”. (Note: they didn’t have anyone who would be willing to do that alone by the way)

Client: “Can we at least have those customizable text animation templates and graphics you created to pass along to other video shooters and use for any future videos we’ll produce?”

Me: “No, sorry. That’s my work and my copyright. You paid me for a final video product and not for (free) text animation templates. Besides, there are way more competent videographers and filmmakers out there you can book who can actually do a way better job than I can when it comes to that, animations are not my specialty”.

Client: “Yeah but it’ll cost us way more money”

Me: “I know, right?”

Camera crew video shoot

Anyway, you get the idea. They eventually understood my point and ended up hiring our camera team to film their videos (and they do to this day). So they now get an even better product and our video crew needs way less time on set to shoot (obviously).

Let us know what else we missed and make sure to join our mailing list in order to stay up to date on our monthly blog posts.


Posted by Vitor Goncalves

Vitor Goncalves high end camera operator vienna austria

Vitor is a filmmaker, cameraman and editor based in Vienna, Austria. He is the owner of Reel Arts Media.


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