By Krystina Francis
The Athens branch dojo recently launched the first of two videos promoting both Yoshukai Karate and the specific branch. If you have ever priced video production, you will have discovered that the lowest average rate falls between 5k-10k for 90-120 seconds of promotional video. Costs can run MUCH, much higher, though.
Why is video production so expensive? Is it possible to do it yourself or at least significantly reduce the cost? Let’s look at what you pay for when you have someone else do a promotional video from start to finish, and how you can do it yourself using the Athens “Warrior Legacy” project as the example.
Know You Market, and What You Hope to Accomplish
Everything starts with knowing who your audience is, understanding what they want, and identifying objections you need to overcome with your message. One message will not effectively reach all of your audience, so you really have to focus on one group at a time.
You can go as granular as you want, but most dojos likely have 3 basic audiences: Adult Males, Adult Females, and Parents of Children (since they are the decision maker). You don’t have to hire a marketing firm to identify whether you have more of one type or send out surveys on why they chose your dojo- you have a personal relationship with everyone that walks through your door. These are numbers you can run yourself, and questions you can explore directly.
At the Athens Dojo, only adults are taught, not children. We didn’t have to appeal to parents, which made it easy to focus on just two messages- one for men and one for women. And what did we hope to accomplish with the message? New members joining the dojo of course!
But what are some of the objections that potential new members might bring up? Well, for students it might be cost, for older adults it might be the perceived difficulty of the work-outs, and for others it might simply be an unfamiliarity with the Yoshukai style, or even the location of the dojo.
Once you have 1) defined your audience, 2) determined what you hope to accomplish by having a conversation with your audience and 3) identified their potential objections and how to overcome those, it is time to find themes. These generally become apparent by making a simple list for each audience based on what they like about your dojo and why they wanted to start martial arts in the first place.
These themes are the key to the next step- script development!
Total Cost So Far: $0
Writing a Script, and Telling a Story
Using the themes you have identified, choose a primary theme to set the stage for the script development. Your goal is to create enough material for a 1-2 minute video. In the video we produced, that worked out to be about 8 scenes. Try to tell a story first, though, and the script should naturally break itself into scenes.
There are some important things to consider when writing your script, which can greatly affect the final cost of the video. Will you need to hire actors or voice over talent? Will you need to scout locations and pay rental fees? Will any of the scenes you describe require special effects or animation? Will you need stunts? Saying yes to any of these questions means potentially big bucks, with acting talent being your cheapest spend.
For me personally, the stage at which I refine a script is also when I look to possible music selections for inspiration. The pacing and the scene selections can be driven by the type of music you choose. I can listen to a piece of music and literally see the video play out in my head, but this is just how I operate creatively. Another approach may work better for someone else.
So let’s look at how this advice played out for the video we launched at the Athens branch. The title of the video reveals the main themes: “Warrior Legacy”. We knew the first video would be directed at a mostly male audience, but we kept it accessible to women by featuring female martial artists throughout and by using a female narrator.
This is how we utilized our themes:
- History of Yoshukai (legitimizes the style)
- Training to Teach (being a part of something bigger than self, carrying on traditions)
- Techniques, Weapons, and Sparring (appealing to Athlete, Protector/Defender, Traditionalist, Competitor)
The objections we overcame included cost and unfamiliarity with the style.
The script did go through a set of revisions before filming in which one scene was cut and the voice over changed slightly. We benefited greatly from having a small team contribute feedback throughout the process. You can look through our original script here, and compare it to the final version of the video. This will also give you a template for formatting your scene descriptions.
But keep in mind that there is no shame in hiring a script writer! A good script is very important, and if you are going to spend on something, spend it here. If you read through your own script and discover overused clichés, such as the phrase “fun for the whole family”, or find that your scenes all seem very separate and unrelated, you probably need a writer to help create your story. Give them your market research, your desired themes, objections to overcome, and tell them the end goal for the video.
Self-Produced Script: $0
Script Writer: $150/hour
Total Cost So far: $0-$600+
Now that you have your script done, you can decide who should be involved in each scene. You will likely find plenty of volunteers from within your own organization, just remember that if you cast children, you ALWAYS have to get a signed consent form from the parents.
If you need actors, find a local casting company and a description of what roles you need filled (called a casting breakdown). Aspiring actors trying to build their resume will often work for free, but if you do offer payment it can be per day, per project or per hour. Basically the pay can be whatever you want, as this will be a non-union production.
The same is true for voice over talent, but in this case, you DO want to pay someone a project fee, and an average rate on the low end would be $150. The reason you will pay a VO talent is that you need someone to produce the voice over clips in their own home studio and send you the files. While you might find an aspiring voice over talent for free, they likely will not have the equipment to produce decent recordings, and you would end up paying a sound studio anyway.
Another option is to purchase your own voice over mic, and use a volunteer within the organization to record the voice over. Since this decision needs to be made during casting, let’s review specifics now instead of in the production section of the article. You can get a basic voice over mic with a pop filter for about $150 that plugs into a computer (see picture). There is a free audio recording software called Audacity that is quite easy to use. You will have spent about the same amount of money as you would hiring a talent, but now you can create your own recordings whenever you need to.
Scene Volunteers: $0
VO Talent or Recording Mic: $150
Total Cost So far: $150-$750+
Assigning Production Roles
Deciding early on who will be responsible for each area of production is just as important as deciding the players for each scene. Some areas of responsibility include lighting, sound, videography, location selection, directing, wardrobe, coordination, set design, props, and the assembly of the final product in post. Let’s talk briefly about each of these in the context of your project, though, because you may not need every role filled and the same person may talk on several responsibilities for your production.
Director and Assistant Director (AD): The AD is usually responsible for crowd control and as funny as it sounds, yelling direction. For this type of project, your AD may be assigned to wrangle the kids. The director is concerned with specifics (usually having to do with the principal actors) and is constantly reviewing the camera footage to find any detail that may be off and will offer specific direction as needed. The Director in this case will heavily influence or even choose the scenes that go into the final video. Keep in mind that the reason you so often see a writer/director credit given to the same person is because the writer often has a very specific vision of the final product and the filming can benefit from it.
Producer: A common misconception is that the producer pays for the project. There are different types of producers, and yes, sometimes they do fund the project, but they are much more important than that. For a production this size, the producer is going to act as the coordinator for all production activities. They will develop your filming schedule, make sure the appropriate forms get filled out, handle the communications with all parties involved in the production, and will work with the director on locations for filming.
They will probably also ensure that the set is “dressed”, the right props are available when needed, and everyone is wearing the right clothing for each scene. Normally these responsibilities would each belong to a different person or department, but for our purposes, this should be very straightforward. The dojo will likely be the set, the right clothing will be a dogi, and props might be a weapon of choice or a punching bag.
Videographer: This is probably going to be the person in your organization who owns recording equipment, so you don’t have to pay a professional. I would recommend that the person who owns the equipment be responsible for taping the scenes, since they are probably the most familiar with their camera set up. They can also be responsible for the lighting. Even if they do not own lights or diffusers, they can adjust their camera to keep the scenes looking as consistent as possible so that it is not apparent in the final cut what time of day certain scenes were shot. Use the highest possible quality settings available on the camera, even if your distribution for the video will just be Youtube. You can always decrease the video quality in post if necessary, but it doesn’t work the other way around.
Sound: This role may also be filled by the videographer but it really depends on what is happening in the scene. In “Warrior Legacy” we had 2 audio tracks and 1 music track layered in post. The first audio track was simply the audio the camera picked up while filming the students in the dojo. It worked as intended as background noise in the final cut of the video.
The one exception was the video interview with Sensei Hofmeister. In this scene, a shotgun mic was attached to the camera, and that was the only audio track used for that scene. A shotgun mic can also be attached to a boom and held over actors in a scene to pick up sound when the camera needs to be farther away. Like the VO mic, the shotgun mic is a basic tool that would be handy to have on hand for future productions.
The second audio track was the voice over segments recorded separately and of course the soundtrack clip was the third track.
Editor: This is the person that puts everything together. As this is a specialized skill set, you may not have someone on hand proficient at using video editing software. If you do not have someone to edit together your video, and you cannot afford to pay someone, then the easiest tool for you to use will be Windows Live Movie Maker, which is likely installed on a PC with Windows 7 and above. You will have limited to no control over layering audio or adjusting the appearance of the video, but you will be able to easily string together clips and trim them, implement transitions, and create a title or credits screen. This software is extremely easy to use. I’m sure there is a Mac equivalent, as well.
Of course the best option will be a more robust program like Adobe Premiere. You can get a 30 day free trial of the software, and then pay monthly for access until your video is done. However, very little about this software is intuitive. I had previous experience with other video editing and sound editing software, and there was still quite a bit of a learning curve that extended our final timelines. It enabled us to do full frame image pans, apply video corrections and effects, and layer audio at assigned levels, though.
Production Volunteers: $0
Couple months of Premiere: $50
Shotgun Mic: $200
Total Cost So far: $400-$1000+
Planning and Execution
You now have your script, your cast, and your crew with their respective equipment. Your producer will put together the filming schedule, and since everyone working on your production will likely be a volunteer, the schedule will be heavily influenced by their availability.
Each day of shooting will have its own Call Sheet. A Call Sheet shows the location of the set, the location of parking, instructs cast and crew on their call times, and may include any special notes or instructions such as: Must bring your release forms, or Bring your Bo with you to set, etc. This can be as informal as an email reminder.
If you want to be really organized, you can use a production slate at the beginning of each scene. This is typically done with a clapperboard, but you can use a small whiteboard. The most important info is the scene number, the take, and the date. The director may take notes on which take they felt was the best, and the production slate will help the editor match the director’s notes to the right video clip.
It is most efficient to immediately deliver the footage to your editor. They can pick out the best clips and begin editing them, while you continue to film other scenes on other days. This will also allow the editor to notify you if footage is unusable and needs to be reshot, which does happen sometimes.
An optional step of preparation you can take for complex or choreographed scenes is to create basic storyboards. This allows you to sketch out how the scene will look and can help set pacing, identify any unique camera angles or close-ups, and determine overall composition.
I would strongly recommend filming some B Roll footage. We ended up using clips of footage that weren’t necessarily described in the script but came in really handy during editing. This type of footage can fill gaps, adjust the pacing, and add interest and context.
Total Cost So far: $400-$1000+
Have you ever wondered why it takes so long for a feature film to launch after the filming is finished? Post production can take a really long time, but it is when the magic happens. Instead of going from clips to the final product, though, work with your editor to get rough cuts along the way.
These will consist of roughly edited clips strung together to check the pacing and transitions. As the video becomes more refined, the edits will be smoother, the sound will be in place, and any effects will have been applied. But viewing the rough cuts first will help determine if a scene will work the way it was planned.
On “Warrior Legacy”, a rough cut effected the decision replace the choreographed fight scene we shot outdoors with an interior shot of students practicing weapon-on-weapon drills. We also tried out different music selections, and ended up reshooting Sensei Hofmeister’s interview segment after reviewing the footage.
Once everyone was happy with the final round of edits, a “call to action” was added to the end of the video. This should always be present in a promotional video. You need to further engage the viewer beyond just viewing your content. Give them a link to follow or a number to call.
Total Cost So far: $400-$1000+
There are multiple free ways to distribute your video. You can host the content on Youtube for free. You can feature it on the homepage of your website. If you are involved in social networks, other enthusiasts will likely help distribute the video when you share it.
Now start work on the script for your next audience!
Video Distribution: $0
Total Cost So far: $400-$1000+
“Warrior Legacy” Credits
Writer, Producer, Director: Krystina Motsinger-Francis
Assistant Director, Script Editor, Choreographer: Sensei Erik Hofmeister
Contributing Editors: Tony Hollifield, Ken Blumreich, Sensei Erik Hofmeister
Music: Yoshida Brothers “Storm”
About the Author
Krystina Francis is a hobbyist actor and filmmaker, and the Founder and Director of Projects at Adroit, a premiere business consulting firm. Throughout the years doing project management, she has managed multiple marketing projects, and been responsible for ghost writing articles and press releases on behalf of business executives for distribution in prominent publications and news sites. She is also a student of Yoshukai Karate.