How to Self-Produce an Effective Promotional Video

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:

Legacy:

  • History of Yoshukai (legitimizes the style)
  • Training to Teach (being a part of something bigger than self, carrying on traditions)

Warrior:

  • 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+

 

Casting

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.Athens Yoshukai Karate Microphone

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+


Post Production

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.

Athens Yoshukai Karate Editing

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+

 

Distribution

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.

 

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Teaching Improves Learning

By Erik Hofmeister

In medicine, we have an (arguably broken) saying: see one, do one, teach one. This month, Ken, Susan, Hali, Jon, and I began work on our Martial Arts Certification for Instructors.  This program, we hope, will make us better teachers. And that’s important.

As soon as students are capable, I try to get them involved in teaching other students.  There is a lot of evidence coming out of educational psychology that indicates people learn better in a collaborative setting, when they can both learn and teach.  In fact, the lecture setup- where someone just spouts information at attentive students- is one of the least efficient means of teaching information.

I regularly learn while teaching. I distinctly remember teaching a turn in a Kyuki-Do form- the second form you ever learn- which had been a very difficult move for me to master.  After teaching it, I was able to conceptualize it in a different way which made the move much easier (I still call it the hardest move you learn in Kyuki-Do before your blackbelt).   If you’re not learning when you’re teaching, then maybe something is wrong.

I used to think that students would just know how to teach.  It’s not something that anyone ever taught me, so I never thought of it as a separate skill.  That is, until I encountered students who needed a lot of work to develop their teaching skill.  I realized that I couldn’t just launch students into teaching other students- they needed more supervision.   Now, I watch students teach and give them feedback to make them better.  The best way to improve a skill- ANY skill, which includes teaching- is to practice it and receive feedback on your performance.  I want my students to teach like they do their kata- not just adequately, but _well_.

I see students evolve all the time after teaching.  Having to explain the material and demonstrate it makes them think of it in an entirely different way.  I find that most students don’t really start to learn a form until they teach it.  Teaching students how to teach has the added benefits of expanding their skill set, allows the head instructor to effectively delegate teaching roles, and prepares the students to be instructors themselves in the future.  More students teaching and learning how to teach equals good.  Athens Yoshukai, the Teaching Dojo.

Protocol Miscellany

By Erik Hofmeister

We do things a certain way in WYKKO- all the dojo in the organization do.  I don’t have actual answers to all of the questions of protocol, but I do have some anecdotes which will help students remember which way things are.

1) Left knee down first so you can draw your sword.

In Yoshukai, whenever we kneel down in seiza, the left knee goes to the ground first, and this position is called iai dachi (sword stance).  The sword is worn on the left side of the body and is drawn with the right hand.  When kneeling, if you kneel with the right knee down first, the left knee is now obstructing your ability to draw the sword.

2) Lower ranks on your right so you can cut them down.

When students line up for class, we line up with the highest-ranked student in the front left corner, with the next-highest-rank to their right, and so on.  If you were wearing a sword, it would again be on your left side and drawn by your right hand.  If some uppity lower rank wanted to challenge you, you could draw your sword and attack them more easily than they could draw and attack you.

3) Zarei is starting with the right hand so you can draw your sword.

When we execute zarei, the right hand goes down to the floor, then the left and, when we come up, the left hand returns to the leg, followed by the right.  This is to keep your left hand by your sword for as long as possible, so that you could draw it if necessary.  This may actually be canonical, since, in the Yoshukai Iai series, the first move is predicated on being interrupted mid-zarei, and the sword is able to be drawn quickly because the left hand is close to it.

4) Turn clockwise to cut down everyone.

When we turn to kneel down and prepare weapons, or when black belts turn during zarei, we always do so clockwise.  Again, with the sword on the left hip, you can draw and turn clockwise, executing a cut, but cannot do so counter-clockwise.
These are small issues of protocol, and there is probably no actual reason why except “Soke said do it this way,” which is good enough for me.  Still, anecdotes help students learn.  So, if you think about how you would use your sword in a given situation, it may help you remember what the protocol is.

Face Front

By Erik Hofmeister

“Kiyotsuke!  Face front!  Rei!”  This series of commands is given regularly in the dojo and occasionally at WYKKO events.  What, exactly, is going on here?  This series of commands is given when a high-ranked student enters the dojo.  It calls everyone to attention in the room and asks that they bow to the entering student.  This shows respect to the student who is entering, and also serves to let those in the room know what high ranks are around.  It also calls for humility on the part of the student being bowed to- they should not be eager to be bowed to.  Some students feel embarrassed being bowed to, and that’s good.  It suggests an appropriate dose of humility.  A student who shies away from being bowed to on entering the dojo, in contrast, may be insecure or inappropriately uncomfortable with being bowed to.  A student who can’t wait to get to a rank where they are bowed to probably needs a serious attitude adjustment before promotion.

The face front command is given only the first time a student enters the dojo for class around that time.  If there was a noon class where a student was bowed to, then the evening class would also call for a face front and bow to that student.  However, a student who enters the dojo at 5pm and stays for a 6pm class would not be bowed to again.  The exception to this is when changing styles.  For example, for the 7pm judo class, students will bow to me as a brown belt.  Once I change and enter for Yoshukai class at 8pm, another bow is given as this is a different context.

Generally, the first student to notice the incoming student should issue the command.  If multiple students notice the incoming student at once, it is up to the higher-ranked student to issue the command.  Students should be aware of what high-ranks are ‘around’ and not yet entered the dojo.  I will almost always face the door after I have entered the dojo, so that I can be aware of brown belt and higher ranked students who enter so I can issue the call.  If you know there is a higher-ranked student who is aware of the door, it is probably best to wait a beat before issuing the call, to make sure the higher-ranked student has the opportunity to call “face front”.

There are three venues worth considering: the local dojo, official closed WYKKO events, and open events.

Each dojo may have its own rules on when to call “face front”.  Most use it for blackbelts.  Some may use it solely for the head instructor.  At Athens Yoshukai, we use the command any time a brown belt or higher-ranked student enters the dojo.  This prepares the brown belt for having the respect given to black belts, and also aligns with several other WYKKO schools.  As we have had more brown belts for longer than black belts, it also gives other students an opportunity to ‘practice’ bowing to the front when a high rank comes in.

At WYKKO events (Summer Camp, Winter Camp, Traditional Tournament), students with the Shihan rank are bowed to.  If you are in doubt, defer to a higher-rank student to issue the command.  Typically the call will be issued by those of Sandan rank and higher, but this is not a rule (see above guide about deferring to higher-ranks to issue the command, though!).

At open events (Dothan Tournament, Athens Tournament, Panama City Tournament, Superfights), there is not usually the face front command.  If a sufficiently high-ranked student (i.e. Shihan) decides to issue the command, however, everyone should comply.  This is more typically done when Kaicho or Soke enter into an open event.  However, there seems to be some variability in application of this rule.

The face front command is designed to show respect to those particularly high-ranked students who are entering the dojo or practice area.  When in doubt, students should defer to higher-ranked students to issue the command.

Late Arrival Protocol

By Erik Hofmeister

It seems like each school has a distinct way to handle students who arrive late to class.  Some schools lock their doors, some have you do pushups, some have you wait until you’re recognized to join class, etc.

Students should know when class starts, and should plan accordingly to arrive in time to be dressed, aware, and ready to go by the class start time.  Sometimes, the instructor may not start class on time since they are waiting on brand new students, a student is fulfilling a dojo responsibility (like filling the water), or some official business needs to be conducted before starting class.  However, class should NOT start late because of an individual student’s tardiness.  Therefore, it is each student’s responsibility to be on time.

Some people work 9-to-5 jobs.  That’s great, and I admire the fact that they have a consistent, reliable, regular work schedule.  That has been, and probably never will be, my own experience with work.  As a professional, work ends when there’s no more work to do.  If we did a great job getting cases done, it might be 5:30pm.  If we had a lot of emergencies or someone didn’t show up for work, it might be 7pm or later.  Therefore, I have acquired a significant sense of flexibility when it comes to students arriving at class.  As such, I have a simple policy:

Are you late to class because of something outside your control (work went late, flat tire, etc.)?  If so, come in, bow, and join the line below the lowest rank there until the instructor revises the lineup (usually after warmup).  If you are late to class because of something within your control (fell asleep and forgot to set alarm, forgot uniform, had to get one more block in Minecraft), then come in, bow, and do a number of pushups that you feel is the appropriate punishment for your lapse.  This requires the student to take ownership of their tardiness and allows them to set the punishment they feel is appropriate.

At the end of the day, I never want a student to NOT come to class because they might be late, even if being late is due to their own decisions.  I would rather have a student be 10 or even 20 minutes late than not come at all.  Not coming at all begins the slow decline of out-for-a-week-out-forever.