By Sarah Beadsmoore, Zing Films

So, you’ve just had the green light to create a film for a client . . .

What happens now?

Well, first . . . Congratulations! Take a moment to celebrate, and then . . .


When we’re excited, our ‘right brains’ are in charge. This side of the brain is also said to be responsible for creativity and imagination, so in this state, our minds have a habit of leaping straight to dreaming up fun and exciting ideas.

Sorry to break up the party, but this is not the place to start.

You need to put your right brain back in its box and put your left brain in charge. This is the part of your brain that does the thinking, analysis and planning.

If you were building a house, you’d want to design a blueprint, and to lay the foundations before you start picking out furniture and shopping for scatter cushions.

Making a film is no different.

So, where should you start?

The film’s objective(s)

Particularly if you’re making a business film, it’s vital that you fully understand your client’s needs and objectives before you do anything else.

Start with the Audience

You need to be crystal clear about who the viewer(s) will be.
Is the film for employees? (senior management? customer-facing teams?)
Or is it for clients or customers? (new or existing?)

What’s the message?

What does your client want the audience to know, think, feel or do?
What is the audience’s current attitude to the subject?
Are there any barriers, or might there be any hesitancy or suspicion around the topic?

Ask questions . . . lots of them.

You probably don’t know the answers to the above questions, so rather than making assumptions, you need to quiz your client on the detail of what they need. But before you dive straight into a phone call, it’s a good idea to email them some questions to get them thinking about some of the specifics. If they reply with answers, that’s great. This will help you feel prepared when you speak. But if not, don’t pressure them. People are busy and they may prefer to answer your questions over the phone.

Here are some of the key things to ask about:

  • Background, aims and objectives
  • Who is the audience?
  • What’s the key message?
  • What should the personality or tone of the film be?
    (upbeat, serious, inspiring, rousing, empathic?)
  • How, where and when will the film be used?
  • Budget

Also, ask if there are any further people you can talk to (e.g. team members or customers) to gain additional insight. It’s often enlightening to hear the perspective of those on the front line and to discover their awareness and attitudes towards the subject.

The next step is to arrange the follow-up conversation, but before you do . . .

Do your homework!

You want to sound like you know your stuff when you speak with the client . . . Not just when it comes to the filmmaking process, but also regarding their field of business, as well as the specific theme of the film.

Research, research, research! Take a good look at their website to find out what they do and what makes them tick. Dig into the film’s topic and be on the lookout for key phrases and buzzwords.

This will help you feel prepared and confident at the next stage:

Talk to the client and listen – REALLY listen – to what they say

By this stage, you should already have a pretty good grasp of what the client needs.

Having done all that preparation, you may have some solid ideas for the film now, but remember this is a conversation, not a presentation. Talk with the client, not at the client!

If they say something that means you’ll have to go back to the drawing board on your ideas, don’t get defensive or sulky. Roll with it. That’s not to say you can’t politely challenge the client. You can (and should) make the case for alternative ideas and approaches, but it needs to be done the right way. Provide the rationale behind your opinion, and how it ties to the aims and objectives. But read your client and know when to concede.

Then, and only then . . .

It’s time to get creative!

Now that you have a full understanding of exactly what’s required, feel free to let the right brain back into the party and let the fun begin . . .

But while you’re brainstorming, imagining, creating, visualising and dreaming up your amazing ideas, never lose sight of the established aims and objectives.

Keep the client informed at every stage

A great deal of trust (and budget) has been bestowed upon you. Particularly if this is your first time working with a client, it’s vital that you keep them posted on your progress as you go. This will help build trust and reassure them that you are on the right track (and give them the opportunity to feed back on your ideas and to speak up if they feel you’re drifting off course a little).

Before the shoot

Make sure your client and any key decisions makers are happy with everything before you start filming anything. Once you get beyond this stage, misunderstandings and mistakes can be uncomfortable and costly!

You should also ensure that everyone involved in the shoot (cast, crew, etc) has a clear understanding of what you are setting out to achieve and what is required of them.

So, there you have it . . .

It takes self-discipline to do the ‘boring stuff’ first, but it’s vital if you want to deliver a film that ticks all your client’s boxes.

Of course, that’s not to say that strong creative ideas aren’t important too. They’re crucial if you want to make your film engaging, effective, memorable, entertaining, etc . . .

But I’m guessing that’s the bit you enjoy, so I’ll leave you to it!

Sarah Beadsmoore, Zing Films

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