Five Things You Should Never Say to Your Video Producer


Over the past few years I’ve noticed that more and more people who have no experience in professional video production are taking the reigns and managing their own videos. This is normal in today’s economy, but it seldom produces results comparable to working with dedicated folks down the line. I don’t see that changing soon, so here is a list of some things you should never say to a potential video producer. For the good of all, really.

1.) “I’ve done this a hundred times.”

I usually hear this one from people who are used to being on-stage or on-camera. Either way, it’s often very different from the needs of a branded video. Information has to be communicated in a certain way and production itself is often another animal. This is not even mentioning the fact that there are widely varied approaches to video production and as many skill levels. You may have done it a hundred times, but if this is the first video with a producer, then it is exactly that. The first video.

2.) “Just”, “Simple”, “Only”, “Quick”

This has got to be the worst and if I see this language in a RFP or posting I tend to decline the project. This is a red flag for all kinds of problems. First of all, it means they are already aiming to reduce cost because they have a limited budget. Probably not enough of a budget to do the video right in the first place. Secondly, it means they think they know everything on the technical end, which by definition is not correct. They are the ones hiring a professional and if they insist on applying their own limited understanding they will only get in their own way. This is doubly bad when this is the attitude of the top dog. Let the producer tell you what is simple.

3.) Can you use this iPhone footage?

Here’s where the rubber meets the road in terms of smart phone video. Yes, even pro shooters sometimes use an iPhone for any number of reasons. Their personal skills make up for what that smart phone lacks. Amateur iPhone footage is often shaky with no clear sense of composition and no understanding of visual storytelling. So, while it is technically possible to use iPhone footage, whether or not you’d want to use it is another matter. This applies to 4K two-fold.

4.) Can you make this look like ____________ (Hollywood Blockbuster)?

Do you have a $100M budget? As much as Hollywood budgets can be bloated there are good reasons they can cost as much as some countries’ GDP. A lot of time and detail goes into making those images, many of those factors probably wouldn’t occur to a layperson. If you don’t have that kind of budget, the best you can hope for is emulation or inspiration. Besides, Hollywood isn’t selling your product, so it’s better to come up with your own “look”.

5.) Can’t you just do this for like $100? It’s pretty basic.

This is a cousin to #2, but there’s many more permutations. A popular one is the potential client that insists on a blind quote without discussing all the details. An intern fresh from school might think that’s possible, but then they haven’t learned the thousands of variables that have to be considered in even a simple video shoot. Any one of these can make a video useless and a real problem for both the client and producer. Also, it means that there can be a huge gulf between expectations and final product. I’ve heard of clients who expect a broadcast HD quality video for $100. Giving them the benefit of the doubt, maybe they don’t know that won’t even pay for the first hour of broadcast production, let alone editorial work.
Outside of this, and not even considering the many years of experience (probably $500,000 worth for starters) or the many thousands of dollars of equipment investment (see #3) and research, there is the simple math of what that $100 will cover. So…

Basic shoot in available light for one-minute branded documentary

1.5 hrs

Drive time to and from urban location

1 hr

Gear prep and load-in and out

1.5 hrs

Basic edit work

2 hrs

Administrative work


Back-up and archive

1 hr

Total time (Basic) 7.5          Rate $13/hr

So, that’s just for time alone. We’ve not even started on business expenses like gear use, mileage, utilities, insurance and IT. Anyway, pile those on and you’re looking at something in the $10/hr range. That is just a hair above minimum wage. Is your brand identity, possibly seen for the rest of the digital era, only worth minimum wage? Furthermore, why would a producer want to work with someone who sees such little value for their own product? That kind of client won’t be around for long and probably isn’t worth the inevitable problems.

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