H ow can I get clients? How do I get views on my films? These are questions a lot of us ask as we’re building our business. And while there are a lot of factors that can come into play for each project, there are also the common threads of hard work and good storytelling.

Today we’re interviewing Courtney, an MU alumni whose recent project currently has almost 40k views, 854 likes, and 534 shares on Facebook. Here’s her story!

Q: Thanks for sharing your experience with us, Courtney! What other projects had you done, before making this promo?

A: Most of my own projects were church and ministry related, especially missions videos. I also worked on other people’s projects, including promotional films, short films, and a feature film.

Q: What prompted you to make this project?

A: When I signed up for the MU online course, I knew I would need to get a client…quickly. I had a few options in mind, but Dewster’s Homemade Ice Cream and Bakery was the project I was hoping to get. The atmosphere at their ice cream shop stands out above others; and even though I had only been in their store once before going to approach them about making a video, I sensed that there was something extra special about their business. Turns out, I was right!

Q: How did you contact the client? Were they excited about the project right away? 

A: I figured the best way to approach the ice cream shop owners was to go to their store and buy not one, but three of their products. I wanted to have personal experience with what they offer: ice cream, baked goods, and signature lemonade. As I was checking out, I engaged the owner in conversation by asking questions about them and their business’ history. I think it’s key to be far more interested in a potential client’s business than in what you as a filmmaker can get by landing the job. People can sense when a person is genuinely interested in what they do, and if they don’t sense that, they won’t hire you.

At first the owner seemed tentative about my pitch, but after some follow-up correspondence and talking it over with the others, she got more and more on board with what I was offering to do. It was really fun to watch the winning-over process.

Q: Why did you decide to go with a mission-based/story-driven promo

A: I love promos that share a compelling story. From the outset, I could tell that these people had a mission, and I wanted to explore that and share it with the community. Especially after shooting their interview, I knew that their story in their own words was the approach for this project.

Q: What were the key things you did in pre-production that helped production go smoother?

A: I am a list person. I had a shot list, I had a question list for the interview, I had an order of setup to follow, which kept me on track mentally—and honestly, one of the most helpful things for my brain was to make a detailed list of every piece of equipment I needed to take with me for the shoot. As a solo filmmaker, remembering every single thing needed for a shoot is a bit daunting, and it is a challenge for me to think in all the brain spaces required for a production. Working as a director and working as a sound mixer sometimes lend to differing priorities, and I had to decide which department’s priority would win, without getting off schedule or derailing any other department’s needs.

Since I was not going to use an original score for the project, another thing I found helpful was selecting the music track for my video before I got into production. Being familiar with the key, tempo, instrumentation, harmonic structure, and voicing guided some of my shot decisions.

Q: How did you decide what to shoot for b-roll?

A: My original b-roll ideas were pretty straightforward, but listening to the music track sparked some more creative and specific shot ideas. In conversing with the client I discovered what they valued, and what they did and didn’t want. That gave me clearer parameters within which to work.

One unusual element of this project was that the client shared a story in their interview, and later  asked if I wanted to shoot b-roll specific to that. I decided to pursue the option, even though I wasn’t sure I would even include a side story in a two-minute promo. In the end, I think the story and the b-roll both strengthened the focus of the project.

Q: What gear did you use?

A: For this project I wanted to try out a compact camera that I could potentially make my staple for missions videos, so I chose the Sony a6500. I love the look of the footage from the Sony Alpha line, and I found the compact size of the camera a big plus for traveling light. I shot with a couple Nikon lenses—a 35mm f/1.8 prime for the b-roll, and a 70–200mm f/2.8 for the interviews and some b-roll. I also shot some b-roll on the DJI Osmo. For audio gear, I used the Audio Technica AT897 shotgun mic with an Auray windshield, recording to a Tascam field recorder. For lighting, I just put some clamp lights with dimmable daylight LED bulbs on light stands, cut up a shower curtain for diffusion, and ran my fill light through a dimmer. Actually, garbage bags and gaffer tape were my best lighting friends, with so many windows at the shooting location.

One thing I had not thought about in previous projects was that when a stand-in was inaccessible, I needed a mannequin for the interview lighting setup. I had no mannequin, but dug one of my old American Girl dolls out of the closet and, silly as it seemed, took it along with me to be the stand-in. I was able to get the lighting pretty close, and then just took still shots on self-timer to fine tune things at the end.

Q: Did the client have revisions in the post-production stage? What was their response to the completed video?

A: From the first draft I sent the client, they were pretty excited about the film. They only requested a few slight changes, and were perfectly happy with the revisions I made that were beyond those requests.

Q: How did the client share the video?

A: They posted it on their Facebook page.

Q: How many views did it get in the first few days? Were you surprised

A: I think it got 20,000 views within the first 24 hours, and within a few days that number had risen to over 31,000 views. I was definitely surprised! I had no idea what to expect, and honestly hadn’t really thought about the audience reach before producing the project. To date, the number of views is 690% of the number of their Facebook followers.

Q: Why do you think this video got so many views?

A: I think it was a combination of factors. The client has a strong community focus in their business, and that combined with the emphasis on community in the video probably made for something the community wanted to watch. Also, they had never had a video like this before, so I think there was a novelty factor, too.

Q: Have you gotten requests for other work through this project? 

A: Yes, shortly after releasing the video, I got an email from somebody who wanted to discuss a video for his business, and is planning to move ahead on the project.

Q: Do you feel more confident in working with clients, and knowing what to charge? 

A: Absolutely yes! I had previously gained a decent grasp on the process of determining what to charge, but the MU online course was a great refresher in that area. As far as working with clients, the tips and training from MU were fantastic. I feel way more comfortable walking into a shoot now, or calling a potential client to discuss a project. Both Andrew and John-Clay have been wonderful mentors to me, and I am so grateful for their investment into my training. Thanks a million!

Thanks for sharing with us, Courtney!! Keep up the awesome work, and we look forward to seeing what projects you do in the future. 🙂

Hannah Bartlett

Hannah Bartlett

Hannah Bartlett is the CXO for Motion University. She enjoys exercising both the right and left sides of her brain, working in the creative and logistics side as she supports those around her, and shares the passion of making film a career, not just a hobby.

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