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The Brief

The brief is the foundation of your project and will ultimately determine the strength or relevance of ideas developed by the production company. Without a well-considered brief, production companies may still be able to blindly pitch you ideas. However, it is very likely that they won’t ever feel ‘right’. It’s like cooking a sponge cake without a recipe. You might have a rough idea of the ingredients but by guessing quantities it’s unlikely it’ll turn out the way you want it to.

So what are the main points you need to identify in an effective brief?

1. Purpose

It might seem obvious but this is one of the most important things to identify.
  Single out one core problem and what you want the video to address.

For example:

Problem:  No one understands what our organisation does.  Solution: A video that makes my business offering clear and easy to digest.

Problem:  People don’t fully appreciate the value of our product.  Solution: A video that highlights your products key qualities.

If a single challenge or goal has been made clear the video can focus entirely on tackling it. If too many functions are thrown into the mix the aims of the video become diluted and considerably less effective.

You don’t necessarily need to know what form you want the video to take.
  Whether it’s a talking head, animation or a short film, a good production company should be able to help talk you through some options and find the most appropriate format. At this stage what’s important is what the video will need to do, not how it’ll do it.  Will it be there to promote, inform or influence?

2. Audience.

With the aims of the video tied down pinpointing exactly who the target audience are is a very worthwhile exercise.  The more focused this is the more effective the video will be. There should be one core demographic that you want to speak to, if others start to listen along the way that’s a bonus.

There’s no such thing as a one-size-fits-all video.  If you try and simultaneously target businessmen, potential clients, your existing clients, parents, teenagers, dog owners and women from Sweden it’s practically guaranteed that your video won’t be relevant to all, if any, of them. If you’ve already defined your core problem identifying a specific audience should be an easy but essential task.

3. Distribution

A couple of decades ago this step wouldn’t need much consideration.  You would have had a choice between cinemas, on TV and through VHS. Online and mobile videos were barely even twinkles in the postman’s eye.  Nowadays if a video’s distribution strategy isn’t carefully considered it will simply get lost in a sea of digital content.

When you know what you’re saying and whom you’re saying it to you need to think seriously about how you are going to be able to get a chance to say it to them.  No matter how good a video is it won’t watch itself.

Will you drive your audience to your website to watch the video?  
Will you promote it via social media networks?
  Will it be watched on mobiles?
  Will it be displayed in public spaces? Will it be watched with or without sound?
  Will it be hosted on YouTube or Vimeo?  
Will it stand alone, or will it accompany other material?

The list is almost endless but will help to uncover the limitations of the video’s environment and optimize its potential success.

Another thing to note would be that in most cases you are best to avoid asking for viral distribution.  When it works it wins big but it’s an extremely high-risk strategy that’s appropriate for only a small number of projects. In the majority of cases a highly targeted video will return much better results.  Unless you’re a household name or are launching a promotional campaign for a low cost everyday consumer product, I wouldn’t touch viral with a 10-foot barge pole. It’s a largely meaningless term when it comes to commissioning video and can be a major hindrance for anything other than indiscriminate brand exposure.

4. Budget

Whilst you may think you’ll end up with a better deal if you don’t name the price you want to pay,  this is a misguided approach.  Whether you’ve got $500 or $5,000,000 to spend on a video, you are better to be upfront about your available budget.  Any trustworthy production company will still quote competitively and for a treatment that they perceive to be of the best possible value for your available funds.

Asking for the cost of making a video is like enquiring about the length of a piece of string.  You could send your brief to anyone from an enthusiastic film student to a world-renowned production company and receive vastly disparate quotes for essentially the same video.  However, the main points of difference between them would be their filmic quality and the experience and reputation of the team entrusted by you to produce it. With increased experience comes a reduced risk in your project falling flat.

Filmmaking is an extremely flexible process. By making your budgetary constraints known you are setting up a framework from which a film can be constructed. When combined with the three previous points this framework is strengthened and allows for accurate and useful concepts to be developed.

5. AOB

If you have any mandatory requests outside of these four points, any source materials that you like or any styles you want to avoid then these should also be made clear in your brief. Just remember to keep it focused and don’t be afraid to place a certain degree of trust in your production company.

The production company should know what they’re doing and should be able to take the video’s purpose, audience, distribution strategy and budget into account and develop an interesting idea that can achieve exactly what you need it to.  If you are uncertain of anything they should also be able to advise you on the best possible solutions.