Sunday, September 23, 2007

Find the perfect video producer

Earl Chessher, owner of California Wedding Cinema, offers points that help tomorrow's brides and grooms pick the right independent video production services provider for their wedding event. Avoid common mistakes by using the following information when selecting your wedding video producer.

(Huntington Beach, CA) September 22, 2007 -- Amateur wedding video producers enter this business daily, making it even more difficult for the discerning bride and groom to wade through the crowd in an effort to find the right professional for their wedding day.

The number one reason for getting stuck with a poor quality wedding video is not taking the time to properly screen your prospects. Screening on price alone can often generate a field of inexperienced players. you do not want to invest in a beginner video producer's education when your special day calls for a great video production.

Or, if you do make your selection based on price vs experience, at least be aware of the potential difference in quality you might have to accept. In all fairness there are amateurs and beginners who give a great production for the money, but that makes your screening process all the more important to ensure finding the diamond among them.

In many cases this is your first wedding planning experience. you are entering a world of mixed signals, overstated claims and unsure consequences. Referrals help, and so does research to identify vendors conveniently available to you. But you still must make the time to screen your prospects.

Key elements to consider, in addition to price and experience, when interviewing a prospective wedding video producer are how she approaches lighting, sound and overall production. You also want to be comfortable with the person who videotapes your wedding day, so during your screening, make sure you will meet and talk with that person.

These are your first steps in finding the right service provider. But what about while you are trying to narrow the field from the hundreds of potential producers that show up in your web search?

Stick with these points during your first cut: Presentation, price and product. Is the web site easy to follow? Are critical contact information, complete "about us" facts including experience, some idea of general pricing, and sample clips available?

The following tips will not always save you a bundle of money, but certainly will save you a bundle of grief.

Tip No. 1 - go beyond web site sample clips and the demo reel.
Those just getting started in the business may not have clips, or even a demo reel, but they should at least be able to provide you with a copy of a complete wedding video production they've produced, even if it was their first or only production. If she is reluctant to share something with you that represents her price vs quality position, move on to the next one.

While flashy demo DVDs are potentially a good way to judge a wedding video producer's general approach to videotaping, and creative style, always demand a full wedding production just as it was delivered to the client. It takes time, and you certainly do not want to spend hours upon hours watching complete weddings, but viewing enough to get a solid appreciation for the producer's work is important.

If experience is more important to you than pricing, within reason, then the quality of the actual wedding production will bear this out.

Tip No. 2 - go beyond getting referrals.
It is imperative that you get names and contact information of previous clients. Get at least three. I personally recommend five.

Any reluctance or hesitation to provide referrals, move on to the next prospect. And, when you call them you want to ask two specific questions if you ask nothing else: Are you happy with your production? How long did it take for you to receive it? Anything beyond 90 days is unacceptable.

Tip No. 3 - see Tip No. 1
Many, many independent wedding and event video services providers talk about broadcast experience, working television or cable production. That experience can be a solid factor supporting the quality and professional level of their work.

In and of itself, however, it may not be enough. While you might be impressed with long lists of awards, columns of corporate and business names you might recognize on the posted client list, and the fact that your prospect has a fleet of Humvees with blazing sign work on the side, you STILL need to view something that represents her wedding video production work. This is why I said see Tip No. 1.

Tip. No. 4 - after you have decided that experience, satisfactory full production quality and several good referrals take priority over price, toss out any service provider on your list whose highest priced package is less than $1,000!
That's right! Use the same valuation you found acceptable for your photographer! Again, while there are exceptions, you will have to look long and hard to find a producer who can give you the professional quality, assurance of experience and an acceptable product delivery time for such a low price. When she is often doing video as a side business, holding down another job, and struggling just to deliver her inexpensive videos, it is virtually impossible for this person to compete against the full time seasoned pro.
Again, if price takes precedence then be prepared to look long and hard until you find a low budget producer who meets minimum standards for quality wedding video production.

Tip No. 5 - unless you are absolutely positive you want to take the risk, make sure this one is a RULE and not just a "tip." ONLY continue the screening process with a potential service provider if she can show you a full wedding production that is less than a year old. If you settle for price without some proof/guarantee that your prospect even knows what a wedding is like, you will not be happy with your video!

Tip 6 - take it all into consideration.
Product, Professionalism, Personality, Price and Enthusiasm! Anything less is represented, move on to the next prospect. Just so you know, Robert Gordman, president of The Gordman Group, and author of best seller, "The Must-Have Customer: 7 Steps to Winning the Customer You Haven't Got," in an article in Wedding & Event Videography Resource Guide, said:
"Another way (for a video company to gain customers) is to become known as the company to go to every time you need a video."
He further suggests that video companies offering a diversity of products and services may be well-equipped to offer experienced professional service.

Tip No. 7 - Keep in mind that numerous surveys conducted by participants in the bridal industry note that brides who do not have a video production of their wedding regret it after the fact. Use proper and informed active screening to identify the kind of professional wedding and event video services provider you want, and hire her today!

Earl Chessher is president of California Wedding Cinema, providing professional wedding and event production services for hundreds of discerning brides for more than 15 years. He has been involved with the preservation of family events, history, stories and weddings in photographs, publication and video production for more than 30 years. For more information on this award winning video producer, go to; or

Thursday, June 21, 2007

The POWER of Video

The potential power of video has never been so evident as in the following story shared by Natalie "Natty" Neal, a Lansdale, PA professional video producer and prominent participant in the wedding and event video community. She is the owner of Glass Slipper Productions at

The Power of Video and Friendship...

You never know who you will impact or when. Let me tell you a true story. Four years ago I sent an unsolicited email to a potential bride. I know I was wrong and I don't do that sort of thing now - but that was then. The bride calls me to ask me to remove her from my email list - I was super friendly and apologetic - we actually talked for over an hour we clicked so well. I talked her into coming in - she booked us to cover her wedding. At the time I was also toying with photography and she volunteered to be my guniea pig and photograph her wedding as well. She loved all we did for her that day. We grew closer, her and her husband and me and mine became close - dinner, dancing, movies, bowling - friend stuff.

Two years later we asked them to be a part of our bridal party when Rob and I renewed our wedding vows and we had a big ole wedding.

Last year they had their first child a baby girl.

Today I get a call from my friends husband telling me that his wife is dying. She has about a week to ten days he says. They didn't tell anybody (friends) because she didn't want her friends to feel sorry for her and to watch her wither away - it all started about 3 months ago. Today I am told she asked for us.

Her husband in tears says "we value your friendship so much. I wouldn't trade it for the world. But it's what you did for us on our wedding day being our videographers that I will cherish for the rest of my life. Because of you, my daughter will see and know her mother. Because of the video I thought I could not afford, Olivia will hear her mothers voice. Her memories will be forged with your video".

My God, I lost it. Sometimes we get caught up in the business of being in business. Climbing ladders that don't matter, or trying to be at the top. Today I realized that what we do with video cannot be be measured with a price tag or a plaque on the wall. It's value is in the legacy's we protect everyday - and we don't even realize it.

My heart is breaking. But I know that what I did four years ago for a woman who didn't even want me emailing her, is the priceless gift she gave to her child.

If you read this far I thank you. I thank you for being a part of the world of videography. We are the keepers of the past and the protectors of memories. Remember.


Monday, April 23, 2007

Marketing Bridal Lists

E-mail should be the LAST resort in a marketing strategy for working lists from bridal fairs:

First - even though we're promised, and often receive, a definitive, accurate and effective list of registered bridal visitors by the bridal fair organizers, these lists often arrive as late as two or three weeks.

And, they are rarely as accurate as we'd like, often through no real fault of the organizers, but more that many, MANY bridal fair guests do not always GIVE accurate information. Also, they are usually full of multiple registrations by moms, sisters, friends, etc.

That being said, we do whatever we can to obtain a working list of our own, one that we can begin "working" immediately. We often obtain this list by having a end-of-show drawing at our booth, sometimes requiring that the entrants be present to win, other times stating that we will notify the winner by phone and/or mail after the show.

We approach obtaining this list in many ways, but the most effective for us has been that my assistant engages the bride and/or groom with a few questions about their engagement, when or where he or she popped the question, etc. We do this TV interview style, with a camera focused on them, and microphone in hand. I have DVDs with pre-recorded demo content on a chapter, or chapters, then record these interviews, slip the DVD into a case with custom insert and business card, and hand it to them. While the bride, usually, is talking to my assistant, and being recorded, I get the groom or a friend or accompanying family member to fill out the entry card for our drawing.

Sure, we lose a few people this way, but the ones who's "stories" we capture to DVD, then hand out to them along with our demo are very effective, with a longer "shelf life" than an ordinary demo, although we do hand out those as well.

We use a multi-faceted approach when following up, regardless of how our lists are acquired. We do this in the following order USUALLY:

• Send specially printed post cards with pertinent information and hand-signed with an expression of appreciation for visiting the bridal fair, and/or our booth. This also offers an opportunity to request via e-mail, mail or phone (no sales pressure applied) to acquire a
demo DVD that includes a full wedding production, and our web site of course.

• We follow up this contact within 10 days with a one-page letter offering something special if they "act now," repeat our offer of a free demo DVD, and state that we will give them a "call within the next five days," to answer any questions they might have.

• We follow up this contact with a phone call. The contact will often CALL us - some kind of "preemptive strike" effort, I guess, but often they'll leave a message, ask a few questions or decline or say they've already selected a video services provider and not to waste our time with them. In so many words or another, but essentially this is their message. Often, however, we will actually field the call in person, affording us an opportunity to win them over with our personalities (smile goes here), and so forth.

• We follow this contact up with all but those who specifically said they had booked elsewhere and not to bother them by sending the demo DVD anyway, usually within another 10 days. We enclose a business card, brochure and a brief note that if they haven't made up their minds for
video (or not), haven't booked, or whatever to PLEASE call or e-mail. We promise to answer ANY questions or concerns they might have and promise in bold letters to NOT pressure them if they do so.

• We hang onto these lists and our notes regarding who we've contacted, who we've talked to, mailed to, etc. We have a month/year file and 60 days prior to their designated event date we e-mail (FINALLY) and/or send a one-page letter or post card, making some kind of offer if they book within the next 5 working days, even at this late hour, as we've not yet booked their date and would "love to work" with them.

We get a lot more out of our lists when we work this program faithfully.

Sure, we sometimes stumble, lose information, don't follow up, whatever (maybe I'm just in a bad mood or something, or don't FEEL like communicating with people - you know how it is.) but when we've worked the marketing system this way, and do it with consistency and conviction, our closing rate goes way up.

We are diversified, and do not focus exclusively on wedding video production. Being full time we offer video production services for (our mantra - "ALL CELEBRATIONS OF LIFE!") milestone celebratory events, funerals, memorials, montage and projection work, youth sports, martial arts, school plays and events, and productions, dance studios, swim club competitions, water polo yearbooks, rowing team yearbooks, children's birthdays, senior graduation and grad night celebrations, and more.

But when we do a wedding it doesn't end there. We keep a file of every wedding we've produced. We send an anniversary card on their first anniversary and often every anniversary, a holiday greeting card during the Thanksgiving, Christmas (or related religious holidays) and New Year's season.

We have MANY who keep in touch, expressing their appreciation for our remembering them, telling us they've had their first child, etc. As a result of this we get countless referrals, not only for weddings, but for many of the other celebrations of life people celebrate through the years. We offer them our updated multi-production demo that shows elements of the many other things we do in addition to weddings.

Marketing takes work, energy, planning, money and organization, consistency, persistency... ...but it pays off in huge dividends if you stay with the program. I sometimes allow myself to become slack and lazy, thinking I have so much ongoing business, calls, and production work to get done, I don't have time to market. But when I let it go the feast can quickly turn to famine. Every week, if not every day, requires that some kind of marketing endeavor - handing out a card, making a call, tweaking the web site, mailing a demo, etc. - takes place.

Sure, most of us know this, know that "great ideas won't work..." unless we do, and SOME of us, including myself, might stick with such a program more or less. Conducting a marketing plan with as much consistency and organization as possible really works.

There's a HUGE amount of business opportunity "out there" not only for wedding producers, but full time independents offering services for other celebrations and events as well. This kind of approach to keeping in touch with your clients, and working those lists pays major dividends.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Who Makes You Comfortable?

Price, product, quality and other pertinent issues aside, when it comes time to pick a professional independent wedding video services provider to produce your wedding, everything boils down to: "Am I comfortable with these people?"

The professional community bats such issues around constantly - which is more important? Price? Product? Marketing? Personality? Something else?

A service provider who comes off comfortable with you, with your questions and concerns, who takes time to listen to what you are saying AND what you are NOT saying; one who knows and shows her business, who walks the walk and can talk the talk, who makes YOU comfortable, will prove an asset for you on your wedding day.

Just as a lot of people who get to know and appreciate the skills and talents of their planner or coordinator know they can pretty much let it go and enjoy their wedding celebration, the same transfer of concern should come about with you and your video producer.

After the research, interview, establishment of the usual business credits, and your follow-up on referrals, trust your instincts. If something about her makes you uncomfortable - whether or not you can put your finger on it - then look some more. If, however, you experience a great overall sense of comfort with her, sign the agreement. Odds are in your favor that you are now in good hands.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Video Producers! Diversify and Survive!

If you have been a professional independent video production services provider, full time or part time, for more than two years and have not been able to earn the profits you seek, diversification is the answer. It can financially augment primarily weekend wedding work, and can generate cash flow, and weekday work that solidly reinforces your bottom line while broadening your marketing reach.
Another potential benefit is that the variety of production experiences from simple and quick to complex, immediate cash flow to long term income generation can possibly prevent the stress, burn out and boredom some experience by doing the same thing day in and day out. For my company diversification was key to survival from a financial, creative, physical and mental standpoint.
Some video producers prefer to specialize exclusively on one aspect of production - wedding video, for example. I elected to specialize in video production. Period.
Up front, let me say that there is absolutely nothing wrong with focusing on a weddings only business plan. Furthermore, there is nothing wrong with doing it part time. There are many success stories all over the video production world where independent and small companies are successful and profitable focusing exclusively on wedding video production services.
On the other hand there are countless individuals, small independent companies, and even some of the larger operations who express the difficulties they experience when attempting to make a profit, or even remain in business, producing wedding video exclusively. As an added income resource, being exclusively a wedding video production services provider on a part time basis certainly has its benefits, and often can lead to a stronger business base when the decision is made to move into full time operation. For the rest of us, and many of those working part time as well, there's diversification.
Many of you are already aware of this. Others continue to ponder the benefits of focusing primarily on wedding video production services while also seeking work outside an industry based on love, romance and commitment.
Many also are aware of the benefits of marketing production services to the overwhelming number of video related possibilities that exist. Anyone who has been in the business for a few years has discovered for themselves, or read countless magazines, web sites and books focusing on a broad range of video production opportunities.
The list is infinite, but on it are included youth sports, ranging from private, to community, to public schools; adult sports; community plays; events such as pow wows, car shows and renaissance festivals, concept videos for the young or mature market, martial arts events, special interest productions, projection services, memorials, funerals and music montage productions.
There are also endless opportunities for creating and marketing your own productions - work once, sell many. Well, sell a few anyway. The market doesn't have to be huge to pay off. Independent productions from music to art, to entertainment to instructional, can be quite satisfying as well as profitable if you have the talents and resources to pull it off.
The one key rule to apply here is: "Great ideas won't work unless you do." - author unknown.
All the ideas, from creativity to marketing, to concept to application, you come up with, read about or study will not work unless you are willing to do the work necessary to assure success.
That success begins with marketing.
If you are going to diversify your production business you have to increase your marketing efforts. Simply being open to production of video beyond weddings will not cut it. You market your wedding video production services and products. You must do the same for other areas of video service. While you do get the occasional inquiry via your wedding marketing efforts regarding other events from birthdays to retirements, to funerals or montage work, it is rare that potential clients who respond to your marketing perceive you as anything more than a wedding video producer.
I opted to establish a general services web site that outlines the many types of production work we perform. I established a weddings only web site under a unique name that will soon not only exclusively represent wedding production services, but aim at a higher end market. Meanwhile, wedding production services information will be removed from the general services web site. I anticipate, in time that I will also have a dedicated site for funeral, memorial montage and projection services, also one geared specifically toward production for small business, special interest and corporate production work. While it is nice to think of myself as an all things to all people video producer, that isn't always the perception.
Keeping your diverse video productions segregated will sometimes make a difference. The jury is still out on my decision to handle all aspects of my video business under the roof of a parent company, or keep them isolated. Otherwise, related production work can be kept in one basket - say, school and community events; youth sports and other competitive fields such as martial arts, rowing, even auto racing; celebrations of life.
Many of these other production possibilities are held weekdays and evenings, involve hundreds of participants, and are highly receptive to approaching "in progress" a la guerrilla marketing, or lend themselves to an effective direct marketing approach with sample DVDs, cover letters or post cards, and a special proposal.
Doors can be opened by offering speculative promotions where you do the work then take your chances on winning them over, special offers for a bare minimum guaranteed sales to parents or via the organization - both of these are great "get acquainted" approaches, but do require some risk on your part. My experience is virtually all our approaches have paid off in the long run, most of them immediately.
Another approach is to offer a special one time production cost approach with a good rate based on number of copies sold - price breaks at minimum, 100 units, or 200 or more units.
I know this. Every hour of every day, individuals, groups or organizations are doing something that can be served by video. The best approach of all to get their business is to figure out how to show these people what's in it for them.
Diversify and survive.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Without Video It's All Just a Memory

A video of your wedding...
If you view a wedding video and like it, are comfortable with the professional you are interviewing, and can fit her price structure into your wedding budget, then do it!
The usual concerns include reading the small print on the agreement, asking for and following up on referrals and, if you are looking for someone with experience, how many years the video company has been business - full time or part time. Is this a real business or a side job to a non-related career?
...just remember, without a video everything will be just a memory.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Photos Don't Talk

Video generates 1,800 images per minute, and they move.
Photography does not.
In your video you hear friends, family and guests talk, laugh, cry, joke, often sing, and move to music.
People in photos do not.
People in video hug, kiss, walk, run, dance, spin, act goofy, drink, play, smile, and show off their personalities.
They also do this in photographs.
Photographs capture, preserve the moment.
Video captures, and preserves the day...
...the event, its sights, and sounds.
With photographs you provide the memories, movements, and music score.
With video, you don't have to.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Some video producers care

We are many, and most of us in the professional independent wedding & event video service provider community care very much about how you are treated, how your video production preferences are met, and how we can provide you, the bride and groom, with exactly the approach, price and quality you deserve in a video that will become a cherished and valued family heirloom.
Great independent video producers are GREAT listeners. They pay strict attention to your questions and concerns, and they offer without hesitation the answers you are looking for. There are an abundance of styles and deliveries available to the discerning bride and groom when it comes to exploring the possibilities. While a bit of time is necessary to interview, confirm and follow up on potential video service providers, the investment can be well made.
Product, personality and price are viable elements in the interview process. Brides and grooms making the effort to explore each facet of this in deciding on a personal professional producer will gain much in return. A professional producer will have on hand suitable quality samples of her work, will prove herself flexible, friendly and caring, and will offer much more for your investment than dollars and cents.
She will provide not only the elements, from experience to technical knowledge, equipment redundancy and emergency human resources, necessary to get the job done, but will herself be personally invested in assuring and ensuring your production reflects the day as it was. She will also provide you with the artist's eye, making available to you, depending on your special preferences, creative components that will further enhance the memories of your wedding day.
She sees the interaction, the poignant moments, the little, and big, things that occur during your event - those times when you are so much a central part of the event that you never would have noticed, were it not for her watchful eye. She is rewarded personally, artistically and financially for not being a part of your celebration, but being a dedicated and focused professional observer of the moments and capturing them on your behalf.
Many in our business talk the talk, and can impress with technical soundbites, but few can show the empathy unless it exists. A professional independent video services provider can be proud of his or her equipment, knowledge, experience and abilities, but the real value is in finding one who also truly cares.