Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Video Gone to the Dogs, and Cats

Your video production business can literally go to the dogs...
...and cats! Birds! Monkeys! Ferrets!

But you will still be able to make a living at it because people love their pets and often become enthusiastic when you suggest creating a professionally produced Pet Video Biography of one (or all) of their non-human family members. I mention dogs first, because they are either neck-and-neck or second only to cats in how they are loved, doted upon, spoiled and treated...
...as well as abused, but that is another story I will share at the end of this article.

Any breed, or type of animal or creature that can display a personality, do tricks on command, or respond to its human companion is ripe to star in its own video biography. And the family members who love and care for their special friends love having something to show off to other friends and family members, as well as the story of their pet that they can visit in the event that one day their favorite animal is no longer around. Pet Video Biographies extend the lives of these animals for their families, renewing and preserving special memories over the years.

Maybe even fish...
...well, maybe not a fish. Perhaps if there is a pet dolphin?

Pet Video Biographies are excellent focus for personal professional video production services. Properly promoted and with good production skills represented in a couple of samples you could make this aspect of video production a full time career in and of itself.

I created one example, using a special family pet, a black lab - young, energetic, personable and special (obviously) - to its human family, as well as neighborhood friends, both canine and human. His name is Mickey.

I spent about an hour with Mickey and members of his family, videotaping Mickey's favorite activity - going for a walk around the neighborhood. Mickey loves his family, and they love him, and he gets so excited when it comes time for his daily exercise routine that he almost puts on his leash by himself. Well, he does take it in his mouth and makes a dash for the back yard gate, tossing the leash end up into the air and catching it in his mouth, sometimes nearly making the loop fall over his head and onto his neck.

I've no doubt that Mickey sooner or later will learn to make that trick happen. He also lets one of his family place a doggy bone biscuit on top of his nose then, upon command, makes a quick move causing the biscuit to disappear into his mouth. Before that command though, Mickey rolls his eyes, searching and patiently waiting for the command that will let him put the tasty treat where it belongs. Mickey has no problem letting the rest of the family know when he is hungry as well, grabbing his food dish in his mouth and sitting in front of the first one home, looking up with those expressive eyes, catching their look and smile before dropping the dish at their feet. Subtle hint, huh.

The family has something to say as well, sharing special anecdotes, tales of excitement, close encounters of the scary kind, and unique personality traits and tricks their favorite pet can perform. Many of these can be captured as well, along with the narrative that will often take on a life of its own. Invariably, there will be family photos of their pet as well, alone and sharing in family outings, splashing at the beach or in the lake, riding the boat, bicycle or even a little red wagon - maybe even pulling some kids in one.

The narrative, the live footage, photos - from "childhood" to those taken during production acquisition, as well as stills taken from some of the live footage that does not lend to inclusion as moving shots because, well, maybe the pet isn't moving. Maybe he, she or it is posing. All this comes together to create a combination of narrative, establishing a story line; action and photo montage with music that can generate a very special production.

Usually, for this kind of production, I find that on-camera audio is adequate for the purpose. But you can certainly improve the interview, or story telling part of the video by using a more direct audio acquisition approach when action is not involved. I was fortunate in my first sample production because Mickey's family genuinely loves him with great affection. Talking about him, interacting with him, and talking to him came perfectly natural for them, giving me all the narrative I needed to put it together.

There will be challenges. There will be perfect and natural successes. There will be many experiences and interesting events along the way, but offering, creating and producing Pet Video Biographies can fill a special service niche for pets, pet lovers and people who love capturing their stories on video. When professionally edited, these documentaries are an excellent formula for growing your business as a professional video services provider.

I also acquired through a library of public access images, and my own, a series of mixed dog and cat still shots that I put together in a music montage. As a demo, I discovered that this was a bit to long, and am now in the process of reducing the sample to only enough special images and a music track that can represent to potential pet lovers another, more affordable, possibility for preserving their memories of their special animal friends.

I currently shoot up to one hour, at $100 per hour. This is usually enough if the participants have planned it, or if it is part of a standard daily routine (these come off a bit more natural, usually). Sometimes it may take more time, more dates...charge accordingly.

I include photos (theirs) at $3 per image for actual photos; $2 for slides; and $1 per image for digital jpegs on CD. I charge per music selection (they provide on their personally purchased and owned CDs); titles or other special inclusions.

I charge $100 to $200 for editing, depending on the complexity, and deliver a production that varies in length from 12 minutes to 30 minutes. Their first DVD, with special printed graphics on insert and DVD, and clear plastic library case, is $25. Copies 1 to 10 are $15 each; 11 or more go for $10 each - all with the custom graphics.

I average about $400 per project, for around 4-5 hours of work. Not a bad way - FUN actually - to pick up some coin, enjoy the "work", get out of the standard wedding/event production routine, and tell a special story. This is something you can actually feel good about.

Regarding pricing - I've gone cheaper, and I've charged more, depending on the situation, story, cooperation and the family's budget and interest level.

I talked earlier about abused and/or abandoned pets. Millions of dogs and cats a year are mistreated, abused, abandoned, all too few of them finding their way into a shelter. Sadly, even the shelter is often only a way station to euthanasia - a necessary but troubling mercy killing of all but a rare select few who find a second home with loving people. (Other species also are victims of uncaring, or stupid heartless, people, I am sure - we often read or hear of horses, pet pigs, boas and other animals suffering from inhuman treatment, or lack of...)

Video can be utilized here as well. A local public access station I have worked with in the past always maintained a program, or allowed time as part of another program, to introduce a few animals from the local shelter, hoping to entice someone watching to come, visit and take home a pet. Paid, or simply finding a way to provide this service for your local animal shelter can go a long way toward establishing you as a caring and active community member, pet lover and provider for a very real need. Contact your local shelter and find out what you can do with your video skills that might help a few of these animals find loving homes.

Did you know that a ferret is a domesticated version of the Old World polecat, often trained to hunt for rats and rabbits?

That's it for now. Find a pet. Tell a story. Make some money.


Jay Michael said...

Hey Earl,
You should join DVprofessionals.com
Your knowledge would be good there.

Also, can you add the "Follow this blog" feature to this blog?


Jay Michael said...

oops! LOL I'm laughing at myself, I'm already following this blog! LOL
hehehe Sorry