Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Money Maker: Day in the Life Videos!

Day in the Life video productions - so simple anybody can do them, but they don’t. And, neither do friends, parents and grandparents who have and use one of the millions of camcorders sold each year.

You can market these special productions, offering client families the opportunity to not only simply enjoy the event, but also get a professionally videotaped, edited, titled, produced and packaged DVD they can enjoy watching and sharing over the years. I know this from personal and professional experience. Many of our Day in the Life clients tell us their children watch these special productions over, and over again.

What child wouldn’t? After all these productions feature them doing something they enjoy, playing music they like, often featuring them as the sole focus in an active, colorful and enjoyable movie. Kids love to watch themselves doing stuff, especially if it looks like they’re having fun doing it! Moms and dads, grandparents and friends get a pretty good kick out of these productions as well.

Back in the VHS/VHS-C days I spent a long weekend with some out-of-state friends. They have four daughters, ranging in ages from two to ten at the time. This is where I realized the marketing potential for what became “Day in the Life” videos featuring children doing something “fun”.

Being a child at heart myself, and often mistaken for a grownup-sized toy for the children I chance to be around, me and the four girls started playing hide-and-seek, hiding and scaring, room chasing and bed bouncing throughout the family residence. We went through a couple hours of S-VHS-C tape while driving the parents nuts with our noise and antics. By the time we were threatened with being forced outside in the middle of a winter day by the folks, I had worked myself into a glorious sweat. The girls, however, were nowhere near ready to calm down.

Fast forward to a couple of months later. I had some time so I went through all the footage and captured the “good stuff” created special titles for each of the girls and generally made quite a production of it. The final video wound up being about a half-hour, give or take. I packaged it up with custom graphics and sent a copy to the girls. The immediate response was overwhelming.

Mainly, the parents offered to “buy” a backup copy for themselves, and one for each of the girls because they were fighting over who owned the original. So, I produced another general video, and four with graphics featuring the girls individually, naming a video for each of them, and sent them off.

A couple of years ago, while talking with my friends, the video came up. I was asked if I still had the original and could I convert it to a DVD for them. “No,” Mom said, “make it five.” Even though the oldest had finished college and the next-oldest was in college, mom said the girls “still” talked about that video. She knew even now they each would want a DVD of their own. Talk about an extended shelf life. I was told the girls had literally worn out the original tapes, watching them so much.

I have honed this process down, and do not necessarily spend that kind of time with client children, but still. I have produced montages with special music featuring digital shots I’ve taken during a couple of hours at the local playground. I have produced live programs featuring a child and her cute antics at a playground, saying the cute things kids are prone to say, making cute (sometimes ugly) faces while mugging for the camera man.

On average I have spent about two hours accumulating video/photo resources, depending on what the client parents hire me for, the type of event, or scenario - most wind up being a few hours at the local park, playground, a petting zoo, the local pier or duck pond, Chucky Cheese, or even a McDonalds play area.

Overall success, of course, depends on how outgoing the child is. I am fortunate in that I seem to have retained the “adult-sized kid’s toy” element and can often develop some good interaction even with kids who have only known me for a short while.

The challenges exist, and it will be up to you to get what you need to make your Day in the Life productions work. I have also had to reschedule due to some situations where the best I could get out of a particularly unhappy child was two hours of crying and screaming. These usually, eventually, work out. Bad takes happen.

Why would people pay someone to produce something they can? Because it is easier, and if you balance what you do for how much you charge, and still give them something unique and professional looking (to a greater or lesser degree - depending on your fees) many people simply do not have the incentive to personally move beyond the “home video” look with their own footage.

The vast majority of home video enthusiasts simply aim and shoot for the duration of the media their camcorder uses. They talk over, shoot down instead of on a kid’s level, zoom-zoom, cut heads off, chop off audio in mid-sentence, swish pan thoughtlessly, jerk into and out of focus, never worry about back light issues, framing, stability, clean ins and outs, POVs (point of view). They record an event or special moments, watch the video once, maybe, fast forwarding through the rough stuff, think about getting some home editing equipment, or having their footage "professionally edited" yikes!

Having samples sells Day in the Life video productions. Samples show potential clients the difference between shooting everything and never editing, and a production that is videotaped and edited using at least some degree of the same professional techniques you would use during any commercial gig.

Decide what you are willing to do for how much and include your shooting time, factor your editing time, and production length into a flat fee. For me a flat fee sells a bit easier than an hourly charge.

Do a couple of samples, say one of only photos for a music montage with titles and special graphics, the other with live footage. Maybe a third featuring narrative from parents/grandparents/family/friends, live shots and photos. The only thing is, if this production is intended to please the child, the closer you come to doing a documentary style video the more you’re going to lose the child’s interest in the final production.

Feature the children heavily, with appropriate music they know and love, antics they enjoy pulling, and you will not only win the day, make the money and set up a whole new service focus, but you could wind up with a seriously renewable business. Don’t be surprised when you get calls for christening, first communion, talent show, elementary, middle and high school graduation, senior montage, milestone birthday parties, and even mom and dad or the grandparents for their parties and celebrations.

Direct mail works well for this. Keep every good address you acquire and use it as your initial direct mail marketing strategy for sending out a one-page cover letter and your Day in the Life sample DVD. Hand them out to folks at community events, around the neighborhood, or along with your samples of special childrens performances at day care, private and public schools.

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