Having a production come together is one of the best feelings. It helps when you’re working with clients who have larger budgets, but what happens when you don’t? It means getting creative and communicating with your client clearly. ZANE Productions shares how to navigate working with a low budget like a pro.
PH: Hi Zane, could you briefly describe what you do and how you got into the industry?
Director Zane: I am a commercial and music video director proudly running my own video production company, Zane Productions, in Los Angeles, CA. I got into the industry by accident after I met an indie artist who needed help shooting a music video back in August, 2015. I was in a transitional phase that year trying to assess what I wanted to do with my life.
I experimented with different things and thought I’d just help him out with his video! I bought a bunch of books on filmmaking, watched some YouTube tutorials, and just went ahead and shot the video! After it came out, his friends started contacting me to shoot their videos. Six months later, and after delivering over 20 videos, I decided to officially incorporate a video production company and pursue directing full time. It’s been a little over six years now and I’ve delivered over 250 videos to date including national commercials and videos that have gone viral!
PH: You have experience working with clients who have all kinds of budgets. What does the initial call look like for a client with a really low budget? How do you navigate that?
Director Zane: I’ve delivered projects that are in the low 5 figures and others in the mid six figures. I like to accommodate most budgets when possible to deliver videos that are effective to my clients.
When a client has a low budget, the most important thing during the initial call is respectfully managing expectations. I tell them exactly what we can deliver within their budget and what we can’t – both are important. Respecting the client and their budget is another important factor since many of them struggle to find companies that are willing to accommodate them. I like to make my clients feel comfortable while we work on their projects and I believe that’s why our company has been steadily growing over the years.
PH: What types of expectations is it critical to set with those types of clients? How do you do that the right way?
Director Zane: Since I have over 250 videos under my belt, it’s super easy to pull examples of low budget projects that I have delivered. By showing them what we’ve achieved within a limited budget before, they’re able to easily visualize how their videos will come out. I make sure to let them know where each dollar is going with a detailed quote. I also offer them ways to minimize costs by suggesting different ideas to make their video come to life.
PH: Can you share a few examples of concepts that work within a “low budget?” What is it important to discuss these concepts?
Here are my main rules for concepts that work within a low budget:
- Outdoor shoots in photogenic locations that have beautiful natural lighting such as the beach, desert, and green parks
- One or two indoor locations that aren’t too big and won’t require a lot of lighting, therefore a larger crew
- Limited Cast
- Simple post work without any need for visual effects and CGI
- I’m sure lots of clients come to you showcasing other projects that are similar (and look amazing) but they also had a larger budget to work with. How do you explain the difference? What is important to keep in mind?
I simply walk them through all the expenses that went into making the reference video. I break it down to them and explain how budgets keep growing as more elements are added to the video. For example, more locations and cast members mean more shoot days, therefore more money. Once again, respectfully management expectations during the first call is curtail to make sure the client understands exactly what they’re getting.
PH: If you’re working within a smaller budget, you probably have limited resources (limited crew, etc). How do you avoid cutting corners but still developing an end product your client is happy with?
Director Zane: Over the years I’ve developed a system to make sure low budget projects still come out looking clean and commercially viable. Quality work is not about shooting with 4K, 6K or even 8K cameras; it’s all about 1- simple concepts that are EFFECTIVE for the client and 2- what we put and don’t put in front of the camera. Sometimes all we need is a quick outdoor lifestyle shot of the talent interacting with the product filmed using one camera angle, good lighting, a well-coordinated color scheme and the right wardrobe. It as simple as that! I like to dig into what their target market wants to see and just provide that without overdoing it.
PH: Can you talk a bit about post-production flow for a small budget? What does it typically look like?
Director Zane: After we shoot, we present a first cut to the client to start the revision process. I like to give my clients the freedom to participate in the post process in order to make sure they get exactly what they want. Since expectations have been set before the shoot and the concept has been approved, the post process usually goes smoothly. After the edit is done, we move on to color grading and then deliver the project.
PH: Overall, what type of advice would you share with those clients who are working within a small budget?
Director Zane: My main piece of advice to clients who are working with limited budgets is to keep an open mind. Just because they don’t have big budgets, doesn’t mean they can’t get quality videos that’s are effective! They might need to put in a little more effort into finding a production company with a proven track record, but most importantly they need to work with a company that makes them feel comfortable and respected.