Last Fall, we shot a PSA for Good Sports that we’re all very proud of.
Not only does the end result look great – thanks to the awesome team that scripted, directed, shot, and edited it – but it was a pretty smooth project to manage. This is an impressive feat overall, especially considering the 14 kids that had to be cast. And managed in one room. At the same time. All together.
I wanted to take a look back to see what we can learn on the project management side of things from this successful shoot.
Direction: Tell Us What You Know, Share What You’re Open To
When we started talking about the PSA, the Good Sports team was incredibly open with us (step one to being an awesome client!). They told us the things they knew about the PSA:
- It needed to be 30 seconds.
- It needed to be super engaging.
- It couldn’t be specific to one sport.
Equally as important, they told us what they didn’t know, which gave us parameters within which we could explore. They were open to our ideas on making it a purely positive message, or adding in some emotion and portraying how downtrodden a world without sports could be. They were open to being a bigger production, with kids to cast and multiple locations to shoot, or something simpler to execute. They were even open to animation versus actual video!
Because there was so much that was “open” about the project, we started simple. We brainstormed as a team, and came up with a few different concepts. This was done just in a Word document, putting a basic script behind a concept. We had the Good Sports team in to talk about our ideas. Fortunately, everyone loved this concept of kids “raising their hands” – showcasing how being physically active leads to improved academics, participation, and overall engagement.
Honesty sidebar – it is not always this easy. Sometimes none of the concepts hit the mark just right. Sometimes the client can’t decide. Sometimes they come to us with a concept ready, which we may be fully onboard with, or which we may need to steer them away from. This project happened to be ideal on all fronts, so we wanted to showcase it as an example of how smooth the process can be!
Script and Storyboard
With the overall concept nailed down, we worked on the actual script. From there, we put that into storyboard format. Storyboarding is a nice way to see the different scenes we’d need, and helps us to generate a shot list.
Equipment Lists, Scouting, and Casting – Oh My!
One of the most stressful parts of a video shoot, especially with so much going on, is coordinating all of the pieces. To achieve the story we envisioned, we needed to cast 14 kids and scout a couple of locations. We also needed to make sure we had the right uniforms and equipment for each sport that we’d be portraying. Our advice for managing this:
- Start early and keep things updated in a central location. We use Basecamp, but this could also be a Google spreadsheet or other tool that all necessary parties have access to.
- Establish responsibilities. Make sure it is clear who is doing what, both internally and with the client. Decide clearly who is handling casting and selecting the kids (them), who is securing the locations with necessary permits and insurance (us), and what equipment is needed (both – our videographers started the list and the client confirmed and procured all of the pieces).
- Think of the details. One of our last minute “oh no!” moments was realizing that the location for the second day of shooting didn’t have any bathrooms nearby – not ideal, given that our talent was primarily composed of young kids! Thirty-six hours before, we scrambled to get some porta-potties delivered to the athletic field the morning of the shoot. It worked, but would have kept the blood pressure lower to have thought about this beforehand!
- Expect the unexpected (see above). It’s almost inevitable, especially with something as dynamic and customized as a video shoot, where we are not doing the same things over and over. Plan for as much as possible in advance, but have the mentality that you’re going to have to solve a problem or two that you may not have expected. Stay calm and get creative if you have to!
Voiceover and Music
This particular piece had a voiceover and music for audio. Sometimes there may be dialogue as well. Advice from the project manager:
- Ensure that the client has relevant audio samples from a few possible people (only send over samples that your team likes and agrees line up with the particular vision).
- Agree on the “tone” and convey that to the voiceover artist – for this, we needed a voice that expressed hope and energy.
- Listen in! When the recording is happening, have the client and the internal video team listen in to make sure everything sounds the way it should. If there is a tricky line, have them read it a few times, so the video editor will have multiple versions to work with in the final piece.
- Music can be tricky – sometimes you get it just right the first time, and sometimes you need a few tries. Be patient, but also make sure you’re not chasing something that doesn’t exist.
- Make sure you’ve agreed on budget beforehand so you’re presenting voiceover artists and audio options that are within range – it never feels good as a PM when a client falls in love with something until they realize the cost. And this one is pretty preventable!
Okay, so a project manager gets pretty lucky when the first pass looks so awesome that everyone loves it right away. Expect some feedback and changes, especially with longer or more informational pieces. Set these parameters from the beginning, with an established amount of revisions and timing for them. Also ensure that when you’re getting feedback from the client, it is coming from the entire team (i.e. everyone that needs to see/approve the piece) and that it is clear (not “Bill likes the red. Bob likes the blue.”). And, most importantly, make sure the feedback doesn’t change the overall intention of the piece or the goals established at the beginning of the project.
Sounds easy, right? Jokes aside, the process isn’t necessarily simple, but it doesn’t have to be a headache either. When the project team and the client listen and plan cohesively, it can make for much smoother sailing. Not every project will be this fun and easy, but that’s always the goal.