3 most important things to make a charity video
From script … to shoot… to final film. The more you know about making films, the better the film you’ll get.
Here’s our handy guide on how to make a charity video – it explains how the process works, who does what and how to make sure you get exactly the film you want.
Once you’ve briefed a production company and agreed a budget, you’re in production! The process breaks down into three distinct phases. If you understand how these work and who’s responsible for what, you’ll get a much better film.
This is one of the most vital stages of making a video and it’s your chance to really make sure that the film will turn out exactly as you want. It’s at this stage you should be discussing the style of video – is it going to be documentary style, interview based or an animation. Spending time on pre-production is the most valuable piece of advice we can give: get everything planned and worked out in advance, agree scripts and locations and you’ll save money and get a better film.
The good news is that this is by far the cheapest part of production as there are no expensive crew or equipment to pay for. It pays to allow a reasonable amount of time to set up the shoot and plan everything. We try to budget for 1-2 days set up for each shoot day.
The vital tasks you should be working on at this stage are:
1. Treatments and Scripts – It really helps to get your thoughts down on paper and we encourage people to try and write a very basic script that captures their thoughts and gives us an idea of who’s in the film. We generally work quite closely with clients at this stage, helping them with the script and re-writing and amending so that we can translate their vision into a wonderful film. We’ve got some examples of scripts that we send to clients – email us if you’d like one.
2. Research contributors. You can do this on the phone initially but if time and budget allows, we like to meet them face to face and sometimes even shoot a screen test. It’s a chance to find out more about people’s stories and find out what they’re likely to say on camera. It’s also a chance to talk them through what you’re planning and what will happen on the day – if you answer people’s questions at this stage, they’ll be more confident and relaxed on the day.
3. Recce the locations. It’s useful for a director to get a clear visual idea of locations but also allows a more technical check: is it too close to an airport or trainline to allow for clear sound? Is there enough room to work or enough power for bigger shoots?
4. Book Equipment and Crew. Most good crews, the camera and sound people – get booked up weeks in advance. Good editors are often booked months into the future. We often pencil several crew dates as soon as a job is confirmed, firming them up when we’ve got a definite date.
5. Produce a movement order or call-sheet. A vital document that’s a combination of contact list and schedule for every member of the team and for each location and scene to be filmed.
2. THE SHOOT
This is where all the planning comes together and it’s often a meeting of 3 groups of people – the clients and creative team, the crew and directors, and the contributors. If your pre-production has gone well, then it should be a meeting of minds.
We really enjoy having clients along on the shoots: it’s a great way to make sure they’re getting the film they want, they often have good relationships with the people we’re filming and it’s a fun process to be part of.
A couple of tips can ensure that as a client, you’ll get the most out of the shoot:
1. Understand the process. When the crew arrive, they’ll need some time to meet the contributors and talk them through the shoot. Then they’ll need to set up the camera, lights and sound equipment – this can take longer than you might think and we try and allow up to an hour for this.
2. Don’t be shy to speak. if you like what you’re seeing, then tell the Producer or Director: it’ll make them happy and make them confident that they’re getting what you want. If you don’t like what you see, then let them know too: a good team can adjust their approach or keep pushing ahead until they get what’s needed.
3. watch the monitor, not the action. We always provide a screen for clients to see what the camera sees and it’s important to be checking this because if you don’t see it on the monitor, then the camera didn’t capture it.
The key personnel on the day are:
The Director – he or she runs the shoot and will be making sure that the crew and contributors deliver what the client has asked for.
The Producer – when budgets allow, we like to work as a team of Director and Producer but on smaller shoots, often we work with just a Director. The Producer’s job on location is to make sure everything happens according to plan, to stick the script and to schedule. They’re the best person to liaise between client and crew.
DoP – the camera operator or Director of Photography. On smaller shoots often the same person as the director but on bigger shoots, he or she will run the film crew, choosing shots, organising lights and keeping the camera running.
Sound Recordist – on smaller shoots in controlled situations, often the camera operator can take care of sound, but on more complicated shoots with lots of people, or in noisy conditions such as factories, large offices or busy exteriors, a good sound recordist can make or break a film. Research has shown that poor sound is the first thing people complain about, even before a fuzzy picture.
3. POST PRODUCTION
This is the editing stage, where the planning and shooting all come together to produce the completed film.
View and Review.
We always agree with clients the number of rounds of changes that they require: we usually allow 3 rounds of review and changes.
For shorter films, the editor and director will spend a couple of days making a first cut which is then shown to the client for approval and feedback. Those changes are then incorporated and the film sent to the clients again for feedback: these are acted upon and final version sent for sign off. At this stage there may be some small amendments or tweaks. These are taken care of and the final film is delivered.
You can make things easier by:
Agreeing who will give feedback – we suggest that a single person be appointed as liaison from the client’s side. They distribute the film and then collate feedback from all interested parties.
Branding guidelines – details of fonts, colours, logos and style. Also key messages to be included should be re-affirmed.
music – ideas of mood and style or even suggestions of specific tracks or artists.
list of deliverables – what format would you like film in – DVD, MP4, WAV
art work – if you’re making a DVD now’s the time to make sure the art work is commissioned. If the film need bespoke graphics then they need to be signed off and commissioned.
Jeremy Jeffs is a documentary film maker with 15 years experience of directing films for BBC, Channel 4, National Geographic and PBS. He’s recently finished work on a history of China, with broadcaster Michael Wood and his recent feature documentary, Bette Bourne, was shown at the London Film Festival, Sheffield International Documentary Festival and the V&A.
Magneto Films is an award winning production company that specialises in working with the charity sector, not-for-profits and the public sector. We specialise in telling real stories, working with casestudies and real people to make films that move people to action.