12 Questions to Ask Before Hiring a Production Company

October 13, 2021

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Lisa Marinelli

Creative

Adam Day

Creative


At Wistia, we’re lucky to have our own in-house studio team that sees video projects through from start to finish. But that doesn’t mean we haven’t worked with external video production companies or freelancers in the past to help bring our ideas to life!

In fact, there are many different ways we’ve worked with external folks to create shows like One, Ten, One Hundred, Show Business, Talking Too Loud, and more.

If working with a video production company is on your radar, you’ve come to the right place. To help you make this decision, we chatted with the Wistia Studios team to get their input on the most important considerations for your business before hiring a production company.

Keep reading to find out the questions you should ask your team internally before hiring a video production company, as well as questions you should ask potential production companies before you decide who to work with. Let’s go!

What is a production company?

Production companies differ from company to company in the scope of work they can help your business accomplish. For example, some production companies help bring your creative vision to life by shooting and editing videos. Others guide you through the entire creative process, from coming up with an idea, to writing and shooting it, and finally delivering a shiny new video.

Note
The differences between video production companies and video agencies are that video agencies also offer in-house marketing services to help with marketing, delivery, distribution, and other performance-driven strategies.
“Partnering in this way can help you get the best production value in a short period of time and be really helpful if you’re not used to producing videos on a consistent basis.”

Many businesses use production companies to create all sorts of videos, from customer testimonials to product videos, video series, and more. At Wistia, we’ve partnered with several companies over the years for projects like these; this can make sense particularly if your business doesn’t have an internal production or creative team. Partnering in this way can help you get the best production value in a short period of time and be really helpful if you’re not used to producing videos on a consistent basis.

Production companies are also useful if your creative team wants to do a project that’s beyond the scope of what you normally create in-house. For example, if you wanted to create an animated series but have no experience doing so, you might want to search for a production company that specializes in animation.

For our docuseries One, Ten, One Hundred, we wanted to work with Sandwich Video because we loved the company’s writing style and approach to product videos. If there’s a production company with a specific style you’re trying to achieve but aren’t practiced at doing it yourself, a production company can help you get where you want to be.

Questions to help you decide whether outsourcing makes sense for your business

Your business should consider some important things before hiring a production company to work on your project. To ensure this is the right decision for your business and your project, use these questions as a guide and get all relevant stakeholders involved in the conversation.

1. What’s the purpose of us working with an outside production company?

This question might seem obvious, but it’s important for everyone on your team to be on the same page. What are people hoping to get out of the relationship? What do they expect to contribute? Consider how involved — or not involved — your team wants to be in your video creation process.

2. How do we want to balance creative control?

Does your team want to write the script for the video or video series and come up with the creative — or do you need help with creative ideas and executions? If your answer is the latter, a production company might be the right route to take. (If it’s the former, check out question five below!).

In the end, the goal of the first two questions is to help you get clear on where you need assistance and what you hope the production company can help you with. It’s also important to stay flexible on these points because creative collaboration can always bring forward new and better ideas.

3. What’s our budget comfort level?

You should have an understanding of your budget comfort level. Production companies tend to work in specific ballparks, such as pulling off videos with a budget of $10,000 or working with $50,000 on a video campaign. It’s also important to note that some production companies have a production fee, which means they take a percent of the allotted budget.

4. How do you want to allocate your time and resources?

The last things you should consider are the hard numbers surrounding your team’s time and resources. Is it more efficient to allow your employees to focus on things they’re more familiar with and hire a production company to handle the rest? More often than not, hiring out can help you save time and money. For example, we’ve hired agencies for our projects in the past in order to allow our internal team to focus on other things.

5. Would it make more sense to work with a freelance creative?

If you only need to expand one aspect of your creative team but aren’t ready to hire, or if you need help with a very specific task (like audio mixing, scriptwriting, or lighting a slightly bigger production than you’ve been doing on your own), it might be a better fit to work with a freelancer. Freelancers are excellent for working with on a one-off basis, and they state their hourly or project rate instead of working with a ballpark budget.

By answering these questions with everyone who’s involved in your video project, you’ll be able to make the best decision about whether or not hiring out is the right move for your business.

Questions to ask potential video production companies

If you’re certain that you want a video production company to help take your video project across the finish line, here are some questions to ask a production company before committing to working together.

1. What kinds of videos do you specialize in?

Every production company has its strengths, whether it’s telling brand stories or coming up with compelling ad campaigns. Ask the company what its specialties are and see if those align with your video goals.

2. How big is your company and who would be working on our project?

Asking this question will help you identify who you might collaborate with on your project. For example, some production companies are fully staffed, while others may hire additional crew members to get the job done, depending on your budget and the production requirements.

3. What other companies like ours have you worked with?

Inquiring about a production company’s work with other businesses in your industry, or that are similar to yours, is a great way to compare apples to apples. Get a better understanding of the production company’s quality of work by researching its work with other companies like yours.

4. Can you share your reel or some of your recent work with us?

It’s standard for production companies to share a reel of their work with you, but don’t be afraid to ask to see more examples — especially if they’re able to provide similar companies to yours in their answer to the question above.

5. What is your general workflow and process like?

It’s also helpful to know the production company’s general workflow and what conditions their team prefers to work under. That way, you can assess how that will fit in with your own workflow and processes.

“Using the information you gathered from internal conversations, iron out who would be responsible for what in your partnership.”

Using the information you gathered from internal conversations, iron out who would be responsible for what in your partnership. This is critical when it comes to creative control. Who will be doing the writing? Who owns the creative piece? How much input can you have — or do you need — in the process?

A very experienced production company will be pretty good (and firm) about working all of this out with you — it’ll have a best-practices way of doing things and generally want to agree to the working relationship from the get-go to avoid future confusion.

Depending on what you’re engaging the production company for, you might also want to ask how many stages of feedback there are. Often, you’re given a specific amount of feedback rounds because the production company can’t allow clients to keep endlessly iterating on projects. This goes for the writing and pre-production process, as well as the post-production process. For example, there might be three passes on the script or three passes on the final edit.

You should also ask, “How much time do we get between rounds?” This will help you be resourceful and keep yourself on schedule, should you choose to work with this company. If you ask for more rounds of feedback than the company automatically provides, be aware there are typically additional charges around that.

6. What kind of gear are you using?

Asking about the production company’s gear will clue you in to whether or not a portion of your budget might be used to rent gear. This isn’t always a bad thing — in part, you’re hiring a team that knows the precise gear to rent to make your project sing. If, on the other hand, the production company owns the gear needed to produce your video, then you know your budget will be allocated to other things, which has its own upsides.

7. How does payment work?

When you’re ready to talk about budget, you should feel free to ask how payment works and if the company has a production fee. If you know your ideal budget, you can even ask the production company to share an example it has of working with a similar budget. For example, “Can you share with us an example of a $10,000 video?”

A caveat: This can be a difficult question for them to answer. Many production companies may come back with an answer more along the lines of, “It depends,” or “That’s not easy to do!” That’s okay, too. You’re just trying to get the conversation started and keep it moving forward.

When you’re trying to figure out if a production company is the right fit for your business, the goal is to be clear and have a good understanding of expectations and workflow before you agree to start a project. Taking the time to do this will make your project more enjoyable for everyone and lead to better outcomes.

To hire or not to hire: The decision is all yours

Before jumping into working with a production company, it’s important to be honest with yourself and your team about your video needs, your company’s budget, and the extent folks want to be involved with the external team. If you’ve gone through those questions and decided hiring out is the right decision, it’s time to move on to vetting and interviewing video production companies.

Once a production company feels like the right fit to get the job done, congrats! It’s time to partner up! Remember you’re starting a new relationship here — one that we hope will reap amazing creative dividends.

If your company has worked with a production company in the past, we’d love to hear about your experience in the comments below. Drop us a line!

Lisa Marinelli

Creative

Adam Day

Creative

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