Crafting your video series’ concept is one of the most enjoyable parts of creating binge-worthy content. During this phase, you start to see your show’s potential, your vision begins to crystallize, and you just can’t stop thinking about how great your show is going to turn out. But then … reality hits you like a ton of bricks — it’s time to actually start creating your video series.
From writing your scripts and creating a beautiful set to finding the right talent at your business and shooting the series itself, there’s a lot to consider when it comes time to start production. Plus, while this may be your first time creating a video series, you still want to ensure you’re creating something that provides values and looks good. You’ll almost certainly encounter some unexpected hurdles along the way, but luckily, there are some precautionary measures you can (and should) take before you get started.
On a recent episode of Brandwagon, our talk show for marketers, we sat down with Patrick Campbell, CEO and founder of ProfitWell, and creator of the Recur Network. He gave us five pointers for making the creation process less daunting and more efficient, and we’ve expanded on them a bit so you can save yourself some headaches!
Not every type of show’s pre-production work is the same — some shows require much more creative thinking and strategic planning than others. For Campbell and his team at ProfitWell, the shows that were the biggest time-sucks during the pre-production phase ended up being ones that featured a ton of data. As a result, they stopped making them.
Narrative-driven shows, like dramas or docu-series, require a substantial amount of scripting and story-boarding. For dramas, your subjects need to be able to memorize lines and actually rehearse what they’re doing. For a docu-series, you need to think through and plan out your story structure from start to finish. Here’s a little behind-the-scenes look at what our storyboard looked like for One, Ten, One Hundred, the docu-series we released last year:
While you do need to come prepared with the right questions to ask your subject in a documentary, you don’t have to worry as much about line memorization or rehearsing your shots as this content should take shape naturally. For other types of shows, there are unique challenges that quickly present themselves while shooting, too. Most talk shows are usually set in one location, so while you need to invest the time and energy into building a set, you don’t have to worry about shooting in different environments all the time, which would be the case for say, a travelogue.
As you can see, with every type of show there are pros and cons from a production perspective. At the end of the day, the decision you make about what kind of show to create should be based on the skills you have on your team and the resources you have available. We’re not trying to sway you from creating certain types of shows, but make sure you’re realistic about what you can pull off, considering what you have to work with!
Disclaimer: this only really works if your show follows a consistent format from episode to episode. Luckily for the folks at ProfitWell, this happened to be the case! The first step Campbell took to cut down ProfitWell’s pre-production time was writing all their scripts at once. Deep work like script-writing requires a certain level of concentration that you can only achieve through long periods of uninterrupted focus. This state of mind is called flow, and when you achieve it, you’re so immersed in an activity that you completely shift your concentration from yourself to the activity at hand. You’re not even aware of your own thoughts or emotions.
“Deep work like script-writing requires a certain level of concentration that you can only achieve through long periods of uninterrupted focus.”
That’s why dedicating a chunk of your day or week to writing all of the scripts for a video series that follows the same format is so effective. You’re able to give your undivided attention to one task, and one task only. This should enable you to write better scripts, finish them faster, and slash time from the pre-production process as a whole. An added bonus? Writing all your scripts at once gives you the opportunity to zoom out on your series and think more strategically about how you can weave in key themes and messages throughout. Plus, it’s just helpful to have a framework to start with when it’s time to start making your show.
Going through the process of auditioning and negotiating rates with actors can be time-consuming and sometimes expensive. Instead, consider screening for talent in your office! They’re far more accessible and authentic on screen — just make sure you get approval from the powers that be to pull these people away from their day-to-day work for a set period of time before you start shooting.
If you’re afraid your internal casting call won’t attract enough talent, don’t fret. People love switching up their daily routines, especially to participate in something fun and creative like a video series. Some of your coworkers might have a background in or a passion for acting that you may be surprised to find out about! While working with non-actors certainly has its challenges, it’s still a great way to make your content instantly relatable.
Casting an employee as your video series’ host or one of its stars also allows you to develop a closer relationship with your audience and, in turn, boost their affinity and trust in your business. After all, your audience tends to connect more with your video series’ characters than network the content is hosted on, so be sure to cast one of your own. Otherwise, casting a professional host or actor who’s detached from your company can create a dynamic where your audience grows closer to the host’s brand than to yours.
“Casting an employee as your video series’ host or one of its stars also allows you to develop a closer relationship with your audience and, in turn, boost their affinity and trust in your business.”
This one sounds pretty obvious, but it can seriously save you a ton of time when shooting your next video series. If you have to build and knock down a set every time you shoot, you’re wasting precious time that could be spent on more important projects, like perfecting your video series. If you rent a studio every time you shoot, it’ll have the same negative effect on your budget rather than your time.
Building a stationary set in your office will cost you some time and money up-front, but the resources you’ll save in the long run are definitely worth the investment. In fact, Campbell has slashed 12 hours per week from ProfitWell’s production process by creating a stationary set in their office. For One, Ten, One Hundred, we shot in California and Massachusetts, on a variety of sets for a number of different segments, but for Brandwagon, we took the time to build out a new studio that would check off all the boxes. Be sure to check out this video and interview for a look at how we built the set from start to finish!
When you’re shooting a show that requires your actors to deliver a ton of lines, you may want to bite the bullet and invest in a teleprompter. In the news industry, media outlets need to break news as fast as possible, so they feed their newscasters lines with a teleprompter. For your scripted episodes, take a page out of the news industry’s playbook. Invest in a teleprompter so your actors don’t have to spend time doing multiple takes, memorizing lines, or rehearsing. According to Campbell, most of ProfitWell’s scripted episodes have required only one or two takes since investing in a teleprompter.
Additionally, memorizing lines is one of the most challenging and time-consuming tasks for any actor, so you’re not only helping yourself out by investing in a teleprompter but you’re also saving your employees' time and energy (which they’ll need to complete their other day-to-day responsibilities!). You also don’t want them to spend their nights or weekends memorizing lines, which could easily lead to burnout.
Creating a video series will always require a decent amount of strategic planning, but there are a few surefire ways to streamline the process. Why not save yourself hours and hours of work by choosing a show format that lets you employ all these time-saving tactics (at least for your first show)?. Then, when you’re more comfortable with the process, crank up the complexity a bit and see what impact it has on your final product. As Campbell states, “If you can take all of these processes and do them once for 13 episodes, which is an entire quarter’s worth of content, it’s amazing.”