What We Learned from Shooting the Trailer for "Brandwagon" Before We Made the Series

August 13, 2019

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Maria Theo


Here at Wistia, we’ve been talking a big game about video series lately — particularly ones that are created by businesses with the goal of building a better brand — and for good reason! We really do believe that long-form content like video series, documentaries, podcasts, and more will not only grab people’s attention but also keep it for the long haul.

If you’re reading this post right now, then chances are you’ve probably heard about our latest creative endeavor, Brandwagon. It’s like a talk show, but for marketers! We came up with the concept for Brandwagon in late spring of this year and knew we wanted to launch the show by the end of the summer. Now, we’re no mathematicians, but that didn’t leave us with a ton of time to shoot all the episodes, create an awesome trailer, and start promoting it to build hype.

Because we wanted to be able to start releasing episodes of Brandwagon by the end of summer, that meant we had to make a trailer to get the word out about the show before episode one hit the web. This all sounds good and fine, right? It would be … if only we had already shot any of the episodes.

That’s right — it wasn’t easy (and we wouldn’t recommend anyone doing it this way) — but we made a trailer for a show that didn’t exist yet. In the end, we’re grateful for all the lessons we learned along the way and are excited to share those with you so you can keep your production process as smooth as possible the next time you set out to shoot a video series!

Lesson 1: Keep your group of contributors small

When it came time to create the trailer for Brandwagon, we knew our lead video producer Chris Lavigne was the right person to spearhead the project. Before jumping in and getting started, Chris made sure he had the right representatives from relevant departments involved in the process but was also very intentional about keeping the group small.

That’s Chris … look how excited he is to make a trailer from scratch!

Think about it — have you ever asked for feedback in an open Slack channel only to be inundated with tons of (thoughtful) but overwhelming responses? Getting a bunch of feedback can be a great thing! But when you’re working on a time-sensitive project, you want to limit the number of contributors involved to both simplify the decision-making process and keep the project moving.

Keeping the group small also made it so that the key contributors from design, video, and copy, were able to voice their opinions and be heard throughout the entire process. So if you ever find yourself in a pinch when creating a video, try to remember that having more cooks in the kitchen doesn’t always mean you’ll end up with a tastier meal.

Lesson 2: Decide on your messaging early

Locking in your message right from the start is key to creating a great trailer, especially when you don’t have any footage of the actual show to use. To be fair, we had the set built, shot an interview or two, and had already picked up the Brandwagon. There were some things for us to work with, but as you might imagine, all of those aspects on their own do not make a good trailer.

A successful trailer states the problem of the show, communicates the high-level themes, and entices the viewer enough to tune in to watch the whole thing when it’s available. And thanks to our handy-dandy content development team, we were able to zero in on those points and figure out what we actually wanted the trailer to say and how we wanted people to feel after they watched it.

“A successful trailer states the problem of the show, communicates the high-level themes, and entices the viewer enough to tune in to watch the whole thing when it’s available.”

For example, we knew that we wanted to start by highlighting one of the biggest pain points marketers face today — standing out amongst the competition. So we kicked off the trailer with the problem (complete with anticipation-building background music) and ended the trailer with the resolution — the promise to learn more about where the future of marketing is heading.

Now, this is not unlike other advice we’ve shared in the past. Knowing your core message is key to the success of any video project, but when it comes to shooting a video that will give viewers a first look at what your show is going to be all about, having a clear message woven throughout is absolutely essential.

Lesson 3: Work with what you have

Whether it’s using a chair as a teleprompter or a mirror to capture an overhead shot, we’ve always been big proponents of using what you have to get the job done. With the lack of footage to pull from and the deadline fast approaching, we knew we needed to be scrappy. If this was going on our resume, we’d call ourselves … innovative. Our message was set and the creative execution was agreed upon, we just had to make it happen. So, Chris looked around the office to assess his resources. What did he see? A whole lot of people, with a whole lot of laptops.

Now, if there’s one thing that’s true about most Wistians it’s that they love to be in videos. Chris put out a call to the entire company asking for their laptops to use in a shoot for half an hour, and before you knew it, we had enough people to start rolling. When everyone got to the studio, they were greeted by a mini-bleacher stand created by Chris Lavigne himself (shout out to Home Depot for always having the supplies we need to get crafty)! All told, it took about a day to whip up the set.

When it came time to film, Chris used a Canon C200 to shoot the scene and because of his stellar planning skills, they were able to get the shot in only took two takes! Then, our Creative Director, Dan Mills, recorded the voice over and Stephen, another video producer on our team, did the coloring.

At the end of the day, we never would’ve pulled this off if we didn’t get a little resourceful. Look around your office and see what you can do with the resources already available to you. When it comes to shooting a trailer from scratch, you don’t want to spend time waiting on expensive props or super-fancy sets if you’ve got a deadline you need to meet!

Lesson 4: Maintain a simple scope

After everything is said and done, there is one lesson that rings true the most for us, and that’s to keep it simple! Through all the planning meetings, brainstorming, scheduling, and shooting, we stuck to our values and kept things simple by making sure we weren’t getting too ahead of ourselves when producing the trailer. So while we don’t recommend creating a trailer for a show before it’s finished, on the off chance you find yourself in that pickle, keep simplicity in mind and scope your project appropriately.

“Even though marketing is more challenging than ever, every business has what it takes to stand out.”

Here at Wistia, we’re big fans of thinking outside the box, and oftentimes, narrowing your scope can actually help you do that just. Remember One, Ten, One Hundred? Don’t forget that creativity is often born out of constraints. So while it would have been cool to get 1,000 laptop screens in the opening shot, it wasn’t necessary to get our message across. The trailer we ended up with was true to our brand and represented exactly the message we were trying to convey — even though marketing is more challenging than ever, every business has what it takes to stand out. Don’t get distracted by too many bells and whistles. By keeping it simple, you’ll ensure that your video is not only on-brand but that it achieves your goals and is completed on time.

Learning from the past, focusing on the future

Making a great video doesn’t require spending a ton of money, having state-of-the-art gear, or even renting out a fancy studio. Getting the right group of people together, establishing a common goal, having a resourceful outlook, and focusing on simplicity are all far more important. And we learned just how important those elements were when we set out to make a trailer despite not having any episodes in the can.

Take these lessons from us and apply them to the next video you create, whether it’s a trailer for an upcoming video series or not, and save yourself some headaches along the way! Have you ever made a video in a way that was a little less than orthodox? Share your stories in the comments below!

Maria Theo


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