I started taking classes at RCTV about seven years ago (although it doesn’t seem possible it was that long). I took everything available from documentary filmmaking to TV Studio Production and Editing, as well as many of the workshops. I’ve produced specials and promos for RCTV and WXIR, as well as a three-time Telly award-winning TV series that was funded by two sequential NYS Decentralization Arts Grants administered by Livingston Art and Genesee Valley Arts Grants.
In the beginning, my work was, well, certainly not the quality I wanted it to be. I didn’t have good audio equipment and my camera, although it gave a nice visual quality, wasn’t HD. I had no lighting, so I had to rely on natural light sources, which I still often use, although I generally augment it with lights. I did the best I could with the equipment I had. Although I’ve upgraded everything, including my skills, I’m never 100% satisfied. I suspect that’s a common trait among media producers.
I thought I’d take a few minutes to share a few helpful pointers I’ve learned:
- Vimeo or Youtube? – Youtube is where most of the tutorials live and where you get the broadest reach. Your viewers also get a lot of annoying ads. If you have a piece that you see as “more professional,” such as a TV program, webcast or movie that you’d prefer people see without ads, consider Vimeo Plus. Note that Vimeo’s search engine is not great. You will have to be active in promoting your work, or it may not easily be found.
- Embedding video – Encourage Clients, Guests or Interviewees to embed your work that features them on their website. Few understand the value of this. Five years ago, I created a 4-minute piece on Sonnenberg Gardens Mansion & State Historic Site, using the equipment I had at the time. The visuals are lovely, but the audio is not great. Because they have the piece embedded on their website, it is consistently my top performer in terms of viewed and finished pieces. The piece serves as a visual promotion that encourages people to visit this stunning historic site.
- Go for Grants – They can help you develop, produce or complete your work. You’re not guaranteed to get every one you apply for, but if you don’t apply, you won’t receive. Be sure to read and follow instructions, contact the grants administrator with questions or to ask for advice, submit your best samples and get your application in by the deadlines. If you don’t receive it, don’t take it personally, and you may want to request feedback in order to be successful next time.
- Use Social Media – Facebook, instagram, twitter, pinterest, snapchat… These are your friends! This is a FREE way to promote your work! If you’re not on at least one or two of them, sign up now!
- Network Like Crazy – Join local organizations that support what you do. In Rochester, RAFAS and the Rochester Documentary Group offer great networking and a very supportive and educationally enriching environment that encourages both emerging and established independent filmmakers.
- Know the Film Fest Tools – Familiarize yourself with WithoutaBox and FilmFreeway. Many well-known and respected film festivals use these sites to post specifications for their film festivals or to search for works that would be appropriate for their festival. There is no fee to register for the sites, and no fee to upload your work.
- Sound is King – Think about some of the documentaries you’ve seen where the film is old and grainy. It’s archival, so you live with it. Now think about any piece where the sound is poor or the audio and vidio don’t synch. Chances are you’ll turn it off. It pays to learn how to do sound properly and borrow, rent or invest in good sound equipment. You should also learn how to do sound editing (although some problems can be almost impossible to resolve). It’s really better to make sure it’s done right, up front.
- Short and Sweet – Because people have become used to communicating in 140 characters, they don’t want to watch long videos online. Most promos or works you’d like to go viral should be around 2 minutes or less. For longer works, offer a 2-3 minute excerpt and/or include time markers with the description so people can select that segments that most interest them. Here is a sample from a recent work for which I broke out the time markers.
While one of the most important aspects of film and video production is learning the craft, the job doesn’t stop there. The tips above will give insights on how to get the word out about your work.
by Carol White Llewellyn