Lights, camera, opportunity: The business of video production

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In the age of YouTube and Vimeo, film production is no longer reserved for big-budget Hollywood studios. Everyone from major retail chains to startups to mom-and-pop shops is jumping on the viral video train, and storytellers are finding they have to raise far less cash than before to see their scripts become short or even feature-length movies.
People like Travis Legge, owner of Rockford, Ill.-based production company Plastic Age Productions, are in the business of helping these companies and individuals take advantage of this new trend without breaking the bank. Travis took a moment to talk to CareerBuilder about wearing many hats, working in a small market and his advice for companies making their first online clip.

CareerBuilder: What experience did you have in film and media production before deciding to start your own company?
Travis Legge: I had been writing for several years when I decided to shift gears into media production. I wanted to have an outlet in which I could bring my stories to life. I began taking mass communication classes at Rock Valley College in Rockford, Ill., and immediately dove into making short films with the immense resources offered through the school. I was in the program for about two years before I decided to strike out into the world as a filmmaker and producer.

CB: You do directing, editing, sound mixing, color correcting, special effects makeup and several other things. Which of your services gets you the most work?

TL: That's very hard to say. In the fall I find myself doing a lot of makeup work, especially in the lead up to Halloween. I think people just tend to have scary things on the brain around that time of year. Beyond that I'd say my most frequent work is video editing and the production of short films based on stories that my clients approach me with. They have a story they want to tell and I help them translate it into a short, which is really quite a fun job.

CB: Working in film outside of the three biggest markets must be challenging. How do you attract new clients?

TL: I make extensive use of social media. Much of my work is acquired via Twitter, Facebook, or the word-of-mouth recommendations of previous clients. Being in Rockford, I am able to travel to Chicago for work, though there is a thriving indie film scene in the Rockford area, which creates a sizable portion of work for me as well. Being freelance, I am able to telecommute for some jobs, and of course, if the wage is right, I am willing to travel as the work dictates.

CB: As cameras and editing software become more affordable and accessible to the average person, do you find more people needing your services or trying to handle the work themselves?

TL: I find plenty of people trying to handle the load themselves ... at first. Media production is a trade skill as well as an art form. Sometimes people think, "If I just buy this nice camera and this software I read about on Google, I can make a movie, right?" Sometimes they are right. Most often they are not. For people trying to dive into filmmaking as an art form, I do recommend getting your hands on some gear and learning how to use it. We also offer consulting services on technology and technique, and as I can attest: even the most astute filmmaker is rarely a one-man crew.
As far as commercial clients are concerned, my recommendation is to hire a professional to make videos. Commercial clients have entire businesses to run that often have nothing to do with filming. I find it's best for them to focus on their business and let trained professionals handle media creation.

CB: Of all the hats you wear, which is your favorite, and why?

TL: I'd say that would be a toss-up between directing and being a makeup artist. Both jobs keep me engaged on a set and working in tandem with very talented actors and crews to bring stories to life. After all, I got into this business as a means of telling stories first and foremost.

CB: What tips would you have for a small business setting out to make its first low-budget promotional video?

TL: I would say hire a professional. Have a clear goal of what you want, what you are willing to spend, and a timetable for it, and present those openly to the company you approach. Be aware that things like digital effects or moving typography are expensive, time-consuming affairs. Do a little comparison shopping and find the company that best suits your project needs and financial state.

Last Updated: 19/01/2012 - 9:16 AM

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