How To Pitch Creative And Ask For Budget

This post is specifically for in-house video producers. Your yearly video budget is probably less than one catalog photo-shoot. Your video shoots probably don’t have catering let alone a crew of people running around doing your bidding.

But being an in-house producer doesn’t mean you have to stick to the work handed to you. Add value by addressing short-falls in content. Reframe your role and you can bring more to the table. Here’s how I pitch creative that’s outside my usual scope and ask for budget (that isn’t mine):

1.  Read the Brief – The brief should contain enough detail and elements to give you an idea of what the stakeholder  wants from the creative, the key messaging, target audience and deliverables. Don’t have a brief? Then ask the person responsible. You work for the same company after all.

2. Write a Script – Got killer ideas for that new product launch? Write them down. Is one good? Keep developing it until its better than any other idea. If you’ve watched Mad Men you’d think you need to pitch 3 ideas to get one approved. I don’t. Working on multiple creative is exhausting and takes energy away from the work you truly believe in.

I’ll think of 2 or 3 ideas but one will always stick with me or resonate better. I’ll develop and pitch that one concept only. I don’t need to pitch multiple ideas because I’ve already evaluated and filtered the bad ideas out. If you don’t believe that one idea can stand on it’s own, then you’re padding so-so creative with mediocre creative to make it stand out.

3. Write a Directors Treatment – After the creative is done, write a directors treatment. A treatment will outline how the video will look, any special requirements for filming, sound, music, locations. Anything that helps sell the script or idea you’ve written.

4. Prepare a Budget – If you don’t ask, you don’t get. At least, that’s what I hear. So, if this shoot goes outside your normal budget or requires external contractors, here’s how to ask for it. The worst that will happen is someone says no and you have to rethink your idea. At best they say yes!

Almost anything can be rented these days. I hired a wood chipper for a shoot once. They even delivered it and took it away. Don’t ask what I did with it. Need crew? Get quotes. You can rent people too. A full crew of camera, lighting, make up and styling runs $7000-$12,000 in hard costs per day depending on gear and experience. If you can only afford to hire one person, always hire lighting above all else.

Now here’s the tip: Since you’re producing this video in-house, you can produce it cheaper than your external agency partners. Even a one day shoot can cost $50,000 after the agency and production company mark up their invoices. $12,000 or $50,000 – Which one do you think is an easier sell? Make sure to include the estimated agency cost in your budget proposal.

5. Pitch your idea – You work with these people. You might even sit on the same team or department. Set a meeting, or email your pitch around. I’ve had work approved via email without having to say a word. Once it’s approved, that’s when the real work starts because now you have to deliver what you promised.

Be bold. They’ll thank you for it.


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How To Build Awesome Sets On A Budget

I’ve built 3 sets in the last year, including a fully working kitchen. How? Trial and error, but mostly out of necessity. Why? I work for a company that makes and sells taps, sinks and other items for kitchens, bathrooms and laundry spaces.

Building sets has allowed me to put our products in context (insitu) for video shoots. Sets also give you control over the elements, location and the look. Here are 5 things that I’ve learned from building sets on a budget:

img_20161114_1033551. Set builders for the basics – The most basic component of any set is flats, or blank walls to stand in for real walls. These can be painted, tiled or wallpapered in whatever wall covering you need. They can be re-used and rearranged over and over again. It’s also the part where most of the money was spent. Each 4’X8′ panel (1200mm x 2400mm) has cost about $500 each. They’re typically constructed of 2″x3″ pine with an MDF skin. Sure, it would be cheaper to make them yourself, but you’ve got better things to do like write the creative.

2. Home Depot is your friend – You’ll save a ton of money by putting the rest of the set together yourself. Hardware stores are DIY heaven. Almost everything from kitchen cabinets to plumbing are engineered to be snap-together-simple these days. Hardware stores are so vested in you doing-it-yourself that they even hold in-store classes or make tutorial videos.



Kitchen set being built for Clark Sinks.

3. Strategic partnerships can net free stuff– My budget was cut in half when I had to build a kitchen set earlier this
year. I had the walls and some cabinets from previous builds, but needed appliances  and multiple benchtops for product demonstrations.  So, not cheap.

I reached out to aligned businesses and was able to get free countertops, appliances and kitchen cabinets in exchange for social media mentions, blog posts and photography. By coincidence, it was coming up to summer and I was given new launch colours which helped our set look on-trend.


img_20161118_1238474. It only has to look good on camera – Spend the money and time on the areas of the set that will be the focus of your action. Everything else can be…

5. Fake  – Not everything has to be real, or working.  I saved time on my kitchen set by nailing the cabinet doors up since they wouldn’t be opened and not installing doors that wouldn’t be seen by camera.   Who will know if that toaster or kettle in the background is broken if it wont be used.

A friend of mine claims to have faked tile grout using drafting tape and there are many tricks set builders use to fool you, from painted on shadows to forced perspective.