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Production Essays: Bring on the joy

Just as you expect to be pampered on a luxury holiday, so a big-spending client should know its production house will go the extra mile.

Imagine your favourite holiday. It could be a week in Benidorm or a month in the Bahamas. But I would bet that, wherever you were, it would be stress-free, totally relaxing and the whole experience would be a joy.

My favourite holiday was three years ago. From the moment I stepped off the plane, I had nothing to worry about. My car was waiting to take me to my hotel, the hotel receptionist greeted me with a drink, the concierge took my bags to my room and my only decision each day was what cocktail to have before dinner.

It was the most relaxing holiday imaginable, simply because I didn't have to think about or organise a single thing.

Now, imagine a production as smooth and stress-free as that.

If you can't imagine that, you're working with the wrong people. Finding a good service company to create your seamless production is invaluable. The right person with the right attitude, contacts and experience can not only save you money, but can remove all the hassle and stress that our industry is known for.

As budgets tighten, companies are looking for more cost-effective ways of filming. Manchester, for example, is currently enjoying a rise in commercial production, with many London companies taking advantage of the savings on offer up North.

We all know that budgets are shrinking - they have been for years, even before the current recession. The emergence of the web as a viable broadcast medium has seen to that alone. Clients know that web films can be made on seriously low budgets - and now they want the same production values and service they're used to getting on an expensive TV or cinema shoot.

So what will make a client stick with you when there's a whole world of new companies out there, undercutting your rates and still promising to deliver everything you can?

One word: service.

At this point, I should probably start banging on about how great my company is and how we're the answer to all your problems, but I think you've probably had enough of that already. What my job does give me, however, is an insight into how clients, agencies and production companies all react when you remember that it's all about the service.

To a greater or lesser extent, every one of us involved in production is in the business of client service. From the runner to the owner of the company, we all have a role to play in making sure the client is not only happy with the finished product, but with every step along the way too.

As soon as your company takes on a project, your client should feel safe, looked after and, in a word, loved.

That doesn't mean blowing the budget on wining and dining them, and an on-set manicurist for each; it just means letting them know that you know. You know all the pressures they're under and are doing everything in your power to make this part of the campaign the one thing they don't have to worry about. They need to trust you implicitly - to trust that you and your team have thought of everything, just like the staff had on my perfect holiday.

Keeping calm on set when the art department is an hour late and the generator's just died isn't easy, but that's what we're here to do. Just as in music or art, it takes experience and skill to make something very complicated seem easy, and production is an art form in its own way. How you deal with the inevitable, unforeseeable problems is just as important as making sure all the foreseeable ones have already been taken care of.

Production services have always been about providing local knowledge and contacts for clients based hundreds or even thousands of miles away, saving them money while still delivering their vision. But the reason I set up Mercedes Crescenti TV was because I really believe in doing things differently. The way I see it is this: if clients, agencies and production companies are spending hundreds of thousands of pounds on making a production happen, surely we should be bending over backwards to make the whole process a joy for them.

Briefs will always change, very often at the last minute and usually just when you think you have everything in the bag. It's how you deal with these changes that can make all the difference. When the director calls for a frog to hop to order the day before the shoot, what do you do? Simple. You deliver an entire box of frogs in varying colours and sizes for the director to choose from.

When the white van in the script suddenly needs to be silver, what do you do? Simple. You run down the road like a complete idiot and stop a rather bemused delivery driver in his silver van and offer him money for the loan of his vehicle.

We can all think of examples like this, but isn't that what it's all about - exceeding all expectations and yet making it look easy at the same time? It's that sort of thing that makes your company the first on the client's speed-dial. If it were all straightforward all the time, how boring would that be?

Of course, it's not going to be what you did that sticks in the client's mind but how you did it. A month or so after a job has finished, what do you think the client remembers? The three straight overnights you pulled in edit to get all their last-minute amends done on time? The favours you swung to get that extra lighting at no extra cost? I doubt it.

What they will remember is the little touches, whatever they were, that made them feel special, and it's those touches that you can't fake. The attention to detail, the anticipation of their needs and the feeling that nothing is a problem - there's nothing to worry about.

That's where the joy comes from.

- Mercedes Crescenti is the founder of Mercedes Crescenti TV.

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