Re: training films (*warning* long response)

Subject: Re: training films (*warning* long response)
From: "Christopher M. Fisher" <Christopher_M_Fisher -at- ANDERSEN -dot- COM>
Date: Tue, 6 Sep 1994 12:02:34 CS

Linda McPhee asks:
> If you've ever worked on/made instructional films for
> industry, what was your biggest problem?

The *biggest* problem? Gosh. There are so many to choose from ...

The specific problems that any filmmaker encounters depend on many factors, but
these are some of the most important ones (IMNSHO):

o How much of the actual filmmaking you want/need to control
o The scope of the project: budget, content, etc.
o The level of stakeholder involvement

(Note: for the purposes of this discussion, I'm going to use the word "film" in
a generic sense that can also stand for video. I do not believe that the two
media are equal or interchangable, but that's a subject for another post.)

Some guidelines for alleviating problems in these areas:

[LEVEL OF CONTROL]: In most cases, you should strongly consider hiring a
production team to manage all of the nuts-and-bolts work (camera operation,
lighting, post-production, etc.) If you don't hire a production team for
whatever reason, recognize your limitations (e.g. single camera angle, limited
editing facilities, poor graphics capability) and let your stakeholders know
about them up front to alleviate any 11th-hour disappointment.

If you do hire a team, *always* check credentials and references. Hiring a
group of experienced professionals will eat up your budget pretty quickly, but
it will be even more expensive to salvage your project after a botched
production. Don't be afraid to ask questions or request changes; you will
certainly get a few exasperated looks from the production team, but *never*
just let them say "relax, you just don't understand what we're doing." (During
one on-site shoot, the director actually told me that I should go away and ask
my questions after the shoot was over! Because I *didn't* follow his advice, I
saved several thousand dollars that would have been needed to re-shoot the

[SCOPE]: Before you do anything else, determine (1) how much detail you'll need
to give your audience, (2) how sophisticated the finished product should look,
and (3) how much money is available. If any of these factors don't seem
compatible (e.g. your boss wants to see the next Ben Hur produced on a $5,000
budget), manage your stakeholders' expectations early.

[STAKEHOLDER INVOLVEMENT]: Establish a clear review/update schedule early in
the planning process, and communicate this schedule to all stakeholders. Be
sure to emphasize cut-off dates for script review, graphics production, etc.,
and explain how much it will cost to make changes after these dates.

Linda, I hope this information is what you were looking for; I got a little
carried away on the old brevity front (once again 8^). You'll notice that many
of these points are medium-generic, and can generally be applied to any
communication project; if you're looking for more specific film-related
information, let me know.

Christopher Fisher
Communication Specialist cfisher -at- andersen -dot- com
Andersen Consulting
"'The question is,' said Alice, 'whether you _can_ make words
mean so many different things.' 'The question is,' said Humpty
Dumpty, 'which is to be master--that's all.'" --Lewis Carroll

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