How to avoid cowboy film production companies

You’ve got an amazing idea for a video for your company. However you don’t have the in-house experience or resources to make it yourself so you decide you need a production company. Where do you start? How do you find the right company to trust with your time, money and vision?


Before you start contacting production companies for quotes you’re going to need a brief. Depending on your knowledge and experience of producing videos this might be easier said than done (pssh - download our brief planner here).
However a well thought out and detailed brief will be an essential tool in making sure you get the most effective audio-visual tools for your money and you avoid any fly-by-night production companies.

Sometimes you’ll want to chat to a few companies before you send an official brief to see if they are the right fit for your company and to help you gauge the feasibility and scope of your video for your particular needs. This is always a good way to find out what kind of personalities you could be working with, their initial take on your idea and help narrow down potential companies you want to tender for your project.

However be wary of any company keen to quote and agree a budget or style of film during this stage, especially if it’s over the phone. You could end up paying more in both time and money, and ultimately quality, as they are unlikely understand your market and the specific needs and goals of your business.



You should be as rigorous in selecting your production company as you would be for a website provider. Why?
Video is no longer bound to a physical medium on disk or tape. Thanks to the Internet it is more fluid than ever and can be distributed and played almost anywhere. You’ll therefore find that the applications and lifespan of your video will change quicker than you anticipate. Depending on your market its relevance and usage could be anything from a few weeks to a number of years.
Choosing a production company that can service your video content needs on a regular and on going basis will be vital to your growing communication requirements.

So even if you only have plans to produce one video you will more than likely want the ability to easily update the video as your product or service changes in future, especially if you invested substantially in the original production. We find that our clients are more and more frequently finding new ways to re-appropriate content as they build a library of clips and assets over several years.

Therefore you’ll want to partner with a company who will still be in business in 6 to 12 months time. Not only that, you’ll want to make sure they have the resources to produce the content you require in future. Are they flexible enough to deliver what we need on a regular basis in future?


Alfred Hitchcock famously said that his films were already made in his head before he shouted action on set. The same should be true for your film, but with less blood and scary birds!
Pre-production and planning are key to the successful outcome of any film and any production company worth considering should be allocating at least 25% - 35% of the total budget to pre-production because as Hitchcock said, this is when the film is made, and if the production company says they don’t need to do any pre-production or its “free” then think twice!

Before the production company is ready to say “action” on your film make sure they have taken the time to schedule at least one meeting / fact finding session with your marketing team to either :-
1. Understand your business and gather some basic knowledge on your market.
2. Find out details about your product, service or brand.
3. Proposed a list of objectives and goals for the video.
4. Discuss some previous work or campaigns they have produced in the past relevant to your business.
5. Most importantly find out your expectations for the video and what you hope it will achieve for your business.


Have they worked with similar clients in your sector? Perhaps that’s how you found out about them. Either way, have a look at their clients and see what type of work they produced for them. Was it of a similar tone and style to what you are requiring for your particular project? Maybe they have worked for many recognisable companies, but perhaps it was a very small project, possibly many moons ago and is no longer relevant in today’s world? Do they have regular clients the produce videos for on an on-going basis? If so this stands them in good stead as a company that should be able to deliver on a regular basis.



Let me be clear, we’re not knocking smaller production companies, however you will need to consider if they alone can fill the requirements you need for your business. Will one person write, shoot, edit your film or will they utilise experienced copywriters, digital marketers, directors, camera operators, video editors and motion graphic designers?

Knowing they have an experienced team able to deliver expertise in each part of the production process will ensure that your project will run on budget, on schedule and deliver the results you deserve.



Any professional company will explain their methodology from the outset. If they haven’t you need to find out what type of company they are.
Are they genuinely interested in seeing how they can make your business more successful or do they just want to shoot, edit and deliver a copy with minimal contact or input from you in return for a cheque, unlikely to be seen again?

A good production company will :-
1. Collaboratively isolate exactly your communications requirements.
2. Together arrive at the correct visual messages that address these.
3. Translate these into compelling, impactful visual assets that address our objectives.