Hiring Professional Talent

05.06.2023|By Daniel Mendoza|9 Minutes

In early 2023 The Hilton Phoenix Resort at the Peak was looking to create content showcasing the many amenities and features of their resort. During our pre-production discussions we identified five specific vignettes, or showcases, to feature in the campaign. As the property’s ideal target demographic, a Family showcase was top of the list. Other vignettes included Adult Casual, Meetings & Events, Spa & Fitness, and Hole In The Wall Restaurant & Bar. This would be a lifestyle shoot utilizing professional actors and we had about three weeks to pull together a casting call and secure the talent.

So often, mainly due to budget restrictions, clients rely on friends, family members and employees to fill these on screen roles. This approach can sometimes limit the ability to create truly engaging content so we were thrilled to be working with a client that understood the benefits of hiring professional talent for their campaign. I think it is important for brands to know that there is a difference between having bodies to fill in the space versus models or actors who can help tell the story. Obviously there are many considerations to take into account such as if we are working on a project requiring footage of a specialty skill or trade that you want to display accurately.

Our Producers worked hard to get the casting call out and in front of as many actors as possible with the time constraints we had. As submissions began to stream in, we did our best to filter through the best options and begin envisioning our groups for the various scenes. The biggest challenge was by far the family unit. Finding child actors that would be available on a weekday while also fitting in with the adult actors who would play the parents made the task a bit more difficult, but we were confident in the process. Once we managed to pair together a family unit that was not only visually believable, but whose schedules all aligned, the rest of the actors fell into place.

After working out all of the details with the actors, our Producers began working on the production schedule. With so much ground to cover on the property, we slated between 30-45 minutes per location. This was critical to not allowing ourselves to get caught up trying to get the perfect shot, every time. It is very easy to spend hours setting up for just one shot, only for that shot to not make it into the final edit. Our experience has shaped us to be as efficient as possible in order to keep us on schedule. Nothing is more stressful than falling behind schedule so staying on task is key to everyone performing at their best.

On production day, we arrived around 8:30 am to unload gear and begin setting up for our first shot. Our four person crew consisted of a Producer, Director of Photography, Director/AC and Talent Coordinator. This allowed us to move efficiently and stay on schedule. Sean was helping me with the camera set ups as well as directing the talent through the scenes, while Kellie and Drew were constantly in communication to ensure the actors were always ready for the next scene. One major benefit of hiring professional actors is that they are hired to complete a job and so you can expect them to be readily available while on set. By utilizing friends or family that you may or may not be compensating, there is often a carefree sense about it all that is just hard to break and can easily slow down the production.

We managed to stick to the production schedule fairly well and even got ahead at one point. This helps instill greater confidence in the minds of clients. Even though we emphasize that production schedules are loose and more of a guide, the psyche still latches on to the times on the pages as if though they will determine the success or failure of a job. Our Producers feel the same way and that is why they are Producers. Their job is to keep every project on schedule and on budget. Our team strikes a great balance between creative freedom and meticulous attention to detail.

Our final scene of the day featured the fire pit on the patio of the Hole In The Wall Restaurant and Bar. It was about 7:30 when we wrapped up the scene and released the last of the actors. We began tearing down equipment and loading up the vehicles by 8pm. We knew we would have to return at a future date to get the property establishing shots as well as a few pick up shots of other activities but overall Day 1 was a success. The only thing left to do was get home, unload gear and back up footage.

Comparing this project to similar projects that chose not to hire professional talent, the results can be very apparent. We have been fortunate on occasion that the friend or family member a client used for a shoot happened to have some acting experience or a natural flair for taking direction, but that is certainly a rarity. Seeing the footage and the impact professional actors have on the scenes is so empowering. We certainly do our best to encourage clients to make the investment in hiring talent when we feel that the project can benefit from it. It not only makes our job easier and keeps us on schedule but it definitely shows in the results.

This isn’t to say we are being lazy by preferring not to work with non-actors, it’s just that filmmaking has its own language. Communicating with trained actors is easier because they understand that direction is not criticism. It is merely everyone getting on the same page to achieve the desired results for each scene and project. A direction as simple as asking someone to smile can really get in their headspace if they haven’t trained to understand that this basic request serves a purpose. We have made a great effort to build a network of talent and find ways to make it more affordable for clients to utilize professional actors to help make an even bigger impact with their content.

The greatest advice we can offer on this topic is that if you are planning to invest in marketing your business or brand, strongly consider the benefits of hiring professional talent. When paired with a production company motivated by storytelling, the results will not only be worth the investment but so will the experience. It is so important that your content be engaging and leaves the viewer with the greater sense of production value this combination brings. If you are looking to discover ways to better connect with your audience, we would love to hear from you and exchange ideas to help you get the most out of your investment.

Visit Phoenix 2026 NCAAW Final Four Bid

18.04.2023|By Daniel Mendoza|7 Minutes

In late 2020 we collaborated with Visit Phoenix on a project to try and help the city of Phoenix land the 2026 NCAAW Final Four Tournament. It was during the COVID pandemic so what the organization would usually do in person by hosting the committee in charge of selecting the host city, now had to be done remotely. So the ask was simple. Create a virtual tour of the city’s most hospitable hotel properties to showcase the accommodations, event spaces and amenities.

Our Producer having a background in the hospitality industry really gave us a leg up on making the most of our efforts as well as helping us navigate some of the challenges that came with filming in these spaces during the pandemic. The six downtown Phoenix properties we were featuring were Sheraton, Hyatt Regency, Renaissance, Westin, Residence Inn and Hotel Palomar.

First thing we had to do was schedule filming all of the property details. Sheraton was still under construction and Hyatt Regency was undergoing renovations while the others were open for business and that presented its own challenges. For the property filming we had a three person team made up of our Producer, Director of Photography and Camera Assistant. We were also accompanied by one or two Visit Phoenix team members. Our gear set up for the properties consisted of a Kinefinity Mavo LF on the DJI Ronin 2 gimbal. This allowed us to film smooth footage throughout the space as well as smooth pan/tilt shots by simply positioning the set up in a room.

After about the third property we had developed quite the workflow and were moving quite efficiently. Some of our biggest challenges came from bedding that wasn’t steamed or pressed. Our Producer and Katie, a Visit Phoenix team member worked incredibly hard to get the comforters and pillows to comply, though some times it took more convincing than others. Some of the things that really stood out to us during this project was how odd it feels to be a hotel the size of the Hyatt Regency without a single guest. Our creative brains immediately began to think about the possibilities of filming a narrative film but I digress.

Each of the properties were incredibly hospitable and never made us feel as if we were imposing upon them. As an example, one of the decisions we had made was to try to film as much without seeing all of the COVID signage and markers that had become so common during the pandemic. Some of the hotels had the plexiglass partitions at the front desk while others just had signage and hand sanitizer dispensers placed in the common areas. It was a balancing act to capture content that could hopefully be used by the properties for years to come, while also respecting the current state of affairs that the entire world was dealing with.

After wrapping up the property filming, we began to discuss the final element of this collaboration. Visit Phoenix wanted to create an intro video that would feature the General Managers of each of the properties. They also wanted to do it in a way that was themed around the sporting event. So they managed to coordinate all six GMs, not an easy feat, for a day at ASU’s basketball training facility. There was a scripted message that would be delivered by all six GMs as well as a little basketball action on the court.

So we scheduled a location scout to identify the various spots at the facility for each dialogue part and to hopefully identify any potential challenges. We knew we would need to bring on our sound recordist for this to capture the best audio possible. Aside from that we had little concerns regarding other complications since the facility was not yet at full capacity due to COVID protocols. So aside from the regular team practice schedule we felt prepared for the task.

When the day to film arrived we moved like a well oiled machine. Set up gear and lights in the pre-selected location and give the General Managers enough time to comfortably get through their parts. We were not rushed due to the flexible schedule windows we created and it helped the talent not feel overly pressured. Once we got through the dialogue, we moved onto the court for some fun interactive shots as well as working on coordinating the final shot for the piece. The looks on the faces of the General Managers was priceless as you could see the genuine joy for them to be able to physically and mentally step away from their daily stressful positions.

Overall we were able to deliver 6 property videos and the GM Intro which you can see here. We were very pleased with the results and so was the client. Not only was this a great project to be a part of but it was also an opportunity that arrived when most of the businesses in the world were not spending money on video content with all of the uncertainty surrounding us. We would then go on to create similar property videos for four additional downtown hotels in the coming months as they proved to be a great resource for Visit Phoenix to continue doing the great work of increasing the city’s tourism.

Small vs Large Footprint

05.04.2023|By Daniel Mendoza|5 Minutes

When it comes to video production there is no “one size fits all” option. Each project is unique and its specific needs should always be taken into account when choosing the best approach. The main factors to consider when choosing the option that is best for you will be budget; size and type of project; timeline; and locations. Below is how we break down the three main options.

The One Man Band is exactly what it sounds like. One person running camera, sound, lighting and even directing. This is a lot of responsibility for one person and although it may seem tempting due to the low cost it will definitely be your project’s most limiting factor. One person doing it all will undoubtedly reach fatigue sooner and may be more likely to make mistakes without additional eyes on set. If your project is simple in terms of production then this may be a very cost effective way of generating content quickly and affordably. This option can be optimal for basic content creation to use on social media platforms as well as on your website.

A Skeleton Crew can be anywhere from two to five crew members. This takes all of the weight off of one individual and offers a very nimble approach to help things move quickly. This approach may still be hindered by the lack of full departments but it is a decent compromise as it still yields reasonable cost and effective results. If your project includes some complexities such as actors or models and multiple set ups, then this approach offers great value and nimbleness to move quickly without a great deal of obstruction to your business or the public depending on where you film. This option is well suited for basic scripted content as well as company about us promo videos.

With a Full Production Team you have actual departments tending to their respective specialties so this will yield the best creative results but getting there can be cumbersome at times and it will likely be the most costly approach. If you’ve ever seen images of an actual film set you know just how imposing this approach can be and how many resources it requires to accommodate such a large team. If your project is very complex and requires features such as complex lighting, multiple actors, choreography or stunts and production design, this option is best suited for those job. This approach is definitely prime for complex scripted content such as long format productions as well as commercial spots for broadcast or any advertising campaigns, specifically those targeted to national and international markets.

You can find a detailed breakdown of the various departments and crew positions here.

Historically, crew members working in the film/production industry spent their entire careers in their respective roles, or working their way up the department ranks until they reached their desired position. It is becoming fairly common now to be able to fill more than one role since it is almost entirely made up of independent contractors and it is the best way to stay busy enough to make a career of it. We believe there are pros and cons to both so it really isn’t a matter of right or wrong, but what is best for your project. The old adage “jack of all trades, master of none” is always worth noting but not every project requires mastery for every position. The flexibility and cost effectiveness of individuals filling more than one role is always worth considering for smaller businesses and productions.

Being based in the Phoenix, Arizona area, we have found that it is beneficial to offer flexible solutions to suit each client, project and budget. Our company’s approach is built around scalability allowing us to offer maximum value and successful outcomes. We continue working to find new ways to bring high level results to businesses of all sizes without breaking the bank. To learn more about your options and to maximize your investment in video production, please reach out to learn more about our approach!