“We spend a lot of time getting to know people and their organizations on a personal level. Building a local production house is about earning and solidifying trust. Both of the clients you work for and of the creatives you hire. If you do those two things, you’ll keep clients for a long time, attract top creative talent and get strong referrals. Your business will grow.” - Luke Lashley, Co-founder and Head of Production at Bring Light & Sound. Instagram: @bringlightandsound
Starting your own production house can be rewarding, but just like any other business venture, it’s tough to get started. Getting your name out, finding clients, finding the best team, working with limited budgets. Even if you already have a decent collection of clients from working freelance, there are a lot of challenges to making a production house successful.
But as a client-facing company, there’s nothing more important than giving your clients the best experience possible. They’re fronting the bills and leaving it up to you to create video that represents their brand. And if you’re successful, word will get around that these companies were super satisfied with your work. You end up building trust that leads to referrals and repeat customers.
This is even truer for local production houses operating in cities outside of LA and New York. Businesses and creatives talk to each other, and in order to establish a production house, you have to build a trustworthy reputation. What’s the best way to do that?
Bring Light & Sound is a local production house based in Austin, Texas. Founded in 2015, they set out to build a production company that’s known for taking good care of their clients and team members. In 3 years they have grown from 2 guys with 1 client, to a team of 9 people, a constant flow of shoots, and repeat client accounts. Their secret? Providing a client experience built on trust, honesty and transparency.
“Bring Light & Sound was co-founded by me and my buddy John Monroe, who’s the Head of Post-Production. In college we were working on small productions already, shooting whatever gigs we could get our hands on, hiring our film school friends, developing a portfolio and creating videos with great people. After we graduated, we started getting bigger jobs. We landed a series of short documentaries with the Texas State History Museum, and a video for Fox Sports at SXSW. That’s when we decided to go in as partners and co-founders in a new production company.”
“We settled in Austin because most of our connections were in Austin to begin with, and the market here, like many places, is fragmented. There’s over a hundred small video operations between here and San Antonio, but only a handful of these video providers are doing large-scope productions with big budget accounts. From a business perspective, that’s encouraging to us because we believe that if we stay true to our values we can work our way into the small circle of production companies in Texas that do big work. Austin is ideal for us because there’s a lot of opportunities to be had in the film industry here. It’s not uncommon for creatives to move to Austin from LA and New York, there’s a thriving film community, there’s lots of paid work, plenty of rental houses, and no shortage of creative talent.”
“Bring Light and Sound is what we like to call a ‘script to screen’ service, which basically means start to finish video production. Clients come to us without any specific ideas, and we develop the entire project from concept to delivery. For example, we’re wrapping up a 3-part commercial series for Arrive Logistics, a logistics brokerage headquartered in Austin, which includes a recruitment video, sales video and company culture video. The creative side was completely done by us, including the early stage treatments, final scripts, production plans, and post. It’s a series we’re really proud of and, just like all of our clients, we kept them in the loop every step of the way to ensure they’re happy with our work.”
“For us, the single most important foundation for our business is trust. A large amount of trust must be built with clients before a deal can be done. Clients want to know who we are, what we do, what we stand for, and how we operate. You can’t do this by just sitting in a meeting room and discussing a project. It takes time. It requires getting to know your clients on a human level, as well as gaining a deep understanding of what they do, and taking an interest in why they care about their brand. With Arrive Logistics - I worked to build a relationship with their marketing director for over a year before we closed a deal.That’s usually what it takes for a company to trust us with producing a video that creatively represents their brand.
“This applies to filmmakers we want to work with as well. As a production house, building relationships with creatives is equally as important as building relationships with clients/brands - and it takes just as much time. In the later part of 2017 we started following Zach Morrison on Instagram. Zach is a cinematographer here in Austin, and we saw he was working with a competitor of ours and getting a lot of cool jobs in town. Rather than reaching out to him and pitching a project or talking businesses with him right away, we just got to know the guy and offered him work when it seemed appropriate. This year, we’ve worked with him on so many shoots that he’s now joining the Bring Light & Sound team on a more permanent level. Our bond with Zach took a lot of time to establish but it was well worth it. It can be tempting to get impatient and try to work deals or pitch projects at an early stage. The solution is to stay consistent and invest in the long term.”
“Once a brand is willing to do business with us, we explain everything we’re doing to provide value to the production. We’re able to bolster the trust we’ve built with them by providing detailed explanations about how we operate, what gear we’re bringing, what crews we’re hiring, and the value that these factors provide to the final product. We make an effort to remind ourselves that a lot of these companies have never worked with a production house before, or if they have there’s a good chance that their prior video partner operates differently than we do. By explaining why every crew member and equipment item is valuable to the project we’re able to better justify our budgets and fees.”
“Beyond explaining the value of crew and gear, we also provide information to our clients at every turn. A big part of the client experience is about setting expectations. We set the expectation that with film production, just like any creative process, plans will change along the way. Something is almost guaranteed to go wrong and at some point and tensions will run high. In our mind, high-intensity situations are actually positive because they present an opportunity to strengthen a relationship. Trust is built with time and patience, but trust is solidified when challenges and obstacles must be overcome. By approaching challenges with that mindset we’ve been able to position changes in a positive light within the minds of our clients and crew members. Once we solidify any plan (lock a script, book locations, etc) we create a PDF booklet notifying the client that the plan is not expected to change any further. So, when this process works well, the client gets a kick out of the changes we make - and is up to speed when we lock something. It all goes back to being transparent and always communicating.”
Client and Crew Monitoring
“Providing a client monitor is an easy way to demonstrate client transparency on set. It’s the ultimate form of honesty because they get to see exactly what the camera sees, and it gives clients a chance to give us input about what they want. For Arrive Logistics, we had a Serv Pro connected to our RED Epic Helium, and we let the client know that if they wanted to monitor they could download the app on their iPhones. They could be anywhere within range of the camera and monitor what the rest of us were seeing.”
“The Arrive Logistics commercials were directed by Huay-Bing Law, an Austin born-and-raised filmmaker who recently won the HBO Visionary Award and has been twice nominated for a Student Academy Award. Logistics brokering is not a particularly sexy industry (it’s mostly just computers and desks), so we had the added challenge of portraying Arrive Logistics in an exciting way that captured the spirit of their company culture. For example, we filmed one scene with an Arrive Logistics broker named Seiji. Seiji was an All American collegiate athlete, and his competitive mindset really embodies the Arrive Logistics vibe. To associate Seiji’s competitive drive with the Arrive Logistics brand, we filmed him working out in an Olympic size swimming pool and cut the that footage with him working at the office.”
“We shot this with an Epic Helium, XEEN Cine Primes on a MoVI Pro and a Ready-Rig. The shoot was fast paced because we only had 2 days to shoot 3 separate videos. Instead of going with a full video village setup, we went with on-the-go monitoring via our phones and tablets. [Director] Huay was monitoring from his iPad Pro so he could stay mobile, [producer] I had my iPhone, production designer had her iPhone if she wanted to check frame, and client also had one. This setup allowed us to move quickly without having to build and move a video village at every location. But most importantly it gave our client the chance to make sure everything was to their liking.”
“Communication is the best way to build trust with your creative team and clients, and when they trust you, they’ll refer you to others. In a city like Austin, all of us filmmakers know each other, and people talk. Local production houses like Bring Light & Sound need to stand out by delivering great work and establishing a positive reputation. This is the best way to do it.”
Check out more of Bring Light & Sound's work on their Instagram, @bringlightandsound.