How To Tell If Your Video Production Company Is Overcharging You

July 28, 2016

Written by Benjamin Potter | Creative Director, CLICKON

Hiring a video production company can be daunting if you haven’t worked with the crew before. Two lingering questions make you toss and turn at night. Will they deliver on the product they are promising AND are they overcharging you? Whether you’re a small or medium sized business, it’s important to make sure you’re getting a good deal. Several factors will determine this:

EXPERIENCE

In an industry where one missed shot can cost you the entire video, experience counts for a lot. Production companies come in all shapes and sizes, but nothing is more important than looking at their track record. Don’t be fooled by a sexy showreel. These are extremely easy to edit together. Ask to see individual pieces of work that have similarities to the shoot you’re embarking upon. If they say “we can’t send you individual videos due to confidentiality reasons,” know that they are full of bullshi*! Every good production company should be able to provide you with several examples of recent work they’ve produced.

QUESTION THEIR MARKUP!

The way production companies work is simple. Hire a handful of full-time producers and editors who work their socks off and earn modest wages. Then have a pool of talent ranging from makeup artists to color grading wizards who make up your “freelance” network. The most successful production companies make good markups on each production item. It’s not uncommon for a production house to charge $900 for a sound guy but hire them for $650. Sometimes production companies take it to the next level however. They will attempt to do 300-400% markups where they charge the client say, $1575, and pay the freelancer $400.

Always ask for a breakdown of costs by the hour. You don’t have to be in the production business to workout when you’re being ripped off. Sound operators for example DO NOT COST $1575 per day unless you’re shooting a Hollywood blockbuster! Doing a bit of research on the internet can help you sniff out a production company that cares more about money than helping you out.

DO I NEED ALL THESE PEOPLE?

film production

Starting my career in the UK and seeing small crews produce breathtaking videos did not prepare me well for life in America. I was naturally shocked when I saw production companies in the United States deploying an army of crew members for very simple shoots. One shoot I was on last year – a television commercial – must have had 40-50 crew members present, many of whom would pretend to be busy. This has become standard practice. If you get a quote through from a production company that includes a grip, wardrobe, hair, makeup, etc. – please question why a very simple shoot needs all of these resources, remembering the markup warning that I have given above.