The truth is that while it’s hard work, it is still possible to successfully start a production company in today’s market, and to make your business thrive. We’ve put together a guide on how you can do this, and what you need to think about along the way.
What does a production company do?
In a nutshell, production companies produce, market, and distribute films, digital ads, and television programmes. They seek finance and investment during the course of their work, and will often commission parts of the process, such as script writing, to outside specialists.
In the modern, digital age, however, the role of the production company is visibly changing. Online video content is everywhere, and savvy production companies have positioned themselves so that, when a brand wants some video content to ‘go viral’, or for an advertising campaign, they go straight to the production company that has experience and has demonstrated success in this area. And that’s the point people might begin to think it’s not worth starting a production company, because how can you join the already established elite? Well, let’s take it one step at a time.
How to start up a production company
Starting your production company is, in many ways, the same as starting up any new business. You need to choose which type of company you want to be, so it is best to start off with some legal advice from a specialised business solicitor or a knowledgeable accountant. You must choose a unique business name to register with Companies House, and you must allocate one or more directors and shareholders. Set up a workable accounting system, with professional support, and look into your required insurance options, such as public liability insurance.
It’s also vitally important to work on a detailed business plan so that you fully understand — and can explain in presentations — exactly what your business model will be in order to help secure investment. Where will you seek funding for your projects? Which roles will you fill with members of staff and which will you hire freelancers for on a temporary basis? What area do you want your films to specialise in? Where do you want your business to be in 5 years’ time? Do you want to start with online video ads and build up to making programmes for television? If so, how will you achieve this? Your business plan needs to answer these sorts of questions.
Once you have started your company, it is time to run it productively. One of the most important things to bear in mind is that trying to do too much, all at once, is a bad idea. Instead, consider the benefits of focusing in one area of video, where you can become known and respected for your specialised work. If you become known as the company that does excellent conference coverage, or excellent YouTube ads where the first five seconds are so spectacular that viewers don’t actually click away, then you will develop a reputation and will always be in demand. Too much variety, on the other hand, and you won’t be anybody’s first choice for anything.
And, while aiming for a TV contract or a movie deal may be the ultimate dream, trying too soon, with too little experience or insufficient resources, will lead to wasted resources and, ultimately, a failure to get ahead. Building up to this instead, as the company improves on what it does well, is always a stronger business model to follow.
The importance of a good distribution strategy
Identifying your distribution strategy is increasingly important for today’s production companies. While there are traditional distribution pathways for conventional films, most production companies are also establishing their own distribution strategies to ensure that their work gets maximum exposure. To create your own strategy, look at how companies that are similar to your own achieve their best distribution, and look carefully at online distribution options that widen your reach even further. Getting this right will be a huge step in the right direction.
How to market your production company
The first thing you will always be judged on is your work and, if your work is brilliant, your company name will become known. However, on its own, this is not likely to make your company succeed. Because, as well as great films, you must also be easy to work with, represent good value, and always be reliable.
With your social media marketing and other online/offline efforts, as well as networking and conference events, emphasise that you are not one of those production companies that gives them all a bad name by overcharging for work that’s really not worth the money. Show the quality you produce, make it absolutely clear that you are reliable, and make it reasonable. Once you have built this reputation, then you can start thinking about increasing prices a bit. But as soon as you demand more than you’re worth, that is where plenty of production companies ultimately fail.
How to hire for your production company
You always need like-minded people on your side when setting up any business. However, with a business model as intense as a production company’s, making good hiring decisions can make or break your success. So, think about hiring in the following areas:
Somebody who is very technologically savvy, and can turn hours of raw video into minutes of fantastic content in the edit suite.
Somebody who is persuasive, and able to source and exploit channels of distribution so that the films you make get into the best hands possible.
Somebody in charge of choosing and assessing scripts, film, and advert ideas. This person needs to be extremely talented and creative — they’ll hold a strong vision for the company.
Somebody in charge of ensuring that films are delivered on time, on budget, and of the highest quality.
Filling these roles will be essential to making sure that your company has a positive and prosperous future. Of course, at the start you might be doing this all on your own. If this is the case, you might want to look into offering internships or apprenticeships, as these will really help you with workload and you can begin to gradually build your team at a low cost. Creating that ideal team around you will also be able to convince investors to invest, and marketers to trust them with their next advertising project.