via fstoppers.com: “If you’re old enough to remember VHS tapes, you remember video quality that was abysmal by today’s standards. However, even in the late 80s and early 90s, manufacturers were working to bring HD tech to consumers, and this demo reel is a surreal example of such tech.”
I’ve found the initial friction point for launching a creative company is branding. There are so very many sickeningly cool video production companies, directors, cinematographers, graphic designers, motion designers, and otherwise amazing creatives out there, and the temptation for me is the felt need to look as good as they do. After all, if what I’m doing isn’t perfect then I’ll never be taken seriously. I must have THE BRAND sorted out first.
This is a lie.
The lie of THE BRAND takes me down a very deep rabbit hole and keeps me from actually getting started. If I let it, I’ll spend days, weeks, or months trying to make it perfect. Meanwhile, I’ve stalled before I’ve even reached the runway.
I confronted myself with two truths:
1. I’m Not a Graphic Designer
It’s true. I’m not. I’m engaged in a visual industry, but I am not a graphic designer. Sure, I can tell good design from bad design. But I don’t create logos or branding guides. I connect with people and help them tell their stories. I think I’ve finally become OK with that. I highly recommend recognizing your strengths and being OK with your weaknesses.
2. My Clients Don’t Care
It’s not that my clients don’t care – it’s just that they don’t care nearly as much as I care about my company name or brand. A client is really asking the questions “Do I like their videos?” and “What will it be like to work with them?” Neither of those have much to do with my name or logo.
Here’s how you can push past the friction: recognize your name and brand just need to be non-embarrassing and moderately competent. Here are five examples that I’m literally making up right now:
- The Black Shirts
- Window Frame Films
- Light Pole Productions
- Tabby Cat Pictures
- Green Tree Story
Register the domain name and social media accounts. Put it in a sans-serif font in your image editor of choice. Black on White, White on Black, Black on Transparent. Add a version with a little color if you want. Save them as .png files. Done.
This is exactly what I did for our first logo shown below:
Beat the friction, move on, and revisit it later once you have some projects done and money to spend.
This is not an original thought at all. I’ve wholesale stolen this from How to Make a Logo for Free in About 5 minutes and John Saddigton’s article How to Start a Company in 72 Hours. I will not be stuck in branding mud ever again, and you don’t ever need to get stuck there.
When you’re starting something new, the law of inertia does not work in your favor. You are battling friction, and for creatives like us that looks like getting distracted and stressing out over small things. It’s your reptile brain working against you. The challenge isn’t to be really really good, it’s to get something done. You can always go back and refine.
I think the hardest thing to learn about video and film production isn’t directing, cinematography, sound, or editing. There are tons of beautifully shot and edited TV and movie flops.
The real linchpin is story.
It’s the hardest easiest thing to learn. It can be grasped by a child, yet it can flummox even the most established writer/director/producer.
I personally have never watched Breaking Bad. But I’ve always admired the story.
- 2013 Guinness World Record ↩
For the past nine months I’ve been incubating a new production company with a couple of friends. We’ve produced a few things, and it went well, and now we want to give it a more focused effort.
Basically, we’re a startup company that happens to operate in the video production space. For me, the phrase “startup” conjures visions of the tech space and there’s a lot of overlap between the two: my team is remote, we’re technology dependent, we want to move fast, our clients (and potential clients) are all over the place, etc.
I find it interesting there’s a ton of writing about starting up a technology company – tools, strategies, project management, people management, software – but almost nothing about starting up a video production company. There’s an awful lot about how to make a video, create a special effect, finance a feature film, even organize a shoot, but precious little about the business and operations side of video production. What goes on behind the curtain.
So I decided to turn to the tech startup world for ideas for our little startup. We will be launching in the next month or so, once we complete our first big client project and get a couple more things squared away. But there’s a bunch of stuff I’ve been working on for the past month to start building some systems, structure, and culture – and I’d like to share them with you.
I cribbed heavily from John Saddigton’s (@8bit) article How to Start a Company in 72 Hours. It’ll probably take me closer to 72 days, but the principles are the same. They may even be the same for any company – new or old, digital or analog, creative or seemingly boring. I’ll leave you to decide.
If you’d like to follow along as we start this company, go read that article first. It has a wealth of knowledge about beating friction by just getting things rolling. I’ll be writing several posts over the next month or so about how we applied those lessons to our situation. Hope you can apply those lessons as well.