How Long Does it Take to Make a Video?

By Josh Gold

How long in advance do you need to start working on a video?

All too often, I’m approached by clients who need a finished product in mere weeks. Because they aren’t familiar with how the video-making process works, it simply doesn’t occur to them that they’re setting themselves up for a rush job.

They’re only thinking about the part where I point my camera and press record; and for a video that’s only a minute long, they can’t imagine this taking all that many hours to achieve. Even if I already have other active projects, they reason, there’s still plenty of time to work with.

For this reason, I thought it would be helpful to walk you briefly through the typical cycle that surrounds every video made at Serio Films.

Every production company has their own system, so you won’t be able to apply this universally, but it should give you a general sense of what’s involved and why you should try to start working on a video as early as possible.

1. Research

I start my preparations by reading up on the public record of your work and history. It’s important to me to be familiar with the terminology you use and the values you project. I want to go into this experience able to recognize and talk about your key issues.

2. Discovery Session

After informing myself on the basics, I take an even more important step: Sitting down with you to talk through your self-image as an organization, your goals, and your current struggles.

This is key information if I’m going to be able to create a product worthy of your investment. It will ultimately be designed to meet the needs revealed in this conversation.

3. Interviews and polls (data collection)

Hearing your side of the story is just the beginning. The next step is crucial: I reach out to people who can give me an outside view of the situation to compare with your take. This can mean people you’ve helped, or even people you were unable to help, as well as supporters, ex-supporters, and non-supporters.

By gathering this variety of perspectives, I will be able to build an accurate and meaningful picture of your strengths and weaknesses. I’ll be able to see where you’re achieving your goals and where your intentions don’t match up with the lived experiences of your community.

This allows us to create a video based on data, rather than just conjecture.

4. Synthesis

Once I’ve gathered all that data, it’s time to sift through it, searching for patterns. What ideas and turns of phrase show up repeatedly? What themes emerge?

When a theory occurs to me, I test it against the data again, making sure it’s well-supported. If it is, it’s my job to make sure I can articulate it clearly and succinctly, polishing it into a true video concept.

5. Pre-production (planning details)

Using the theme as a starting point, I develop a narrative or story for the film, and then I plan out and prepare for every little detail to ensure that production, when it happens, runs smoothly.

Filming without a plan can lead to a huge waste of resources, and that’s just not how I operate.

If the video is going to be interview-based, I select subjects and have another chat with them to get a sense of their stories. I develop a strategy for the on-camera interview, plotting out the points I want to cover.

If the video is going to be scripted, I work with my writing team to nail down the right language.

In both cases, I put together a complete shot list, making sure I know exactly what images I want to capture to go along with this dialogue.

I schedule locations, coordinate with the talent, and just generally take care of all the myriad little things that need to be managed for a successful shoot.

6. Production

This is when the filming happens. It usually takes place over two to four days and involves expensive equipment and a production crew.

Thanks to the meticulous pre-production process described above, I am able to be extremely efficient at this stage. Production costs quite a lot, so it’s better not to drag it out.

7. Postproduction (editing)

I take the materials gathered in production and arrange them into a final product, including a soundtrack, title cards, animated elements, sound design, and more.

This stage alone can take up to four weeks in order to ensure a polished, effective final cut.

8. Utilization plan and implementation

To ensure the video is implemented properly, I may help you design landing pages, monitor the response to your social media post or help you work the video into a live presentation.

These are more time-consuming jobs that you will have to account for when planning your timeline.

I’ve kept the timelines vague here because it’s important to note that depending on the scope of the project, any one of these stages can either be completed quickly or given serious time to develop.

Now that you understand what you’re asking for, however, I hope you’ll be able to determine how much advance notice is appropriate for your video needs.

While there are ways to mitigate a rush job, it’s always better to be able to take your time and ensure that your video is given the focus it deserves.

I welcome any comments or questions about our process. Just write in the comments below.

Want to take your fundraising to the next level? Serio Films offers a free email course on the subject. Learn more and sign up here.

Josh Gold, owner of Serio Films, has helped nonprofits raise millions of dollars through video-based marketing. You can follow Josh and his team on Facebook.