The Filmmaking Process: What to Expect when Working with Professionals

By Josh Gold

When you hire an outside contractor to make a video for you, one of the things you’re paying for is peace of mind.

After all, you’ve put the project in the hands of a professional; from that point on, you should be free to go back to your real job, waiting only to be presented with a finished product. Someone you trust is manning the helm, dealing with all the problems and headaches.

Or so the thinking goes.

To a considerable extent, it’s even true. You certainly won’t have to worry about the creative work, or about managing the project. That load will largely be on someone else’s shoulders.

That being said, the whole process will probably run a lot more smoothly if you don’t completely wash your hands of participation.

The vision

In order to be happy with the final product, you’ll probably want to have some input in the planning stages. While you should aim to hire someone who seems to have a good grasp of your organization and shares your sensibilities, it’s still a good idea to confirm that you’re on the same page before moving full steam ahead.

Of course, working with a pro makes the planning process easier and more productive. They’ll guide you through it, asking the right questions, offering their insights, making recommendations.

But only you can know exactly what you want. Your opinion is the one that’s going to matter the most in the end.

While this might be an unexpected step, just remember: Having clarity from get-go will help you avoid mistakes. In that sense, it will actually save you a lot of time – and aggravation – down the line. It’s always quicker to get things right the first time.

As the project progresses, consider how involved you want to be.

At Serio, we usually send out status reports at pivotal stages so our clients can track our progress and course-correct if necessary. If you’re truly confident that you can take a step back, you might ask to receive updates like these a little less frequently. But in our experience, they’re actually another time-saving opportunity, making sure that everything is playing out just how you want so you don’t have to ask for serious revisions later.

Similarly, when we’re filming, we recommend that our clients stop by if they can. If our interviews are missing something essential, it’s much better to find that out while we can easily do something about it.

When we check in like this at every stage, we’re usually in good shape when it comes time to review the completed video, with only a few small changes needed here and there.

The details

Marketing videos for nonprofits tend to be more intimate than corporate ads. You’re promoting a meaningful cause, not an impersonal brand. Authenticity and genuine idealism are some of your top selling points. Hence, your videos are likely to feature real people, not actors, and to be filmed on real locations, not fabricated sets.

Your production company is going to have to navigate all kinds of challenges to make this happen. They’re going to have to work with staff or constituents who may not be thrilled to have their busy, important schedules interrupted. They’re going to need access to your offices and other such spaces, which will often already be in use.

I can tell you firsthand that this can get ugly. I’ve been locked out of rooms where I was expecting to film, and I’ve been turned away by staff members for whom the video was simply not a priority. There was little I could say to convince them otherwise.

Working with someone on the inside, on the other hand, makes these interactions far friendlier and far more efficient.

The best-organized projects are the ones where we’ve been assigned an intern or point person within the organization to help us with things like scheduling, coordinating to ensure that we’re not unduly burdening anyone or going where we aren’t wanted. They can also make introductions, so we’re not just barging in out of nowhere. They can give instructions and see to it that we’re accommodated as needed. They know the internal politics and can steer us
clear of potential areas of conflict.

It may be worth your while to appoint someone to liaise with the production company and deal with these kinds of details. Even if this is more handholding than you expected to do, it will make it easier for your production company to devote their energy to filmmaking  –  the thing you actually hired them for.

If you were anticipating a hands-off experience, it makes sense that all this will seem like a lot at first. But once you understand the reasons for it, it can become easier to recognize how your involvement makes your life easier overall – and how it makes for a final product you can be proud of.

What do you think? How much work is too much when it comes to making a video?

Josh Gold, owner of Serio Films, has helped nonprofits raise millions of dollars through video-based marketing. You can follow Josh and his team over at and To get more discussions like these right to your inbox, sign up for their newsletter.