9 Tips for Brands on Commissioning Successful Short Films or Series

Redglass Pictures recently completed a four-part film series for HP called History of Memory. The series won the Tribeca X award for best episodic series and was featured in The Los Angeles Times and Adweek.

Sarah and Tom on set with actor Ken Jeong for The Story of Cancer series for PBS. Spring 2014. The video was selected as Vimeo Staff Pick, and the series won a duPont-Columbia Award.

You have a story to tell: your brand is doing meaningful work, you want to lead the conversation in your field, you have access to an amazing person. You want a series of films to move like lightening around social media, kill at live events, even find partnerships with editorial outlets and influencers. You love films, you watch films, and you gather your team together and start to brainstorm. And brainstorm. And brainstorm. And finally, you call us, a production company that specializes in high-profile short films and series. But by this point, you have been thinking about this for weeks.

Can we be totally honest here? We usually get off that first kick-off call thinking…“why didn’t they call us sooner?!” This article is our attempt to be in on those first brainstorming sessions…without actually being there. We hope that these 9 tips can help focus your thinking and make the process of commissioning a short film or series feel more clear from day one.

1: Focus your message

We’ve all heard of an “elevator pitch.” They’re annoying but exist for a reason — being forced to condense your ideas is the key to focusing in on the story you want to tell. For example: We want to make a three to five minute film on an economist who is changing the way we look at low-income housing in this country. OR We want to make a short film that explains how our brand helps inspire people to think more about where their food comes from. These ideas are focused and clear and give us a lot to work with.

2: Understand the takeaway

Okay, you’ve narrowed in on your message, now think about the three to four things that you absolutely need people to take away from the piece. These are the core ideas that we can build our work around. For example: It’s crucial people understand that this economist came from poverty himself, that he uses big-data to help solve these problems, and that our brand’s technology helps to support this work. This distilling process helps put the entire project into focus and gives us the tools to tell a great story.

3: Lead with the story

We all learned in elementary school that a story is a sequence of events that has a beginning, a middle, and an end. That’s true, but in many of these projects it is hard to know where to start, where it should go, and what the end takeaway should be. Here are some of the things we think about when trying to convert an idea into a story for a client.

  • What is the major problem that this person, initiative, or program sets out to address?