I run a company that makes films, but just over a year ago, I sold all our filmmaking equipment.
Why? Because I sense something big is happening in the world of agencies.
It’s something that will affect video production companies, freelancers and clients in a way that will leave the industry landscape changed forever. It extends even to design and full-service marketing agencies too.
The truth is, the “production company” model is dying.
The even harsher truth is, the video production company model is already dead.
As somebody who has ran both, you’re probably wondering why I’m proclaiming its own demise. But the truth is, in this moment I’ve never felt so free. Never has there been such clarity about exactly what meaningful contribution we bring to the world. It’s a death of one thing, sure, but it’s the most exciting refocus of something that was there all along.
Button pushers will never change the world
For over a decade, I have run a video production company with my business partner, Kate. We grew it in a way that felt right for the industry. We bought and owned all our own equipment, had a talented in-house film team, indulged over every single fragment of the technical process. We came up with big ideas and had a really well-oiled creative process. We were billing for many layers of the technical process. The real value had come from our technical capabilities. We had the big cameras, we knew how to use them, we had the post-production systems and all the finest software in the industry. At the time, because the technology was so expensive and specialised, it was the aspect of our offering that set us apart.
But then one day just over a year ago, we realised something was wrong. All this time we’d been crafting an amazing creative team, with a passion for big ideas and a beautiful creative process. Yet we were putting our cameras in higher value than our craft. The part of our offering that clients actually came to us for, the creativity, was being given away for free. So we did something that, at the time, everyone said was madness:
- We sold our film equipment
- We changed our structure from an in-house team of filmmakers to a collective of collaborators
- We stopped saying yes to any briefs where we couldn’t add any creative value
- Made a promise to ensure our ideas will become our biggest billable asset
Overnight, we stopped being a video production company, and became what we always were (but didn’t realise)… a creative studio
So why has the production-model landscape change so dramatically?
The tools to create are plentiful
It used to be that only the ones with the cameras got the work, but now the barrier to entry has become so low, everyone is a filmmaker. You are a filmmaker, even your thirteen-year-old nephew is a filmmaker/vlogger. There is no prestige to production anymore. We realised that the DNA of our team wasn’t in tech, it was in creative thinking.
Skills are abundant
Web designers can dabble in motion graphics, developers can do a bit of design. The spectrum of skills is becoming so saturated that almost anyone can create amazing content with the right tutorials and a bit of time on their hands. With the abundance of skill, the value is no longer worth putting on a pedestal.
One-size-fits-all isn’t the best for our clients
When you’ve got an in-house production team, and own all our own equipment, then that’s all you can offer your clients. No matter what kind of shoot, you get the same crew, the same kit, the same systems. To me, big ideas need to be executed in all different ways, with the freedom to move between specialist and niche collaborators.
Brands are the creators too
One of the most exciting shifts in our industry has been brands seeing the opportunities in content enough to establish in-house resource. Why do they need a video production company with a camera when they have one in their own premises? Our best partnerships work with clients who know when to use their in house resource, and when to pick up the phone to us.
So now, our studio is built from the ground up to value creative thinking. Every one of our team is wrapped into the creative output from the very first moment. We don’t have a room full of skilled button pushers, we have a room full of vibrant creative minds that have the experience to design and execute world-class ideas. It’s our job to be agile, to have a structure that doesn’t require us to use the same kit and the same crew each time but to weave together lots of different elements in a way that delights the brands we work with, and their audiences.
Capability is no longer the currency of value. We are creative navigators. We use our experience not just to make pretty pictures when we’re asked to, but to use every fragment of our instincts, experience and tastes to lead our clients towards the meaningful moments with their audiences.