In a perfect world, all our video projects have plenty of budget and resources. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case.
The past half decade has seen a drastic rise in the use of video as a marketing tool (with a 41% increase since 2016). And though video budgets are also on the rise, most companies are finding more cost-effective ways to produce their content. This means even if you’re producing content for some of the biggest brands, you might occasionally have to shoot on a crunched budget.
Maybe your project is a last-minute social media series that cropped up after your department’s monthly budget’s already been spent. Or maybe your team likes a new idea so much, they want to try to shoot immediately with whatever resources are on hand at the time. Whatever the reason, the need for more and more video content means that sometimes videos need to get done for less.
With that in mind, it’s important to know how to make good content when budget, location, and time are limited. Under these conditions, the quality of your finished product depends on how resourceful you can be.
Last month, SproutVideo’s Hoda Emam sat down with commercial director Jyri Pasanen to talk about making video content with these types of limitations. Based in Zurich, Jyri directs commercials for big brands like McDonalds, Swisscom, and Migros. His shoots are huge productions that include a full crew, the best gear, prime locations, and the most talented actors.
But what’s really interesting is what Jyri does with his free time. That’s when he makes great content under tight constraints. Hoda and Jyri’s conversation is worth watching for Jyri’s entertaining stories, as well as the lessons we can learn from them. The following are three shoots Jyri described, and the lessons each of them can teach us.
1. Around the World with a Tiny Camera
The Story: Nice to Meet You
In 2013, Jyri and his wife circled the globe on a year-long, budget-conscious meander. During their trip, they recorded interview content, and the end result is the “Nice to Meet You” (NTMY) project. They asked questions like, “are you happy?” and “what would you say to aliens?” while filling their hard drives with footage of fascinating people and their compelling stories.
Did his audience care that it was all shot with a consumer micro four thirds camera, a mic, and a GoPro? Not at all, because they found themselves lost in the story.
The Lesson: Doable, Compelling Story Over Big Production
NTMY worked because Jyri kept the concept simple and, more importantly, doable. When you’re faced with challenging circumstances, don’t try to do too much. Revert to something simple and that you can complete despite the limitations.
Jyri didn’t try to bring a lot of bulky, heavy gear with him to elevate the look and sound of the NTMY project. He kept it raw, kept the concept simple, and instead relied on the people in front of the camera to give the film’s interest. Social media (and TikTok specifically) has taught us that a good story will make even the lowest-budget content fascinating to watch, and NTMY is a great example of that.
Jyri also warns not to try to do too much. Even if you’re used to creating a ton of content each day when the budgets are there, don’t try to hold yourself to the same standard when they aren’t. Choose to shoot only what you know you can complete despite the constraints.
2. Nepal Tourism Film
The Story: Some Budget Can Be Worse Than No Budget
Following the catastrophic earthquakes in Nepal in 2015, Jyri and his team were called to make a tourism film that would entice visitors to come and bolster the Nepalese tourism economy. It’s a dream job; who wouldn’t want the opportunity to tell the story of such a breathtaking place? The catch, of course, is that budgets were limited. He had to make a film that looked big budget, but actually wasn’t. So Jyri’s strategy was to keep the crew size small, quick and nimble, while bringing along a lot of heavy, bulky, high-end cinema equipment to give the film a professional look. What resulted was a grueling 18-day shoot full of risks and close calls that nearly ended the project.
The Lesson: Resist the Urge to Do Too Much
Video projects that have some budget, but not enough budget, are Jyri’s least favorite. Typically projects like these still have huge client expectations with budget limitations that make those expectations much harder to meet. Whereas tiny projects like NTMY can cut corners and stay simple, client projects like Nepal can’t. In short, the hardest projects are ones for which expectations and resources aren’t aligned.
This is a clear case of trying to do too much with not enough resources. As Jyri points out, it’s absolutely no fun. But, more importantly, it’s risky. There were a lot of times that Jyri’s film was in danger of not coming together. The more ambitious your goals for a project without the resources to match those goals, the more risk that the project will never see the light of day. Luckily for Jyri, his Nepal film worked out (and is beautiful!) but the lesson we can learn from it might save our own projects from a more unfortunate fate.
3. Music Video in Morocco
The Story: Shooting When Stranded
Jyri and his family just crossed into Africa when the COVID-19 lockdown first happened. In an instant, he, his wife Manu, and his two kids found themselves stranded at an RV park with a handful of other families, waiting for the green light to travel again. What else could they do with all their free time but shoot a music video?
With a friend’s band’s song in hand and a good idea in his head, Jyri pieced together the shoot by using locations right next to their camping spot. Without actors around, he cast his kids in the lead roles. And for camera work, he asked a campground neighbor who happened to be a cinematographer. Together with a few friends as helpers, they ended up shooting a beautiful short film.
The Lesson: It Takes a Village
“Ask for help,” Jyri suggests. When it comes to video production, people are generally willing to lend a hand. Whether it’s proofreading your script, holding your boom mic, or hopping in front of the camera as an actor, video projects are just fun! Even if your project is an internal company communication, you’ll be surprised how many people will be willing to help in the name of teamwork.
If you or your company has a good idea for a video or a series, don’t shy away from it because your resources aren’t optimal. Remember to emphasize story over production, keep your project small and doable with realistic expectations, and bring friends and coworkers in to help. Remembering these simple guidelines will help you sidestep challenges, and create great content regardless of the limitations.