How to Evaluate Video Production Vendors

Cinematographer, Emma Kragen

Cinematographer, Emma Kragen

At this point, you have written a RFP, sent it out, and received several vendor applicants. Now it’s time to decide which vendor(s) you want to engage further.

Form a first impression

Let's begin by looking at the vendor's sample works, which should give you a good impression of the production value and types of videos the company makes. If you find yourself quickly unimpressed or confused by a vendor's portfolio, perhaps they're not a good match. However, if you like their work but don't find any content similar to what you're hoping to produce, ask them for additional samples. Production companies typically share recent or featured work publicly and are willing to share relevant clips with you privately.

Consider their approach

At this point, you have liked the work of at least one vendor. Let’s take it a step further by considering their approach. There's a saying in video production:

Good, fast, and cheap: Pick 2.

At the core of this tongue in cheek adage is the idea that there are three interrelated aspects of production; creative, budget, and timeline. If you’re looking to film a car chase through a busy intersection with stunts, you’ll need a budget that’s as big as your blockbuster vision. However, you should not allow limited funds to limit your vision. It’s the job of the production company to help you achieve your goals within your means. Look for a vendor who clearly values this responsibility through their work, language, and referrals. Be cautious about working with companies that push their flashy shots before substantive content. Story should be the wellspring from which the approach to production (be it big or small) should flow.

Communicate the creative

Now that you’ve identified a vendor with strong work samples and a considered approach, reach out to them to schedule a meeting. With your consultation request, it is helpful to share visual and auditory references as it gives the production company a sense of what inspires you. Also, feel free to share any videos your organization has previously produced, identifying what you perceive as each piece’s strengths and weaknesses. This will point out to the vendor any creative paths you hope to avoid. If you have footage your organization has previously captured and/or graphics/titles that could be reused, let the vendor know so they can start thinking about how best to incorporate these existing elements into new production.

Next check out, Working with a Production Company, Part III: The First Meeting