Scalability, Collaborating & Pre-Production (ft. Play Creative) | Creatives Grab Coffee 28

Welcome to Creatives Grab Coffee, a podcast on the business of video production, hosted by Dario Nouri and Kyrill Lazarov from Lapse Productions.

Our goal is to make the video production industry smaller by creating a sense of community. Whether you are a creative, an entrepreneur, or a professional there is knowledge for you to learn. Join us as we have industry professionals from around the world come on the show and share their insights on the industry and business. Welcome to Creatives Grab Coffee. Welcome to Video Production.

Today we’re joined by Amy Mantyka from Play Creative, a Saskatchewan-based commercial video production company with a studio in the heart of Regina’s historic warehouse district. Whether they’re creating content with local clients or shooting around the world, they look at every project from a creative, collaborative, and strategic vantage point.

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Key Takeaways

  • Its better to run your business under a name that isn’t your personal name because then the success of the business won’t be dependant on you yourself
  • Push back is actually good (in good measure) because if you’re by yourself deciding everything and no one is questioning your decisions then you won’t know if those ideas are actually good or not. It helps to prompt discussion. So if your ideas can’t withstand criticism then they are bad ideas.
  • When you have your client on set, you do want them involved to the degree where they can offer their input. Because you want everyone to be on the same page. You want the client to be happy. You don’t want there to be any negative surprises after you deliver the video. 
  • The bigger the project, the less chances there are that the revision process could mutate out of control
  • How to deal with difficult clients? You have to learn proper vetting techniques, learn to listen, and apply psychological techniques
  • If you don’t want to charge more for extra revisions you can factor that into your quote or inform your client ahead of time of additional costs.
  • Pre-production is the most important stage of the video production process so its natural that it will take more time.

Timestamps

  • 00:00 – Intro / Scalability 
  • 00:09 – Sharing workloads / Collaborating together
  • 00:22 – Getting asked how you work
  • 00:26 – Importance of Pre-Production / Going with the flow
  • 00:32 – Breaking your own rules
  • 00:36 – Viewer questions: How do you deal with difficult clients?
  • 00:49 – Working with an ad agency
  • 00:54 – Charging for revisions

Transcript

Dario Nouri: Hello everyone and welcome back to Creatives Grab Coffee. Today we have Amy Mantyka from Play Creative on the show. Amy can you give us a little background on who you are and how you got into the video production industry?

Amy Mantyka: Hi everyone, I’m Amy. I’m based in Regina, Saskatchewan, far away from you guys. I teamed up ten or even more than ten years ago with two friends, Chris and Mike, in film school and those are my business partners today. We first teamed up for a project for a Crown Corporation out in Saskatchewan. And someone called me wanting videos of renovations, toilet installations, upgraded thermoses. It was really funny that it wasn’t the most exciting video content. And so I got Chris to help me. And then Chris said, you know what? It’s just the two of us. Let’s get Mike involved as well. And then the three of us sort of joined up for this pretty generic video project that ended up being like a very critical project for us because it sort of kickstarted the company. Like maybe we could make more videos, maybe we should look at doing advertising versus the film industry.

And so it was sort of like a little bit of a let’s try this and see what happens. And then actually a year later, the tax credit was eliminated in Saskatchewan. So it was all very interesting timing because it meant we were getting momentum, doing a couple small videos, a couple ads. But that became like a great source of work where a lot of people actually had to leave Saskatchewan if you were previously in the film industry, depending on what your job was. So, yeah, we banded together and we started Play Creative. Bit of a long story, but we’re still here today, still doing our advertising.

How did you two start?

Kyrill Lazarov: So I was originally dabbling in video from 2011 to 2013 on my own, for fun while I was in business school at Ryerson University. And then halfway through my program, I decided, you know what, let me give video a try and have a crack at it. I ended up building a portfolio doing work with the student groups and Dario joined me pretty early on. Pretty soon we came up with the idea to start a production company because it would be a good idea for future growth because imagine you expand to a certain point where if it’s under your personal name, everyone’s going to only want you to be there all the time. And that’s not scalable as a business.

Amy Mantyka: Well, it makes a good point about scalability. Because you never know where your business is going to go. Are you going to try to do like multiple production crews within one name?

And film, I find it’s such a team thing. And it’s different. Like obviously there are people who work alone and they can still produce and do content and I’m always so impressed, but I know just how hard it must be as you kind of grow and get bigger, it’s like the crews get bigger and it’s just a stress.

Dario Nouri: You become limited as a solo business owner. There’s only so much you could do. So you’re limited in scalability. That’s why with the people we brought on the show that are solo business owners, they mention that it’s nice to see that at least we’re a partnership because we can share the load. And that definitely has its benefits too, right? Because I can only imagine if we were doing this on our own. I don’t even think we turn it into a business. I think we just stay as freelancers.

Amy Mantyka: Oh, I couldn’t do it on my own. There’s just too much. And I find with our partnership, everyone has different categories that they handle. You sort of band together and everyone has different skills. But at the same time, we’re still quite aligned with the morals and where we want the company to go. I think the secret sauce is the team and having different people handle the things that they’re best at and working together and then becoming stronger as a unit.

Kyrill Lazarov: You were very lucky to start with everyone from day one, which is great, and especially with so many people at the beginning. We literally started from square one with the business. So we were learning the industry as we went. But one really cool thing I noticed from what I saw on your website was that each of your team members have different types of roles, both on production and off production, which I haven’t seen in many other companies. You have your sound guy who’s also essentially doing editing and a lot of the post-production for you guys. And we have your cinematographer who’s also one of the key business people as well. 

Amy Mantyka: What about you two? Do you find you have a division of labor or how does that work?

Dario Nouri: At this stage we’re pretty much splitting everything like 50/50. For certain projects, maybe one of us might just take it on and handle that and then hire the freelancers to be able to get that done or just do it in-house. But I think we’re at the stage where we are kind of just splitting things pretty evenly.

Kyrill Lazarov: It’s more so to kind of make it where if one of us needs to step into another one’s project for whatever reason, we’re able to do it. 

Dario Nouri: So even on projects that we shoot together we still split the work evenly in a way. For example, We will still produce but I will take on more of the producing duties, and we will still co-direct but I will take on more on the directing duties since Kyrill needs to focus on being the Cinematographer. 

Amy Mantyka: Co-directing must be interesting. 

Kyrill Lazarov: I would say when it comes to co-directing, I don’t think it’s an approach that works for everyone because sometimes you are going to butt heads especially if you have slightly different ideas or visions, you know. But the main thing is you have to just communicate very clearly with the other person. And I feel like there has to be kind of like a chemistry that works between the two people for it to work.

Dario Nouri: We’ve definitely butted heads along the way but you get to the point where you focus more on Pre-Production so that you both have the same vision for the project. And ultimately, you are serving the client’s vision. But at the end of the day its good to have that secondary perspective. It’s like another filter that we were able to pass through. Again at the end of the day we’re trying to get the project done well. So we don’t disagree over egotistical reasons. If we disagree on things its more so on a technical level, like not having enough time or because the Client needs to have a certain point being shown that would alter the shot entirely. 

Kyrill Lazarov: Push back is actually good sometimes because if you’re by yourself deciding everything and no one is telling you or asking you about certain ideas that you’re thinking of then how do you know if those ideas are going to work. It prompts a discussion between the two of us.

Amy Mantyka: We’ll it just speaks to the chemistry you two have. You should be very proud that you’re able to do that. There’s a lot of different ideas when it comes to creative projects. Sometimes there’s too many options and you have to narrow things down or go for what fits the client’s brand.

Are your clients on set with you or how does that work? I have a lot of interaction with clients on set. It’s definitely collaborative because sometimes we’re doing something and then a request comes in and we try something else or you do a couple of different versions. So it’s really about options and being able to do multiple or even multiple versions of the same thing.

Dario Nouri: When you have your client on set, you do want them involved to the degree where they can offer their input. Because you want everyone to be on the same page. You want the client to be happy. You don’t want there to be any negative surprises after you deliver the video. 

Amy Mantyka: I always think if the client isn’t happy, if the agency isn’t happy, they’re the ones that are hiring you. It’s often competitive for bigger projects. So they’ve chosen your production company for a reason. 

Do you find that you are doing a lot of presentations before the production? 

Dario Nouri: Lately yes because we have been focusing a lot on Pre-Production. It is the most important part of the video production process so it has to be as detailed as possible. And when you’re dealing with bigger budgets, they are going to get longer and more detailed because they have to because otherwise you’ll end up with a lot of problems in production and post production as well.

Kyrill Lazarov: I’d say production should be the easiest. Technically post-production is second and then. And then. And then pre-production is the main one. Once you have everything very detailed, then everything else should run smoothly because if there are some issues that come in later, then that very much indicates there was a mistake made in pre-production that wasn’t covered. But sometimes things will come up and you just need to adapt. 

Dario Nouri: I think when you start doing more of the business side of video production, being able to adapt becomes a lot easier to do. Because when you’re just starting out you are still creative at heart so you become too emotionally attached to your ideas. But then once you start becoming more like the producer and the business owner, you just start to see things from a different perspective where you’re just like, OK, that idea just didn’t make the cut or whatever. Like, let’s cut that. How do we make this work? You start to manage right brain vs left brain a lot more strategically. At the end of the day, you are running a business. So everything has to serve that. 

Kyrill Lazarov: You need a compromise. Compromising is very necessary. And I like what you said, being mentally flexible, which unfortunately is not a skill that can be taught, its a skill that can be learned by doing. 

Dario Nouri: We’re introducing a new segment to the show where we ask the guest viewer/listener questions. This one is anonymous, how do you deal with difficult clients? 

Amy Mantyka: Well I’d like to start this answer by saying that Play Creative has no difficult clients. 

Dario Nouri: Need to add that disclaimer. 

Amy Mantyka: To be honest I think the longer you’re in film and the more you work with bigger budget clients the less you will encounter this problem. Mostly because you will get to work with a lot of great people that have earned their position by being awesome at what they do. Its a certain level of professionalism that you will start to notice. They’ve earned these big brands. They’re bringing you in and I find I actually find for me, I think every year gets better. That’s sort of how I feel like I think nothing’s harder than when you first start out and it’s such a grind. But back a few years ago, like, yes, everybody would be lying if they said they’ve never had difficult clients.

And I think that when I’ve had those experiences, it’s really you have to remember that look, it’s a little bit like psychology. Look at the nature of the comments, where it’s coming from. If someone has been saying to you from the start that they want specific things and you’re not delivering, you have to also look at your listening skills. Are you doing what you’re asked? Are you actually just kind of doing whatever you want? Or look at different personalities. Like sometimes I think is somebody frustrated because they don’t feel like they’re being heard?

And sometimes like maybe something rude is said to someone, but it’s like don’t, just don’t take things too personally. That’s sort of my long winded answer. 

Kyrill Lazarov: You have to talk to them. I remember the one thing I learned recently was that sometimes you just have to simply talk it out with them. If they have certain comments on things, especially things that you think won’t work, sometimes even just talking to them and letting them know the reason why you made a decision based on that video, like that specific section of why you did it like that kind of makes them understand a little bit where you’re coming from. And then they’re like, Oh, OK, I like that, you know, never mind what I said. And but sometimes they might be like, as you said, no, I still kind of want to do it. Then you let them know and then you just make those changes if need be.

Dario Nouri: That’s when the business side comes in. This is your video at the end of the day. So my professional recommendation is not to do that, but if you want it done the other way then sure. But this usually doesn’t happen often when you become more experienced because by that point you’ve become good at vetting and noticing red flags. So I think if you are getting a client where you are getting they are being that difficult I think it’s just a matter of you might need to be better at selecting your clients.

Kyrill Lazarov: How do you go about managing expectations when it comes to deliverables especially on the revision side of things? Since you work a lot with agencies so the video has to go through even more revision stages compared to just direct to client. 

Amy Mantyka: Good question. I would say people are pretty good at consolidating feedback. So I also think it’s like when we talked about levels and different tiers of work, I think that a few years ago,an edit could turn into what I call a mutation. But sometimes you have to look at the client and the agency’s experience because I think if people aren’t as experienced with visuals coming to life and then editing is now taking visuals and attaching them. And I would say that I try to remind myself that, like, not everyone’s going to be like visually they’re with you. So then sometimes it’s like, well, we’ve talked about it, but then now people aren’t sure and it’s like, but then you’re kind of sometimes paid to be there, to have a vision, to pre visualize things, to lay things out for people. But I find the bigger the project, the fewer editing revisions is what we typically experience.

Dario Nouri: Amy thanks for coming on!

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Produced by LAPSE PRODUCTIONSwww.LapseProductions.com

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