Filming Cats and Dogs (better than ‘it’s raining…’!)

Last year, some of my film projects were spread across several months.  The project I worked on for Lancaster Vets has only just really come to an end and I think I started it way back in May!

Now, it’s not that I am a slow worker, far from it, but I’ve been recommending that clients change the way they think about how promotional films work.  Previously, I’d produce anything up to a ten minute film to promote a company – and this film would include elements of montage and interviews, time-lapse and stop-motion.  But then I got to think about how I watch films on the internet:  I don’t think I have sat through ten minutes’ worth of film for years!  So I began to ask myself why I was producing such long-winded films.

You see the problem is our concentration span.  It got shorter.  A lot shorter.  We have so many distractions and so many other things competing for our attention, that to expect anyone to sit through ten minutes of promotion is delusional.  That temptation to take control of the film by scrolling along the timeline is just too much.

When I went to talk to James at Lancaster Vets about a promotional film, I offered him an alternative way forward:  Instead of putting all of my time and resources into one big film, I suggested we concentrate on producing a series of smaller, bite-sized films.

The benefits of bite-sized over one big film suddenly seem endless!  I probably interviewed as many people and produced as much B-roll footage as I would have done for a ten minute film, but far less footage ended up on the cutting room floor.  I worked with Lancaster Vets to compile a series of about ten films which they can now drip-feed to their social media followers thus creating a buzz and an energy that you would only get once with one film.

We produced mini-documentaries about owners and their pets, interviewing owners not only about their experience with Lancaster Vets, but also about their bond with their pets.  Once we got going with them it was obvious that everyone likes talking about their pets – be they rabbits, ferrets, cats, dogs – the interviews were just lovely! I then edited each story as a complete mini-documentary which lasted between 2 – 5 minutes.  Interviewing people in their familiar environments was good too because I met the pets at their most relaxed.  It was brilliant!  If you are a pet with a good, caring, loving owner, you have got it made, that’s for sure! From Ted the rabbit who could be found hopping about his penthouse suite at Carole’s house to the seven ferrets in Halton whose owners had converted one room of their house into a giant ferret hutch and playground, every owner had a different story.  And they also described their relationship with Lancaster Vets, each covering a different reason for why the practice is important to them.

Next, we produced some time-lapse films of the practice:  Time-lapse is fairly quick and easy to do as long as you can set up and leave in a place with a power supply where you know no-one is going to disrupt the camera.  There’s something hypnotic about time-lapse films – they draw you in and tell a story very quickly.

One practice tour presented by practice nurse Sam in her extremely polished piece-to-camera film and a quirky little advert about a dog dreaming about coming to Lancaster Vets and that’s it – we were done.

Lancaster Vets now has a series of films which covers so many aspects of the practice which it can drip feed to its followers over as long a period of time as it likes!  So far, the response has been positive:  People are engaging with the films, talking about them sharing them with their friends and family.  It’s all be very positive.  Once they have been put out there, their lives will continue in a slightly different way on the LVC website.  This new-found format really does increase the films’ longevity.

In terms of value-for-money, I would say that this new short format series knocks spots off the old conventional 10 minute rambler.  In terms of story, I think our mini-films give a far more extensive picture of the practice – Also, we are giving people far more control over what they watch:  I can watch them all for the cute factor, or I can watch the films about dogs and nothing else, or I can watch that film about the cat because it’s starring my grandma and I’ll share it with all of my friends and family!  Whatever, we are giving the viewer as many bite opportunities as possible.

I like this format:  It also leaves the door open for a follow-up series – I imagine that there will be many more clients who would love the opportunity to appear on film with their pets.

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