Exploring the Challenges of Producing Engaging Live Theatre Trailers
In our last blog post, we looked at the need for dynamic video trailers. Thanks to an illuminating article from The Guardian, we learned that organic reach on Facebook is down, and arts marketers are looking for new ways to penetrate the noise of social media and overcome some of the problems inherent in promoting their shows on Facebook. We concluded that traditional methods of gaming the social media system simply aren’t enough anymore, and we argued that dynamic video content can help close the gap. This week we’re reviewing the specific challenges arts marketers face when attempting to produce trailers for their season.
We can’t possibly address every single challenge faced by arts marketers for creating video. This list will help shine some light on the real world factors that get in the way of the ability of many companies to create and distribute video content to their audience. Let us know if we missed something egregious in the comments. We’d love your feedback.
Software & Equipment: Let’s get the obvious stuff out of the way. Quality video equipment is expensive and the accessories needed for most video shoots add up fast. Many theatre companies just don’t have the budget to purchase video production equipment. Editing and post-production for quality video spots require specialized skills and expensive software and hardware. The process is time consuming if you aren’t properly trained, and many theatres do not have staff with the expertise to operate equipment and use software effectively and efficiently. You can shoot your videos in-house on affordable equipment, but the final product won’t be as good. You can edit your spots in iMovie or an equivalent entry level non-linear editor but that will impact the final product as well. There are trade-offs between cost and quality at each decision point.
Limited Rights: If a theatre is co-producing a show, or is part of a limited world premiere, arts marketers will often find themselves in a position where every marketing asset around a show is limited to approved content provided by the main production company. In these circumstances organizations will also often find that once they have media assets provided by the production company, those assets aren’t very conducive to being adapted into video assets.
Access to Actors: This is the biggest challenge faced by arts marketers: it’s hard to put together any production-specific video assets without the actors who will be starring in the show. The problem is that many companies won’t have access to a production’s cast until the show is already in rehearsal, typically about six weeks prior to the opening. This significantly reduces the recording, editing, and distribution time table on any video. Under normal circumstances, arts marketers may not be able to release videos until the production is into previews, which also limits the amount of advertising time to recoup the cost of an asset and engage an audience.
Costumes & Sets: If you want to feature some really amazing costumes created by your in-house costume designer, or an amazing set built by your production team then you have to wait for these resources to be created so that you can get video of them. The build and creation process usually starts four to eight weeks from a production hitting the stage. Once costumes are complete, you still need actors to put them on, and you can’t really shoot a completed set until it’s properly lit. This may not be possible until the show is in tech rehearsals or previews, at which point you may already have the public in the building to see the show.
Length of Runs: Most nonprofit theatre companies only run shows for four to eight weeks. By waiting until a show is in previews to produce a video, theatres are limiting the amount of time prospective single-ticket buyers have to consider how to spend their entertainment dollars. Many single-ticket buyers will make purchasing decisions only a few weeks in advance, but scheduling conflicts may limit the actual number of opportunities they have to see a particular show. By waiting you are also effectively deciding to sacrifice the impact your video could have on group sales. By the time a video is produced and a show is promoted, most groups have already committed their entertainment dollars to other activities. (This doesn’t even begin to address price volatility, scarcity, discount programs, and brokers muddying the water.) At this point, the cost of a comprehensive television and online video campaign that would be sufficient to draw other audience members on short notice is likely outside of the budget for most theatre companies. This could potentially limit the effectiveness of any video campaign. The price of waiting to produce a video isn’t just a reduction in sales effectiveness, it also costs more money.
New Productions & World Premieres: If your theatre is producing an entirely new work that’s never been on stage before you can’t depend on your audience’s relationship with the material to create assets that simple evoke the piece. Shakespeare has his sonnets and Sondheim has his songs, but your audience has no relationship with a new work. You’re contributing to the audience’s experience with the work through any depictions or language used around a particular production that could potentially change the way the public understands the show. This is the common struggle between artistic and marketing that every director of marketing faces at some point in the arts.
There are a lot of challenges to producing quality and meaningful video trailers and assets around live theatre. Some of these challenges can’t be avoided, while others can be overcome with creative solutions. Engaged Video can help. In fact that’s one of the reasons why our team came together. While working together at Arizona Theatre Company, our founder Zac Boatright, and our artistic affiliate team member and current Associate Artistic Director at Arizona Theatre Company, Stephen Wrentmore, had a conversation about how we might go about solving each of these problems and one of the videos that came out of those conversations was a trailer produced for Arizona Theatre Company’s production of ‘Venus in Fur’ by David Ives. Using limited resources, almost no budget, and local talent we produced a trailer that was a first attempt at answering some of these questions in a way that would allow Arizona Theatre Company the flexibility to promote their show almost six months prior to it going onstage.
Imagine what your company could do with an extra six months of dynamic and engaging promotional materials. How would that impact group sales? How would it impact channel, promotional, and subscription sales? What about Flex Pass sales? Engaged Video was founded to help answer some of these question for our clients, create powerful and engaging video assets that start conversations, and incite a response from your audience.
In the next blog in this series we will start talking about solutions . We’ll discuss how our team has gone about answering a few of these questions, and how we’ll review some of the resources we’ve created to help other theatre companies do the same.