Some Solutions for Producing Trailers for Live Theatre
In the first blog in this series we discussed the need for engaging and dynamic content to enhance audience engagement around a production. In the second blog in this series we reviewed the various challenges in producing this content for many arts marketers including: software & equipment, rights, actor availability and the production process, access to costumes and set pieces, limited runs, and new productions. The fact is that there are a lot of challenges faced by the marketing department of most arts organizations long before the lights come on, the curtains go up, or the actors recite their first lines. Engaging and meaningful production trailers for live theatre are extremely challenging to produce and Engaged Video wants to be a part of making this process easier for our clients and partners. In the third blog in this series we will look at some potential solutions to the challenges that were outlined so far in this series.
Obviously every company has their own particular way of doing things, but Engaged Video has outlined some of the most common challenges that arts organizations face in our last blog post. This time around we intend to look a little deeper at each of those hurdles and consider some potential solutions that could help your organization develop an engaging video asset to present to your audience.
Software & Equipment: This hurdle is grounded in the lack of money, time, and expertise. If your organization has the budget to hire a full time staff member with the experience to edit in-house videos on equipment you’ve purchased specifically for that purpose, then you can skip this section. But most nonprofit arts organizations don’t have the time or money to meet this challenge in-house. Engaged Video has already done a blog on DIY Budget Video Tips, and we’ve discussed some of the video production alternatives in part two of this blog series. You have the option to shoot video in-house, use B-Roll from your production recordings, and use iMovie to cut together simple videos for your productions. You always have options, but Engaged Video offers a series of affordable solutions for budget-sensitive companies that would like to leverage dynamic, professionally edited video in their marketing campaigns.
Limited Rights: Some production agreements come saddled with certain limitations for the kind of art that can be used to produce digital engagement assets for your production. The most common limitation faced by marketing teams is the term during which your company can run promotions and use the name of the show in question. The second most common rights issue is the scheduling of promotions when partnering with another theatre company for the duration of a co-production. Depending on the point in the production schedule at which your organization is hosting the production, and the location of the partner theatre, you may be required to wait until the partner theatre’s production ends to start aggressively promoting your production. The solution in every one of these cases is knowing your rights, and understanding the limitations as they are outlined in the respective agreements. Engaged Video has core team members with contract negotiation experience and a legal and regulatory compliance specialist. Engaged Video is capable of reviewing your contracts to ensure that your team can create content that complies with your production agreements.
Production Specific Actors: This challenge boils down to a combination of scheduling and ensuring that your audience understands who is appearing in your shows. As we discussed in part two of this series, your marketing department will know the titles of each show long before they have any idea who will be in the cast. This raises an important question: should you wait to produce your first video spots until the show has been cast and the actors become available after their arrival for the rehearsal process? The answer is simple: NO. If you know a particular production will be centered around a particular actor or actress who has some degree of star power, it’s important to consider how you will be using their name in the promotions for the production, but for most companies you won’t have access to popular or well-known talent from Hollywood, Broadway, or beyond. In that case, it’s time to move forward with developing your video engagement assets. There are a number of creative approaches that can be leveraged that don’t require the use of production-specific talent. After Effects animated sequences utilizing dynamic text, or representations of the show’s characters are a simple option. Dynamic slideshows using evocative full-motion video backdrops with season production-specific posters, art, or imagery that your audience associates with well-known shows is another option. The problem most arts organizations encounter is an intractable sense of honor to exclusively use exact representations of their productions in their advertising. Once your actors become available there’s no reason not to do revisions to your engagement pieces, but waiting until the last minute to create anything at all just doesn’t make sense.
Costumes & Sets: The same argument outlined above applies here. Costumes, sets, sound, and lights shape your audience’s experience when they see the show live, but it’s very difficult for most theatre companies to replicate that experience on camera. Even after these resources become available to you it’s unlikely that you can capture the real majesty of a well-lit set. The impact of the right sound at the right time is also very difficult to replicate on film, but all of these pieces contribute to the work that you’re attempting to promote to your audience. Once the actors, costumes, sets, lights, and sound become available you have the option to update your existing spots, or replace them with new production-specific video. This decision impacts the total number of spots you create for a single production, but it doesn’t change the fact that you need to have these resources available during the subscription renewal period and prior to the opening of your first show of the season.
Length of Runs: This challenge simply requires a shift in thinking. We’ve already discussed the need to jump the cycle of intractability with respect to actors, costumes and sets. This challenge requires you to think outside the box and adjust your marketing campaign calendar. If you’re producing different kinds of content that isn’t tied to specific actors, sets, or costumes, but utilizes company-specific imagery and evokes a show-specific theme, then there’s no reason to be beholden to traditional production calendars. If you’re creating your video assets before your season opens then you have the flexibility to run those spots throughout the entire year leading up to a show’s opening. Engaged Video challenges arts marketers to change how they think about video for their season. The age of faithful, accurate representations of production-specific content in your marketing videos is a thing of the past. It’s time to rethink how to effectively utilize new media. We can help.
New Productions & World Premieres: This is by far the greatest challenge. What do you do if you’re producing entirely new shows and creating your entire marketing campaign around a show that doesn’t yet exist? The answer is simple. Collaboration. After working at Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company for three years, Engaged Video’s founder came to understand the value of a truly collaborative process between the the artistic, production, literary, and marketing departments. It doesn’t always work smoothly, and it takes practice, commitment, and true collaboration to get it right. When you bring the right people to the table early enough, discuss the vision of the show, and get a firm understanding of where the artistic leadership sees a production going during the creative process, the marketing team can respond by creating resources that are in line with that vision. Our founder was fortunate enough to work with some amazing and talented people at Woolly who really understand that process intimately, giving him a truly inclusive outlook on the sales & marketing engagement design process. That is part of the reason that Engaged Video has voices from both sides of the artistic and marketing equation on our team.
The solutions we’ve outlined here may be obvious to some, and revolutionary to others, but the reality is that it all comes down to knowing your limitations; coming up with a budget that includes video production; changing your mind-set for when video trailers and promotional spots can and should be created for a production; and most importantly, finding common ground on which artistic and marketing staff can work together to define the fundamental message that needs to be shared with your community in order to support your sales initiatives.
Quality video takes time, energy, and expertise to produce but it shouldn’t be something that your organization simply gives up on because it’s difficult to produce. Engaged Video can take the burden of creating these assets off your team’s shoulders, work collaboratively with your team to craft the right message, and generate timely and effective resources to engage your audience. That’s why we’re here.
In the next blog in this series we’ll be looking at a few case studies of the real-world application of these solutions. We’ll discuss the effect and impact of having video earlier in the marketing cycle of a show’s campaign, and how having these resources can benefit your organization. Check back next week for the next installment in this series.