1. How to make your film footage go the extra mile

    A man working on a sewing machine in an Indian organic cotton factory.

    One of the frustrating things about a filmmaker’s job is that you gather more soundbites and B Roll than you can ever use in one short film. It was always that way, even when clients were commissioning five minute films, but the potential wastage is even greater when films start at 30 seconds and generally top out at around three minutes.

    Just because the current demand is for shorter films it doesn’t mean you can push your interviewee into telling their story in just a few minutes or reduce the variety of B Roll you use. However efficiently you plan and deliver your shoot there will always be excellent content ending up on the proverbial cutting room floor.


    For many years, one of my favourite drums to beat has been encouraging our clients to think long-term and consider how they could re-use stories or even just the B Roll that went with the story. This hasn’t always happened and there are many hours of footage I’ve shot that have simply gone to waste. Happily, over the last couple of years we have seen a real increase in the number of re-edits our clients are booking in. As well as being creatively satisfying because I know more of the content we have gathered is being seen, it is making better use of client budgets. Planning a shoot is time-consuming and an investment – it doesn’t take less time to plan a shoot for a one minute film than a five minute and our day rate is our day rate. Seeing fresh workings of content rolled out over months and years isn’t making a client lazy it makes them budget wise.

    C&A Foundation

    One of the best examples we have is the C&A Foundation. Between spring 2013 and autumn 2016 we delivered five shoots for them, visiting projects in Germany, Brazil (twice), Bangladesh and India. In each case there were initial deliverables of images, written stories and films for specific stakeholder engagement activity and for use in the annual impact report.

    But despite it being three years since we last got on a plane for them we have taken three or four bookings a year. A set of four short films to promote this year’s annual review, a showreel for their website header, films to launch new programme partnerships and an initiative with the Madhya Pradesh government in India and a series of 25 social media shorts telling micro stories from the field and overlaying B Roll with impact stats.

    The initial investment in those shoots was significant and they took a lot of planning but they have absolutely made the most of their investments. We know that clients are worried about overusing content but things have changed. There are so many channels now and content moves so fast on the timelines. Concerns people had about reusing stories when audiences were only really being reached with a few paper communications each year are no longer as valid.

    In her post on strategic storytelling for CharityComms earlier this year Catherine talked about how to use a content planning calendar and thinking ahead about how content can be repurposed. Next time you’re investing in a shoot don’t just think about your immediate needs, whether that’s a fundraising appeal, a brand campaign or an impact report, think about the next year too. You can always ask us for ideas.

    If you’d like to get improve your story planning and get the most from your shoots then have a look at our course all about planning your story gathering

    C&A Story gathering trip India

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