Saturday, November 22, 2008

Be True to Your Schools

There is money to be made, and business galore in school band, and other events, production services. I know a lot of video producers are going after this market, and aggressively, but that doesn’t mean you can’t carve out a piece for yourself.
Before I get to the elements of what has worked for me in this market, I want to say a few things about what you will be facing - primarily “The Competition.” Believe me, it’s out there, and if you don’t have enough gumption to take on your competition toe-to-toe, you will be wishing you could get into school band and event business for the rest of your independent business career.
Get a jump on the competition and have activity directors, event sponsors, coaches and band directors swinging the doors open wide for your unique, affordable and quality video production services. Every day creates a new opportunity for squeezing through doors that once appeared closed to your knocks. Be persistent. If you simply give up and go away, they will forget you - just at the moment when a reminder might have come at the right time.
I have to go again with my way of doing this, using simplicity, economy of effort and affordability. There are certainly more complex and profit generating ways to approach school event, band and sports productions, but you can earn appreciation, loyalty and money by making things easy for your clients, and for yourself.
Later in this article I will give you a link to reasonably priced materials, resources and information from one of the most successful event production professionals I know. But first I will share my way, using simplicity, economy of effort and affordability.
I have had the pleasure of producing flag drill competitions, cheer leading competitions, football games, homecoming week events, marching band, school orchestra and swing band events, choral presentations and more just by simplifying the production, sales and delivery process.
There are many in our services community who ask for, and receive top dollar for high perceived quality of service and productions. They may, or not, have little competition, great client loyalty and enjoy an ongoing seasonal connection with their area schools. This has a lot to do not only with loyalty from the band director, coach or activities director, even leaders of the various support groups behind funding and activities for all these school events, but with the persistence of quality, or not, by their video services provider.
I have to tell you that loyalty does not count in the reality of this business. You might even thing that is BS, and have apparent client loyalty in some respect, but do not trip, or become overconfident because there’s always someone waiting and watching.
It is my experience that all but the most firmly entrenched area school events video service providers can be dislodged from their comfort zones. How is that? Because after a couple of years working for a group, independent professional video service providers tend to become complacent, or downright lazy, even too greedy, reducing the initial personal service, fast turnarounds and bumping up prices year after year. These people, I am sorry to say, are ripe for knocking out of the equation.
A bad attitude to have about your fellow video producer, right? Well, not really. I mean this is a competitive, aggressive (if you want to survive) and dynamic business environment. All business is this way. The strong survive by being aggressive: there are ethical and non-ethical ways of doing this.
Some focus on cutting the competition off at the knees by any hook or crook. Others actually do the same thing, but maybe sleep a bit better at night, because they perform cutthroat operations via pricing, quality service and products, strong marketing skills and developing inside connections.
It is one thing to say negative things about your competition in an effort to denigrate them, tell stories that may, or not, be absolutely true, or even do work for another production company as its representative, then operating from your new “prospective” client list, go behind your former resource’s back in an attempt to “steal” from their client list.
Whatever it takes, is not always a valid response. But, if you do have a quality product, if you do have the tools and experience for creating these videos, if you can provide reasonably fast turnaround (even instant gratification, using the Bob Anderson approach - link coming up soon), if you are attentive to your current, and new, or prospective clients, listen to their needs, their complaints, often put up with a bit of their BS, then you have the right to do “whatever it takes” to gain that business.
I have won, and lost, serious band production business simply because of massive equipment failure. Although I managed to generate an “acceptable” product, delivered the number of ordered copies at “no charge” wrote apology letters to each and every parent/student, and let the band department keep the proceeds, they went with someone else the next season.
Another producer was on the spot, making promises and guarantees based on what I failed to deliver, based on my bad luck, and talked my clients away. It happens. More power to him.
Two years later I asked the same band director for another shot, saying I was willing to shoot the event for free, if he was not obligated by contract to restrict access, and provide him with a fully produced copy. I told him I was willing to put my production up against the competitions, and if the director thought mine was better quality, I’d provide copies for all customers purchasing the other guy’s video, at no charge. His people were going to get “twofers!”
I got the go, took second choice positions (only fair to the other guy) and we stopped paying attention to them and started doing our own thing. Maybe I shook up the competition. Sorry, I was willing to commit in order to make a comeback, and if he couldn’t stand the heat. The band director made his choice, subjective I am sure, but it was for me. Two years after catching me in a bad set of circumstances, I returned the favor and got my client back.

Ok, how do you get in those doors in the first place. If you have read any of my other articles you know how strongly I believe in direct mail marketing, aggressive followup strategies, and maintaining connections.
Getting area school band business is no different. I do my research and get current names, correct addresses and phone numbers. In Southern California it is as simple as doing a Google search - most schools and districts in my service area now have web sites, and if not, there are a number of general listings compiled by others who make this information available on the web.
You should be able to do the same thing no matter where you live and operate your video business.
After I do my research, make calls to the school office to verify the name, and spelling, of the people I want to contact - the band director, activities director and booster club president, if possible. I prepare my letter - one page, to the point. I also have, or can develop, any number of sample DVDs representing some or all of the school events my company has produced over the years. I am in the process of creating a fresh, new sample now, portions soon to be posted on my web sites. All that is currently a work in progress, targeting completion during January 2009.

Dear (name goes here)

Have your next (name of school band performance) professionally videotaped, edited and produced with current digital technology, delivered in less than four weeks, at NO CHARGE to your school or booster club.
My company has more than 15 year’s experience in producing high school events. See the enclosed sample DVD, and go the chapter on (marching, orchestra, ensemble band, drum corp) productions. I am willing to give you a get acquainted opportunity that will create a win-win situation. You, your school, your band students and their parents and friends will receive a professionally packaged and produced performance production and pay not one dime for its production.
Our regular production agreement for a band performance or event of up to two hours is that presales are held, offering copies of this professionally produced keepsake at $25. The regular production agreement only requires a minimum of 20 sales to guarantee production and delivery of the product. We can certainly deliver more, but they only have to presale 20 to get the production.
As a “Get Acquainted” special, my company will provide the same services and no minimum. Yes, invite us to attend and we will videotape, edit and produce your band performance of up to two hours, resulting in a DVD of two hours or less. We will do this if we sell one, none or a hundred. There will be no further obligation.
Give me a call, or e-mail today to arrange for this special get acquainted offer. Even if you currently have a qualified video services provider, you deserve an affordable opportunity to discover the alternatives.
Call today!
We would LOVE to work with you!

You might want to make a different approach, but I have to tell you that in my service area this letter has generated virtually 99 percent response. We win a few, lose a few, and nearly always hear from them all sooner or later.
Because I follow up with another letter(s), email(s) and phone calls a few times each school year. I research and keep my contact list of names current and accurate. I remain aggressive, and whenever I create a new DVD, I start the process all over again for new school bands, and those who have not taken advantage of the offer. YET!

Always two cameras and two operators, be it marching band, or other orchestra or band event. Always. We arrange to shoot live performances of dress rehearsals when held, giving us an opportunity to freely move about the various routines, getting close up shots, and unique perspectives not always possible during competition or half-time performances.
We set up two cameras on tripod, sometimes with the closer unit hand-held for other unique POVs. The other camera is usually always either on the director’s platform, or a good placement in the bleachers. We alternate angles and shots with the closer camera doing closeups and medium shots, the distant camera shooting wide and medium. Both follow the action.
Halftime performances are almost always shot with one camera in the stands and the other on the director’s platform. I have a video shooter’s ladder I use in cases where I can be along the sideline, but cannot access the platform.
We use the wide-to-medium shots from the stands as our base, and cut the secondary camera closeups, etc. into the mix. I place several Zoom H2 recorders where I think they will best provide backup auxiliary audio. I haven’t always done this, and I don’t always use these recordings, going instead with audio collected through the on-camera mics. Whatever it takes to get the best depth of audio, and control crowd noise/ambient if any, sound.
The DVDs are packaged in clear plastic library cases with custom color graphic inserts, DVDs printed with same, and contain chaptered (where needed) selections of the performance(s).
We almost always deliver in four weeks or less.
Bob Anderson, on the other hand, offers not only finished full productions at a premium price, but individual performance DVDs on location during a highly involved production process that he has honed to a fine edge.
Get the best information possible on how to increase sales by offering more complext productions and instant onsite sales by going to Start a More Profitable Event Video Business Today - Oak Tree Press, $77.00 plus $4.50 S&H.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Dance Recital Video Production

Dance Recitals - you’ve heard of them. You have even perhaps produced one, or tried to, and were not all that pleased with the outcome. Money can absolutely be made videotaping and producing dance recitals but the financial success, or lack of it, has as much to do with your expectations as it does with those of the school, its owners/instructors, the students and their parents, friends and relatives.
My approach to production of dance recital video is based on simplicity and economy of effort, as well as affordability for the clients. My approach to marketing this vast community of video potential is the same: simplicity, economy of effort and affordability.
Though I have not had extreme levels of expectation income wise, not one of my experiences has been an economic disappointment. I am sure this hinges primarily on my personal expectations.
What do I mean by simplicity, economy, affordability?
I mean that you can market to and gain a multitude of gigs from this wide open aspect of the Independent Professional Video Services Provider potential. It might seem so at first glance, but the dance recital market is not as saturated as is the wedding market - at least the 22 percent wedge of wedding video pie everyone with a camera is fighting over.
I will soon focus on what needs to be done to carve out a serious wedge of the remaining 80+ percent of the wedding video market nobody wants to go after. But for now... recital video for fun, profits and referrals.
My quandary in the telling is this: Do I first tell you how to get some, more or virtually all of this business in your service area; or, do I first tell you how I approach these productions technically? I think, to justify my marketing approach I must first tell you how I shoot, edit and produce the productions. And, perhaps why.
It has been my experience and I feel obligated to first point out that the first and foremost person you will have to convince, and please, is the dance instructor. The omnipotent and all-knowing choreographer who is immensely proud of his/her stage designs, blocking and movements, and who expects a wide enough angle on the video to show stage impact- lighting and special effects, backgrounds, group and individual movements head-to-foot.
If you so much as leave more than a few seconds of the feet out of your coverage you will not be asked to return, no matter the artistic flair, timely delivery or cheapness of your services and per DVD sales price.
Trust me on this.
Initially I got past this expectation of the choreographers by doing two things: One, we always shoot a minimum (and usually only) two cameras, stereo (meaning side-by-side) with two operators. One operator shoots primarily full stage, or at least shoots and follows head-to-foot of the solos or smaller ensembles, using solid lead framing, and never (as much as is possible without attending a rehearsal and becoming familiar with the numbers) allowing the dancer(s) to leap or move out of frame. Trust me, even if you are familiar with the production you will occasionally be caught by surprise.
Some of these dancers can sunfish faster than a rodeo bull, reversing direction 180 degrees, and leaping out of frame in a split second of movement. Oops.
The other camera keeps full frame, but with the occasional CU or ECU (close up, or extreme close up) follow shot of full cast, ensemble or solo performances. These movements are smooth and steady, moving from either left to right, or right to left, or both in a double sweep, before pulling back out to a full frame shot - usually a medium shot unless the cast is spread all over the stage or even the floor directly in front of the stage.
Two: Doing this, we are able to offer the dance instructor/owner/choreographer a “full stage cut” that provides that person with the visual perspective they want for study, fine tuning, and later critique for the students. I still offer this, but we have simplified our shooting to the point now that 90 percent of the follow camera footage is utilized, only reverting to the full stage “save” shot when absolutely necessary, or to enhance the perceived production quality of two-camera coverage.
Over the years our dance instructors/choreographers have become comfortable with our shooting and editing techniques and have not requested or demanded the raw, basic-cuts full stage shot. It is there when needed, though.
This has provided us time and again with a means for satisfying not only the teacher, but the parents, and students to a degree (those less technically inclined than their choreographer), who want to see a few close up shots of the action. Yeah, the solos and small ensembles are easiest, but other than the wide establishing shot of the opening, special standout performers in the larger casts, and the often dramatic close and pose-on-the-beat at the end, some tighter angles and sweeps during each performance usually become welcomed and accepted by all.
I never adjust the gain. I lock and load on very little or no gain (we still use Canon XL1 and GL2 models), often use the spotlight settings, and do not attempt to compensate during or in post, for extremely dark, dramatic or high red spot/background productions. Our cameras come close enough to providing an acceptable image quality that is close, if not always spot on, to what the stage lighting and mood truly was.
I also rarely shoot for audio from the boards, or place microphones focused on the “sweet spot” from the speakers. I do use auxiliary and backup audio acquisition, but mostly for another “save” element if needed in post. I have lately changed this approach somewhat.
I continue to use the on-camera mics for audio acquisition - most auditorium and stage environments offer excellent acoustics, and the volume is certainly usually adequate for all but the inevitable narratives.
In addition I have now added four (and eventually, possibly more) Zoom H2 digital recorders, usually placing two in some perspective on the house speaker “sweet spots”; one near front center stage, and the other side-by-side with the front center stage Zoom, but using both sides, and lowering the recording levels to use for ambient sound, spoken narrative from on-stage, and the applause, cheers, and whistles that emit from the audience.
Audio is where I do most of my post production work, sweetening and adjusting levels to give balance to the whole production. This approach has earned many positive comments from the clients (teachers, students and parents) who have long since accepted, supported and voiced their appreciation for how we cover the visuals.
I don’t do “house sound” ever! Anywhere! The professionals jack around with their boards too much, and the amateurs or those “professionals” without a lot of experience (tongue-in-cheek comment intended) forget, overcompensate or overload at the the wrong moments, often sitting back to text message on their cell phones and not riding the levels as any conscientious audio person would do - paying strict attention to the levels from the stage.
I have replaced no less than three times the audio circuits in our two XL1 Canons due to depending on preset and pretested board levels prior to production, only to have everything go to hell in a hand basket once the show gets under way.
A two-hour show takes four hours or less of our acquisition time due to the simple, cable free, set up of camcorders and the Zoom H2 recorders which are usually preset for direction and levels desired.
Currently, before we head into solid state recording high definition tools next year, it takes less than three hours to ingest (digitize) the footage and assess the audio sweetening needs. Then, perhaps a couple hours to ingest audio from the Zoom H2s, and sync the audio, layer the levels, etc.
Another three, maybe four hours to essentially “clean up” edit the footage, create opening/closing titles and credits, and set up the DVD for chapters and burn the master. Having a DVD duplicator tower with a hard drive helps speed up the duplication process. In fifteen hours or less I have usually videotaped, edited, produced, generated graphics and mass duplicated my dance recital. And in every instance I have made more on an income-per-hour basis than my highest paying wedding gig ever.

Simple approach to production, right? Now for marketing. Keeping with the simplicity, economy of effort and affordability concept, I start off with simplicity of expectations - mine. I expect every dance studio, high school dance class or community dance venue to accept my initial “get acquainted” offer. I do not expect to get rich and retire on the next new dance recital gig. I do expect positive growth in sales and continued loyalty through the years a venue is on board.
I direct mail a one-page letter, including a sample production DVD of snippets and perhaps a full number or two from past productions. The letter offers, at no risk to school, owner or board of directors, full professional coverage as reflected in the sample DVD, with two cameras and two operators for performances of two hours or less, and professionally edited and produced DVD for the “get acquainted” price of 20 copies at $25.
Buy the service outright by ordering and paying for all 20. Pay for them from a video production budget, if any. Or sell direct to parents, collecting the money and presenting us with individual checks or a single check for the minimum production agreement (the minimum presented upon our arrival to shoot), and we will deliver quality DVDs with custom graphics, and plastic library cases with custom color inserts within four weeks.
We have never sold less than double the minimum with only one exception, and that dance school only usually has about fifteen students, but purchases 20 copies without hesitation. It is a small organization located in a very low income area. Most of its students are admitted by the instructor free of charge, or even subsidized by the owner/instructor for costumes, etc., who is in the business more as a labor of love than a for profit commercial enterprise.
We have, over the years, sent out at least 400 direct mail pieces such as described above. We have a response level of 375. Many are still with us, and have been for more than ten years. Others come and go, depending on the fluctuation of the economy. Several have left to allow a volunteer parent to flex their production wings, only to return the next year begging us, virtually at any price, to forgive and return.
On average, our dance recitals sell 75 units at $35 each. We also get other gigs, individual jobs and side-productions, personal editing for individual show-and-tell students who seek to ad some of our footage to their video resumes, and more. We have recitals selling well over 400 units, and a couple that hit the 500+ mark.
Very few of the really large operations leave us. They are pleased with the production levels, with the packaging and delivery, and with the professional quality of our interactions, as well as the occasional production meetings we attend at their request. Some of them react and respond positively to our suggestions regarding a compromise on video related issues such as audio quality and levels, lighting (those horrible reds) and a time or two even venues for their annual productions.
There are a lot of other ways to approach this market, and the production thereof, but by focusing on simplicity, economy of effort and affordability, you can acquire a lot of this kind of business available in your service area demographic.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Direct Mail Does Pay Off

Direct mail isn’t for everyone in the independent video production business, but it can pay off if you use a bit of logic about what you send out, and to whom. Obviously, if you live in a town where the sign posted as you enter says “Anytown, U.S.A. pop. 52 and a dog” then door-to-door might be a better approach.

For virtually everyone else there’s a cover letter, demo DVD and a stamp for an envelope that has your next client’s name and address on it. The general conception that thousands of pieces have to be mailed out at high cost for postage, purchase of an expensive “iffy” mailing list and a huge investment of time and effort in order to get them out and expect any positive response is simply wrong.

Some direct mail strategies argue that the more specific your target, and the more pieces you send out to demographics reflecting that target - be it income, higher property values, or geographical bracket - the more likely you are to hit that magical one percent return. This also simply is not so. You do not have to settle for a one percent return on 10, 100 or thousands of mailings. You can actually achieve 10 percent return, or better, responses, and a minimum of 30 percent sales from that. How?

By broadening your area of coverage, widening your base of operations and expanding your range of services. If you do more kinds of productions then you can market more of your services to a more general audience and expect a higher rate of response, more sales. For me a shotgun approach - either sending out a lot of pieces to the same interest groups (dance or martial arts schools, for example), or sending out fewer pieces to a more general demographic (individual householdds) - is very effective.

I realize this has a lot to do with the fact that I live and work in a very densely populated area (Southern Califoria) with a broad range of ethnic groups, interests, income levels and life styles. But living elsewhere doesn’t mean you cannot reach the people in your service area though it might be less dense, diverse and mostly poorer households.

Here’s that word I keep pounding on: “Diversification” of your video services. Stop thinking all you can do, have to do, should do or want to do is weddings. Unless, of course, you actually WANT to do weddings and nothing but. If you are a full time independent professional video services provider, or a part time IPVSP working full time hours in the business, you can make more money if you produce more than weddings.

In fact virtually every other video production gig available to you will generate higher income on a per hour worked basis than any wedding you have ever done, or ever will do. I will leave it at that, because this is a fine subject for an article all its own. Later.

Simply being willing to do other video production work puts you at an advantage, not only to acquire more business and generate more income, but an advantage as well in marketing your services by direct mail. I am currently developing a demo DVD that will contain a highly energetic intro with scenes from all the various celebrations of life I’ve produced. It will be brightly colored and printed on it in bold, black letters will be “Celebrate Life!”

In addition to the energetic intro I will have sample clips from each and every category of video production I have ever done. In my case that is going to be a bunch! But you can start something similar and ad to it as you produce other events, community programs, youth sports contests, school performances and activities, birthday, anniversary and milestone events celebrations, etc.

This new demo DVD will be chaptered for, and include an insert, to show the clips and categories featured, offering any recipients the option to view only what interests them at the moment. My slogan for this marketing tool is “Somebody somewhere celebrates something every day!” © Earl Chessher, 1995-2008. Celebrate Life! has been taken, but there’s nothing to prevent me from using that as the promotional title for my direct mail DVD.

Based on my “Somebody somewhere...” approach, this makes every household in the U.S.A. a “good and viable” target address for a direct mail campaign. I have not limited my chances for success by sending out only a wedding demo, or only a montage demo, or only a small business/services demo, commercial video, birthday demo, dance demo...
...get the idea? Somebody at that address is celebrating something the day, or week, or month they receive my direct mail cover letter and demo/sample DVD.

So, by not limiting the video service categories I am willing to provide, broadening my range, I am increasing the probability of a positive response that will take my returns to much higher levels. Even if you only had four categories including weddings, you have quadrupled the possibilities of someone at that residence being interested, or knowing somewho who would.

There is a high level of perceived value when a person receives a special DVD (in spite of AOL’s pervasive disk distribution campaign - notice they’ve discontinued that approach) and he or she will check it out instead of arbitrarily tossing it into the trash. The recipient will read a brief and specific cover letter, and more than likely will keep the DVD for a good while afterwards. Their thought being that it might prove a handy reference for some celebration down the way, or that they know somebody involved in one or more of the productions featured. An upcoming retirement, birthday, anniversary, or other special celebration.

If you live in or near a larger population base with multiple towns within driving distance, or a major city close by, and are willing to work at it, you can acquire names and addresses for area public schools, private clubs, car dealerships that sponsor annual car shows, local youth sports associations, martial arts centers, private dance schools, etc. from a number of resources ranging from the web to Google searches to the Yellow Pages to community/church directories.

I have every address of every client who has ever purchased a copy of something I have produced, or hired me for music instructional video production, product/business/service video for commercial clients, parents who have purchased school or event performance videos. Every address. And these addresses are from people who have purchased something from me before, people who are to some degree more or less familiar with my company and the quality videos I have produced. They are receptive - the absolutely best kind of direct mail addresses you can have, so long as you don’t bombard them with weekly mailings. Once or twice a year to these will be enough to generate a high level of responses for your direct mail campaign.

• Develop an effective sample/demo DVD (they are cheap and easy to produce in house)
• Develop a single-page, double-spaced cover letter telling them, or reminding them who you are
• Provide them with your website URL, e-mail address, mailing address and phone number
• You can use paper sleeves to reduce costs, and mail in invitation-size envelopes, but...
• ...investing a bit more in creating a color insert, using a protective plastic case, is better
• Include a couple or so business cards (don’t be stingy, they might want to share)
• Initiate a call to action: call now, e-mail now, visit now, buy now, (do it now!)

If you invest the time, energy and money. If you are tenacious, follow up with a second letter within 60-90 days (without the DVD this time). If you broaden your scope of video related services. If you obtain good addresses and names - doing it by hand, walking the community and writing them down, recycling the names and addresses of people who have done business with you directly or indirectly (You do keep a past/present client resource list don’t you?)

If you do any or all of these things, work that bridal mailing list you got from the last bridal fair, or any other event in which you’ve participated, you will greatly increase the effectiveness of your direct mail marketing campaign.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Guerrilla Video: Walk On, Make Money

Before going into this article I want to point out that by scrolling to the bottom of the blog page you can elect to "follow this blog" and become an EC Reader - Thanks Jay, for the suggestion.

You can make a few hundred dollars on an off day simply by walking on at any field where you see youth (or adult) sports activity taking place. You may not always be welcomed, but most of the time you will be if you use the right tact in doing so. With a proper attitude and approach, almost any outdoor activity or public event is eligible to add to your bottom line. Unless, that is, it is being sponsored by Toyota, whomever now owns Busch, or some other huge commercial corporate entity.

Penetrating commercial/corporate sponsored events is not impossible, but let’s keep it simple for now. Stick with public parks, public school fields, and such first, before taking on the bigger venues. There are thousands of events going on virtually every day in the summer, and many evenings and weekends during the school year - all across the country. Recession or no recession.

Bring plenty of business cards, your camcorder, and monopod or tripod, perhaps a shooting ladder for elevation, a pleasant smile and professional decorum. Wear your neat and clean looking cap and/or shirt with your branding. Be prepared with basic order forms, or large postcard size handouts of some kind with general information.

While I have had plenty of success using only my business cards, having a plentiful supply of forms or information sheets often will help you videotape the event you are there to cover without having to spend all your time explaining or selling. Time outs and breaks can sometimes be used for mixing and mingling.

If you do not have a basic order form, or cannot make up one, let me know. While my upcoming marketing package will contain all the ideas I’ve put into action over the years and how to market and do them, it will also have examples, clips, direct mail pieces, and forms you can use as well. Meanwhile, if you’re feeling anxious and ready to romp I can send you a pdf document of something you can use for now.

You can plan ahead for this style of shooting/marketing, or you can simply have the time, see something going on and go for it. I have worked it both ways and both ways have worked for me. Just starting out, I have to say that getting there early and planning to stay throughout the event is usually a best first approach. It gives you time to assess the situation, and gives participants time to grow accustomed to your presence.

I first look for a coach or ask about a team parent, team mother, coach’s wife, etc. I introduce myself, ask if they know of anyone already hired to produce a game tape. If not I tell them I do this often, am insured and will remain out of the way while shooting the game. I let them know of my experience and bonafides, and sometimes have even brought DVD samples of related youth sports events I have produced.

I also tell the coach or head mom or dad, whomever, that for a bit of help, or simply permission or clearance from them, I will “comp” them a copy of what I produce. I usually get help passing out business cards and/or information sheets/postcards, am given a premo spot to place my shooting ladder, and told their kid’s jersey number. At this point I suggest that I always “follow the ball” and that usually results in nearly every child getting in the production at some point.

I have a digital camera I use for the inevitable request to get a team shot for the cover.

I have also done my research and sometimes contacted leagues, league mothers, league sponsors, coaches, youth sports support groups, and other event organizers, setting up a presentation to their respective panels, representatives, boards or activity committees or directors. Getting on the venue for a formal, or even informal, meeting to offer your information, handouts and proposal can sometimes bring on bigger returns, better production runs and strong advance sales.

But, like asking for a cookie before dipping your hand into the jar instead of after you’ve eaten it, this approach can sometimes backfire with too much red tape, control issues or other parental/alpha male/female politics that get in the way of simple, straightforward shooting, editing and sales.

Walk-ons have, by far, been my most fun, adventurous and largest guerrilla gamble payouts. Why? It is an "impulse aisle" thing, where you get people interested in the heat of the moment. Here is where a parent’s camcorder battery ran out of juice, or the tapes were forgotten on the desk at home, or were eaten by the dog, or something broke, or they simply become so engrossed in the game that they keep forgetting to hit the record button. I’ve even known moms, or dads, to wave their hands so wildly, urging their child on to the goal, that the camcorder gets knocked to the ground. Oops.

This kind of shooting, production and sales is wide open in spite of the fact that some might have already made arrangements for coverage and production by a independent professional video services provider. These people sometimes become lax or lazy, screw up big time at a major event, or simply do not show up as expected. I am there and often it is a “right place, right time” happening.

And, it is not limited to youth/adult sports - baseball, basketball, soccer, football, softball, swim teams, rowing teams, martial arts events, water polo, equestrian events and more. I have had great success covering antique and custom car shows (pre-planned and walk-on); outdoor art and crafts shows; drag racing events - a friend of mine in Arkansas is making quite a specialty in covering outlaw drag racing events in his area, becoming the official videographer for the local group.

I’ve made a killing as walk-on video producer for area skateboard competitions, amateur volleyball tournaments, rock climbing events, and a wide selection of festivals held throughout the year. Area publications often provide advance information of community, sports and other special events being held in the area. Read, make some notes, grab your camera and fill in that unbooked date. You have caught up with your editing backlog, right?

It would be to your advantage also to have liability coverage. Proof of having this has actually helped ease me through doors (well, gates) at many a ball field or other sports venue. I have to stress, however, that walking on without reflecting an “I have every right to be here and you can’t tell me to leave, or I paid taxes to support this public facility - attitude” will do more than anything else to get you in and keep you there.

All that being said, guerrilla marketing/shooting will only work for those who have the gumption to try it. Some are not comfortable with this aggressive style of doing business. It isn’t for everybody, but then what is?