Saturday, April 25, 2009

Martial Arts Video = Easy Sell

Less than 30 days ago I mailed out 30 cover letters accompanied with a very short demo DVD of martial arts footage. You can view a portion of that footage by clicking on the title of this article above. I have signed up four of these, and have inquiries from several others, for end-of-summer demonstration, graduation and/or awards presentation ceremonies.

I have one local Master instructor who is also "very interested" in discussing a series of instructional video for counter sales as well as portions to include on an upcoming web site.

An exact copy of the letter I sent follows, with some notations in parentheses:
Dear (important that you know and use the person's name here)
I am an experienced student of the late Master John Chu, a well-known and respected teacher in West Texas, and am experienced in producing video of martial arts demonstrations and related ceremonies. (I felt it would not hurt to mention this affiliation, but I will leave it out in my next batch to see what happens)

Please take a moment to view the enclosed DVD and, visit my web site listed in the letterhead.

I am a local independent professional video services provider (I like the sound of this as opposed to "videographer") and specialize in youth and adult sports and event video production in this region. I provide quality, affordable video production, graphics development, duplication and distribution services.

I offer an introduction to my services in two ways: direct to individual members, family and friends; direct payment from you, or your business, based on the same minimum total, and you can sell the copies for whatever price you want. The most popular approach by far, in my 20-year production (if you've got the experience, say so) experience has been direct sales to parents.

The introductory rate is a minimum of 20 DVDs sold at $25 each, (that's MY price, your mileage may vary, and you can certainly try for larger numbers both ways) delivered to your location for distribution. An order list is provided, as are forms for pre-sales and promotion.

Call today to schedule your production. I am a full time business and consistently receive calls and inquiries for dates. Please contact me today to lock in your date(s), or to discuss your needs and interests.

Thank you for your consideration, and I look forward to working with you and your students and families soon.

With respect,
Earl Chessher

What I do
The sample clip link shows a single aspect of my coverage using two cameras and operators at varying POVs (points of view) ranging from wide-to-medium, and medium-to-close. I will occasionally frame tighter for special situations, but not often.

Whenever possible my associate and I shoot stereo, with our cameras side-by-side from center. My next favorite position is to left and right of center seat section, and we will often shoot across each other. Left camera will shoot right stage, right camera left stage, with one camera assigned for medium or wider shots, and the other medium or tighter. This gives me variation in post so that I don't have to deal with a lot of jump cut looking shots or off-center dissolves.

My audio acquisition
If you have read any of my previous articles on shooting you know I avoid using any type of "house sound" from any venue or location. I am no longer willing to accept the potentially negative consequences ranging from no audio, to bad feeds, to operator (the sound person) errors, to outright damage to my cameras' audio circuits due to overload. If I am going to "ride" the audio, I prefer to ride my own controls and not depend on the many self-professed "professionals" running the boards.

Over the past year I have taken to using Zoom H2 recorders, placing them where I need or want them for the audio reinforcement I desire. I continue to acquire audio from the on-camera microphones as well. I mix these units as necessary to achieve the audio levels and sound quality I desire in final production.

Product presentation is important
I believe in delivering a quality production, both in looks and content. I will not cut corners, using clear cases without full color inserts and printing only the DVD surface to save on ink, paper, etc.

I do like and use, and have found that my clients also like, the readily available ultra-clear thinline or ultrathin DVD cases, but always create the graphics for developing a nice, professional looking cover insert that compliments the graphics on the DVD surface.

I use boxes, bags and sacks that have my company name imprinted. I enclose additional business cards, information sheets regarding price and other events, a few general sample demo DVDs, and I ALWAYS comp the Master or owner a DVD of the production.

Final comments
For the most part I find that people running martial arts schools are heavily focused on respect, and I try to convey a sense of respect when I talk to them, regardless of the situation, or occasional misunderstandings.

For example, instead of getting mad, upset and blowing off at an instructor/owner I recently produced video for, whose check was returned insufficient funds, I took a minute to focus and calm myself down, made the call, and joking said, "You're human! Just like me!" That lightened the mood immediately as I went on to tell him I know all about cash flow and getting caught between deposits and outstanding checks, simply asking him how soon he could cut me another, or could I run this one through again.

To this day he keeps commenting on my approach, and how much he appreciated that I actually did understand, and was so polite and professional about letting him know. "People tend to over-react from embarrassment and things can get heated with the combination of emotions that come into play," he said. "Your approach falls in line with the element of respect I try to instill in my students toward others, regardless of the situation or circumstances."

Finally, if you have ANY experience with run-and-gun style shooting, varying your shots for interesting angles or frames, and utilizing two cameras to reduce the re-takes, you can get this business. Granted, there would need to be a few martial arts schools in your service area. You can add montage work, and individual show case, and technique study videos to the list of potential sales at martial arts schools as well.

Remember: If you market, you will make it! © Earl Chessher

Friday, April 17, 2009

Market! Do it NOW!

Ok, a lot of us are just getting into this business, while others are doing "fair-to-middlin" and the vast majority are grumbling on forums, in coffee shops and via e-mails to others in the business that business is down, getting bad, dying out, sucks. They don't call, they don't write...

Essentially those who market make it, those who don't? Well, they gripe, complain, moan and groan and lament that nobody seems able to find their web site, phone number, e-mail address or front door these days. Even back in my early days in retail merchandising - the pre-WalMart stores like WT Grants, FedMart, Woolco, etc. the philosophy was: "Having a bad week in sales? Work more hours, make more money," or "Having a great week in sales? Work more hours, make MORE money."

The same applied to low store traffic: "Not too many coming in, we'd better advertise more," or "We're having huge traffic, let's advertise MORE!" Get the concept?

It is also a known fact that while marketing is important year round, in lean, mean or great times, it is even MORE important during times like the current national and world wide economic situation. Ironically this is when many of us cut back on our marketing - marketing budgets, insurance and subscriptions to associations, organizations and magazines are the first areas to cut back. This, when you need to be doing it the most. Marketing works folks, no doubt about it.

Don't put off pushing for eyeballs at your web site because it needs updating and doesn't look just right or whatever. If you have not updated or improved your web site presence in the past 90 days you're not going to do it today either. But, you CAN dust off those direct mailing pieces, fliers or even the old promotional post cards and send out a few, inviting people to visit your web site TODAY!

Join the social networks such as twitter and facebook, digg or mixx, and a host of other sites that usually cost you little more than a few minutes time. Get the word out that way as well, virtually cost free. Let people know you are available, that you offer valid products and services in which they might be interested.

Hand deliver some of those demo DVDs you need, or want, to update, or have been planning to update but simply have not had the time while you're so busy worrying about not having any business. Sure, you'd like them to look better, be more current, offer different products, etc., but hey, you made that demo and it worked for awhile, but now it doesn't. Why? Because you cut back on distribution until you get around to making a better one. Just do it! Do it now! Get those demos out where they can do you some good.

Hand them out at community events. Take them to the bounty of ball parks and public parks where youth sports teams meet to practice, play and scrape their knees almost on a daily basis. Don't have content that reflects this? How much time does it take to capture a few practice sessions somewhere, put a few still shots with it and generate a music montage action demo for sports? You can do this in less than eight hours. Start now and your new demo will be ready for the weekend.

We all spend an exorbitant amount of time worrying and doing nothing about it when all we have to do is get up, get out and get going. Dust off your demo DVDs today, your direct mail pieces, make a few calls, write a few letters, approach a few area bridal shops, boutiques or tux rental shops, and press the flesh, smile a lot and hand out your paraphernalia.

If you market, you will make it! © Earl Chessher, 1990-2009

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The Flying Disk Demo DVD

The Flying Sports Disk Demo DVD - guerrilla marketing at its most creative moment.
Over the past two years I have been toying (sometimes literally) with the concept of using a flying sports disk (think Frisbee®) to deliver relative demo DVD content to youth sports and community events. Or at the beach, lake, playground, dog walking trails, bicycle paths and other venues open to the general public. The Flying Disk Demo DVD is it!

I have used prototypes of this product as a unique delivery system for getting my demo DVDs in the hands of people who are likely to want me as their independent professional video services provider. The product has passed the design stages and will soon be moving into production. It is patent pending, trademark applied and copyright 2007-2009 Earl Chessher, CorElAnn Video Productions.
The good news is, it works!

Recently, at a public park where a number of youth soccer, baseball and other sports event groups gather to practice, I have walked the field and tossed a few, handed out a few, and received inquiries and bookings for upcoming youth sports highlights, games and end of season banquet/awards programs.

At an area pre-season swim team competition I tossed out a few, handed off a few more, and have signed up another swim team as a result. The business will generate a season video yearbook and projection services, plus sales of 100 or more units of the final DVD video production.

I tossed around a few at a local dog beach, using a demo that focuses on pet video productions, pet video biographies and pet music montage video productions, and signed on a couple of projects for 2009. When I go out and toss more of these at the local dog beach I will get even more calls. Dogs especially love 'em, of course after their human companion removes the DVD to view.

The presentation is unique, affordable, generates surprise, a higher degree of perceived value, virtually instant business credibility, and calls and inquiries. I have not yet distributed six or so at any given opportunity or event without generating calls, web site visits, contacts and business.

As I said earlier the first batch of The Flying Disk Demo DVD delivery system is moving into the production stages with 1,000 units expected ready to ship within the next six weeks to 90 days. Advance orders will be accepted, but keep in mind that shipment could take up to 90 days until production moves into high gear.

The beauty of this system is you can produce whatever surface graphics you want for your demo DVDs. That is where the message goes. "Play Me!" works very well. The first run will be either bright yellow or bright red - one or the other, final decision has not been made. Other colors may eventually be available as well - white, black and green possibly.

Single orders, up to 99 units, are $10 each, plus shipping. Price breaks will be available for orders of 100 units or more, or perhaps free shipping. I am currently considering as much as a 25 percent price cut for orders over 100 units.

As with any flying sports disk on the market caution is urged in handling them to prevent possible damage or physical injury. Eyes, teeth, the throat and even limbs could sustain injury if any flying sports disk is tossed with force and directly at an unaware individual. Due to the nature of this device, and the possibility of mishandling in its delivery, Earl Chessher, CorElAnn Video Productions, its agents, representatives, owners and designers or manufacturers cannot be held liable for any injury, death, property damage or other litigation or claim resulting from its abuse or mishandling in delivery.

Purchase and use of The Flying Disk Demo DVD delivery system signifies your acceptance of the above liability limitations. No claims or guarantees regarding its use, business generation, profitability or safety are otherwise expressed or implied.

All I can say is The Flying Disk Demo DVD has worked for me, is safe when properly delivered using reasonable precautions, and will definitely attract attention. People receiving The Flying Disk Demo DVD will watch your attached demo. Calls will come if you have content that attracts them, and include a call to action.

E-mail me at if you have further questions.

Happy guerrilla marketing!

Monday, April 06, 2009

Sometimes You Just Want to Shoot Bands

Maybe that pun was intended because sometimes I have "just wanted to shoot bands" or some of their members, organizers, conceited lead singers or drummers, or even a few of their "followers" or roadies. Not really, but I wanted to give you who have not pursued this particular video production market possibility an inkling of some of the problems you might experience in the process. Consider it a sort of subtle hint.

Beyond that. And, beyond the starving artists participating and wanting something for nothing, or everything on the cheap, including your valuable professional services, there are a slew of wannabees, start-ups, semi-pro, valid, active, marketing savvy and talented, getting there, and almost there bands who will gladly pay for some dedicated and reasonably priced production work.

I have to warn you one more time this is a "you have to kiss a lot of frogs to find..." operation but, also repeating, the aggressively smart and talented bands/groups will value your dedication, commitment and determination. And, it doesn't hurt if you enjoy their music and/or the venues where they perform, as well as the places they practice. Road trips taken for some documentary work are usually a blast, and a heck of an experience if you have a lot of stamina, free time to do this, and the ability to stay up late at night and recover enough to get going the next day.

Keep in mind that many of the performers in these bands also are working stiffs, busing tables, taking orders, washing dishes, or cars, or whatever they can during the daytime to pay the bills and rent while they are working hard at night to make it - either practicing or performing for pennies at some local dive, joint, rave, private party or what have you.

They are NOT hard to find...

Attend any event anywhere you have access, and the desire, and you will find bands trying to break into the field and become "discovered". Introduce yourself. Have good looking business cards and maybe even some kind of representative sample footage on hand out DVDs that you can offer. Impress upon them from the get go that you are a professional and are interested in producing video for them, from documentary to performance to whatever. The more enterprising of these folks already have poor, to good, to great, CDs, t-shirts and other front table paraphernalia they offer for sale during their gigs. If they do not have one, they're going to be interested in what you can offer in providing them a DVD they can also sell, market and distribute.

I work only with bands...

...who produce their own written, composed, performed music - not groups who rehash some other artist's copyrighted work. I get them to sign releases so stating, also allowing me to produce these videos (not as a work for hire) and retaining the rights to use footage for further promotion and business marketing.

If these guys have an agent (I often and usually have a very different, less kind name for most of them) you'll have to work through him or her, and it will often muddy the water a bit, or restrict you to the point that trying to produce video for some groups will be impossible. Make your choices, but don't go for stuff that is going to make you work any harder or smarter than you'll already have to with bands.

I have three approaches to... performance production. The vast majority of the groups with whom I work want me to produce, lip synced or live, performances. Some of these want me to shoot live at a performance, live during a controlled practice, or live and performing in a controlled environment specifically for the purpose of producing a quality DVD for marketing and sales - or lip synced to a quality-produced CD.

Others, especially those who make a lot of road trips, hitting venues all over the place, will get off on the idea of having a documentary that includes comments, day-in-the life episodes, snippets of live performances here or there, and maybe one or two complete songs they have performed as a bonus for those purchasing the documentary DVDs.

Finally, there are groups who have hired me to produce something they can share on local cable public access channels. These do not always conspire to generate perfectly wonderful productions - I have had to videotape in back yards, garages and roof tops - ambient sound (think planes, helicopters, trains, automobiles and emergency vehicles) be damned. No, I mean NO, audio control whatsoever. Hey, it's their time, money and gig, and I often will not want to share company credit on the end products.

A LOT of groups will want you to do literally, or figuratively, something professional for nothing, making all kinds of kisses in the wind, and promises they'll never be able to keep - even if they originally were well intended, and wanted to. Even a modicum of success will often render you a figment of their imagination or a Alzheimer's like loss of memory. They move on, you gave and remain - no fame. Turn anyone down who does not want to pay for your services unless you love them, need them, want them and enjoy hanging with them, or are an independently wealthy roadie willing to sacrifice yourself on the altar of the band.

What's a fair price?
Pretty much, depending on your desires, needs and abilities, anything you are willing to do it for. Be realistic in your assessment of time, materials and quality, and the value, then make your decision on more than an educated guess, or emotionally influenced basis.

I charged EVERY band that has brought me in for this an up front flat fee, regardless of the amount of effort, equipment, interested assistants or whatever, I have brought into the equation. I shot them for up to two hours, provided them with a RAW DVD and they made the picks, then put it together for them for $400. They, in turn, agreed not to copy, sell or package this DVD through ANYONE but me, and in turn I made them short runs to put on the table during gigs, along with their t-shirts and other stuff - 30 @ $8, 50 @ $7, 100 or more @ $6. I did not make much on the DVDs (I ONLY use standard-size blanks, not the odd-shaped or mini-disks), but the formula worked for me, generally speaking. That was then, this is now, world economics be damned.

MORE hours equaled MORE money charged.

NOW I have a basic price where I'll cover up to two hours of a performance (the group handles all access and clearance for me with the venue or other involved parties); up to two hours at a controlled practice session; two hours at a closed production session for $1,000. This includes one DVD, and they have signed releases, clearances and guarantees that I am the sole provider for duplication services or copies.

An outright work for hire with the group avoids the above, allowing them to reproduce, duplicate and sell the product anyway they want without having to deal with me. This costs them $3,000.

Yes, most of these groups and individual members are poor and starving, emaciated even, but if they really, really want professional services and quality productions, they'll find a way to pay for these very reasonable fees.

I have other approaches, and will often work with a strongly motivated and talented group, developing something both of us can live with, but the above is my first and often only approach to most.

I have to say I have not yet entered into a basic two-hour production arrangement where two hours covered it. I nearly always will go over due to a host of reasons wild and wacky, to sane and real - often blown circuits, speakers, busted strings, bad takes, etc.

How I do it...
You have read before that I will not use house sound, group mixer or any other available board unless it is someone I have specifically hired and worked with to handle my audio. I do this, but it will cost the client much, much more.

I have a gaggle of Zoom H2 recorders and place them where I need them for live audio acquisition, and use the on camera mics as well, mixing as needed, especially for live event/performance coverage.

I will shoot multiple takes during controlled performances and lip sync gigs until I am satisfied that I've obtained the angles and cuts I want, and sometimes have returned for pick up shots if the situation can be recreated, or the same venue is involved. Rarely though.

Lip sync to quality CD recording is relatively easy if you don't acquire a heavy amount of ECU's (extreme close ups) on the lips, or even close ups (CU's) for that matter. There's usually, and often, a lot of alternative shots that do better than planting your camera's lens on Mick Jagger's lips, even if he and all the women think it's the sexy thing to do. Not.

There is no way to cover all the elements that will crop up, things that will come up behind you and kick you in the asperations, but this article should give you a general idea of what is possible and potential in working with independent musicians and bands.

Remember, if you market, you will make it. © 1990-2009 Earl Chessher