So you’re ready to start shopping around for the best team to produce your brands next video.  You’ll want to enter this stage with an interview mindset. Meaning you’ll want to have a list of questions ready to go before you jump on the phone or send that email. This will keep your conversation focused and on point. If the party you are interviewing starts getting defensive or isn’t transparent you may want to end your conversation and move on to the next option.

Without further ado here are the best questions to ask your production company:

What services do you offer?
Not all production companies offer the same services. The goal is to find a company that can fulfill your specific needs. 

Do you outsource any of your work?
A lot of production companies will hire third parties to fulfill specific tasks. There are alot of reasons for this but a simple example would be a VFX artist. VFX work is only needed on a case by case basis so it isn’t always cost efficient for a company that doesn’t specialize in that area to keep this role on staff. This shouldn’t be a deal breaker, but, you should be aware that you’ll most likely never speak to the third party. So if you have any issues your production company will be playing the middleman.

Where are you located?
If you haven’t researched the company this is a major factor. Paying lodging, travel, meals, etc. can cut into your budget. The bigger the team the higher the cost. Although if you live in a rural area or a smaller city you may have to bite the bullet on this one.

How experienced is your team?
This is a far better question than how long have you been in business. The business itself could be less than a year old but may employ 20+ year veterans.

Do you have a reel?
A reel is a short piece of edited video or film footage showcasing the companies previous work. This is a production company’s resume. If the person you’re communicating with doesn’t understand this question or tells you no we would recommend moving on. The only reason someone would be hesitant to show their work is a lack of quality or because they do not have any previous work under their belt.

What processes are involved in creating a video like this?
It’s important to understand their process. Does it make sense? Are they conveying the stages clearly and offering the services that you need to complete this project? A basic response should cover pre-production (planning stage), production (filming stage)  and post production (editing and special sauce).

Have you worked on a similar project to this one in the past?
If the team has worked on a similar project they are likely to be more efficient. You will definitely benefit from a team that is experienced in a similar project. They’ll know most of the potential pitfalls and have a better understanding of what is required to complete the project.

If we decided to move forward when could you start?
There isn’t a right or wrong answer here. A large team may be able to start immediately. It doesn’t mean they aren’t busy on other projects. If you found a production company you love nothing is wrong with waiting. This has more to do with your demands. If you have a marketing campaign that has to go out for Q4 let’s say and they aren’t available before that time frame you may need to go elsewhere.

Can I get a basic timeline and quote?
This answer is going to depend on how much information you give the production company. The more clear your goals and objectives are the easier it is going to be for the production company to answer. It will also allow them to give you a more accurate quote. If you say “I want a video of my product” that’s very vague and you’ll most likely get a “ that depends” answer.

Can you send me examples of (insert need here)?
If you think you’ll need animation ask for examples they’ve completed in the past. If you’ll need a script written ask for past examples of scripts. Insert what you need into this question and the production company should be happy to oblige.

How do you handle revisions /or edit requests?
This is a biggie. In a perfect world revisions don’t happen but this isn’t a perfect world. You may want to change something that you feel is minor but to the production company is a large change. Take VFX for example. A lot of work can go into something as small as reducing the glare on a pair of sunglasses. You’ll want to ensure if a revision does come up that the production company has a policy to deal with it in a reasonable time and cost effective manner.

Who owns the final video files / assets?
This may seem like a no brainer. You paid for the video. So of course you own it. Right? Well the answer is going to come down to the individual production company. Some production companies own the raw footage and assets. Meaning the footage that was used to create the finished video is yours and the individual files are property of the production company. Why? The production company may not want you repurposing the footage.  It’s not a big deal if you do a great job but if you put out shoddy work with the production companies assets it’s a poor reflection on them. This is entirely up to you. If all you want is the finished project no biggie. If you want all the raw materials to send to another editor you may be better off hiring a videographer. At any rate check your contract. This is almost always part of the initial agreement you would sign with a production company.

Will the music and/or voiceover be licensed to use on any platform?
Another big one. You typically won’t run into any issues with a professional production company regarding licensing. If an Ed Sheeran song for example was used in your video your video will be removed from whatever platform you end up distributing your video on and you could even be hit with copyright infringement. Unless of course you /or the production company paid for the correct licensing. I don’t think anyone reading this wants to be sued.  

What’s my role?
Most production companies will need you to be the liaison for your Brand. Ensuring that they get paid, they understand your goals and objectives, and to learn more about your brand, products and services. If they need you to hold a boom mic we suggest you move on, haha.

There are loads of other questions you may have and that’s great! At the end of the day you’ll want to do business with someone that can fulfill your needs but also someone you enjoy working with. If a production company delivers great work but is a headache to deal with you may want to have a follow up meeting or go with your second choice.