Being a filmmaker for hire is a double-edged sword. On one hand, it’s great to get paid to write and shoot and direct. On the other hand, it’s difficult because you’re ultimately creating something that doesn’t belong to you.
Part of the difficulty is not being able to see with someone else’s eyes. How do I give them what they want when they probably won’t know what that is until they see it?
The only defense against creating something you think is great, but the client thinks is (for lack of a better word) wrong, is communication. You must update your client often, so they won’t be unpleasantly surprised by the outcome of all your hard work.
It’s essential to make sure you understand what the objectives are going into the process, but keeping them updated throughout the production is just as important. This is often where filmmaker falls down. We get so wrapped up in the business of executing our vision, we forget to tell the client about the changes that are happening during production and post-production.
For instance, perhaps you couldn’t get the location you were thinking of originally, or you found a new location that you think is better than the one you discussed with the client. It’s important to tell the client you’re using a different location than the one you pitched, so they’re not left wondering why you made the change. They could have had their hearts set on that location because they thought it said something about their company or their brand, and now you’ve changed the entire concept. If you’re going to make a change like that, let them know why you think it’s for the better and by better I mean how it serves the film, commercial, web promo, etc..
So what does open communication ultimately do? It empowers the client and allows you to manage their expectations. They feel like they’re involved in the process, and you can give them a realistic picture of the what the finished product will be while getting feedback from them that will help you avoid any missteps. Remember these projects cost thousands or hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars. Chances are your client has someone they have to answer to as well, so it’s important they’re informed and can tell their boss just how their money is being spent.
Communicating with the client also makes you look good. You come across as a professional who understands that you’ve been entrusted with someone else’s money, and you’re keeping up your end of the deal by using that money responsibly.
If you keep your client informed with little points of contact each day of shooting and throughout the post-production process, you can avoid a big disconnect at the end that leaves you confused when they’re not happy with your great creation and leaves them wondering why they hired you. By involving them in the process, you’ll earn their trust and create a product that fits their needs. You’ll also build a relationship with your client on a foundation of communication, trust, and respect. With a relationship like that, chances are they’ll feel confident to give you their next project.