You want to create professional media? You’re going to need some help.

I’ll be the first to admit it; there was a time not too long ago that I thought I could create professionally deliverable, full-length video episodes pretty much by myself.  (By “professionally deliverable” – I’m talking about media that you can deliver and/or monetize to third party distributors and be able to get E&O insurance on.  If you just want to distrib on your own site, or someplace that won’t take down your video, and don’t care about takedown notices or lawsuits, then you can just ignore the rest of the post!).

You’d think that after 13 years in the business, I would know better; but apparently it was a lesson I needed to relearn.

Making professional media is a team sport. Sometimes your team might be small, but it’s a very difficult and time-consuming proposition to do it all on your own.

There’s some exceptions to this rule, for sure. Especially if you are young, have very low personal overhead, and no spouse or children. And even better, if you don’t need much sleep.

Making professional grade media is all about focus, and time. The tools are pretty much all accessible, but how much time do you personally have to learn about deliverable formats? Or legal clearances. Or deal memos with the people who help you. Or learn a motion graphics program so you can create your own good-looking titles.

The list of things to handle on your own grows pretty fast when you want to produce quality content in a time and cost-efficient way.

Which is why you need a team.

You can be smart about who and when you have help, and totally crush it (as Gary Vaynerchuk likes to say); but if you’re dead set on doing it all on your own, have a ready supply of coffee, and be willing to wait a long time for a finished product.

I think there’s a few mission critical places in the development, production, and post processes where focused help will get you along much faster, and much further; in particular:

  • Development – have a pro review your script or beat sheet (docu/reality document outlining what it is you’re actually going to be shooting) and schedule and compare it to your budget – making sure you’re not setting yourself up for failure.  Also, the pro should ask you how you plan to distribute, and help you make a list of deliverables accordingly so that you account for the time and/or cost of each deliverable.
  • Production – Either hire a pro to handle, or to teach you/your team how to properly clear your media.  This is hugely important.  Also have them review your equipment lists and that you’ve answered all the questions you needed to, and tested things you don’t know about (for instance, if you need to cover a scene with more than one camera, how are you synchronizing them in post?  Are you slating each time you roll? Or are you getting cameras that can jam sync timecode? Or are you planning on spending lots of time in Final Cut trying to sync things up manually?)
  • Post Production – Start checking off deliverables.  Marketing elements, still images, the video. Metadata. A binder of your clearance items.

It’s doable that you can have a pro just kind of “check in” and give you guidance along the way, rather than hire a producer full time to do this stuff for you.  Point of reference, hiring a Line Producer, who usually brings in 2-4 more production staff to help with this process on a regular tv show, runs between $2000-3000 per week in reality, and anywhere from $3k-12k per week in scripted tv.  Some feature film Line Producers/UPM’s at studios are between $15k-25k per week.

At any rate, you CAN find folks (I’m one of them) who know the waters of media production in a wide variety of formats, and their knowledge and experience will more than make up for whatever it costs to have them on board.

It can mean the difference between being able to distribute your content at all, or not.