Any production agency is in large part a project-management organisation. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise.
Production people tend to have granular knowledge of one specialisation. Generalists are unusual. And production is production — the language, processes and procedures are well established and well understood by everybody who works in the business. Agencies like to tout their creative USPs but, in reality, we all fish in the same pool of freelance talent. What makes the real difference isn’t ultimately creativity, but the structure that supports and enables it.
For me, what makes a great agency is an ability not only to listen but to hear. And having heard, to convert the commissioning client's aspirations into visual form. Underpinning that is rigour, attention to detail, discipline and planning. You need a solid framework to create a safe, well-resourced space in which creativity can thrive; where scores of craftspeople across dozens of disciplines can come together to produce something greater than the sum of their parts.
For the client, trust is key. They need to believe that you share their vision and have the skill and experience to magic it to life. Often, the trickiest part is agreeing the creative approach but, once that’s approved, the client should be able to sit back and relax. That is, of course, if they’ve engaged the right agency. God help them if they’re hired the wrong one.
Every production, from a quick talking-head to a full-length feature film, is governed by the same fundamentals: desired outcome, deadline and cost. Having established the ground rules, the next step is to determine how long and what resources you’ll need to deliver on the deal. On time, on budget and at the appropriate quality.
The business world is currently obsessed with a phenomenon called 'agile working', broadly understood as bringing people, processes, technology, time and place together in the most efficient way to carry out a particular task. Anybody who’s ever worked in production will be surprised to learn this is apparently a new idea: it’s what we’ve been doing since they invented film. Agility is baked into our souls, because it’s the only way to create content to exacting quality standards on fixed budgets and immoveable deadlines. If boundaries, resources and scope aren't clearly defined by skilled producers who know what they’re doing and communicated to crews who are masters of their craft, productions fail. That’s how they get the Six O’Clock News out at 18.00 every night, not five-past.
Agility is what enables 300 near strangers to meet in an empty warehouse at 08.00 and be operating as a fully functional team within an hour or two. With the exception of the military and the emergency services, I can’t think of any other sector that routinely performs that feat. Sports teams, I suppose.
So when clients ask me what HerioVisual offers, I say we’re the life-support system that makes creativity happen. On the ground, that means we provide unrivalled production, budget and resource management. It means we sort out IR35 hassles, keep a grip on costs and make sure that most of every dollar spent ends up on screen. We manage risk.
Last-minute tweaks to the project scope are part and parcel of any corporate production — and HerioVisual understands that too. Our production framework may be solid but it’s designed to flex with change. It’s the agile-working thing again. Everybody involved in a HerioVisual production just does what’s needed, when it’s needed, without fuss.
In the end, HerioVisual introduces sanity and stability into a creative process that is inherently unpredictable. And trust me, that’s a good thing — if 20 years as a corporate film commissioner have taught me anything, it’s the kind of drama you don’t want to see on a set is a production team losing the plot!
Head of agency at HerioVisual.
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