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A guide to commissioning a film

Commissioning a film can be both an exciting and frustrating experience. As someone who has been on both sides of the table, I thought I would put together a few helpful tips.


Why do you want a film?

This may seem obvious, but often clients see commissioning a film as a simple way of catapulting their marketing into the 21st century. You don’t have to have a fully formed plan, but these are three key things you must consider before engaging a production company:

Who is the audience?

How is the audience going to see it?

What do you want the audience to do once they have seen it?

They knew they wanted a film to use as a training aid for social workers, teachers, police and anyone else who works with children – that’s the audience. The film would be seen at specially arranged courses and used in conjunction with a training resource. The end outcome being that the audience is able to recognise signs of domestic abuse and the impact it can have on children.

Once those three things in place it is then up to the creative team to work with you to find ways to convey the messages to the audience.


The Budget

How much does a film cost? Well the answer is, it depends on you. Being open and honest about your budget will allow the production company you are working with to realistically match your ideas to the funds available.

Whatever your budget you should receive an end product you are proud of. If you have £100 to spend but want a bespoke 3-minute animation with voiceovers – it’s not going to happen and you should be cautious of anyone who claims they can offer this. But £1000 could still go towards making you a film that fulfills your objectives, even if it’s not in the way you initially envisioned.

If you are unsure about a quote you have received then shop around and if you are uncertain about what exactly your quote contains, then give them a call. Also if production companies show you examples of work from other clients, don’t be afraid to ask what the budget was. Of course any client would be wowed by a film with a six-figure budget, but not everyone has that level of money to spend.



It is important to make companies aware of your deadlines in advance so they can allocate the amount of time needed. If you have a very tight turn around then this may mean that the cost is slightly increased as they may need to pull in additional resources. The company you are working with should suggest a number of check-in points with you to ensure they are progressing as expected and to avoid any nasty shocks.


The Process

At Moon Watcher Media we like to spend time getting to know your organisation so we can tell your story in the best way. We like to begin things with a conversation in person or over the phone to discuss what you want from your film and any ideas you have. If you have any examples of other videos you like in terms of style and/or content, then feel free to share these.

We will then take this information away and formulate some ideas and come back with some costs. The costs will be fully outlined so you know exactly how many shoot days, crew, editing days and the number of opportunities you get to make changes.

If you are happy to proceed then we will set out a timeline and work schedule. If you are not sure about the ideas then ask us to take another look, we will be happy to do so.


Story telling

It can be easy to get caught up in all the excitement of technology, cameras and visual effects but at the heart of a good film is a good story. Once that is in place you can then add the bells and whistles.

The good news is a good story and an easy to follow narrative is usually the cheapest part of the process, however too often it is overlooked. My advice: get the story right and then build from there.


Speak up

It is so easy to get swept up in the excitement of a creative pitch but if something does not feel right then speak up and don’t be afraid to ask questions. As Confucius said:

“The man who asks a question is a fool for a minute, the man who does not ask is a fool for life.”

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