Video is a hot need these days as brands seek to engage customers and humanize their offerings. While fostering a connection with current and future customers can be a daunting task, video is a great way to continually offer valuable content and, ultimately, bridge the divide between product and persona. This post will give you a glimpse into the video production planning and execution we recently completed with Maddie Brenneman for one of our clients.
Forging Connections Through Brand Storytelling and Influencer Content
Enter Nexgrill’s “Beyond The Flame”, a mini-documentary series that offers an engaging look into the lives of grillers from all backgrounds. Now, the goal was to profile people who aren’t your average Samaritans, which means we couldn’t send just any old, standard production crew. We’d need some quirky blokes with a can-do attitude that could duck, dodge, and swerve any issues that came their way.
Let’s dive in and take a look at some key planning and execution strategies we used to ensure a successful production on location with Maddie. We’ll also cover a few tips and tricks that’ll help your next video production stay on track, be more fun, and produce a professional result.
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Working with Maddie Brenneman: Why, Where, and How
Choosing who to profile for the first installment of “Beyond The Flame” was easy. It had to be fly fishing guide Maddie Brenneman. Our Creative Director, David Carrillo, just so happens to be an Instagram junky and a fly fishing enthusiast. He’d found Maddie months before we even pitched the project and when the time came, she was a no-brainer.
While everyone was on board and stoked to share Maddie’s story, it also meant planning the logistics of an out-of-state production on rugged, Rocky Mountain terrain. This brings up our video pre-production point numero uno.
1) Video Pre-Production: Prep, Prep, & Prep Some More
As scary as it sounds, there’s no second chance on a shoot like this. So pre-production planning is everything. It’s important to bring everything you could possibly need without inundating yourself with gear—especially if traveling to a remote location.
- Tripod screws? Bring nine for good measure. Put one in every bag you have.
- Two sets of 18-piece Allen key kits
- Multiple Leathermans
- Spare batteries & chargers
- Four hard drives
- Two card readers
- Plus, all your cameras
The harsh reality is you don’t know how many plug-ins you’ll have access to, or how often you’ll be able to charge. On Maddie’s shoot, we never wrapped before 10:30pm, so multiple sets of batteries and chargers really paid off.
Rather than waking up three or four times each night to swap out batteries from the charger, just one switch can suffice with multiple sets. And hey, anything for more sleep, right?
It’s important to bring everything you could possibly need without inundating yourself with gear—especially if traveling to a remote location.
While gear is plenty important, let’s not forget about logistics. Essentially, we took a strong social media influencer and built an entire production around her. From securing locations and talent, to devising timelines and shot lists, we handled every detail of the video production (with the help of Maddie, of course). Nailing down production logistics ultimately helped us nab enough shots of fishing, chilling, and grilling to bring Maddie’s story to life. This brings us to our second key point.
2) Know Your Shoot Location & Ask the Right Questions
Oftentimes, a video production won’t have a budget that allows proper location scouting. Seeing as how our shoot with Maddie was a proof of concept, we needed to save money on the production where we could. We simply weren’t able to fly out to Colorado to scope things out beforehand.
That doesn’t mean we didn’t still come prepared!
One thing you can do from anywhere is to simply think about light. Maddie’s story was largely based around fishing and outdoor lifestyle, so with the exception of a whiteboard for light bounce here and there, the dynamic range of our RED cameras would grab a pleasing, natural image with ease.
But what about the rustic cabin cookout scene? We needed to know what kind of electrical systems we could work with. A large HMI almost certainly wouldn’t work off the circuits of the cabin, and the U-Haul we were going to rent needed to be small and nimble enough to navigate the ranch and surrounding rivers.
The land, expansive and diverse, ultimately pales in comparison to the people and the animals that give it life.
This meant renting a generator was out of the question. We eventually decided to bring a wide array of LED Panels and market lights and to rent light modifiers from a Denver-based production company. With that, we were fully equipped to maximize light potential with minimal footprint.
The C-Lazy-U Ranch, where we filmed, ended up being the perfect backdrop for Maddie’s story. The land, expansive and diverse, ultimately pales in comparison to the people and the animals that give it life. Our first shot on the production was at 4:50am. It was the shot of horses racing over the bridge while Maddie fished with her sister. We planned that shot out, but had no idea how cool it would actually be.
On to point number three.
3) No Excuses. Play Like A Champ. Capture the Story.
Maddie is a go-getter and lives a cooler life than most. When she had an idea, we listened, even if it meant waking up at 3:50am to get a single shot.
The C-Lazy-U Ranch brings the horses back from pasture early in the morning and Maddie knew fish had been eating under a bridge that the horses cross. So we set our alarms.
My point is, do whatever it takes to get the shot. Trust the people around you, listen, and collaborate.
With documentary-style shooting, there’s often only one chance to get a shot. You have to remain cool under pressure.
We woke up early, sprinted to the spot, and everyone got into place, fully aware of their role. Three cameras rolling, one in super slow-motion, location sound, and a director coaching up Maddie.
With documentary-style shooting, there’s often only one chance to get a shot. You have to remain cool under pressure. This on-the-spot collaboration and early-morning mad dash paid off huge, considering it made the final cut and beautifully sets the tone of the entire episode.
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4) Set Design Matters. Don’t Skimp on What’s In Front of the Camera.
What you put in front of the camera is equally important as the technical aspects of filmmaking. The best video productions blend these things in a meaningful way.
On this project, our lead stylist/set designer, Tommy Eggert, put into action a plan that took an old, run-down mountain cabin and transformed it into an inviting set filled with market lights, fine dining accessories, centerpieces, flowers, curated foods, and an overall cohesive atmosphere.
What you put in front of the camera is equally important as the technical aspects of filmmaking. The best productions blend these things in a meaningful way.
With a professional (albeit interesting) crew of skilled craftsmen working 14+ hour days to get everything in place, we executed the plan. Using high-quality production equipment like RED cameras, gimbals, sliders, LEDs, sound mixers, underwater housings, and whatever tools necessary to satisfy our creative appetite. We successfully captured unique angles, sounds, and motions that gave us room for the story to be pushed and pulled beautifully in post-production.
With all this technical work and heavy lifting, it’s important for a crew to mesh. When problems needed to be solved along the way, we were able to trust each other, work together, and enjoy the process.
5) Roll with the Punches & Work with People You Like
This one’s a bit self-explanatory.
Anything can go wrong at any time. That’s just the nature of this profession. No-one needs a complainer during a video production. We need people who can step up in times of struggle, offer solutions, and laugh about it later. The team dealt with stuck vehicles, a lens that took a dunk in the river, rain (lots of rain), a beating sun, mosquitos, minimal sleep, and a serious lack of fish wanting to eat for most of the shoot. Embrace the ridiculousness, laugh, and keep plugging away.
Embrace the ridiculousness, laugh, and keep plugging away.
Catch Beyond The Flame & more of what we’re doing with NEXGRILL on YouTube.
To learn more about Maddie Brenneman, follow her Instagram profile for the most up to date information.
Huge thanks to the client, the crew, Maddie and her friends, the C-Lazy-U Ranch for the hospitality, and of course the great outdoors for helping to make this production so memorable.
The final product “Beyond the Flame: Go Fish with Maddie Brenneman” is below – drop us a comment to let us know what you think and be on the lookout for more.