How we booked an international advertising campaign with Manfrotto – Part 2

by Lan Bui on May 22, 2014


If you have not read Part 1 “An Adumentary for the Manfrotto Befree Tripod – Shooting a traveling commercial series” please do so… or if it’s been a while since you have read it (it probably has been hehehe) take a look at it as it describes all of the technical details and what we actually did during the shoot as well as all of the deliverables.

But, if you are lazy and just want a summary… here you go:

Manfrotto booked Vu and I to concept, write, produce, direct, shoot, edit, color, score and deliver a seven-part series of videos for their new Be Free travel tripod. The seven parts break down to the following: three advertisement videos, three behind the scenes videos and one educational video. We took about six months to go from first contact to delivery. The shoot was all around California for seven days in an epic road trip with a crew of ten. There was no agency involved; we were the agency. We budgeted, pitched and then got paid fairly for our work… So that’s where this blog post comes in: we are often asked to share how we do this kind of stuff. Not just the shooting, but the booking and charging. So here is how we did it…

How did we actually book this?

Drew Gardner Zeba shoot pano

It is a long story… Booking a big job like this doesn’t happen over night. Just the process from getting the first email until we delivered the final video took six months!!! More importantly, a gig like this didn’t just land on our laps; it took years of hard work to even expose us to this kind of opportunity: forging relationships with clients and companies, establishing credibility and skill, etc. Don’t be scared away too fast though, you are probably much closer to this kind of opportunity than you think. You have probably done a lot of this work already and might not even know it!

So… the long story… some of you may have heard of –or even found us through– English epic fashion photographer Drew Gardner. Drew is the best photographer I’ve ever met. He is so good, I know I’ll never be able to be as amazing as he is… but that’s another story. If you have not heard of Drew, take a look at his website for a few minutes and you will understand what I’m talking about. If you did just look… AMAZING, right?!?!? Well, one time at a conference in Hollywood, Drew just so happened to be in the audience when Vu and I were giving a very short presentation. It was luck, really: Drew was also a presenter, and his timeslot was close to ours, so by happenstance he was in the audience. After our talk ended Drew came up to us and started to chat… that chat turned into dinner, dinner turned into emails, and emails turned into us flying out to shoot a video for Drew in England!

The video was a behind the scenes video for his forest series, a series of photos where he takes beautiful models and poses them in epic scenes in the forest with beautiful and sometimes dangerous animals. If you had not clicked to check Drew out before… I’m sure you will now. We were just outside of London, in a forest, shooting for Drew when he asked us, since we were already there in London, if we could do some more work for him. He had a client that he needed to make a video for, so of course we said yes! And that was that. We did a behind the scenes video, which he loved, and then a video for his client!

The year after, he asked us again to come out to make some more videos with him… I jumped at the opportunity so off we went to London and shot what he asked. Again he said he had another couple videos to make for a client so we of course agreed and shot them for him. Why not, right?

Another year went by, and by now we have met his client a couple times… we gained a few supporters within their company (thank you Dave Beck!) when we suddenly get a call from his client… asking us to make videos for them!!! Now, the first thought that crossed our minds was, “What about Drew???” It’s never good to poach a client, especially not from the friend/client who introduced you. But after a call to Drew we got his blessing and were off to pitch… to pitch a massive ad campaign to Manfrotto.

So how did we book this? We basically met someone that we were genuinely interested in, stayed in touch out of admiration, worked for him because he had awesome projects, shot extra stuff for him and his client… just because… and then ended up impressing the client so much that they wanted us to make stuff directly for them. If we were douchebags to him I think it would have been considered stealing his client… but instead we were able to book this job after years of relationship development. Not sales calls, buying ads, doing marketing and being annoying… but being genuinely interested in and genuinely happy to work with someone. You never know when some random Englishman will come up to you and a few years later he (and his friend Dave Beck) be the reason you book something awesome like this.

Go out and find people you like. Go out and make friends with people that like you. Not because they will somehow get you work, but because you might enjoy life a little more by surrounding yourself with positive people… and the SIDE benefit is that at some point maybe one of those relationships will turn into work (PAID work!). The great thing about this is that friendships are ALWAYS worth the investment. You lose nothing. Alternatively, go out and try to “befriend” people just to get work, and you will be miserable. Anyhow, any scam artist can tell you the long game has to have a much bigger payout hahahaha!

Drew Gardner Zebra and Girl Shoot - iPhone Panoramic

What was our pitch?

Right now I’ll talk about the idea behind our pitch. I’m working out a way to share the actual pitch documents so you can see exactly what I sent to the client that got them excited enough to allow us to book the job.

The idea came from a number of phone calls with Drew, Dave, and a few people at Manfrotto. After hearing what they needed and what their product was, we knew we’d have to make something that would be true to Manfrotto, true to the new product and true to The Bui Brothers. We knew they didn’t come to us just to make another regular advertisement. We want to do things that are a little more crazy than the safe route. We like to push boundaries, do things we aren’t supposed to do and make things that we think are amazing.

And that is what we pitched: an impossible road trip with unrealistic hours to distant locations… all in six days. The pitch ended up very difficult to write; we had to convince them that it was a good idea to take ten people on a road trip to shoot this, that it would all magically work out with all the locations and weather, and that we would run into no problems that we couldn’t solve along the way. HAHAHA! It was on… we hired a writer, storyboard artist and I worked day and night coming up with the pitch, then finally packaged it up into two PDFs totaling 24 pages. 24 pages of what we would do, where we would go, what the videos would contain, how we would do it… and how much it would cost.

They couldn’t say no. They loved it. It was booked.

Proposal thumbs

What should the budget be on a project like this?

A lot.

Ha! Well, I’ll get into more detail than that…

If you look at our line items you will see hotels, airfare, food, gas, rentals, tolls, editing, storage, insurance… the list goes on and on… and each item in our budget was both fairly priced and necessary to a successful shoot. But once you start adding up $200/day for someone’s pay for 7 days plus feeding them and housing them and insuring them… it adds up. Plus renting some gear, buying triple redundant storage, again it adds up. It adds up fast. You want to make sure that all of your costs are covered and that you don’t have to take money out of your portion to cover any hard costs, but you also need to make sure the client can understand why you have to charge for each line item, because depending on the client, it may seem daunting.

So I’ll be sending out a series of emails detailing every aspect of our pitch and breaking our budget down and teaching you our methods and mentality behind our pitches. I’ll be starting next week, so if you haven’t already, sign up for our Brief Tips mailing list to get all of the emails we will send next week starting Monday, May 26th.

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