Post Houses: How to Get, Keep and Not Lose Business
COW Library : Business & Career Building : Debra Kaufman : Post Houses: How to Get, Keep and Not Lose Business
Hollywood Post Alliance event features TV/film producers
On June 8, a packed room of sales and executives representing Hollywood TV/film post production houses attended a Hollywood Post Alliance (HPA) meeting of the Sales Career Resource Group (SCRG) to discuss a topic rendered urgent in today's tough economy: How to Get, Keep and Not Lose My Business.
Moderated by post industry veteran Herb Dow (at Gradient FX), panelists were a cross-section of Hollywood post facility clients: Jason Leib, Senior VP of Post Production at Summit Entertainment; Todd London, post-production producer for Playtone, HBO and Starz; Greig McRitchie, Executive VP of Feature Post Production for Universal Pictures; and Tony Palermo, co-producer of TV show Hawaii Five-O.
Dow kept the conversation succinct and relevant by asking every panelist to answer a series of questions, starting with a request to enumerate the key factors in choosing a post production facility. McRitchie stated that he makes sure that the people who run the facility can be reached easily and solve any issue. "How easily do they come up with solutions?" he asked.
Leib, who joked that the first place he visits is the machine room, said he looks for highly skilled production talent, and London looks for a facility that creates an environment of partnership.
Talent or technology: which is more important to you, asked Dow, a question that brought passionate responses. "For me, it's talent," said Palermo. "I don't want a young kid who might know how to operate the gear but doesn't have the background and experience."
London countered that the best talent may not be well versed in the latest technology. "The technology changes every five minutes," he says. "I have to ask what the definitively best gear is for my project."
Leib said that he's "not big on rock star talent." "It's a little of both for me," he admitted. "You need to be responsive. Deliver what you promise."
Dow asked the executives if they even read the often-detailed work proposals. "We do look at the bottom line," said McRitchie. "We look at the number of hours to color time, and if there are effects, how many weeks it will take to accomplish them."
London expressed the desire that proposals be standardized, so they'd be easier to compare. And he warned about something even more basic. "Half the people who send me bids don't include the facility name and contact information in the proposal," he said. "And it's helpful to name the file with the name of your facility. Also, bids should focus on the services I require for the show, and nothing extra."
Palermo agreed. "Are there hidden charges?" he asked. "I don't want to be nickel and dimed--just give me what I need.
Do the personalities of the post house reps play into their decisions on which post house to choose? "A lot," says McRitchie." Some people you trust because they deliver." "You need a bonding relationship with the sales force," agreed London. "But I'm going to try to not hear from you when the show is up and running: that means you've done your job."
Should sales reps schmooze or get straight to business? The responses varied dramatically. "Who has the time to go to lunch?" said McRitchie. Leib raised his hand. "I have time for an occasional lunch because I like to banter and develop relationships," he said. "But I do like getting straight information." Palermo said he's "not about the hard sell," but London noted that when Leon Silverman was Executive Vice President of Laser Pacific, it was always a straightforward approach. "Both of our time is valuable," he said.
All images provided by Max Ma
Phone calls, email...what are the communication preferences for people who do business with post facilities? "I'll pick up the phone and ask for a bid," said London. "Then it'll get into email." Leib prefers a phone call or visit to create relationship, but McRitchie railed against sales people who ask to drop by. "I don't have time for it," he said. "Email me." And when it comes to the frequency of communication, most production executives said that, once a project is running, no news is good news. "Call me if something goes wrong before I find out another way," said Palermo.
Do potential clients pay attention when post production houses try to gain a higher profile by placing ads in trade publications or sponsoring related events? Not so much, said the panelists...but there was an exception. "Hosted events or demos is what I pay attention to the most," said London. Palermo concurred. "Demos are invaluable," he said.
Everyone agreed that the post facility's in-house producer is crucial to the process running smoothly as well as being their main point person. "They're overwhelmed and under-paid," said London. "That person is a part of my team, and they need to know more than I know. I give them screen credit on movies I do." Palermo also praised them. "There are a few in town I worship," he said. "They manage everything and keep me happy."
So much has been written about runaway production: TV and film productions that shoot outside of Los Angeles to gain tax rebates and other benefits, from Vancouver to Romania. Many of these same locations offer hefty rebates for keeping post production services in their state or locale. How important are rebates when choosing a post production house? "I can't focus on the rebate as much as asking if the particular state or country can handle the project," said London. "When we did the 2010 HBO miniseries The Pacific, we found a great film community in Melbourne, Australia. But now I'm working on a show shooting in Florida where we're getting a big tax rebate. But when we did a film test, we found out the lab didn't process film anymore. So I suggested we take it back to Los Angeles."
That wasn't the only horror story London reported. "One time I kept getting my tapes back with bad audio," he recalled. "I sent my audio guys over and it turned out the tape operator was putting the mag up incorrectly. The facility said, 'We have the right gear, it's not our fault that the tape op doesn't know how to use it.'"
Problems happen, added Lieb, but there's no point in being upset. "You just have to solve the problem," he said. But he had a horror story of his own: a post house that doctored the email exchange to "prove" that he and not they had made a mistake. Needless to say, that deceit was fairly easy to figure out. "Honesty is the best policy," he concluded.
Bottom line: how does a post facility not lose business to its competitors? The amount of the bid is important, says Palermo, but it's not everything. "It would have to be incompetence to get me to leave in the middle of a show," said London. "When I'm looking at the next project, I have to ask myself if the facility is the right one for that particular job. Does my show need a high-end finish? Can I go to a place with better rates? What about the equipment? It puts you sales people in a hard place."
"This is a very competitive season," added London. "Post sales people have said they'd do a pilot for 50 percent off. But I ignored all the freebies and 50 percent off deals and went to the facility that I trusted and I knew could do the job."
HPA's SCRG Committee is comprised of Denice Angelo, Laser Pacific Media Corp.;
Ben Benedetti, Sony Pictures Entertainment;
Herb Dow, Gradient Effects;
Co-Chair Joel Epps, Melrose Video Professionals;
Marc Genin, Gearhouse Broadcast;
Larry Goodman, Xytech Systems;
Chris Gregory, Melrose Video Professionals;
Lisa Griffin 2G Digital Post
Seth Hallen, Testronic Laboratories;
Chair Pat Howley, Key Code Media, Inc;
Julie L. Leibowitz, Alpha Dog Editorial; and
Anthony Magliocco, Entertainment and Media Technology Marketing.