Video Business: The State of the Video Production Industry

Here’s the big secret in the video business: Anyone can start an independent video production company … tomorrow! The catch is, you must invest in education, equipment, advertising and marketing for video services. Oh, and focus on the business side of video, not just the creative, fun stuff.

Even without guarantees, your video production business doesn’t have to be a gamble. You just need some answers first. Do you want to specialize or diversify video services? How tough is the competition in the video business model you want to pursue? What kind of expenses, risks, and profits can you expect? Determination to work smart, will be key. What can you bring to the table in terms of knowledge, experience, education or marketing savvy that will help you succeed?

At first glance, a video production business has lots of positives.

  • Whether you specialize or diversify, there’s a broad range of video services in demand.
  • You have the option to take your services to the client, bring the client to you, or do it all via the Web.
  • There’s support: seek and develop partnerships. Collaborate with other video producers and professionals for things like audio or lighting.
  • Try the tentative approach. Use free online editing and video delivery options before investing.
  • Once you’ve gotten your foot in the door of your chosen video business model, there’s money to be made, keep on making video that people will want to share.

Whether you specialize or diversify, there’s a broad range of video services you can offer, based on skill set and experience.

Don’t overlook things that might work against you.

  • A limited video production skill set can hold you back from offering certain demand products.
  • Equipment investment and updating can prove cost-prohibitive.
  • You’ll need working and storage space for your video business operations.
  • Travel-related expenses will cut into your profits.
  • Insurance, licenses, liability and other costs of doing business also become a significant factor.
  • Your video business marketing may be an uphill battle in an area with competition or suppressed pricing. Local demand could be limited and hinder your business’ growth.

Ready to step up to the plate? The following business models might interest you. We got word from a few who have been in the trenches of the video production small business industry. 

Wedding and Event Video

Many that shoot weddings enjoy it and are optimistic about video production keeping pace. Not all, however, are happy with how things are going.

“It’s bittersweet,” says Mark DiNatale, twentyoneplus productions. “I’ve been at this for just under two years. The jobs are not coming as I’d hoped. Now, I’m just trying to be a local video guy for area events.”

Steve and Laura Moses of Vantage Point Productions, and Dan O’Hara of O’Hara Films, are wedding video specialists and exude positive enthusiasm about the wedding video industry. Laura Moses thinks the numbers were down a few years ago, but have started to come back up. She advocates “tightening up” when things are slow, cutting unnecessary business spending. O’Hara offers elegance in wedding film production but other video services as well.

These video producers continue to focus on wedding video production but each have diversified, to focus on more than weddings, in order to sustain business.

Monetizing YouTube, Other Online Video Sites

Artis White, Flex Media, LLC, changes his style and approach to stay current with consumer demands. This includes meeting a growing demand for instant gratification by “getting productions, or at least highlights, on YouTube and social media within 24 hours.” He said it has raised his cool factor in economically suppressed Detroit. White is moving in the direction of online video, and many small business video producers utilize YouTube and online video opportunities, ranging from ad-supported or sponsored special interest videos, to product and service videos for small businesses.

Minimum equipment and technical knowhow, along with marketing, can get you going in online video production. As a Yahoo! Small Business Advisor, Bryan Bolan, says a video production company must have three “differentiators,” listing experience, connections and creative input. Connections are key. If you don’t have them, you must find out how to get them.

Independent Filmmaking

As a financial consultant for the industry, Louise Levison, said 2012’s indie movies in North America were $4.5 billion, and more than 41 percent of the industry total. How hard can it be to get a piece of this action?

Is there room at the bottom of this business model for a shot and a fast ride to the top? In FilmSlate discussion on fellow independent filmmakers, Rocky Yost, says, “The playing field has been leveled by HD. You can go out there with a $12,000 camera and the tape is virtually free.” There are more costs to indie production than the camera, though, in spite of even cheaper cameras today. Funding is important going into this business model. Low-cost films can become big winners, but it’s going to take a lot more than determination … oftentimes it’s the storytelling that takes over, if your audience cares about the characters and what happens to them, then the quality of the camera and gear becomes invisible. 

Corporate Video and Commercials

Marketing savvy and a good list of small business/corporate connections can open doors for this video business model. Articles on the Web, in marketing magazines, business blogs and Videomaker note the rapidly growing interest in and use of video for online marketing. Demand will reward the videographer who specializes in creating corporate video and/or commercials. Jimm Fox, President of One Market Media, writes about rates for producers, “You can pay $25/hour for a recent film school graduate or $250/hour or more for a top flight video veteran.” Depending on your approach as a video business entrepreneur demand continues to grow, be it online commercials on YouTube, or extended commercials for local/regional broadcast or cable. 

Video Post-Production and Motion Graphics

Sites like, where the jobs listed show some pretty low budgets, one might get the impression that video post-production and motion graphics don’t pay well. That may be the case starting out, but education, experience and creative skills can make the difference. The challenge for a fledgling startup is huge and competition is fierce, however. In this business model, be it working for a production house, boutique firm, or starting your own, your skills and connections will dictate your success. The fastest way to move into a business of your own, might be after gaining a knowledge of video post-production and motion graphics editing software while working for an established company.

Visual Effects Video Services

Scott Ross (Digital Domain founder), said in a Q-and-A with Mark Christiansen for ProVideo Coalition that the decline of the visual effects business is because “visual effects facilities providing shots for Hollywood features have exactly six clients.” These visual effects companies, survive on each paycheck and Ross continues, “the camera department has maybe six people, and when the vfx credits for The Avengers came to visual effects, there must have been a thousand names up there.”

According to the CG supervisor at visual effects house, Motion Picture Company, Sheldon Stopsack, the basics are an important first step in trying to break into visual effects work. He says it has never been easier to get into the visual effects industry but that it takes more than simply wanting to be there. You have to apply yourself, develop your reel. Stopsack said today’s powerful computers and off-the-shelf programs offer enterprising creatives a jump-start toward a visual effects career or business.

Video services providers express optimism and faith in the video industry, whatever business model a videographer might pursue. Common points include focusing on the business side as well as the creative side; studying the competition but not basing all marketing strategies on price competition; specializing to a degree but having other skills that can be marketed. The consensus is that any enterprising individual who is willing to work hard and has the drive and ambition to do what it takes, will succeed. These business models have potential, and each simply requires a different approach. All have pros and cons, but there are no insurmountable obstacles. Consider your options, weigh the advantages/disadvantages of your video business model and know what to expect in return for success. The bottom line? Do your homework and you can pass the test for success. 


Small Business Video Success is a Work in Progress

Artis White started Flex Media, seeking to build a video production business that could augment his Michigan State Police trooper salary, then move in to fill the gap when he retires. A few years of video and his diverse video services business is booming.

“I managed to save enough to make informed equipment purchases, getting the basic setup necessary for independent video production,” said White. “Like others in the business, I found that, for me, diversity is the answer. I did a few weddings for other officers but I’ve since expanded my focus.”

White now creates special interest and online videos, working his resources but also marketing to small businesses. White says his investigator skills have paid off in researching business options, as well as honing interview skills.

“I’m always on the prowl for new ideas, ways that can help me grow my business. I put a lot of work into developing community projects. My beauty shot videos for brides and models has enjoyed an uptick. I’m now a Moviemaking merit badge counselor for the Boy Scouts of America. This kind of community connectivity helps me stay in business.”

A depressed economy in the Detroit area has challenged White to think differently about his video business and marketing strategies. Balancing home life with his regular job as a state trooper, while working and marketing his video business, is a tough act for White. He said it was a challenge, thinking about starting up a video business, with emphasis on a sustainable future small business after retirement.

“What’s great is, if you can come up with investment capital for equipment, have solid potential client resources along with skill, creative talent and determination, having a profitable video production business is doable,” he concluded.

Contributing editor Earl Chessher is a full-time professional video producer, writer and author of books on how to make money with video.

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