Production company makes a short video with firefighters, a dog and children
Part 1 of 2
October 25, 2021 | Andy Linda
The Makings of a Disaster
Every once in a while a video production company that makes short videos, like ours, gets a doozy of a project. This one had all the elements of a disaster: busy non-actor professionals thrust into comedic acting, a dog, and a gaggle of children. In an impossible location. With props that may or may not exist. In a limited timeframe. On a very tight budget.
Every video production company which makes short videos knows the WC Fields quote of “Never work with animals or children.” Our client evidently didn’t know this truism and really, really wanted a video with children or animals. The video they needed was a motivational piece to compel City employees to open the annual mailer they receive which explains their choices for healthcare benefits. Many people just throw the mailer away without reading it and this short video was tasked with changing that behavior. This part of the project was clear and simple. The approach was another story.
We aim to please so we were determined to fulfill our client’s wishes and we came up with four simple concepts, some with animals, others with children. But the client wanted something much more involved, with a bunch of children and more of a plot. Basically we were asked to make the children act. In our many, many discussions the client offered some interesting resources: we could have a pick of an auditorium, a police station, or some other City-owned venue in which to shoot because the client is part of San Francisco government. We went back to the drawing board many, many times.
More Trouble Piled On
Long story short: we finally settled on shooting in a firehouse with a group of children and a firefigher. We developed a scenario of a school field trip to a firehouse where a group of children lecture the firefighter about the need to read the mailer and make the appropriate choices. We wrote it with a group of seven to twelve middle schoolers in mind, but the client was to provide our child actors. They came up with two kids, aged eight and five. So we simplified the script, paring it down to the bone for the young kids to be able to handle it. Then the client got a few more kids and we rewrote the script again. Finally we had a group of seven kids, aged 5-10, a parent and a firefighter. We could finalize the script! But rehearsing with the child actors was out of the question, nobody would have devoted the time to that.
The client had one more lingering request for producing this short video: please include at least a dog. So we had children AND animals. A quick rewrite accommodated this last request. The project looked good on paper but warning signs were flashing everywhere.