• melissafretwell

A fresh take on mastering video with Visionary Pictures

Updated: Apr 14

We caught up with fellow female founder Natalie Hodgins who knows a thing or two about the power of video and why any brand can leverage this medium to drive positive change. She’s also compiled 5 essentials to consider when briefing your next video, cos she’s nice like that.


Visionary Pictures Co-Founder and Head of Production, Natalie Hodgins

According to Global Web Index’s excellent Entertainment Trends report last month, “the pandemic has accelerated the online TV trend, but had a less noticeable impact on broadcast TV watching. Yet, despite year-on-year drops in broadcast engagement, it still ranks ahead of online TV in most markets; and though April-June figures for online TV were noticeably higher, they haven’t been maintained”.


What even is TV these days? Everyone wants to super serve short and long form content as we are now seasoned bingers. Facebook has its own apps dedicated to TV and gaming, ready to challenge Youtube. Social channels are of course masters at grabbing attention and can now give brands the opportunity to reach customers at a time when they’re most engaged. Big changes are happening so whether you want passive or active viewing, video is still vital.


You may have budget to produce an ad of epic cinematic quality (think Nicole Kidman for Chanel) or be able to commission a live ad break (Honda parachute jump), smart branded content (too many to mention) or lo fi social videos on your phone, whatever the flavour, video is the friend we want to grow old with.


Visionary Pictures does what it says on the tin


Natalie set up Visionary Pictures with her partner in crime and romantic partner Brock Elwick (pictured above). They wanted to combine their production skills to tell stories in a way that ensured diverse voices are heard. They care passionately about the crew, whose health and safety is paramount and together they work to create a supportive culture which champions teamwork over glory hunting. Bringing the right creative talents together is all part of the magic.

Natalie explains; “we wanted to shake things up, disrupt the current desire for short, shallow, quick-hit content that leads to immediate sales, and replace it with meaningful, targeted content that aims to create fans of a brand that come back again and again”.

From our perspective, the route to fixing our problems with diversity has to start with having diverse thinking behind the camera too. We are the crew, we build a functional family of people working towards the same goal on set. In these moments, the only thing that matters is that we are together, unified. We’ve noticed that a lot of the conversation becomes about how to find diverse people without finding out whether they share the same vision and are up for the adventure. The best ideas always win wherever they come from and creativity can only really happen when you have a rich variety of perspectives and experiences in the mix.


See the bigger picture

The short, disposable content that most brands put out and most agencies recommend for short term customer leads doesn’t seem to work in the longer term. We’re encouraging our clients to change it up.


What we aim to do is gain new ‘fans’ of a brand who come back again and again because they believe in what the brands stand for and how they express themselves through the content they publish. This way, brands should in theory, be able to gradually spend less each year and get the same or even more return.


An example that comes up again and again when we discuss the power of storytelling, is the iconic Hovis advert. I’m sure a lot of people remember seeing it on their televisions in 1973, neither I nor my business partner Brock were alive then… but we still know it well! How frequently do you see Hovis putting an advert out today? Yes, they keep up with their television slots, their bread and butter if you like [!] but social content is light and leans into the brand heritage, they’ve been making bread for 130 years. Side note: they even tracked down the boy who rode the bike up and down Gold Hill back in 73 for their instagram. They did their work early, invested in their brand image and told a story consistently well so it lasts generations. What if that were the goal of every company? Invest wisely balancing short and long term returns. Hmmm...


Telling stories to drive change

“The moral of the story is…” one of those adages that has become so deeply baked into our collective consciousness that we’re all aware that stories are a brilliant medium to carry messages to the masses. If they’re well crafted and gently communicated, they can inspire whole generations to talk to one another about how we might move forward together. Video content fails when it lectures. Drink this. Recycle that. Run more. Video content can only really succeed when it inspires people to think about the people they’d rather be tomorrow and the story you have to tell is that you, your music, your brand and your message are there with them.


Visionary Pictures recently worked with Strictly Come Dancing stars, Anya Garnis and Pasha Kovalev on the world’s first virtual variety show for Rise Up With Arts.

27 March on World Theatre Day, Rise Up With Arts premiered exclusive performances and interviews, from stars you know and love from stage and screen, including chart topping singers, Strictly Come Dancing glitter ball champions, Oscar winning songwriters and cast members of Tony award winning musicals. Profits went directly to the Theatre Fund and the Actors Fund in the U.S. to provide support for those in the Arts, struggling as a result of the COVID-19 Pandemic.


In addition to creating socials-first online content with exclusive behind-the-scenes rehearsal footage, we worked with Rise Up With Arts to post-produce and edit all pre-recorded acts for inclusion in the final show, and are currently planning a second show to raise even more funds for the arts.

Check out the video here...


5 essentials when you’re next briefing video


1.GET UNDER THE SKIN OF YOUR AUDIENCE

Content that people relate to is much more successful. Although you can’t relate to everybody in one go. You need to target certain audiences, make them feel like they are being heard. In order to target the right audience, you need to know; Who are they? What do they spend their time doing? What do they enjoy the most?


Big corporations have access to a vast amount of analytics, but they’re not essential if you know who you’re talking to. Rather than looking into the numbers, find out about your people, your fans and what your product or service means to them and how it fits into their lives. Pen portraits are a great way to capture this gold.


2. WHY? WHAT IS THE PURPOSE?

What a brand stands for is crucial when it comes to telling their stories. Without a doubt, consumers want to buy from brands they believe in. They are voting with their wallet, choosing brands who share their values. These values are an emotional connection directly to you and what you stand for; a connection based on trust and authenticity; a connection that breeds loyalty.


From there, enable your audience to become your advocate and pass your message on. When audiences buy into what you do, it's a shortcut to purchase, decision made. There will be people who buy your product or service out of necessity, but to aim for that is to confuse immediacy with loyalty, it’s fickle and unreliable - as soon as a competitor comes along with the same product but cheaper, those customers won’t need you anymore and won’t have any reason to stay. So choose the story that best demonstrates your values and brand loyalty will follow.


3. THE PEOPLE WHO TELL YOUR STORY SHOULD REFLECT THE AUDIENCE YOU ARE TARGETING

The people who can best tell your story are the people who care if your story is told. They will usually be those who buy your product or follow your social channels. It will be people who take the time to see what has been working and what hasn’t. All teams should be inclusive, that’s a given (which unfortunately is taking way too long to get where it needs to be) but if you want to speak to the underrepresented communities involve them in the creative process.


4. THINK BEFORE HIRING INFLUENCERS

We try and stay away from influencers who don’t align with a brand’s messaging. We think that most brands see an influencer and hope that paying them gives the brand access to their established audience. But we’ve seen again and again that there isn’t a direct correlation between the influencer’s audience and the brand’s return. Influencers are an investment, but there are some influencers who hold one product in their hand one week and the competitor’s product in their hand the next. Unless an agency contractually prevents this, it happens and bang goes the authenticity and your fans. Paying serious cash to hire an influencer to get a short spike in sales or spend the same amount on a story that speaks directly to their audience and keeps them engaged with the message over time? We know which one we'd recommend...


5. HAVE ONE CLEAR CALL TO ACTION

Don’t expect too much from one film, if you ask your viewer to do multiple things then it’s unlikely they’ll remember any of them. The single minded message is always the way. Melissa knows from her many years in TV land, that the old tennis ball analogy rings true - throw one ball and they’ll likely catch it, throw two and you haven’t much chance. Unless they’re a dog of course. Stick to one call to action.


On that note, if you want to find out more about the amazing work from Visionary Pictures, check them out here. If you need a hand finding your why and writing a killer marketing brief, well we can help with that 😎.


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