If you’ve been following Joel Comm recently, then you’ll know that we recently produced a 30-second television ad for his newest book that will be aired across the country. We’ve been getting a lot of great feedback on the spot and I wanted to let you guys in on some of the production secrets. So over the next couple of weeks you’ll get a couple of articles from me addressing the making of the spot.
First and foremost, I wanted to talk about the budget side of things. Everyone I’ve spoken to about the budget has been impressed. You see, the entire production was all done on a budget of less than $500. Yep, that’s right, just $500. Now obviously that doesn’t include the costs of airtime, but given the fact that the spot has been getting great reviews and has over 5,000 views on YouTube, I’d say that it would be a success even if it never makes it on TV.
So, how did we do it? Well, there were several factors that contributed to our thrifty spending. The biggest thing that probably contributed to making the spot affordable was the cast and crew. We didn’t hire any actors, and the crew consisted of myself and our graphic designer. Clearly we were all paid for our time, but we would have been paid for that time regardless. It just meant that our developers were getting paid for acting instead of coding. So, the only costs from the cast and crew were their meals at the post-shoot lunch.
We also asked our cast to provide their own wardrobes where possible. Any items that we still needed were purchased at a thrift store. In all, I think I spent about $35 for some cheap sunglasses, black sports coats, and a few other accessories.
So where did the rest of the money go? Most of it went to renting a camera package for the shoot. I’ll talk more about the camera we used in another post, but it was actually a DSLR that shoots video. The package included a variety of lenses, and I was able to fill our audio needs with equipment that we already owned.
Now obviously our existing resources (tripod, audio, expertise, etc.) have a value that’s not included in this budget, but that would be hard to calculate. And besides, my point isn’t really how much we spent, it’s more about how little you actually need to pull something like this off. We’re trained to think that professional commercials are made in Hollywood and anything that’s not will come out looking like a bad used car dealer’s spot. So for what it’s worth, I want to tell you that doesn’t have to be the case. Is my commercial the slickest, most perfect TV spot you’ve ever seen? No, of course it’s not. Nevertheless, I am confident that it can be shown alongside spots that cost 100x more and that it will convey its intended message.