Category Archives: film

How to Make Epic Promo Films

By | Creative, film, productivity | No Comments

Want to create a powerful promotional video?  You probably already know that the right video can help you go places, but where do you start?  If you’re a video producer, or looking to make a high-end promo film for your brand, let me introduce you to my magical process. 

Disclaimer: I’ve been making promotional pieces for years, so realize the recipe is improved by attaining my “10,000 hours” in the creative kitchen.  Results may vary. 

The following steps show you how I worked with Lewis Howes on his book trailer for “The School of Greatness” which debuted #3 on The New York Times Best Seller’s List.  Watch it here, then read the process below.  

There are so many things that go into making a high quality promotional film like this one.  Some of our secrets included getting an awesome soundtrack scored by Lewis’s brother Christian Howes & producer Hamilton Hardin, and sourcing some of the footage I was shooting with major celebrities this Summer.  But the following steps are what I’ve boiled down as what made the most impact…

STEP 1:

CAST A VISION

I’m cheating here, because that’s the advice Lewis Howes gives in the first chapter of his book “The School of Greatness”.  But it’s the most important foundation for any endeavor.  I talked with Lewis at length about the “feeling” he hoped to evoke with the book trailer.  Early on, we developed a shared vision of the tone, shots, and underlying message the film would communicate.  Not only did we cast a vision for the film, we also visualized the positive impact it would have on his audience.  We started this process many months before his book release, because pre-planning is one of the most crucial ingredients to a successful launch.  When it comes down to it, all great video is comparable to alchemy.  The combination of scenes, music, and choice of words combines to create something bigger and more moving than you could have imagined.  And it all starts with solid storyboards that become your blueprint.  Our intention was to make something epic and aspirational, so striking visuals were #1.  But we also didn’t want it to seem like any other inspirational mashup, so a consistent look and cohesive movement throughout the piece were prioritized.  I also focused on shooting in the most epic locations possible which required some solid scouting.  Although we often didn’t have an official film permit, our crew is small and agile so we were able to fly under the radar.  The result: Remote beaches, Hollywood views, and trails off the beaten path.  

Lewis Howes athlete on beach on book trailer shoot with Jefe Greenheart

Lewis Howes being filmed by Jefe Greenheart on Zuma Beach for “The School of Greatness” book trailer.

 

STEP 2:

SPIRIT OF COLLABORATION

Remember to play to your strengths.  We identified two major advantages in approaching the project:

1) As a result of interviewing so many greats on his podcast, Lewis is friends with some of the most inspiring athletes/entrepreneurs on the planet.

2) I would already be going on a Summer tour across North America shooting branded content for Wanderlust, so I could schedule shoots with all these amazing characters along the way.

This helped dramatically reduce production costs, and made everything possible.  Although it made our travel schedule absolutely exhausting, it was all worth it for the experiences along the way. 

If you want to start a movement, there’s power in inclusivity.  Since the message of the book is bigger than Lewis, and shares the inspirational stories of others, we wanted to incorporate as many luminaries and modern-day legends as we could that represent the ethos of the book.  Those featured in the final project volunteered their time because they believe in what Lewis stands for and want to see him succeed.  When you have the backing of an army of awesome people, you have unlimited momentum.  By including and truly celebrating others, you create a spirit of collaboration and a sense of “we’re all in this together” that makes everyone feel like they’re invited to the party.  Since they shared the project with their audience, it amplified his message to a much greater audience.  So no matter how big your following is, when you include and feature other awesome personalities, it complements your promotional content.

STEP 3:

RELEASE CONTENT ON SLOW DRIP

As part of the campaign strategy, I thought it would be ideal to put the extra content that didn’t make the final cut to good use.  We made 10 instagram teaser videos (pitched 8, always over-deliver!), each told a short cinematic story of an athlete in training.  This was the perfect way to show off more beautiful footage we filmed with each person.  It also resulted in building more buzz in anticipation of the book release with all the social interactions generated.  We essentially provided fresh content every few days to keep fans excited about the book launch.  Meanwhile, Lewis was making appearances and doing several interviews each day.  With the added feature of a book trailer on his website, it acted as a way for readers to wet their appetite and feel connected with it.  Having a simple video book trailer is becoming the standard for successful book launches.  Having a cinematic trailer takes you to the next level. 

STEP 4:

PLUG IN THE MARKETING MACHINE

The rest is history.  Want to know what years of building a core audience amounts to?  Although Lewis is a first time author, he’s been building a huge following because he’s constantly giving.  Free training, inspirational podcasts, and more have helped make a name for himself in the online marketing world.  Beyond that, he’s fostered a network of entrepreneurs that support one another.  He’s also become clear on who he serves, which has resulted in an audience that knows him as well as he knows them.  He’s a guy that truly lives in the present.  If we had an idea about filming with someone, he’d immediately dial their number and get them on the phone.  I suppose it helps to have superstars on speed dial.  No matter how good your video is, you’ll need to have a marketing plan and release partners if you really want to make a splash.  Some of my most successful videos have been for brands that understand the value of leveraging their community.  

STEP 5:

LEAVE THEM WANTING MORE

The internet has become short attention span theatre.  Nobody’s proud of it.  It’s an easy target to criticize, and as a media producer it can be frustrating to try to share something of substance with the reality that most will click away or scroll down if your video lasts longer than a couple minutes.  That’s why we focused on a TRT (total running time) of 60 seconds.  As a result, you get more viewers re-watching the video to catch all the cool moments again.  Have you ever watched a movie trailer that completely gave away the whole story?  That’s just annoying.  What are the chances you’ll end up going to see that movie?  Feels like you already saw it, right?  That’s why any good promotional video should leave us asking more questions and inspiring our curiosity more than anything else.  It’s like an impressionistic painting.  You get the big picture, but it inspires you to walk closer to see more detail.  The beauty in the brush strokes.  There’s so much more meaning waiting to be explored. 

To learn more about the book and get your copy today (which I highly recommend), go here: The School of Greatness.

What kind of promo video do you want to produce?  Want to know more shortcuts and secret ingredients to streamline the process?  Sign up below and I’ll share more free tips from my Producer’s Blueprint for making great videos.

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Shut Down & Restart: Why we need to hit the reset button

By | Creative, film | 4 Comments

Last month we went to Eeyore’s Birthday Party, a festive Austin tradition.  I filmed with my new camera—the Sony FS7, which shoots beautiful 4k slow motion.  Kelly and friends dressed up and happened to win the costume contest!  This short experimental video was supposed to just be a simple camera test, but thematically, it turned into something more meaningful. 

It’s been almost 6 years since I wandered into the woods of Zilker Park and discovered the interactive circus.  It was there that I met my wife Kelly for the first time.  In that season of my life, I needed the healing power of play more than anything.  I was ready to hit the reset button.  There’s something about festival that invites these kinds of connections.  We thrive on peak experience. 

I believe that finding space for rejuvenation outside the online noise and urban hustle is essential.  When we hit the reset button, we have the potential to be more productive, to find our focus. 

In just a few days, we’ll be hitting the road to go on tour with the Wanderlust Festival again, an event that blends the best of mindful living and ecstatic experience.  Yoga classes, talks, and exquisite hikes during the day, and soul-shaking music at night.  It gives us a chance to take a breath and reevaluate our intentions.  And it’s lovely backdrop and participants become the canvas for our series of short form documentaries. 

What kinds of rituals bring you closer to that sense of “shut down & restart”?    Do you do them often enough?  What are small ways you can bring them into your life each month? 

We’ve made a practice of integrating these things into what we do for a living, and never looked back.  Although sometimes we face major challenges, creating a built-in infrastructure of wellness into our “company culture” has made all the difference.  Our objectives look different than most organizations, and we like it that way.  From hiking down to the Greenbelt in the middle of a work day, to leveraging video services in exchange for free yoga classes—we’ve designed our work/life balance intentionally.  I’ve seen too many people burn out in our industry, heck, I used to be one of them.  I discovered that it wasn’t the actual labor (though exhausting) that drained me, but the nature of the content. 

Each month, we strive for more clarity on the kind of media that is most needed and fulfilling to produce.  Along the way, we seek to express ourselves, help others, and create community along the journey.  Thanks so much to all of our subscribers who offer us such kind words of support and join us on our video ventures.  We’ll be traveling all over the US this Summer, so if you’d like to connect and create we may be seeing each other real soon! 

If you’re not already a subscriber, please join the fun! 

(Listen to more music by our dear friend GLU!  He created “Shut Down & Restart” as part of his album Glubotic, recorded in a single month.)

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