Free Download: 24 Questions to Ask When You’re Choosing a Production Company

Choosing the right production company can make or break the success of your video project. It’s important that when you embark on a video production journey, the company you enlist as your partner is qualified to take on your project.

What does “qualification” look like? Well, you may assume that video production companies are mostly one-and-the-same. However, that’s not exactly the case. When you have dozens (or maybe hundreds, depending on where you’re located) of options at your disposal, it’s critical that you ask the right questions to find the quality, price point, style, and timeline that meet your project’s needs.

Our team has created over 10,000 videos for clients in just about every industry, at every price point, in hundreds of cities in the U.S. and globally. So, we know a thing or two about what factors lead to a great client/production company relationship and where you need to align expectations before your project begins.

Here are the 24 questions we believe every client should ask when choosing a production company. If the company you’re considering aces these questions and you feel like you’re in agreement about the expectations, you can confidently move forward with your choice. If, on the other hand, you’re not getting the answers you’re looking for, you may be in better hands with another option.

Let’s dive in!

  1. How long have you been in business?

First, it’s often a good idea to get an understanding of the company’s history. How long have they been in business? With this first question, you’re mostly looking for an indication that this team has the experience and the expertise to deliver.

There are a few ways this conversation might go. First, the simple option. If the company has been around for several years (5+ is a good benchmark), you can move onto the next questions. There are no red flags to worry about for a company that has been in business for a while and seems to continue to achieve success.

If, on the other hand, the company is less than a few years old, your follow-up question should ask about what led to the company’s formation and what the key team members were doing before this business launched. If you find that the company still has a deep production expertise and that it’s just this particular company that’s new, you’re likely okay to move forward.

However, if you get the feeling that the video production space in general is a new endeavor for the company, you may want to remove them from your short-list. It’s up to you to decide whether you’re expecting results that reflect a team of experts or whether you’re okay with rolling the dice on a team of novices.

  1. Who makes up your team?

While you’re digging into the company’s background, you may want to ask about the breakdown of the company’s team. Depending on your project’s needs, you may learn relevant information like the titles and expertise of key team members.

While any answer you get to this question is okay, it helps to set expectations on your end. The experience as a client might differ slightly between small teams vs. big teams, centralized teams vs. freelance teams, or teams with entertainment backgrounds vs. teams with marketing backgrounds.

There’s no “wrong answer” here that should be an immediate red flag, but you can use this background to understand more about what to expect throughout the project.

  1. What is your company culture like?

Rounding out the questions about your prospective partner’s team, it can be a useful litmus test to ask about the company’s culture. The more alignment you can identify with your own team’s culture, the better the fit may be throughout the project.

Again, this is unlikely to be a deal-breaker question on its own. But, combined with some of the other items on this list, it can help to paint a picture of who you’re dealing with and whether they’re the right choices for your own needs.

  1. How many videos have you produced so far?

Next, the aim for this question is identical to the question about how long the company has been around, just framed in a different way. How many videos has this company produced for clients so far? At Lemonlight, we’ve produced over 10,000 client videos over the years, and the quality level for #10,000 has understandably improved compared to the quality level for #1.

Again, you may be willing to look past a low number of videos if the team can demonstrate its experience in other ways, but the reality is that there tends to be a relatively linear correlation between the number of videos a company has produced and the wow-factor of the content itself.

If you’re aiming for high-quality results, you may want to eliminate any companies on your list with comparatively few videos under their belts.

  1. What video types do you offer?

Next, you’ll want to understand what video types the company offers. Why is this important? Well, if you’re looking for an animated video and the company only does documentary-style videos, that’s not going to be the right fit for your needs. While many companies have a depth of experience that covers a variety of video types, others only offer a few types of content.

Your assessment here is simple—if the company offers the type of video you think you’d like to create, move onto the next question.

  1. What video types do you specialize in?

This question is deceptively similar to the previous question, but it has a different—and important—implication. While the company may technically offer the video type your project will require, what do they specialize in?

Many companies will tell you that they produce content pretty evenly across the board, but others may share that they typically produce only one or two types of content and that other types of content may be somewhat outside their wheelhouse. As with the questions about experience, you’ll have to decide whether you want a company that knows exactly what to expect from the type of content you’re asking for versus a company whose real focus lies elsewhere.

  1. Have you worked with clients in my industry?

Next, you may want to ask whether the company has worked with clients in your industry before. Depending on your industry and how well-known it is, this may not be a question you feel the need to ask, but it’s almost always a plus to work with a team that has an inherent understanding of your industry’s pain points and unique features.

If the company hasn’t dealt with your industry before, that may be fine, but you might expect to have to invest more time up-front explaining your niche and the goals for your project to make sure everyone is on the same page.

  1. Can I see examples of videos you’ve produced that match what I’m looking for?

Many companies will allow you to view their portfolios before you even take an introductory call. Just look for a website page or menu tab that says something like “Portfolio,” “Our Work,” or “Our Videos.” (View our Lemonlight Portfolio on our website.)

On that portfolio page, when you’re watching example videos, take note of a few things. First, do you like the way the videos look? Are you happy with the quality level? Would you be proud to distribute a video that looks like the ones you’re seeing?

Then, look for videos that specifically align with the type of project you’re hoping to create. That might mean looking for a specific visual look and feel, a particular video goal, or a video for another client in your industry.

If you can’t find anything that matches your goals when you’re doing your own search of the videos, this is a great question to ask when you contact someone from the company. They should be intimately familiar with their past projects, and will likely be able to point you in the right direction.

Then, again, make sure you like what you see enough that you’d be happy if your video turned out similar. If your company’s contact doesn’t have a video that represents what you’re looking for, make sure to ask if they’re comfortable taking on a new type of project and have the capabilities to give you what you’re looking for.

  1. What does your process look like from start to finish?

If the company has sailed through all your questions so far, it’s time to move onto questions about the process of partnering with them. This question, in particular, is designed to give you an overview of the client experience.

Try to get a feel for who is involved throughout the process, how the production timeline breaks down between pre-production, production, and post-production, and what the deliverables will be throughout the project.

  1. How involved is my team expected to be throughout the process?

While you’re on the topic of the production process, it’s critical to understand how involved your own team is expected to be throughout the project. Some companies prefer to take a collaborative approach with clients, involving them heavily at every stage of the project, while others tend to just gather information up-front and then check back in with the final video.

Most companies will fall somewhere in the middle. For example, at Lemonlight, we’re in touch with our clients at various checkpoints throughout the project to ensure that we’re all in alignment about the progress being made, and we can increase that communication for clients that want to be particularly involved.

If you’re hoping to offload this project completely to free up time for yourself or your team, you’ll want to make sure that works for the company’s process. And if you want to be especially involved, make sure to discuss that, too.

  1. What timeline can I expect for my project?

Time for logistics. This question carries more weight if you have a particular “due date” for your video to be distributed, but it’s still nice to know even if you don’t.

Video production companies can really run the gamut on what a “standard” timeline means. Without asking, you might find out that your video won’t be ready for two months, or that it’ll be all-hands-on-deck to get it done in just a few days.

It really depends on the company’s process, although the average production company will take somewhere between a few weeks and a few months to wrap up the project. As you can see, that’s still a pretty wide gap, so make sure to touch base with each production company you’re considering to get their feel for the timeline.

  1. What variables could cause us to go beyond the timeline?

After you nail down the rough timeline, follow up with this important caveat: What happens if something goes wrong? While every production company has the best intentions when it comes to sticking to the agreed-upon timeline, make sure to cover the main factors that could derail the project. This gives you an understanding of the best-case scenario and the worst-case scenario, so you’re prepared either way.

Some examples of variables you might hear as an answer to this question: weather concerns on shoot day, delays in your submission of feedback or collaboration, or additional rounds of edits to the final video.

While something like a rainy shoot day can’t really be avoided, you should be aware that your own team can cause delays too by being uncommunicative or taking too long to submit feedback or approval. If you want to stick to the agreed-upon timeline, you have to hold up your end of the bargain, too!

  1. What should I expect to spend for this project?

Ah, the dreaded budget question. Before you engage in any real discussion of getting started on your project, you need to know how much you’re going to spend producing the video. When it comes to pricing, you may be tempted to choose the company that quotes you the lowest rates for your project. We’d recommend against that, and instead caution you to balance price with some of the other factors we mentioned above, like expertise and quality. The reality is that video production typically costs a little bit more when it’s done really well.

Why? Well, production equipment, software, and highly-trained crew members are expensive. Production companies that do exceptional work tend to have top-of-the-line gear and personnel, which makes it that much easier to capture a show-stopping final video. While scrappy production companies can often make do with lower-quality equipment and less experienced teams, you’ll almost always be able to tell the difference between the two.

So, if your budget is the driving factor in your decision, make sure you’re okay with a final video that may lack a bit in production value. If you can afford to spend a little more to work with the team you think will do the best work, that’s often the best bet.

  1. What variables could cause us to go over budget?

As with the timeline question, it’s important to understand the scenarios or changes that would cause budget changes. Again, this is just so that you understand both the best-case and worst-case scenario, and so that you have a feel for the outcome if you decide to expand the scope of the project or make last-minute changes.

Often, rushing the project to be completed faster than anticipated will add costs to the project, as will additional rounds of edits, additional locations on shoot day, or other similar choices that add complexity to the video.

  1. What is the payment schedule?

While you’re on the topic of money, make sure to understand how the company’s payment schedule works. Many companies will charge a deposit for 50% of the project’s value up-front, with the second half of the payment due upon delivery of the final video. This is common in many industries as it allows for both sides of the transaction to have assurance in the exchange.

Other companies may require the full payment up-front, while others may have a monthly payment schedule. While the payment structure itself is unlikely to disqualify a company from your consideration, it’s helpful to know what will be expected of you if you get started.

  1. How do you evaluate success for video projects?

One common frustration for marketers and business owners is that there are many, many ways to evaluate the success of a video project. A few common examples: audience engagement, watch time metrics, social shares, impact on revenue or site traffic, or click-through rates, just to name a few.

As the client, you’ll have the final say on which metric you’re going to measure as the indicator of success, but it can help to get on the same page with your production partner from the beginning. For your specific use case, what do they think is the best evaluator of success? How do they recommend measuring the key metrics? Do they have data about benchmarks for other videos in your industry or for video types similar to yours?

This information will be helpful down the line when you’re tracking the campaign’s results, and it also helps eliminate companies who can’t speak intelligently to your video’s end goals. Production companies ultimately exist to help brands reach their goals, so if your prospective partner can’t give a convincing answer about what “success” would look like for your video, they’re probably not the right fit for your project.

  1. When would you expect to kick off my project?

If the production company in question has nailed all of your questions so far, it’s typically safe to assume they’re a good fit and pivot towards the nitty gritty details for your project. Assuming you do end up working with this partner, when would your project actually begin?

Some production companies will suggest beginning as soon as possible, while others may have too many projects currently in the works to get you started right away. In either case, it’s helpful to know when the timeline for your project would begin so that you can assess whether that works with your team’s internal schedule or not.

  1. Who is my point of contact for this project?

Next, you’ll want to ask about your point of contact throughout the project. Most production companies will offer you one single point of contact—often an Account Manager, Project Manager, or another team member with a similar title.

Before you dive into your project, it’s critical that you know who this person is and whether all your contact will be conducted through that person or not. If not, who else might you be in contact with, and under which circumstances should you contact each person?

  1. How do you prefer to communicate?

While you’re nailing down communication standards, ask how communication works for the company you’ve chosen. Will you be primarily checking in via email, phone, the company’s client portal, or something else entirely?

Make sure to also ask about normal business hours and whether you can expect a response if you need something outside of those hours. Setting these expectations from the get-go helps everyone stay on the same page throughout the execution of the project.

  1. What distribution method would you recommend for my video?

Any company worth partnering with on a video project should be able to help tailor the specifics of your project to your brand goals and limitations. So, if you’ve shared a bit about what you’re hoping to accomplish with your video project, the company in question should be able to provide basic recommendations about which video type might best fit your needs and where to distribute that video.

Each distribution method has its own set of pros and cons, and many of them are better for one part of the purchase funnel than another. For example, a video on the product page of your e-commerce site will be more effective at closing a sale than a video about your founder on your social media page. When you ask this question, look for a satisfying answer that the person you’re speaking with sounds confident in.

While you want confidence from the production company when you ask this question, one caveat is that you may not be talking to the right person to give this advice right away. If your initial consultation is with a sales development representative, for example, you might get a more confident, well-informed recommendation from a Producer.

In most cases, the sales team will be one step removed from actually working with you to create the video content, so they may be able to pass you along to someone in production who can give a more satisfying answer. However, do make sure you feel good about the distribution advice you ultimately receive before you move forward with your selection.

  1. Are you responsible for video distribution, or is that my responsibility?

This is a question that’s often missed by prospective customers, but it’s especially important. Why? Well, some production companies effectively take over their clients’ video marketing strategies and tackle the whole process through distribution. Others deliver the final video and leave the client team to handle the rest.

There are pros and cons to both approaches, but make sure you know which one you’re dealing with early in your project planning. If you’re expecting to outsource the distribution and realize when the project is over that you’re responsible for sharing the video, you’ll likely be disappointed and frustrated. Save that headache by asking now.

  1. Who owns the final video files?

Another critical question that often gets missed: Who owns the final video file? If it’s important to your team that the rights to the content stay within your company, make sure to have this conversation early and check that your contract with the production company indicates that the final files belong to you.

For many teams this detail won’t make a big difference either way, but sometimes these finer points can be negotiated as part of your contract before you get started, so it’s worth having this conversation early if the final rights are important to you.

  1. What’s your approach to raw footage?

Raw footage (sometimes called “source footage”) is the crude, unprocessed camera output that a videographer captures while shooting. It’s delivered as an extensive list of files that you may not be able to open without professional software. If you can open the files, you’ll find footage that hasn’t been color-corrected, audio-enhanced, or trimmed to eliminate unusable footage.

Raw footage is not supposed to stay raw—it starts in that format to preserve the quality and detail for the editors, allowing them to have the most creative freedom in putting the final video together. Because it retains all of the details, true colors, lighting, and high-quality images that the camera produces, raw footage can be almost completely transformed in post-production according to the needs of the final product.

Why does this matter to you? Well, some clients want to keep their raw footage files because it can make it easier to create additional content in the future. You may be able to repurpose your raw footage in other ways down the line, and working with the source content gives editors more control over the final product than trying to manipulate parts of your finished video. But, raw footage files are so large that they’re difficult to store, and most companies will charge a fee for either storing or delivering your raw footage.

If you know you’re going to want your raw footage long-term, make sure to ask your production company how they approach raw footage—if they allow you to keep the footage at all, what costs are involved, and how to access the footage down the line. If you don’t think you’ll want your raw footage (or if you’re just not sure), it’s still a good idea to know the company’s stance on raw footage in case you decide later that you do want it.

  1. What if I want additional changes after the video is completed?

Lastly, it’s a good idea to ask what happens after your video is complete. There are two situations that might happen where this question will come in handy.

First, many production companies have a limit to how many rounds of revisions you can ask for in post-production. This helps keep everyone on a reasonable timeline and ensures that the project doesn’t drag on in the post-production process. However, you may want to ask what the procedure is if you realize you have additional revisions beyond the company’s limit.

The second scenario you’ll want to discuss is what happens if you want to tweak or repurpose your video down the line. For example, months or years after distributing your original content, you may realize you need a shorter cut-down for another distribution channel. Or, you may want to update facts and figures that have changed or any elements that feel outdated.

Before you sign on with the company, understand how that would work down the line. Would the process be the same as starting a new video from scratch or would they approach it as another round of revisions? Is that included in your original purchase price or would you pay a fee for those updates?

While you may not encounter this situation, it’s still a good idea to understand what your options are after your project is complete.

Conclusion

Ultimately, hiring a production company is a worthwhile investment. Your audience deserves to engage with high-quality, professional content, and your brand deserves the benefits that video provides—traffic and engagement boosts, lead generation, improved conversion rates, and higher customer satisfaction.

We hope these questions give you the background you need to understand whether a particular production company is the right fit. While you don’t have to ask every single question on the list, the discussions that these questions spark will likely guide you in the right direction as you make your choice.

Finally, make sure to include Lemonlight in your selection process! We have expert production teams stationed in 60+ cities nationally and internationally, so we can cater to your video needs wherever you’re located. Plus, we’ve completed over 10,000 videos for satisfied clients in every industry and at every price point.

If you’re ready to grill us with the questions on this list, schedule a call for a free creative consultation.

Alexa Nizam

Alexa Nizam