Question the Client – How to Pitch Large Networks

Andy Baker, the Senior Vice President and Group Creative Director for National Geographic Channel answers some frequently asked questions about how production companies approach the network.

Client Blog Questions

What’s the biggest mistakes new production companies make?

I think there are sort of two most common mistakes that production companies make when starting work with new clients. The first is not doing their homework. It’s really important for agencies to really understand their client, not only what drives their business, but also things like who their competition is. Fully understanding that can really set you up for success when working with a new client, because trust me – they’ll see it. Whether you demonstrate that understanding by knowing about Nat Geo content, or even something as simple as checking out previous promo work, it’s important to have a good understanding of what’s been done or aired before. It’s no different than any field, whether in TV or packaged goods: understand your client. They’ll appreciate it and it will save time along the way. The other mistake production companies can make is not really paying attention to parameters set out by the client. We had a situation once where we had given a company a budget for a project and asked for some concepts and ideas based on the assumption that any idea they pitched would fall within that budget. We loved the ideas, got approval from my clients at Nat Geo, greenlit the project, then got an estimate that was about 25% higher than the budget we’d given them – and when we pushed back, they sent revised concepts for that original budget that were not as strong. Of course there was the disappointment of not being able to execute the approved concept, but also I then had to go to MY clients (internal execs) and tell them that the idea they loved actually couldn’t happen. Not a good place to be, and we ended up having to start over with a different agency.

DP Robert Yeoman on shooting Wes Anderson’s ‘The Grand Budapest Hotel’

Take a look behind the scenes at the shooting of Wes Anderson’s latest picture with Robert Yeoman, ASC.

The Grand Budapest Hotel

Shot by Robert Yeoman, ASC, The Grand Budapest Hotel is very much a film in keeping with his previous collaborations with director Wes Anderson: a storybook tale with complex narratives and first-person narrators, captured in an illustrative style that’s both theatrical and cinematic. The central story is bookended by scenes set in the late 1970s, when an elderly author (Tom Wilkinson) recounts the details of his extended stay at the Grand Budapest Hotel in the 1960s. He recalls a story told to his younger self (played by Jude Law) by one Monsieur Moustafa (F. Murray Abraham), the hotel’s owner at the time.

The film then transitions to the early 1930s, when Moustafa, then called Zero (Tony Revolori), serves as a lobby boy for the impeccable Monsieur Gustave (Ralph Fiennes), head concierge of the hotel at the height of its fame. Trouble begins when Gustave’s octogenarian lover, the rich widow Madame Desgoffe-und-Taxis (Tilda Swinton), is found murdered at her estate, and her will bequeaths to Gustave a priceless painting. The surviving Desgoffe clan vows to contest the will, but not before Gustave and Zero swipe the painting. The police then arrest Gustave for Madame D.’s murder, leaving Zero with the task of clearing his mentor’s name.

The Grand Budapest Hotel was shot entirely in Germany, and Anderson set the story in a fictitious Eastern European province, ?Zubrówka (a real-life brand of Polish vodka). As with many of the director’s films, vague historical and geographical references locate the story somewhere between fantasy and reality. “Wes prefers to draw from real-world references to create his own world,” says Yeoman. “In this movie, for instance, the Fascists in power aren’t specifically Nazis, but they certainly could be interpreted that way.”

The ASC | Read the Full Article

Advice on being a Director from Silent Film Director Marshall Neilan

Marshall Neilan, silent film director, gave this interview in a 1925 Edition of Photoplay Magazine

How to be a Director

How to Be a Motion Picture Director

In which Marshall Neilan answers some pertinent questions. Study carefully, buy a megaphone and take the Golden State Limited

By Marshall Neilan

Q. What are the essential qualifications of a director

A. The ability to convince producers that you are a better director than your pictures show you to be.

Q. How can this be done?

A. Easily. It is being done every day. Read a book on self confidence and salesmanship.

Q. How should a director dress?

A. On his first picture, decently. His dowdiness should increase in direct relationship to his fame until he makes one of the ten best pictures of the year, when he will return to the garb which he wore as a property man.

Q. How should a director act in public?

A. Like a nut or like an owl. Both methods have proved successful. By no means act normal. Producers are convinced that no normal being can be a director.

Q. How do you distinguish a director from mortals?

A. By the number of people to whom he does not speak.There was once a director who became so great that he forgot his wife’s first name.

Q. When a producer asks you the name of your best picture what do you tell him?

A. The next one I am about to do for him.

Q. What kind of car should a director drive?

A. A car as radically different in design from a taxicab as possible.

Q. How many different kinds of directors are there?

A. Two kinds – those that make artistic pictures and those whose pictures pay.

Q. What should a director read?

A. For useful information, the Police Gazette. For publicity purposes, the classics. For personal enjoyment, his own press notices.

Q. What should a director write?

A. Thoughtful articles on the art of directing.

Q. What should a director really know?

A. Enough to hire a good continuity writer, a good cameraman and a good assistant.

Q. How should a director direct?

A. That depends on the importance of the visitors on the lot who happen to be watching him.

Q. Who is the greatest director of them all?

A. I am a modest man.

Why Leonardo DiCaprio Didn’t Win the Oscar

James Murphy explains the “Pitt-Hanks” coolness continuum and Leo DiCaprio’s star status hurts his odds of getting a golden statue.


The toughest Oscar race this year was for best actor. Right until the awards began, the race was almost certainly down to Chiwetel Ejiofor for 12 Years a Slave and Matthew McConaughey for Dallas Buyers Club. (McConaughey was the eventual winner.) What also seemed certain was that Leonardo DiCaprio was not going to win this year, or possibly any time soon, unless he becomes a different kind of actor, a much less cool one. Cool guys don’t win Oscars.

Although modern coolness emerged out of jazz and spread through popular music, the movies brought cool to the masses by giving audiences unparalleled access to it. Where else can you sit and stare at cool people for hours? The movies have been good to cool, and cool has been good to the movies. So why is it that so few of the actors who have embodied cool have ever won the Academy Award for best actor?

Consider these icons of cool, all of them non-winners: Cary Grant, Richard Burton, Robert Mitchum, James Dean, Steve McQueen, Samuel L. Jackson, Gary Oldman, and Tom Cruise. Paul Newman and Humphrey Bogart won late in their careers, after age had worn away some of their cool. Two other cool winners, Marlon Brando and Jack Nicholson, each received one of their two awards in their fifties.

Being cool does not mean that an actor isn’t great, successful, or popular—quite the opposite, actually. But it does mean that he will struggle to win the Academy Award for best actor. To understand why, we need a definition of cool (no easy task). For that we need to go to the coolest actor working today, Brad Pitt, who has never won an Oscar for acting (though he did accept one last night as a producer of 12 Years a Slave), and has only been nominated twice for best actor in over two decades of work.

Vanity Fair | Read the Full Article

How Much Should You Charge Per Hour

It’s the inevitable question when it comes down to starting a creative business.  tackles question by looking at how the expenses add up for in professional photographer’s point of view.


Money is a touchy subject for a lot of people – and it seems especially so for photographers.

Everyone’s personal circumstances are different, and we have a global audience with drastically different markets and ideas about income levels – so the numbers I am presenting in this article are what I would consider realistic for a typical middle class Canadian – but please feel free to make adjustments to suit your own income goals and local market.


Say it with me – what I bill per hour is not what I earn. What I bill per hour is not what I earn. What I bill…OK you get the point – but for some reason this seems to be a particularly hard lesson for photographers to learn – especially those just starting out.

The reality is that all professionals who bill by the hour – such as lawyers, engineers, architects, accountants etc. bill their clients at a minimum two to three times their take home pay rate. For example, if a lawyer earns $60 per hour – they would typically bill at least $120 to $180 per hour.

For photographers who own and operate their own businesses (often as the sole employee), the ratio of billable rate to take home pay is even higher, as we will see.

DIY Photography | Read the Full Article

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