True Story of an Online Video Production Company Review Website

OK, so this will be a real left turn kind of post. It has not much at all to do with video production. It has to do with running your business. Especially for agencies, but really for everyone.

In the past few years, a number of review and rating websites have sprouted up claiming to make it easier for clients to find agency and creative partners. Many of these websites are “pay to play”, which has always bugged me. But the insidious one of this new group of agency review sites has really gained ground lately and it is not OK. This one demands that you as an agency owner ask your clients to submit to an almost hourlong phonecall review, during which they are solicited to use this company’s website to find future vendors. Do you want to send your clients to a company that tries to get your clients to hire other vendors? Most important: do you want to waste an hour of your clients’ precious time? I don’t. By the way, all the information they get from your clients becomes THEIR information. Let that sink in. They own it. Not you.

I’ve worked to build PatrickOrtman, Inc. up for a long time, and we are indeed a video production industry leader (see how I just linked to my own company website with keyword-specific text?), so for the past few years, we’ve been one of this website’s Los Angeles and New York “video production industry leaders”. OK. When I log in to their site, I see my company is indeed listed as one of their “leaders”, but we are surrounded by so many unqualified and crappy companies that being on their list kinda feels dirty. And really, how can you compare a company that does $1,000 videos with companies like us? You really can’t. Different audiences entirely.

In a nutshell, their lists are bullshit. And useless.

But wow do they flog those lists. They put out tons of press releases about those lists. They offer to write you blog posts trumpeting your company’s placement on their video production leaders list! With backlinks to them, naturally, to help them raise their company’s visibility in Google.

And Google has not yet caught on, so they get great traction online. They’re always in the top 2-5 places when you search for agencies of any type, despite their information being rather tainted and their listing methodology dicey at best.

What’s more, this company is now scraping the Internet for additional (dubious) information about your business and placing that online without your OK or even trying to verify that information. What kinds of information? I am seeing bankruptcy listings, credit score notes… it goes on. See how this could really screw your business, long-term?

Meanwhile, their true revenue source is getting agencies to pay thousands of dollars a month to maintain sponsorships on their website so your company stands out at the top of their lists instead of being #72 and surrounded by spam companies that taint your brand.

This company is creating information that is not meant to benefit you as a company. You are not the client, you are the product.

Speaking of that, they’ve now added a second revenue stream: getting agencies to bid on client job information. To be clear: not bidding on the job. You’d be bidding for the honor of paying this company to present you to the potential client as a “recommended agency”. No joke.

And agencies take it! They take it! They get down on their knees and beg for more of it! So they GET more of it.

Enough.

I see no reason to play their games and contribute to their business’ profits anymore. It’s a tough decision, because this company has gotten to where they are an 800 lb gorilla in the marketplace. Luckily, my video agency’s website has stellar search engine visibility in our markets. We’re lucky that I came from the oldschool of the web, where you actually build your business and its reputation through channels you own or at least who don’t have an overt reason to fuck with you.

Agency owners probably are wondering: “Great, be righteous dude. But the question is, does this company work if you pay them and willingly play their games?”. To that I say: we do get traffic from this company’s website. We have not gotten a single decent lead. And many of the “visits” we get from them? Not real people. Bots. Maybe if you paid them thousands a month, they’d work for you in a limited way. Maybe. As they continue to ratchet up the blood they’re sucking from your video agency until you just can’t justify the bleeding anymore.

It is always best to own and control your website and your social channels. And advertising needs to be clearly labeled as advertising. And don’t assume that some scammy company’s “best of” list has anything to do with reality. That’s the lesson, I think.

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New Corporate Video Production Reel: New York City, Los Angeles

We take corporate video very seriously, and have a lot of fun with it. Here’s our latest corporate video reel, and it totally embodies how we feel about it. There’s no reason why corporate video has to suck, B2B audiences deserve entertaining and well-told stories, too!

Help Wanted?

One of the perks of being an agency owner is getting to yap on private message boards and go to events with other agency owners. Last week, I heard a colleague say that she- personally- answers every single job application email they get.

This kind of blew my mind. Because we get about 20 unsolicited requests a day from job seekers. Even if I had a full-time HR person (we do not), it’d be a full-time job responding properly to each of them. I mean more than an autoresponder, you know? Like, actually taking the time to sit down and go through reels and consider where you might fit in on a project with us.

So how does it work for us? Well, we do save every message/application. When there’s a need for what you do and we don’t have in-house staff or long-time favorites in mind? That’s when we go through them. Not just me, but my producers too.

Yet, sometimes I’ll take the time to immediately review someone’s reel. Like when you do something I know we want to shore up in our offerings this year. It happens. It just doesn’t happen all the time.

And I know that sucks for people looking for jobs. Cold-calling and cold-emailing just sucks. When we started, I would review and respond to everyone. I can’t do it anymore. But who knows, I’m not saying stop doing the cold-email thing. Just know that if I don’t get back to you it’s zero reflection on your awesomeness.

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DealDash “America’s Secret Pleasure” TV Commercial- 2019 Recut

DealDash has been playing our 2018 commercial “America’s Secret Pleasure” for almost a year. And that’s really cool. But there were some things about that commercial that kind of pissed me off. Things that I think could have been done differently. So, on a recent flight I recut it. It was more fun than watching Harry Potter for the 10th time, at least. Here’s my 2019 version of “America’s Secret Pleasure” the Director’s Cut.  Enjoy!

Always Create. An Article from ProductionHub, by Me

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This article first appeared in ProductionHub:

When a big part of your job is creating art for commerce, it’s really easy to get busy with the commerce side of things and forget to feed your artist side. Ten years ago, a friend of mine got a tattoo that said: “All Ways Create”. The spelling was intentional, he’s a versatile artist of many mediums. The point is, I’ve never known him not to be working on his own projects alongside his corporate and commercial work.

But it’s been harder for me to create for myself, especially as I’ve grown up. My business takes a lot of time and attention. It seems like I’m always flying off to direct and shoot for clients, working on proposals, writing scripts, or in post-production with often brutal deadlines. It’s been really hard to find the time to do something not “on the clock”. And hey, I’m grateful: it’s wonderful to be able to create for a living.

Then this November I had a big setback at work. A job I’d committed to got frozen for a month. I was out a lot of money and scrambling to reschedule and move other things around to accommodate. I knew this “dead time” was really bad for me and for my small team, who were expecting to get paid right before Christmas. Things felt pretty bleak.

So I wrote. Quickly and from the heart. A few hours later, I had a concept and a script for a very short, very heartfelt holiday film about family and being apart for the holidays. I sent it to my LA producer Jessica, who loved it and had great ideas on how to make it better- even on the non-existent budget we had. That night, we finished the script together and we put out casting notices for New York (where I was) and Los Angeles (where I would be in a week). 

The only way to make this project happen was to keep things small and agile. That meant a New York crew of me, my DP friend Eric, and a PA. In LA we added a makeup artist and Jessica produced while she and I also filled in all the gaps with things like wardrobe, props, and art direction. Eric caught a free flight to LA thanks to an understanding friend who works as a flight attendant. It was total guerrilla operation, but we’re all working professionals who know how to be scrappy. It helped that we did like Robert Rodriguez says to do in his book “Rebel Without a Crew” and wrote to locations and resources I knew we could get. And we used the camera and lighting I had on hand thanks to the job that fell through, while Eric brought his anamorphic lens along for the fun.

We filmed on the streets of New York, guerilla-style in Central Park, at Rockefeller Center, Fifth Avenue, even outside Tiffany’s. It was magical. A week later, we were in LA filming at a condo, on Hollywood Blvd., and at Runyon Canyon overlooking downtown LA. Also magical, in a completely different way.

About a week later, I finished editing and post-production and we put “A Cup of Kindness” out into the world. Just in time for the holidays. 

It’s been amazing getting messages from friends old and new, telling us how much the film touched them. I love that people are enjoying it and sharing it online. It’s become the perfect “Thank You” card from us to everyone who’s made an impact in our lives this year. My soul feels truly fed, my creative batteries are recharged. I’m grateful for the once terrible setback that has turned into a chance to create.

And I’m sure that’s not the end of the story. See, another thing my friend with the tattoo taught me is when you are creating stuff that matters to you it often leads to opportunities you’d never expected. This has proven true for me in the past. About 3 years ago I did another project for love that has unexpectedly helped my company land work with large Fortune 500 companies and a few prominent ad agencies. It seems like when you put your creative energy out into the world, it usually comes back multiplied.

So downtime? Setbacks? Yeah, they suck. But I urge you to be resilient and use them to work on your own projects. To always create. You’ll definitely hone your voice and satisfy your soul. Maybe you’ll create something that resonates with an audience. You might even create something that helps you in ways you cannot yet imagine.

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Patrick Ortman Interview by New Filmmakers LA

I’ve been meaning to post this for a long time. Here’s Danny De Lillo interviewing me about my short film “A New York Love Story”:

Wipster Says We Rock

Five years ago I gave a short, squinty-eyed video interview to a startup called Wipster that not only makes cool tools for video agencies, they actually care about the industry.

Now, all these years later Wipster’s bigger than ever. And this week, Wipster says we’re one of six cool video agencies producing boundary-pushing content. Thanks, Wipster!

Here’s what I said about the future of video five years ago, in Austin, Texas at SXSW:

 

Why Is It Still So Hard to Find a Great Corporate Video Production Company in Los Angeles?

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A million years ago (ok, back in 2014) Noam Kroll wrote that corporate video production companies in Los Angeles were lazy sloths who didn’t bother to keep up with the times, didn’t deserve to get the work they got, and mostly did utterly crapola work. OK, I’m paraphrasing. A lot. You can read what Noam really said here (and you should, as Noam’s not just a smart guy- he’s also much more polite than I am).

Done? OK, cool. Thing is, Noam has a point. In the land of 2,000 video production companies, Los Angeles is exceptionally lacking in high-quality corporate video companies. Here’s why I think most corporate videos in Los Angeles suck:

The Greater Los Angeles area covers 600 square miles. It’s HUGE!!! Not only is Los Angeles so big, there’s far too many companies competing in the video production space. While some may say “Great! The more competition, the better” it’s not so. The fact that LA’s so big and so crowded with production companies means it becomes very hard for clients to find the right company to work with. Even if your work stands out head-and-shoulders above the competition, your prospective clients have to wade through dozens and hundreds of listings to find you.

At the same time, 99% of the companies doing corporate videos in Los Angeles don’t take it seriously. Noam’s probably right that most of them wish they were doing Hollywood stuff. Thing is, whatever you do you should take it seriously and do your best. It’s shocking to me to see over-exposed, poorly-composed footage and flat-out lazy storytelling in 2019. I don’t get it, because to me you’re only as good as your last job. And fairly enough, most of these fly-by-night video production companies go out of business quickly. But they clog up the system bigtime, and make the rest of us look bad.

It’s kind of like dating. You go on two dozen dates with total duds? Your expectations get lowered and you settle for less than you should.

Therefore, finding a great corporate video company becomes insanely hard for clients. They become fatigued during the search. I’ve been there: it sucks looking at hundreds of (mostly crappy) reels. So you know what they do? A) they just look at the companies spending the most on GoogleAds and pick a few to talk with, B) they say to hell with this mess and hire an advertising agency instead of going direct to a production company, or C) they give up and stay with the aforementioned lazy sloths who don’t bother to keep up with the times and really do not deserve the work they get.

 

Evolve the Corporate Video

One of the more interesting bits Noam’s article suggests is that the low quality of Los Angeles’ corporate video production companies has resulted in not only bad videos, but in companies without the vision to do something great. He suggests that clients need to be brought into the now, and they need to embrace corporate videos that use storytelling and entertainment to get their points across. He points out a few examples, and they’re worth checking out.

Noam basically feels it is past time for the production companies and the corporate clients to evolve. I think he’s right. There’s so much “noise” in the corporate video world that to stand out and get your ideas out there you need to change things up. Some of the bigger companies (Fortune 500s, brands you know) have embraced this approach. And it’s working for them.

For corporate video production companies, this means changing how you do business. You need to start seeing yourselves as creative agencies, not just button-pushing video monkeys. And probably you need to understand that part of the job is educating clients about the possibilities video offers when done right. I’m not sure many production companies are set up to do this. I think most of them can’t do it at all, actually. Certainly the aforementioned lazy sloths cannot.

So do I think all is lost? No. Not at all. I think there’s a huge opportunity for smart video production companies and corporate videos in Los Angeles. The question is, are you as a client or production company willing to evolve and demand more?

 

NoFilmSchool: Article about “Cup of Kindness” and the Fuji X-T3

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Patrick wrote an article for famous filmmaking website NoFilmSchool about the Fuji X-T3 and how it was used on the short holiday film “Cup of Kindness”. It’s at: https://nofilmschool.com/Fujifilm-XT3-Film-Review, so enjoy!

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Welcome, 2019.

Every year I write a “year in review” before the new year comes. This year, I won’t. Don’t get me wrong- 2018 was exceptionally great for us in a lot of ways. And it’d look like bragging if I listed all the reasons. But it’s more that there’s much going on at the moment, so it feels best to not look back right now. It feels best to continue the forward momentum. Because there are big positive changes afoot. I’m excited to share them with the world, when its time.

So I will keep this year’s wrapup blog simple:

Thank you for being part of our story in 2018. We loved having you along as part of our big adventure. May 2019 bring you peace, happiness, love, and success. However you define those things.

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About PatrickOrtman, Inc.

PatrickOrtman, Inc. is one of the top-rated video production companies in Los Angeles and New York City. We make high-end corporate videos, and commercials for TV and digital for clients that include 11 Fortune 500s.