How To Follow The Money and Not Sell Your Soul

How To Follow The Money and Not Sell Your Soul

“It’s a real privilege to work in the corporate sector, which can give you an amazing insight into big institutions and the public sector.” Rob Vincent, Head of Moving Image at Radley Yeldar.

Does the grass look greener to you when you consider the more stable, less capricious, world of corporate television production? The corporate communications industry is not to be sniffed at; with a UK annual turnover of £3 billion, corporate audio-visual communication is a bigger industry than the entire combined European feature film business.

Budgets can be high, as much as £10,000 per minute, although Televisual magazine estimates the average corporate video project budget to be just £32,600. That being said, production values are high, usually at least as high as their broadcast equivalent.

What else might attract you to corporate? Perhaps that just over half of the workforce is on permanent contract, and freelancers make up just 45%. Or that editorial creatives – the producers, directors, APs and researchers, can command a bigger pay packet than their broadcast counterparts, although the production management roles tend to earn similar rates.

Recession is biting into corporate production, as it is everywhere else, but this remains a healthy growing industry. A Televisual survey found that the top 50 corporate production companies in the UK each turned over £4.3 million each last year on average, making average net profits of £277,000. Each of those companies tended to employ 32 staff in addition to their freelance teams.

Does corporate attract second rate programme-makers who couldn’t make it in broadcast? That’s a dangerous way to think if you are interested in moving into corporate, and there is an impressive roll-call of names who have worked across the genres. Andrew Gillman, Series Director of The Day Today and Moving Wallpaper, has won a bunch of awards for his work at Cheerful Scout, the AIM-listed corporate production company that has its background in feature film production.

Other directors of corporate films have included Danny Boyle, Derek Jarman and even the patron saint of television documentary, John Grierson. Cheerful Scout’s Managing Director, Gary Fitzpatrick, says that there is a role in corporates for anyone from broadcast television who has ability and experience, because all the production skills are transferable across the genres, but that he wouldn’t look at anyone who thinks of corporate production as an easy alternative. It is a competitive arena too.

Rob Vincent of Radley Yeldar, number ten in Televisual’s list of Top 50 corporate communications companies, says that the key difference with the broadcast indies is that his productions must be made with the corporate client’s needs firmly in mind, although this is as likely to be a client from the public sector or a charity as from commerce. Rob says, “Anybody can make that leap, but it really is a different way of working. We make high-quality programmes that can match anything that the broadcasters put out.” Those clients want their points of view and messages to hit.

While specialist investigative film-makers of high-end stand-alone documentaries might find it harder to work to a client company’s brief, the discipline of matching a format and the commissioners’ dictates will be familiar territory to most other Broadcast programme-makers. It may not be such a big leap to make after all.

If you want to investigate this sector further, a good place to start is the trade association IVCA, basic questions about working in the sector are answered by Skillset and Televisual Magazine listed its Top 50 Corporates in March 2009.

But beware how you approach corporate production companies, you will condescend to them at your peril! “Any approach to me that reads like corporate production is the poor relation of broadcast will go straight in the bin, Gary Fitzpatrick, MD of Cheerful Scout.