Updated: Dec 19, 2018
People come to me all the time asking for a position at South Town Productions. Although I would love to hire people full-time, I can't. I always like to see their portfolios in case I need an extra person for a project though. I have to admit though, I've seen tons of portfolios already and I can tell who's serious and who's not. If you are wanting to look for work in a video production company, whether it's with me or a bigger company, I'll let you know what we look at when we look through portfolios.
First thing's first, let's get the usual out of the way. Obviously, I want to know who
you are. A brief description of who you are, how to contact you and what your skills are. Most of the portfolios I've seen have these and others direct me to a website for their portfolio. This is where it becomes a crossroad for me. Chances are, if I don't see a description of who you are and all you tell me is, "If you follow this link, you'll find my portfolio." I'm not going to look at it. That just shows me that I'm a copy/paste recipient of your portfolio and you're not putting in the effort yourself to tell me who you are. Granted, it's in the portfolio, but that's not the point. If you were to receive a phone call and you hear an automated voice say, "Please hold to be connected", would you stay on the line? It's all a matter of perception. Let me know that you want to actually work here instead of showing that you're desperate to get anything.
You're more inclined to receive a better reaction if you send me an email that says what you like about video production and why you're looking to work with me. Instead of just a simple statement like, " I'm going to school to further my career and I feel like I can do that with South Town Productions...", why not trying to say something like, "I've always loved watching movies as a kid and I've always loved how the stories can send you on an emotional roller coaster and how action movies can make you feel like you're part of the action by putting you right in the middle of a car chase. I love how it made me feel so much, that I've decided to make this my career choice and spend my life making others feel like I felt." That small story would let your potential employers know that you're not just in it for a paycheck and a title, but you're in it because you have a passion for the business.
I run my business with the mindset that everyone who helps me becomes part owner of that project we are working on. I could hire "employees", but that's all I'll get is employees who do nothing and expect a paycheck. I might as well own a Stripes or a Starbucks if I want employees. When I contact people for help with a project, I make sure they understand that by accepting this position for this project, they are going to be considered part owner for the project because people tend to do better when they feel like they own something.
Next thing obvious thing you'll want to show in your portfolio is your work. Yeah, you can make a fancy website and have me look at your Vimeo videos, but what's in the video is all I'm going to look at when it's all said and done. I remember looking at a website and this girl was showcasing her photo's that she's taken. There were literally 12 pictures of the same thing with different effects on it. When I saw that, I thought to myself, "Is there anything else to look at besides this apple?" Those effects on those pictures reminded me of when I first started playing around with Photoshop and tried different effects to see what I can come up with, so that's all I boiled it down to, someone who just discovered Photoshop and is trying to say she's more than a beginner. I also remember seeing a portfolio with videos and out of the 18 clips I saw, I found about 30 seconds in one video that I actually liked. Everything else was just that, like everything else I've ever seen on YouTube. When you showcase your work, I don't want to see what someone else has already done, I want to see something that will make me say, "Wow.." I've had a few of these and I call these guys for help before anyone else because I know they can deliver good stuff and I don't have to micromanage them. Makes my job easier when I don't have to worry about what my crew is doing.
One way to get the "WOW" factor is to make a short video of your portfolio. This is where you can get really creative. Here's an example, put yourself in an interview setting, get a couple of friends to help you with this one. Set up a camera off center another camera on the opposite side but almost completely to your side on a Dolly track and have your friends ask you questions about who you are and why you love doing what you do. While your answering questions, have some b-roll playing over your interview that highlights you actually working and having fun on your projects and some of your favorite shots that you've captured while filming. It's going to look like you've set up your own interview, but that's ok. You want your potential employer to see how serious you are. Sharing your own personal experiences and feelings is what really talks to someone like me. I would feel like I would know you better and what your goals are based off something like this instead of just reading a laundry list of what you've learned and where you went to school.
There are some videos that I've seen that are way too much though. Too much optical flares, too much post editing, but my least favorite to watch is the videos with too many words. I don't want to sit and read what's in a 5 minute video. I remember a guy sent me a link to his work on YouTube and it literally was a 5 minute video with nothing but text. This guy told me, "My channel has over 400,000 views...". My first thought was that it was an artificial number because no one would want to watch that in real life. When you look at Facebook and you see a video with text, it's usually very minimal text and more video content. Even major news outlets do this. Very little text, usually main points, and the rest is either news clips or clips of an interview. You'll never see a 5 minute video with only text go viral unless it's a lyric video for a band, and even then, you'll have something else to look at in the video. Try to avoid too much text in any of your videos because that's a quick way for people to disregard what you are trying to say. If you're going to use text, keep it short and sweet. Highlight bullet points in your text, not whole paragraphs.
If you do have some graphic designing that you want to showcase in your portfolio, make sure it looks good. I don't mean, "Eh, that's good enough", I mean your BEST work. I remember this person, another person who just discovered the power of Photoshop, took 2 pictures for a side by side comparison. One was blown out and
the other was supposed to be fixed (it wasn't). This person was so new to this, that they used a bright yellow color for the font and arrows to point out what they "fixed" and you could hardly read what they claimed they fixed. Most people would write text on the side of the image and point the arrows from there or put the text in a box away from the main subject so you can clearly see what they fixed, but not this person. The only thing I believed from this person was that they are new to Photoshop and want to learn more after they graduate from college, yes you read that right, college. If you are new to all of this, at least be honest about it. Let me know right off by saying, "I just recently started learning how to use Photoshop and After Effects, but I would like to learn more working with a professional company". It's like the old saying goes, "The truth shall set you free.". Let me know you're still a beginner from the beginning instead of having me look at you like your trying to pull one over on me. That's a quick way to get anyone to stop looking at your portfolio.
I've seen the good, the bad and the ugly when looking at these portfolios and just when you think you've seen it all, something else comes up. I'm honest when it comes to these topics and those who submitted bad portfolios I usually tell them to come up with something a little more spectacular than what they've shown me. Not just because I don't think it's good enough, but it's because I know other owners in this field will say the same thing. I want people to be the best they can be, especially if I call them to help with my projects. Keep in mind though, the things I say may sound harsh and over dramatic, but put yourself in my shoes. If you were the owner of your own video production company, who would you want representing you? How you represent yourself speaks volumes and you want to make sure you're heard loud and clear over all the other applicants.
If you want to try to apply some of these suggestions but don't know how, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I can give you some suggestions on how to improve your portfolio. Even if you don't have much to fill it up, I can still give some advice on what you can do to improve the odds of you getting a call back.
What did you think of my advice? Let a comment below and let me know! Share this with someone that may benefit from this information!