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Production Deep Dive : Elm & Rye

Elm & Rye makes 100s of products and in our first engagement we focused on their protein powder and libido supplements.

How We Met:

This was a random one. About 6 months ago I started playing local tennis tournaments. My coach at the time told me he had someone I should hit with to prep for an upcoming match. I met him. We played. He destroyed me. Which makes for a sad story. Except for the fact that we got to talking and he mentioned he was in ecommerce and I mentioned I was in production.

Normally, it would end there. I seldom talk about my work or try to pitch people on working together, especially if they are from a different compartment of my life. But as more time passed, there kept being overlap. We both played in the next tournament. I brought my camera and took some photos. He realized I was an actual photographer (lol) and mentioned doing some promo work for some of his brands.

The courtship was unique from there. First of all, I didn't want to lose a hitting partner by pushing work too much. At the same time, his brands were perfectly in line with our creative style and I was really interested in showing him how we could elevate their content.

I ended up inviting him to our studio and giving him a tour of all our sets, equipment, editing room, gear, team, etc.

Then we did a test shoot with one of their protein powders to show them the style of content we wanted to shoot. That sealed the deal. His team loved it and everyone was excited.

Scope of Work:

We originally talked about starting with 1-2 brands. They were looking for product photography for their PDPs (product detail pages) as well as short explainer videos.

After some back and forth, we landed on 5 brands!

It was a 4 day shoot split between photo and video. We handled full creative - meaning we concepted each piece of content after learning the client's goals and general direction.

We landed on $50k for the engagement - roughly $15k under our original quote. Since there was so much upside, we went forward with the discounted rate.

Production Process:

We casted 9 different models (including 1 dog :)), wrote 5 scripts, contracted Jiyan for additional styling support, and crafted a 4 day production flow that was sure to send everyone into holiday break desperate for rest.

We started with the scripts, as this is the most challenging and time consuming. It's also hard to bill for. Because everyone associates the real work with the shoot day. But writing scripts is a more elusive skill than shooting or editing.

Since we had 5 scripts to write and only 2 weeks to prepare, we split them up. Different members of our team connected with different brands, which was really helpful because we wanted each brand to have a unique voice. Stan wrote scripts for Libido and CBD, Andrew for Pupper, and I handled Protein.

We then passed the scripts around internally and made suggestions on each other's work before sending over to the client.

This is where it can get wild. We had a good understanding of the key language based on their product pages, but sometimes there are more things to consider - like upcoming promotions, legality of claims, and what language each individual department needs to include for their own creative needs. Clients also tend to worry more about the specific words used than the effec/flow it will have on camera.

Thankfully, the requests they came back with weren't too cumbersome and we were able to work in their feedback without losing the flow.

One of the challenges with this shoot was the fact that they wanted lines delivered to camera for the explainer videos. Which meant we would have to hire actual actors instead of just models. And they would have to memorize scripts since we were tying the readings to specific actions on camera and a teleprompter was out. All of this would've been fine if we were working with more time and more budget.

Our solve - relying on voiceover for the majority of the script and then having on-camera talent break the 4th wall and deliver key lines directly to camera.

We reached out to the talent agency we prefer working with - Shamon Freitas - and sent them our requests based on our client's customer base.

Because budget was really tight, we had to find other ways of reducing costs. We sourced additional talent from our local/IG deck and removed direct to camera line delivery from 2 of the videos/scripts. We also ran a product photography team simultaneously for 2 of the days in order to capture all of the ecomm shots that we needed. I personally shot b-roll stills/BTS in order to save on hiring a second photographer for the 4 day run.

Instead of shooting 4 consecutive days (brutal) we shot Thur/Fri and then Mon/Tues. It gave us the weekend to contemplate the decisions in our lives that brought us to this point.

After the shoot, we had to be diligent about offloading footage and backing everything up (we keep at least 2 copies of each project on separate drives + the cloud) since we were taking a 10 day break for holidays.

We made it. It was nuts. But the content was probably our favorite of the year.


All in - we edited 5 explainer videos 30-60s. Thankfully, we only needed 16:9 for web. We still made a few social edits for our own IG/TT :)

There were an additional 40+ lifestyle/BTS images. Plus a BTS video of each of the 4 days. We do this so that our own social is more interesting than just the final work. There's the main production running and then a BTS production running at the same time.

Ecommerce photos totaled over 100. Some of them were simple with just product and a colored backdrop. Others were more involved from a styling perspective. Jiyan and Alyssa had a packed 2 days but did an amazing job.

Overall, it was a massive amount of content and creative to string together. Now we are working on engaging the client in a monthly retainer option so we can spin up all their brands to this level.

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