Video City Productions has worked with Five Below since before they went public in 2012, filming and editing internal training content as well as some outbound social media content for the retailer.
We’ve watched them grow from less than 100 stores to where they are now, with almost 700 stores and counting across the country!
Working with someone for that long allows you to fully understand their brand, their identity, and their messaging – which really helps the video process.
This video played when Five Below went public!
Five Below recently launched Master of WOW, an internal training initiative for district managers to ensure that this corporation with multiple retailers has every location operating consistently. The goal is to ensure that Five Below customers have the same experience when they walk into a Five Below in Philadelphia as they would in Houston or Little Rock. Five Below intended to highlight the program at their annual company meeting dubbed “The Big Show!”
This year, it was held at Disney World, and they wanted something premium that effectively conveyed the value of the program and got the rest of the company excited about how this brand invests in its people.
We had the task of producing six pieces for Five Below: an initial overview that introduced the Master of WOW program, and five videos that highlighted key educational takeaways based on the acronym SCALE:
Structure Consistency Accountability Leverage Experience
We wanted to tell the story in a testimonial format from the team members that benefited from the program. The plan was to interview five district managers and five store managers, have them talk about the program as a whole, and then focus on each aspect of the SCALE acronym.
In just 60 seconds, each video needed to define each pillar of “SCALE.” The challenge was that Five Below also wanted representation from actual district and store managers in their actual districts – this meant getting interviews in five separate states across the country. We would have to film in Philadelphia, Raleigh, Little Rock, Houston, Detroit, and Southern New Jersey.
The shoot was broken up into multiple days. We had one shoot per state to get the store managers. Luckily, the Master of WOW program brings district managers into WOWtown, Five Below’s corporate headquarters in Philadelphia, so we were able to film interviews and b-roll of the district managers during a two day training event in one location. After seven days of filming, all of the content needed made its way back to our Philadelphia studio to be edited for The Big Show…which now was just 30 days away…
Shooters Shooters Everywhere…
Because of the number of locations, the cost of travel, and the time needed to coordinate everything, we reached out to partners across the country and sourced local crews in each location. Video City does this all the time – and it’s a big part of the value we bring as a video production company.
One our criteria is consistency – you need to make sure the style of shooting is consistent, the quality of shooting is consistent, the messaging is consistent, and for us, ensuring the ‘elevated experience’ – which just means the directors are empathetic, patient, and provide guidance – is consistent as well.
Shooting Style: this gets into the equipment the shooters use and how they use it. We want the camera color profiles and styles match. It’s important that the audio equipment isn’t all over the place too – lavaliers will produce a different sound than shotgun mics – and different types of lav and shotgun mics will produce different sounds. These are all situations we account for.
We’re also explicit in what frame rate and format the final deliverable is in as well as what settings we want for time lapse or slow motion effects.
Quality of Shooting: usually samples will let you know whether a shooter is “intentional.” Many times a reel doesn’t tell the full story. Everyone can get a nice slider shot once in a while or an epic gimbal movement here and there and not every shooter that films shaky handheld is “sloppy,” either. The idea is to look through someone’s breadth of work, talk to them, and understand if they know why they are doing what they are doing. If they film intentionally, then they can be directed, and we can get consistent footage.
Consistent Messaging: We referenced the “whisper down the lane” analogy above. Ultimately if you don’t fully know the message chances are something will get lost in translation when you send a team on site. It’s important to vet that messaging with your client and then with your shooting team. It’s even more critical when working with a new shooter that you ascertain if they able to understand the messaging.
Elevated Directing: especially in testimonial filmmaking like this, you aren’t working with people that are necessarily “camera ready.” For this shoot most of the store managers had never been on film before and in our pre-interview calls most expressed being nervous about the shoot. Your first job as a director is to help them overcome those fears, to bring forth their best self. That requires cinematic techniques, guidance, patience, but overall empathy. Get in their shoes, imagine feeling like a fish out of water, and try to help.
Pre-interviewing: We are huge fans of pre interviews. This is where we set up recorded conference calls with the subject before the shoot. We ask the questions we plan to ask on set and get authentic responses from the subject.
This is so helpful because:
1. You get to vet your questions. Often, making a film like this is risky – you craft a question that evokes the answer you want…but what if the talent doesn’t exactly feel the way you thought they would about your product or service? Maybe what makes them love the Master of Wow program is different than what we expected they’d say? Pre Interviewing allows us to stress test our questions and make sure they are relevant to the subject before the cameras are rolling.
2. You get to vet your subject. There is a difference between “camera shy” and “deer in headlights.” Chances are if you can’t speak somewhat eloquently on a phone call, you might struggle in front of a bunch of lights, 2 cameras, 3 technicians, an interviewer, hair and make up artists, and any other onlookers on set. So this is a chance to see if we should even proceed with a shoot. Another aspect of vetting your subject is finding out what they actually think about your product or service. Some people may not have positive things to say or the positive things they have to say may be a mismatch with your messaging. If they aren’t comfortable saying what you want them to say – might be time to go back to the drawing board.
3. Getting better interviews. In most cases, the questions are great and the subject is great. Here a pre-interview simply gives you the ability to have a low pressure conversation over the phone and more often than not the talent will say something memorable that you can revisit under the lights on shoot day.
Having the ability to do custom motion graphics in-house is vital. It allows you to really take your video up a notch, and it’s not necessarily something that a layperson is going to identify. You know it when you see it, and you know when it’s good and when it’s bad. Having that resource in-house allowed us to make a better video, quickly.
Ready to see? Check out Master of Wow: