Tips and tricks from the team behind the Sargent & Lundy video production

At Sargent & Lundy, a power engineering services company, from hallways to after-work hangouts, employee culture thrives. As the Human Resource team strolled through recruiting events and scrolled through competitors’ websites, it became clear that Sargent & Lundy was a growing company that had all the pieces but one: a video to showcase what life was like on the inside.

And so…a video production project was born.

Equipped with a list of must-have touch-points, a meeting of the minds took place between Guy Bauer Productions and Sargent & Lundy. The wish list included things like 125 years of rich history, travel opportunities for adventure-seeking professionals, problem-solving, hands-on engineering experience, and a suite of company-sponsored opportunities (all to fit into a 2-minute video). But foremost on that list was to touch on company culture, where employees were not just cohabitating across 11 floors of offices, but collaborating in work and in life.

“Sargent & Lundy is not like other companies, where an odd phenomenon takes place: it’s the end of the day at 5 o’clock and you’re riding the elevator down to go home, and you’re having a conversation with a coworker. Then, the elevator doors open, you say ‘Ok, have a great night!’ and you continue to awkwardly walk several blocks together without saying a word – because the working relationship has ended. At Sargent & Lundy those working relationships and conversations continue because our employees enjoy each other’s company. We wanted to make sure that was also represented in our video.”  -Steve Wille, Human Resources at Sargent & Lundy

Takeaway Tips for Future GBP Clients:

Having never worked directly with an external video production team before, Steve Wille and his Sargent & Lundy coworkers navigated the process like well-seasoned pros, avoiding many of the hang-ups and headaches that first-time clients often contend with. For that reason, we reached out to Steve for a list of his top takeaways and best advice for other professionals in a similar position.

Here is what he had to say:

On pre-production

  • Create a master schedule that includes availability of interviewees and filming locations. Include a tab that breaks down roles and responsibilities between you (the client) and GBP. Keep it updated and have a final schedule in place when production begins.
  • Document your thoughts, ideas, and vision so that even if you’re not present, the production team and editor will have an idea of what you want in the final product.

On choosing filming locations

  • Book desired rooms and locations using your company’s scheduling software to limit disruptions, but also book or block out surrounding rooms to limit noise interference.
  • Book spare rooms that can act as a backup plan should your first-choice location fall through.

On Coordinating (Employee) Interviews

  • Consider featuring existing team members or employees rather than hiring actors.
    “With 2,500 employees, we knew we could handle finding interviewees. We’ve got a lot of great personalities here, a lot of people who are excited to be working at Sargent & Lundy, and we wanted to make sure that was shown. We wanted to make sure [the video] was representative of our people who have been here for many years as well as our new hires.”
  • Don’t waste your employee’s time.
    Keep spirits high and production streamlined by “getting a solid grasp of interviewee’s availability by asking for multiple potential time slots,” says Steve.
  • Minimize on-camera jitters by keeping on-set spectators down to a minimum.
    Whether you’re on or off script, Steve recommends that you Keep yourself (and all top-management) out of view. If you have too many people there, you’re going to lose focus” and prevent the fluid responses that make video testimony truly powerful.
  • Bring headshots of interviewees on set.
    This can be a great help for production to set up the necessary lighting and for managers to prepare appropriate interview questions and anticipate who is up next.

On Managing the Managers

  • As the video is being created, only allow key stakeholders to see the work.
    Steve recommends keeping the client-side team to no more than 5 people: “If you get too many opinions, it will absolutely cripple the process and cause it not to work. Keep only the people that have the authority to say ‘yes.’”
  • Tough call? Focus on the final audience.
    The scope and style of the project will change shape along the way, but the guiding light should always be: who is the final audience, what is the central purpose. When faced with the question of whether to use actors vs. employees, scripts vs. candid interview edits, Sargent & Lundy allowed those two core factors to make the final call – keeping in mind that external players would be drawn to transparency and authenticity.
  • During interviews, don’t interrupt.
    “The client needs to just let Guy Bauer Productions do the interviews. Don’t interrupt – let the natural flow happen.”
  • Take a personal approach with employees.
    Help employees ease into the idea of an on-camera role by casually approaching them and highlighting that they will not be alone in the process and will be featured alongside numerous colleagues. Take the pressure off. Steve says to be clear that “you want them to participate because of who they are and what they’ve done – invite them to be a part of something.”

On Collaborating with Guy Bauer Productions

In a corporate environment, time is scarce and brain bandwidth is a premium resource, so it’s easy to understand that not all people want to be involved in the same way/ to the same degree. Still, the most successful projects are the product of a close collaboration between Guy Bauer Productions and the business client.

  • Join the team.
    “I wanted to make myself as accountable as I expected Guy Bauer and his team to be,” says Steve. “I felt I could trust in [the production team’s] decisions and was able to really let go of control of the project…we knew GBP could deliver, we knew they did great work, so if this project failed it would be on us. I wanted to be as mindful as possible so that the final product could be what we hoped for.”
  • Take notes.
    If the prospect of sitting in on interviews and not being able to speak up sounds like torture, find a different way to participate. Take notes on what each interviewee says and star the things you like to share with the production team so that during the editing process your favorite sound-bites can make it into the final copy.
  • Trust in the process and in your production team.
    Over the course of the project, opportunities surface and certain elements fall by the wayside – but that’s what allows a masterpiece to emerge.
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