The Working Experience: The Master Class Videos

Spend your money wisely; plan ahead and stick with the plan.

Photo by Corina Rainer on Unsplash

Matty Kerr is co-creator and cohost with John Brancaccio of The Working Experience podcast which can be found on iTunes, Spotify, Anchor and our website: theworkingexperience.com. Find us also on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and Linked In.

Developing a web series has become a great way for aspiring creatives to grow an audience for their material. Short videos that are built around a character or concept can get a pretty large following on YouTube and other platforms and they are relatively inexpensive to shoot; many times all you need is an iPhone. There is a guy named JP Sears whose character is a parody of a life coach/ spiritual guru and his videos are very popular, regularly receiving in the high six figures and into the millions.

We thought doing a parody of The Master Class series would be funny. Those are the videos that are advertised on Facebook which are designed to teach people how to be filmmakers, writers, entrepreneurs, etc. They feature people like Ron Howard, Joyce Carol Oates, Neil Gaiman and others who are successful in a particular field. I don’t know how popular they are but I have heard people say they have some valuable information.

Our Master Class series teaches you how to navigate work when you are a slacker. We show you how to seem engaged in a meeting when you are paying no attention at all, what to say when you are called out for being late all the time or have not finished the project you were assigned, how to gain sympathy to get out of work, and how to effectively kiss ass to get ahead.

Full Disclosure: all of these techniques involve lying.

The videos are meant to be funny but I really do think we offer some very practical advice for those of us who are below average employees. Kissing ass is a proven method for getting a promotion and who hasn’t been late or dropped the ball on a project?

When producing online content our belief is that more is more. People need to get to know you and your brand though consistent posting of videos, blog posts, podcasts etc. You have to generate as much content as possible which might mean that the quality is not top notch but for people watching on their phones or laptops it really doesn’t matter. They are not looking for smooth dolly shots and moody lighting. They want entertainment; they want a laugh or to learn something or just a diversion.

We don’t have a lot of money to spend on the videos.

We keep the videos short and simple because, on a shoot, time is literally money and we don’t have a lot of that. We try to shoot as many skits as possible in one day. The dialogue for each skit is pretty simple, two or three lines per character. There is no hair and make up person, no wardrobe changes. We try to stay in the same room as much as possible and shoot from different angles.

Even though we keep it pretty simple, these videos still require a significant amount of preparation.

John and I have our respective roles. He is the cinematographer and also handles the audio. After the shoot, he edits the footage and posts the videos to YouTube and our website. (John originally came into the film business as an editor). He and Tom, our tech guy, also do the promotion on social media.

My role is mainly writing and casting. I wrote ten scenarios for five characters (I play the narrator) which takes time. Getting the dialogue right for each character can be tricky. We don’t do any rehearsals before the day of the shoot so it has to be easy enough for the actors to remember and sound natural. I try to keep the scripts flexible in terms of not needing a specific ethnicity or age or even gender to play the different roles.

I also need to consider our budget and time constraints; an idea might be funny on paper it would not be feasible for us to shoot it.

Scheduling can be a headache. I needed to find four actors who were available on the same day. I contacted a number of people with whom I had worked before and two of them, Paul and Gege, were free. Gege knew a guy named Chris whom she had worked with and he was also available. The fourth, Prachi, I found on Boston Casting.

These shoots operate to some degree on the fly. We didn’t have time for group rehearsals; I just needed to have faith that the actors would come prepared and they did. Professional actors are comfortable with these situation; oftentimes they are called for a project the night before or even the day of the shoot and they have to be ready to go.

Even though we keep it simple there are expenses that add up quickly. The cast cost a total of $600. Each actor was paid $100 for the day plus travel and parking expenses, which came to an additional $25 per actor. (Since we were shooting in downtown Boston there is no place to park for free so that was an expense we had to cover.)

Lunch for everyone came to $100.

So, including some other sundry items, the total cost was about $1,000.

We did get a big break with the location. Since John is a member of We Work we were able to shoot at the office in Boston at no additional cost which made life a lot easier since finding a location can be difficult and expensive. John was able to schedule conference rooms ahead of time which had plenty of room for everyone and our equipment. We Work provides complimentary coffee, juice, water, and snacks. Aesthetically it looks great, very sleek and modern.

I think it is important to compensate actors for their time. Many are willing to work for free in order to gain exposure but I don’t like to take advantage of that. On a more pragmatic note, when they are getting paid it adds a level of professionalism to the shoot; people will show up on time and stay for the full day. If someone is working for free it is hard to complain if they say they have to leave before the shoot is done. Also, actors talk to each other and it helps your reputation as a filmmaker if you do right by people.

I think the videos came out really well, though there are some things I would do differently. I played the narrator and I should have worn professional office attire as opposed to shorts and a short-sleeved shirt. It was hot that day and I was being lazy. I don’t really like acting and directing; I would rather focus on one or the other but it saved us money by not having to hire another actor.

I also would have liked better quality audio. However, a professional sound person would have cost $600 for the day so I can live with it.

One thing I do take pride in is the fact that we put our ideas into action. We work with what we have and turn out a quality product.

Creative people have always operated on a shoestring budget. Don’t think about what you can’t do. See how much money you have and figure out what you can do.

And keep doing it until you get it right.

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M. Francis Enright

Co-creator and cohost of The Working Experience Podcast. We explore what people do for work, how they do it and how they feel about it. Twice a week!