Sometimes it’s nice to be the little guy. With the number of David and Goliath business stories being told, it’s easy to lose sight of the advantages small companies claim over their competitors. Every position has its challenges, but here are some reasons I prefer the obstacles that accompany my studio’s size.
Foremost, I’ve learned from running my own post production studio, Butcher, that you must rely on your creative and technical expertise and let the rest of your competitive advantages flow from there. Without the talent to consistently produce quality work, speed and adaptability are afterthoughts.
With that in mind, it’s not a stretch to say that small, capable teams have substantially more flexibility and agility than their larger counterparts. This makes it easier to call an “all hands on deck” and round up your top talent. When Google and Lionsgate asked us to create over 300 assets for The Hunger Games, we had the dexterity to shift our workflow and surround the project with top producers without any disruption to our other clients.
Big post production houses can have more burdensome and rigid workflows. Their producers are assigned upwards of five to six projects with long lead times while Butcher makes sure to put their producers on no more than two projects at a time. Not overloading the many producers we bring in, even if it means assigning work more often, helps reduce their task fatigue, improve their clarity and vision, and reduce mistakes overall.
When considering capability, barriers to film finishing and VFX work are crashing down as the price of hardware drops. Whereas it once cost over $250K to purchase a film scanner set up, now an enterprising crew can buy a unit for $50K. Cheaper technology is certainly a benefit, but not a cure-all for understaffed teams. Once properly equipped, studios must still substantiate their offerings with the appropriate talent.
Small shops often have the opportunity to turn tailored, specific requests from clients into permanent expansions of their infrastructure. Growth out of necessity is the best way to expand, as our new graphics department led us to win a Honda and T-Mobile project shortly after.
Our constant search for growth often overlaps our peers’ searches, bringing us to compete in similar spaces. This has potential to strain relationships with post production facilities we still use, but generally inspires aggressive goal setting and healthy introspection. Competitive relationships keep us sharp, and keep us doing the most relevant creative work. Having our limits frequently tested made Butcher into a team that can easily adapt to new technologies and perform at a high level using them.
The size of your studio does a lot to determine your set of challenges and advantages. To remain competitive, Butcher’s size demands that quality and creative talent come first, and that’s a requirement I like.
Rob Van is Founder and Executive Producer at Butcher (www.butcherpost.com) in Santa Monica.