Filmmakers who do video production: five questions when prospecting (UPDATED FOR 2019)

If you're a microbudget filmmaker like me, you want to tell stories of hope that 

  • won't be cheesy

  • have meaning

  • actually reach people

  • remind them there is such a thing as unconditional love


En route to getting there, you end up doing video production to serve others and grow as a leader and as a filmmaker. 

And while you're doing video production, in the prospecting and qualifying stages of any video production relationship, you have to ask questions. 

Lots. They help you control the convo, the sales cycle, and they’ll keep you from getting run over. If you’re silent and not asking great questions, you’ll get run over by a deuce-and-a-half of a savvy businesswoman or businessman. On that note, here’s what you need to do if your client treats you like you’re a newb.

I've lost deals and destroyed potential opportunities because I didn't ask enough questions. You probably have too.

Ask questions. Questions get people talking. 

Stick, after the show, for a free performance (aka bonus)... by Limozeen (i.e. 12 more questions you can add to your arsenal).


Question 1: What’s your all-time favorite (genre) movie right now? Why?

Great question - ask it to everyone. Cashier, clerks, your Verizon wireless rep, your mom, your baby boy - ask!

Why? It gives you the much-needed practice of breaking the ice. It builds your confidence, and it sure beats the usual rigmarole.


(starting a conversation) 

How are you doing today?


Hey, what's your favorite action movie right now - how come? 

Be different - your filmmaking depends on it.

Scared to death? Fight it. Try this:


Hey, I got a random question for you.


(deer-in-the-headlights look)



What is your favorite comedy right now?


Uh... I really like that Rocky 5000 movie!


Great! How come?

Smile, be positive, and practice.

Question 2: What do you wish your current video did better so you wouldn’t have to replace it?

This question, and others on this list, are inspired by the sales training I'm going through from "Uncle G" (Grant Cardone) - as opposed to Uncle Bob. Grant's not for everyone, but I've learned a heap from him when it comes to business.

It takes some guts to ask this question; do it. Be wise as serpents, gentle as doves, ja? Do ask this one though in the fact-finding (i.e. figuring out what your prospective client wants) part of your sales cycle (qualify, fact-find, talk deadlines, close), the part where you figure out what the deuce they want?! We all know no two videos are alike, so dig in, and figure out what they want/need.

Question 3: What’s your all-time favorite commercial? Why?

Commercials are not as firmly etched in our noggins like good movies and tv shows, but everyone's got a commercial they remember really well (Where's the beef? for the baby boomers). 

If you're strapped for ace commercials to share with your prospects (to get the conversation going - good artists copy, great artists...), here's a detailed list I pull from regularly even to this day.

Question 4: What’s your favorite movie where the main character is a dad and a husband and he doesn’t compromise his family with his actions or inactions?

I love this question. It had some solid answers on my Facebook. People love questions! It gets them thinking and it's an opportunity to share part of their story.

Go try it. Right now. 

Then have the courage to ask your prospects/clients.

I haven't got a response to this one from a prospect - yet. I'll keep trying.


Question 5: What’s your favorite movie where there are themes of love, forgiveness, grace - even hope - that isn’t cheesy?


I had some wild answers all over the map with this turkey. From the conservative "The Count Of Monte Cristo" to the out-of-the-box and unexpected "Pulp Fiction" - it was quite a turnout. 

I don't censor people's responses, and neither should you. That's missing the point of the dialogue entirely.


Question 6: Scale of 1 to 10, what do you rate your current video? What would make it a 10?

This is a trial close question, but you can use it in the fact-finding. Use it to help the person you're serving uncover sticking points. After all, it's their story, and they're financing it to solve an underlying problem (more prospects, more customers, more engagement, better retention, etc). It's then your job to reach for that '10.'

Question 7: What one action would you like your ideal customer to take after watching your video ad?

This works in tandem with the footer in the last question. Honestly - you need to discern what your boss is trying to solve. I.e. fact-finding.

All of marketing is a gamble, and there are people who have been burned by it. 

For example, this past week, a gentleman said he was done:


Hindsight's always 20/20, and I should have said "I take full responsibility for that - that's my fault. Apart from not wanting to deal with marketing or marketers, is there any other reason I can't chat for 3.5 mins with you?"

I did the first part, but I didn't do the second part.

Ziggy said sympathy will cost you the sale; I know that, and I blundered and did it anyways.

Live and learn - we fail more often than we succeed. Always be learning. Commit your work to the King (ask for help - our kids are really good at this - why do we fail at this?), and try again.

Question 8: When is the last time you invested big in marketing your company?

This is more of a qualifying question.

You shouldn't be charging pennies on the dollar like the kids on Upwork do, and hopefully your client isn't either. If it's a nonprofit, you can find out (public info) just how much they dropped on marketing last year - which means how much they might drop on your services

If you're even half good, charge enough for your time, your subcontractors' time, your company, and most importantly, those in your charge.

If you're lost in the sauce on how to do this, you need to stop underselling yourself. Here's how to do it.

Question 9: If I could do even half of what I claim and get you more clients, are you the person to make a decision on a $16,000 investment?

Another qualifying question here.

Uncle G is right - always (in the prospecting) be upfront with the ballpark price.

I say ballpark 'cause let's face it; we don't know the exact price tag on our work 'til we've had a Q&A with folks. 

But we need to be in the ballpark. Don't be scared. You shouldn't have any room on your couch for fear anyways

Question 10: If [YOURTEAM] could fix one thing with your marketing, what would it be?


This is my least favorite of the questions partly because it's so straightforward and so useful, it's bland.

Don't be like me → separate personal preference from what needs to be done to SERVE your client (or would-be-client). 

Question 11: Other than yourself, who influences your marketing decisions?


We can't afford to ignore the people who are a part of these thousand-plus-dollar decisions.

Ask to get them involved, and ask to speak with them early on. 

I walked into a prospect's office in September and quickly realized I had the wrong decision maker. I was with an influencer, but not the decision maker.

You need to acknowledge and serve all hands on deck.

Question 12: What is a good # I can use to text you some information?

Drop this bad boy anywhere in the sales cycle if their not offering the cell number. It’s also from Uncle G - the idea is simple.

The bigger the responsibilities, the bigger their inbox. Do you think they'll remember you when you're #23 out of #200? 


Get attention, and be creative (your profession depends on it).

Text messaging is quick and has absurd response rates.

Question 13: Will you make some time to see me later today or tomorrow?

If you can’t do the fact-finding right away, then after you’ve qualified them, you might need to bust this question out. It’s to the point - make the ask. If they say no, propose an alternate day. Let them pick the time.

I started using (free) for gmail to help with scheduling. Give it a whirl.


Step 1: open a new email and look for the wheel in the lower right-hand corner.


Step 2: Once this bad boy is set up, it can sync directly with your Google Calendar (Yosh!), so pick up to three days and drag your boxes around to indicate times you're available.


Step 3: The proposed times will be in your email, and your recipient can pick their favorite. Capisce?


Question 14: What's been the biggest reason for not doing a short film (or video) ad before?

Fact-finding. A favorite of mine right now - uncover the truth, and you'll find where their values lie. You might not be a good fit (in their eyes), even if you are the next Salomon Ligthelm and you know you can serve them and tell a butt-kicking story. 

It's your job to show it. 

For example, this Monday, I'm walking into a prospect's place unannounced, and I'm going to bring my rig. No cost, no risk to them - if they don't like it, they can throw it out the window and I'll bid adieu. If they like it, they can have it with the larger piece I want to do with them. 

Be persistent. You're a filmmaker, not a PA, not a caterer, not a dude/dudette who will tuck tail and run - persist.


Want more? 

Drill these.

I've got them in a quick .pdf for you that you should keep on your phone and available offline - plus 12 more questions you can ask to better serve your prospects/clients. Get them while they're fresh off the griddle~

My favorite example that fits all of criteria at the beginning of this post is the 1998 Les Mis with Liam Neeson; he plays a redeemed, God-fearing man - Jean Val Jean - who still wrestles with the old self on occasion, but he makes steps towards living a new life.

Powerful story. Powerful movie. Powerful acting. Power everything.

We need more stories of that caliber reaching billions of people and less of the (insert favorite cheesy faith-based, faith-inspired, yadda yadda yadda) variety.

My turn: What’s your favorite drama (movie - not tv show) right now and why?

→ Let me know below!

Original Oct 29, 2016; updated Sept 27, 2017; Feb 26, 2019

Jake the film guy

I want to encourage others and bring honor to the Almighty in everything that I do with film and video. My goal is to take the first 11 minutes of my tv pilot and seek out decision-makers who can further the conversation about developing it into a show. If my team and I can do that, then we can teach 100,000 other microbudget filmmakers how to do the same thing so that we might tell stories of hope to millions. In the meantime, I'm a son of the King, a family man, a lifelong student of film, and the author of two microbudget filmmaking books.