Natick firm produces corporate videos, TV ads and promotional spots
When time isn't on your side, Last Minute Productions is.
The video production company, with home offices in Natick and Needham, prides itself on making deadline for its clients. What good is a great video if it arrives late? the firm asks. Conversely, what good is a mediocre video that arrives on time?
Last Minute Productions (LMP) pledges to provide a quality product on time. "You ask yourself what are you working for,'' says Natick's Jay Dobek, who founded LMP in 2005. "Are you working for quality or the money? If you're just working for the money, you're always chasing after clients and just churning out videos. ... But you'll get the jobs you want to get if you work for quality and not for the dollar.''
LMP provides full-service video production to companies, schools and nonprofit organizations. Though it focuses on the greater Boston area, the company has traveled out of state for assignments.
"We don't do anything that involves mother-in-laws,'' quips Dobek. "No bar mitzvahs, no weddings. The only time we'll deal with a mother-in-law is if she owns a company. Essentially, it's corporate communications. It can be as simple as a commercial for a garden center or a 12-minute video for Memorex, where we flew out to company headquarters in Minnesota.''
The Memorex video provides an example of the aforementioned commitment to quality. The piece featured an expert explaining against with a white-board backdrop how a new technology worked. While the expert was lively, the backdrop wasn't and the presentation suffered, according to Dobek. "It wasn't in the budget, but we shot him against a green screen and were able to put in graphics and it livened up the presentation,'' he says. "We produced what we wanted.''
The effort offers a demonstration of the company's motto - "meeting your deadline, exceeding your vision.''
Dobek started LMP after working at a production company. "It wasn't a good fit,'' he says. "It was time. If you're a creative person, you like calling your own shots.''
As for the company's name, its origin contains a touch of whimsy. "The name is essentially a joke from my college days,'' says Dobek. "I'd have to write a book report and I wouldn't do it until the night before, and I'd always say it was a last-minute production. So when I decided to go out on my own, I used the name. Now it becomes a joke for clients. They say, `I have a last-minute production for you.' ''
The one-man show doubled its work force in July when Needham's Gary Gillis joined LMP as a partner. A sports reporter at Channel 7 for more than 20 years, Gillis had started his own video production company. "When I had the need for a videographer and an editor, I would always call Jay,'' says Gillis, noting the two had worked together at Channel 7 where Dobek was a part-time editor. "There are people you work well together with, and geographically it was convenient for both of us. And philosophically, we bring the same approach.''
That approach not surprisingly is rooted in quality. "Nothing goes out the door until we're satisfied with it,'' says Gillis.
LMP is currently working on about 12 projects. In addition to Memorex, its client list includes Beth Israel-Deaconess Hospital, South Shore Hospital, the Boston Museum of Science, Catholic Memorial High School, Church Park Apartments, Brodeur and the Home for Little Wanderers.
Dobek says nonprofit groups hit the company's "sweet spot.'' For the Home for Little Wanderers, for example, LMP made a promotional video. "The result was a piece which not only made a compelling case for support of a multimillion capital campaign, it boosted staff morale by recognizing the extraordinary contributions they make on a daily basis,'' according to Dobek.
The organization was clearly impressed. "The Home for Little Wanderers is one of New England's largest child welfare organizations, with 20 diverse programs located throughout Massachusetts,'' writes Angela Mycock, who, at the time the video was produced, was the organization's public relations manager. "Last Minute Productions handled the challenge of making a video which gave each program its own identity while communicating the overall mission of the Home. We could not be happier with the finish product, which is one of our key awareness and fundraising tools.
"We are particularly impressed with the LMP staff, a skilled group of professionals with a wealth of experience in the producing, directing and editing fields. They went above and beyond for The Home.''
The experience Mycock refers to exceeds 40 years when combining the resumes of Dobek and Gillis. When describing what separates LMP from other video production companies, Dobek lists that experience as a major factor. Experience translates into knowledge which translates into engaging videos, he notes.
Adds Gillis, "Sometimes what clients think they want in the end doesn't turn out to be the best approach or a workable approach. We're good at understanding the client's business, understanding the audience they're trying to reach and educating them on the best approach to take.''
LMP also makes a concerted effort to make its videos worth the client's while, states Dobek. "We're medium-priced,'' he says, pointing to its low overhead as a cost-reducer. "If you're doing a corporate video that's going to be anywhere from 5 to 12 minutes long, you're looking at anywhere from $2,000 to $3,000 per finished minute. ... Larger companies typically charge $3,000 to $4,000.''
LMP promotes its "price integrity'' as well. "When production costs come in under a quoted bid, a client will be charged the lesser amount,'' the company states.
"I love when clients look at us and the competition,'' says Dobek. "I feel when they look at our reel, they're going to see the quality. And when we come in with a bid, they're blown away by how affordable the quality is.
"If they just come to us, they don't have a frame of reference. If they've used other production companies, they do. We just had a meeting with one client who was using a company out of New York. ... We looked at the video and it was just absolutely horrible.''
Production value is typically lacking in such subpar videos, according to Gillis. "It's not that difficult to add production value,'' he says. "There are lot of techniques you can use. For instance, we asked the prospective client, 'Did you gather any photographs? Did you ask any of the interview subjects for photographs?' He said, 'No one ever suggested that.' It's a small thing, but it's a way to make the production more visually interesting and it helps tell the story.
"You can string together a bunch of talking heads and sound bytes, and present it to a client. They'll play it at their awards dinner or whatever and not know any different, but it's dull.
"For me, it all comes down to storytelling. Everything is a story, whether it's a commercial or a long production.''
Adds Dobek, "Sometimes people forget how to edit and how to tell a story. I like to think the best stories we do are the simplest production-wise. Sometimes when you see a really involved production with a lot of effects and a lot of quick cuts, it's because most of the stuff stinks. Our Catholic Memorial video was very straightforward. The interviews drove the story.''
For Dobek, video is a language that gives the company the capability to tell its stories.
While LMP has made TV commercials, the majority of its videos find their way on the Web. "That's what's really driving the small- and mid-size production houses right now,'' says Dobek. The Memorex video went on the Web and received so many hits it crashed the company's server.
Even commercials can be used to promote a Web search.
For example, LMP made a set of four commercials for Bay State Technology with the intention of driving viewers to its Web site where the company had made longer-format segments called "webisodes.''
"They gave us graduates who were out in the field and we used them in the commercials to talk about their experience,'' says Gillis. "You can tell a story, but you can't tell a very detailed story in 30 seconds. On the Web, there are the expanded versions of these success stories and how Bay State Technology has impacted their career path.
"I loved meeting those guys, and that's what's great about this job. You're learning a little bit about a lot of different things. We're not in the office every day doing the same thing. We're out meeting people.''
Dobek also enjoys the job's variety. "It's not only the subject matter,'' he says. "I can't stand editing all the time. If I had to edit 40 hours a week, I'd go crazy. I like getting out and shooting.'' And then there are times he prefers the editing room.
For Dobek and Gillis, a video production is a collaborative effort with Dobek doing most of the editing and Gillis most of the writing. Each will offer suggestions on the other's work. "It's important to have two people look at something,'' says Dobek. "Sometimes you're too close to it.''
For the future, LMP has its eyes on creating a multi-part series. "We have some ideas kicking around,'' says Gillis, without revealing what they are. All the company needs is the money to finance it.
Perhaps LMP will receive a last-minute donation.
(Bob Tremblay can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 508-626-4409.)
LAST MINUTE PRODUCTIONS
Partners: Jay Dobek and Gary Gillis
Employees: Two full time, One part time
Company background: Based in Natick and Needham, Last Minute Productions provides full-service video production to companies, schools and nonprofits in the greater Boston area. Its Web site is www.lastminutevideo.com.