How can you use video to promote your architecture firm? In this interview with architecturally trained filmmaker Jeff Durkin, you'll discover::
- The key to making a fantastic feature project video
- The 3 part format for making a powerful video in 3 minutes or less
- 4 ways architecture firms can leverage video content
- Typical budgets and ranges to get a video produced
Resources for today’s show:
Interview Transcript and Members Only Resources:
Speaker 1: In like five years, everyone is going to have a video just like they have a website, just like they have a business card. It's just going to be one of those fundamental marketing materials that you're going to have to need to communicate and compete.
Enoch Sears: Hello. I'm Enoch Sears and this is the podcast for architects where you'll discover tips and strategies and secrets for running a profitable and impactful architecture practice.
I'd like to invite you to discover how to double your architecture for income and create your dream practice of freedom and impact by downloading my free four-part “architecture firm profit” app.
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Today's interview is with Jeff Durkin, a filmmaker based out of, well near, San Diego, California. I first came across Jeff's work when I saw the videos that Jonathan Segal, architect based out of San Diego, California, has been doing about his projects, architect as developer. You can see my interview with Jonathan Segal in one of my earlier episodes. You can find it by searching for Jonathan Segal architect, business for architecture, on Google.
And the videos that Jeff Durkin creates are absolute. They're dreamy, they're surrealistic, and with a background in architecture, he's especially well suited to create a story around architectural landmarks.
So you're really going to love this particular interview. I guarantee it. And also, definitely go check out Jeff Durkin's work. You can see Jeff's work by going to breadtruckfilms.com.
Now let's get into it.
Jeff Durkin: I'm always looking to connect with people. Yeah, I love telling stories on architecture, so …
Enoch Sears: Cool.
Jeff Durkin: Yeah. The whole foundation is, I studied architecture and worked in architecture for six years before I got into filmmaking, so I went to UC Berkeley, got a degree in architecture, always wanted to be an architect, worked in the Bay area a bit, and then my senior year, just as an elective filler, I took a film and video class. Just to wrap up my electives and graduate. And I just loved it. I fell in love with it right away. Moving images, sound, story, and environments. I didn't know anything about people, characters, and storytelling. I didn't know about that side of it. But I knew about the photography from architectural photography and architects are just such visual people that I gravitated towards that and quickly learned how to edit.
And I was always good with cameras, like most architects, they're just good with technical tools. And I had experience in rendering and animation in 3D modeling, so everything came together in a film format because it was design, it was music, it was cinematography, it was photography, it was everything kind of wrapped into one discipline. So, I loved it. I loved it, man. I was all set on being an architect and then I graduated and moved right to LA and got right into the film industry, so that was years of dreams and work towards architecture just kind of went out the window on this one haphazard class that I decided to take at the end.
So, I grew up in the Bay Area and I always went to San Francisco as a kid and I said, I just love this city. And later, when I got older, I realized it was the design and the architecture that I was being attracted to. As a young kid I learned that. So then I moved to LA and got away from it all. So it was a weird twist.
Enoch Sears: So tell me, how did you go from having an architectural degree, studying architecture, to getting a job in the film industry?
Jeff Durkin: Well, there's actually a lot of overlap in the visual effects part of the film industry with architecture, because 3D modeling, rendering, visualization … So I ended up getting a job at a studio in Venice Beach called “Digital Domain,” which was actually started by James Cameron. And he started it for Terminator 2. You remember the metallic police officer that's chasing Arnold Schwarzenegger? This studio developed that and it was the beginning of computer-generated imagery, and then what can happen.
So, luckily, a lot of people from architecture and design were working there because they knew CAD and 3D studio max and you knew the software, you knew how to build an environment, so they put me in a department which was called camera tracking, where you go out and you film Arnold destroying a mall and then you have to find out where that camera is in space and turn it so that the animator can create his animation of the monsters and characters, and it all matches. So it's a lot like AutoCAD. It's basically a lot like AutoCAD. It's triangulation software that kind of establishes space of how it was filmed on set and then the animator can match his camera to that so that it all blends together and looks perfect.
Enoch Sears: That sounds kind of complicated. I've tried to do stuff like that before in SketchUp and it can be kind of tricky.
Jeff Durkin: It's getting easier and easier there days. I mean, when I was doing it like 15 years ago, it was super hard. You had to have [inaudible 00:05:56]. They had special software that they developed in-house, very complicated. Now there's match-moving camera tracking software within After Effects in Premiere, so it's gotten a lot better. And a lot of times, the cameras have that metadata analysis, so they just give that metadata to the animator and they plug it in. So I don't even know how much it's used anymore.
But that got me into the film industry to the visual effects side and I did that for about nine months until I actually got fired there. I made some mistakes and I wasn't the right fit and, ultimately, I think they didn't have a lot of work, and I was young. I was the new guy on the totem pole, so they let me go and they told me some great advice. They said, “Jeff, you belong on set where the filming is happening, not so much in the post-production side, in front of a computer on the back end of it all. I think your energy and your passion and what you're interested in is much more about the actual creation of films and working with people out in the environment.”
So, they were right. It was a hard pill to swallow at the time and I was like 24 and I had my first job and I was fired nine months later. Just laid off, maybe, would be more accurate. So, after that, I was crushed and I was listening to their advice in my head and I had a high school friend living in San Diego working for a television studio, who was doing that. He was working on set in sound stages with the actors, with makeup and props, wardrobe and grip, all the little departments it takes to make a film. They call it a moving circus because you have about a 100, 150 people all-moving along outside on some location for a day or two filming these people. So that was so exciting for me.
Enoch Sears: And so was it that studio in San Diego that you got the job at? Was that the next job?
Jeff Durkin: That was the next job. Yeah. That was the next job and it was Stu Segall Productions. They did television shows, kind of B-level stuff. The Syfy channel. They did a lot of stuff for Syfy, a lot of stuff for USA, WB, so you would see these kind of cable shows that weren't prime time network things, but they still needed to be made and San Diego was kind of known as a less expensive area to make films because it wasn't in the unions. So it got that type of work, where it wasn't huge names, but the stuff would be out on a national scale and international scale.
And I learned about the film industry. You kind of work- it's almost all freelancers, first of all. There's a studio, but you only have x number of shows to make and then, basically, your job is over after six months of making those shows, unless the network signs on and gets another season. So, I kind of learned the ins and outs of production through that. I started out just getting coffee and orange juice for actors at the very bottom level. I have a degree from UC Berkeley, I'm an architect and architects are usually pretty intelligent people. And I was happy to get coffee and pass messages along to people on set because I was excited about learning the process and watching. I had a great vantage point to observe everyone. So, that actually worked out pretty well and my show ended. It was Invisible Man. It was one of the many iterations of that show. It was on Syfy probably in the early 2000s, for about probably three seasons before they canceled it.
And then I moved into something that had a really big impact on me. It was called the inserts crew, the second unit. So, when you make a movie, you usually have like 150 people working with the big actors and the trucks and the generators and the lights and all that. And they focus on the dialogue in the big scenes. But then you have a small unit, the second unit, which is about four or five guys that are kind of hovering around, that come in and they film the small things with the stunt doubles and the actor doubles. Like when Tom Cruise is typing on a computer, and they cut to the computer screen, and they cut to his hands typing, that's not Tom Cruise. That's a double there, who's getting paid a lot less, and has probably shot several months after that whole scene was shot with Tom Cruise.
So, it's this little unit that I worked on, that really taught me the nuts and bolts of filmmaking because we would do everything from set stunts, action, establishing shots … And we moved around in a bread truck. It was an old Wonder Bread truck, actually. And we converted it to a film studio. It had a dark room for changing [inaudible 00:10:47]. It had a little editing base, so we could watch the footage. We had to match and study. And we were mobile. And we would be all over Southern California throughout the day.
So that small Run and Gun, they call it, Run and Gun type of production, it just resonated with me because you're so much more creative than when you have the big 100-person crew. I mean, when you have a crew that size, everything's planned and organized. You're not making decisions on the fly. You're not looking at the light over there and saying, “Hey, let's go set up over there. There's beautiful lighting.” It's like, “Well, there's a shot list, we need to be over here now. We can't move 100 people over there. That's crazy. It's going to take an hour.”
So, it was like documentary filmmaking but for television with stunts. And I got to work with the assistant director, so I quickly got out of the coffee and orange juice catering side and got into assistant directing, which was organizing the shoots, figuring out what shots we needed, how long we needed for each shot, what cameras needed to be involved, how many doubles, how many camera people, do we need a sound guy, do we need a visual effects guy. So that gave me a great insight into making films, almost like on a small scale, sort of by-myself-it, where I didn't need a ton of money or a crew to accomplish something and that's the foundation for my company, Breadtruck Films. I like to call it small, fast, cheap and in control. It's kind of my mantra and that's been the way I've been rolling for the last eight years as a filmmaker.
But eventually my show did get canceled from Stu Segall and I got back into architecture.
Enoch Sears: Really?
Jeff Durkin: Yeah.
Enoch Sears: Yeah, tell me about that.
Jeff Durkin: Yeah. So, the Stu Segall Studio kind of had some union disputes and everything, whatever, I don't know what it was. So, television production stopped there, after about two years of work for me. So here I am. Two years in. I've learned filmmaking from the nuts and bolts of it. We used actual film back then. It wasn't digital. [inaudible 00:12:55] lighting and everything. And then, things started to shut down. We just weren't getting work. I didn't really understand it. I was probably 26 or 27. I didn't understand the business. So I was actually out of work for a while.
And what happened, someone came to my house and they saw my work up in my room and they worked at an architecture firm and they said, “We can use someone like you to do marketing and some design for our architecture firm.” And maybe they saw some photography I'd done or some videos I was making and they dropped me into an architecture firm where I was working part-time doing marketing photography. Always, done architecture photography from the very beginning, even from high school. So always had cameras, always had a good eye for composition and I always understood natural light, framing, how to make the building look beautiful at dusk, lit up, glowing box with the purple sky like everyone wants to see.
So, I would do branding, design and that eventually led into a full-time job where I was doing architectural half the time and then, kind of, marketing and branding half the time for a small firm up in Solana Beach, who were primarily doing high-end custom homes in Del Mar, La Jolla, the really affluent areas of San Diego. People built their mansion on the hill and that was the firm that did it, so I would just do a lot of design work for them. And I worked for them for almost five years, actually. It was a great relationship. I loved doing the marketing stuff and then when they had design work, I would do design work. If they didn't have design work, it was like, “All right, Jeff, we need a website. We need these photos.”
So it was actually pretty cool because I never had to really get into CAD and do construction documents. I got to stay in the high-level design side and then when that wasn't happening, I was doing the marketing side, which is pretty creative for me.
So, it was a great kind of twist on my career, where I learned a lot about communication, I'll say, which usually isn't taught in school.
Enoch Sears: What makes you say that about communication? Do you have some stories or experiences you can share about that?
Jeff Durkin: Well, yeah. Yeah. Definitely. I mean, when you're in school, you come up with these great ideas and you build the models and you do the boards and you present to your jury. And they're architects. And you're talking to them in architecture language. And these things don't have to worry about being built or they don't have to worry about getting a permit or passing code. So it's a very creative process. It's very natural.
But when you get into the real word, architecture is actually not very creative at all because you have to get things built. You have budgets and neighbors and engineering. The creativity happens at the beginning when you design and once that's over, it's really more pragmatic and solving the problems on how it's built, how it's constructed. The high-end homes, we were building, there's always a big, I'll say, kind of a big battle with the neighbors on how big it is and how tall it is. And that actually takes up a huge amount of your time and energy. So I had to learn how to talk to that audience. It wasn't the people at school who love design that I used to do renderings for. Now it was homeowners who were just kind of laymen, average people. They didn't know design. They didn't understand aesthetics or this or that and you kind of have to learn how to speak to that audience. What are they going to respond to? If you have a huge, white, modern house next to them, they're going to probably hate it. But if you learn how to show landscape in the renderings and talk about how it's going to be massed and scaled, it's going to work with the site, then, yeah, their minds can be a little bit more open to what it is.
So I had kind of to learn how to talk to a different audience and I had to learn that- I had to learn how to market the work, too, which was little different than just what you do in school, when you come up with these beautiful, big public projects, like libraries and museums and multi-housing things. So I had to learn that. I had to learn that language, and with that came websites, writing, business cards, branding, logos and all that stuff. So, the creative side was really easy but then learning how to communicate to the audience took a little time. Writing, especially. I was horrible at it for years and I got a lot better over time.
Enoch Sears: So take me from- So, you're working for this architecture firm. You said that lasted about five years, which is just, what an incredible experience to have. The filmmaking at the start and then go back into the actual design. And that's a cool combination. Then how did you launch your independent filmmaking career? Where does that fit into this whole saga?
Jeff Durkin: Well, then I did architecture for another year and a half at another firm downtown. So I left the high-end home building world for the more urban San Diego design world, which multi-family housing, apartments, hotels, a lot of bigger scale stuff. So, I did that. And I did the same role. I carved out this unique role where I was like marketing half the time for them and then designing half the time for them.
I think it's pretty unique, because usually for big firms, the marketing's not usually handled in-house, I believe. Maybe you hire a design studio to do your logo and website and everything. You usually don't have a guy in. I don't know. It just seemed like I had carved out this unique niche. And I was really good at rendering and animating and I could pump out the board in the early designs, kind of get people excited about things.
And I think, actually, that taught me camera work, is using 3D studio math and working with virtual cameras, and creating these renderings, and the angles I would pick, the compositions, the atmosphere. Nothing that had to do with design or how tall is this, or how many square feet is this? But the atmosphere, I would create these images to communicate the idea early on before anything was really resolved, I think, taught me a lot about filmmaking, creating an emotional connection with someone. Maybe that's part of the communication, is I learned how to create an emotional connection with people, with the camera angles I took, with the lenses, the lighting, so that I would show someone this beautiful image of what their building would look like and then they would get all excited about it and then it would eventually go to CAD and rib it down the way and then it would get real.
But I would have that initial touch. So in 2008 they laid me off after having about a good two year run there. They loved my work. It was just the economy, you know. All architects weren't working very much in 2008. But they liked me and they kept me on as a kind of consultant freelancer. So I worked with them for almost another two years doing the same thing. Photography, website design, 3D modeling. They had cool clients like Hard Rock Hotel, Oakley, big Vegas casinos, a ton of retail stores that you'd see in the malls that wanted nice design, like Puma and Adidas.
So I was kind of like the visualizer, where I would talk to the principals, sketch some things out, and then it would up to me create the visuals: pick the shots, figure out how the board is expressing the ideas in an exciting way, but also have a few little details solved that I knew the client would really be into, like parking, or some thing, like make sure all the program works. Things like that. But not too deep. So it was this cool position I was in as a young person. I was doing a lot creative work and not doing a lot of CAD and kind of project management stuff, so it fit me well and I got lucky.
Then I got laid off and they, my firm and my boss, Graham Downs, he said, “Jeff, you know, you should really get into film and video and get out of architecture. It's a hard profession. It doesn't pay well. You're always at odds with the clients. There's a lot of lawsuits when you're on big projects.” So he kind of gave me this, I don't know, I guess a gut check or something, that it wasn't always going to be this cool world of visual rendering I had been in if I continued to go on and become licensed.
So he gave me that advice and he was well connected with a bunch of people in the community and this was like 2009, 2010. And I had done a few videos for them and his colleagues, and other architects had seen them. 2010 is right when were thinking like, “Wow. Somebody can do a video now? Someone, like, locally, can produce a video and put it on Youtube to share?” It was kind of the first birth of that. You didn't need to have broadcast. You didn't need to have a big production company. You didn't need to have all these things you had to do in the 70s, 80s, and 90s to tell a story.
It was starting to first come up and that was attractive to a lot of the visionary architects, so they actually became my clients right away. I'm still working with them to this day. People like Jonathan Segal, he's a really big architect here in San Diego. I've been with him for ten years. He's actually my first client. So he was my first client. He had a museum show and he said, “Jeff, I want a ten-minute video to play on the TV for this museum exposition that they're having in San Diego, talking about the top ten architects.” And I did that and it blew up. Everyone in the design community saw it. They loved it. The cinematography and the framing, I think, really connected with architects because of negative space, symmetry, things that a film student just wouldn't know. Things that they don't teach at USC film class. They're not going to teach you how to an asymmetrical framing and then plug in text the perfect way. So, I think it just really resonated and the video was just getting really popular at the time, so I started to kind of ride that wave, I'd say.
Enoch Sears: No pun intended. Speaking to us from Carlsbad, California.
Jeff Durkin: Yeah, right?
Enoch Sears: Do you surf or hang out in the ocean or anything like that, Jeff?
Jeff Durkin: Oh, yeah. All that stuff. Yeah. All that stuff. I was just at the beach last week, so a little surfing, a lot of running and jumping in the ocean. A lot of paddle boarding in San Diego Bay. I love it. I love paddle-boarding, jet skiing once in a while. So yeah, I'm all into the SoCal lifestyle down here. I always have clients- I'll go to a client meeting and if they're downtown, I'll bring my running clothes and I know I'll go running in Coronado. So I'll meet with them and then talk about their project and then go do a workout in Coronado and kind of think about it and then jump in the Bay. So I have this pretty cool setup where I'll work with architects and designers all over and I'll go explore that area where they're at, with the workout afterwards, usually.
Enoch Sears: Oh, interesting. Talk to me about the opportunities you see for architects in video.
Jeff Durkin: Video is the most impactful way for you to ever get your project across to a client. More than a book, more than a photo, more than a website, because film and video and storytelling, if done right, is an emotional medium, where a book and a website and a photo, yeah, you look at it, it's good, you got the information, that's an informational medium but it doesn't have that emotional connection. If you tell a story and you use music, the right music, especially, you can get people excited, you can get people inspired, you can show the problems of a neighborhood and get people feeling moody and melancholy and then show what the developer's proposing to improve that neighborhood, to clean it up. So because you have that element of emotion, it's the best way that you can ever connect with people. And then you have the person talking to you, so there's that psychological connection when you see the architect talking at their desk, drawing, and their potential clients get a sense of who this person is, what they're like, what their can-do is like. Am I going to hire this guy? Am I going to give this guy a few million dollars to design this project?
So I think that the potential is just at the very tip, actually. I think this is just the beginning of the world of video communication. The next few generations are going to just be all video-launched in the way that they communicate and connect with people. And the good ones tell stories. That's the thing. Unfortunately, people just don't have a long attention span, if you're just hitting them with information after information for like three or four minutes, they're going to phase out. You need a story. It's been there from the beginning of time with humans drawing in the caves. And the Greeks coming up with the Greek tragedy and the Greek comedy and people staying two hours watching a Greek play and then Shakespeare developed it in England there. So, yeah, the storytelling aspect of it is essential to a good video and a film. And I think it's just the beginning of what architects can do with this tool.
Enoch Sears: Well, storytelling is definitely an art, like you're inferring. What's the process that you go through when you're faced with a project? What are the steps you go through to pull out the story and connect with that emotion, because one thing I've said about your videos, Jeff, is they're definitely very emotionally impactful. I mean, even if you're just showing images, it's fantastic storytelling and it's interesting you make that correlation between how architecture school sort of gave you a little leg up on that, because I do see those themes. They are very reminiscent of some of the older videos in the 60s that we saw that were these incredible vistas of architecture. So back to my question, that was a little bit of a rant, but back to my question. What's the process for finding a story?
Jeff Durkin: Well, it happens two ways. It happens one, sometimes I'll seek them out. If there's a great piece of architecture I like, I'll reach out to the client and work with them either as a personal project, sometimes they pay me, sometimes it's collaboration. But the second thing is, people hire me. They see my videos and they say, “Jeff, come on in. We need a video on this new hotel. We have a lot of clients who like hotels. We want to have something to show them.” And the first process is a meeting and talking to the architects and designers. And what happens at the meeting is a huge brainstorming session. They'll tell me all about the building, how it was conceived, the concept, the design, how people use it. And a building is a very complex thing. It takes years. It has multiple functions. And I can't get it all in three minutes. So we have a big brainstorming session. And from that, I find the 10% of the things that they tell, that I think are the soul of their project, and figure out how I can make that soul come across in three minutes. The essence.
So if it's a building on a college campus that's an art school, then it's going to be about the students and the people creating art in the space. Yeah, there may be cool materials and there may be an awesome ventilation system that they spent a long time on and great landscaping. But sometimes you just can't get that across in three minutes and sometimes that's not the heart and soul of what they've done. The heart and soul of what they've done may have been with the windows and how natural light comes in so that the painters in the painting class can paint by natural light instead of artificial light. It may be the fact that the buildings are oriented a certain way to get views of the city to inspire the people working in them.
So I try to find the essence, the soul, the spirit, whatever you want to call it, the kernel that makes building work. It makes it exciting. It makes great for people. And I try to turn that into a three-minute story based on an initial meeting that we have. Sometimes I'll write a script, so that they see where I'm going. I usually write interview questions based on what we've said. Like, “Tell me about why is it important to have natural light in the painting studios?” So then the architect can talk about, “Well, you know, all the old masters from Europe and Asia, they all painted with natural light throughout the decades and generations, so we want to maintain that type of artistic process instead of using, you know, fluorescent lights up in the ceiling or can lights or something.”
So an initial meeting, then I kind of break it down into a three-minute script. Okay, here's what we're going to talk about. In three minutes, I try to cover three points. One point a minute. Maybe if the first point's usually about the neighborhood, what's the context? That's always hugely important to architects in the buildings. The second point is a little bit about the functionality and how it connects with people. It could be everything from a lifeguard tower that is projecting out over the sand so they have a better view for the surfers in La Jolla to something like Jonathan Segal, where he's building a big courtyard in the center so people can walk their dogs because it's multi-family housing building, but there's retail below and he just wants to create community. So, that's the second part.
And then the third part, usually, is kind of what impact does it have? What impact does it leave? So it leaves the audience with the purpose of the building and how it's maybe changed the neighborhood, how it's really improved quality of life for the people that live there. That part's a little loose depending on the project. But I try to get three points across in three minutes, and ultimately, at the end, talk about how it's impacted people or the community. So, just to leave the audience with the importance of it.
Enoch Sears: Let's talk a little bit about how architects can use video in their firms. You talked about a pre-design example when you said, Look, developers can use this, for instance, if they're going for some sort of approval or commissioning approval, creating that story about, well, here's the somber, kind of melancholy neighborhood the way it is now, and here is it after. And I see that as sort of a pre-design type of thing. And then marketing videos, obviously. Talk to me about that, Jeff, about the different ways that you see, that architecture firms could utilize video in their process, whether it's pre-design or design or post-design or marketing or whatever.
Jeff Durkin: Yeah. I mean, you said it. Pre-design, unbuilt work if they need to sell a client, if they need to sell a committee, a planning committee. We did one in Hillcrest urban neighborhood in San Diego. And they want to develop a new district. They want to build hotels, they want to bring mixed use in, they want to take a parking lot and turn it into a park. So the big problem in Hillcrest is there's tons of homeless people. So I went there and I filmed the homeless people and I put melancholy music behind it and showed drug addicts passed out on the side, drunk people at the liquor store. More documentary, less architecture at that point. And then I showed what the developer planned to do there with new buildings and parks and trees and green space. And anyone, whether you're a ten-year-old kid or a 90-year-old woman, can look at the video and say, “Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. That's like a big improvement right there. Who wouldn't want this, right?” And certain people in the community, maybe they don't want the change, they don't want the density and stuff, but most people are like, “Okay. This really makes sense, to improve this community.”
So yeah. Pre-design to sell building, to get financing for a building. I have a guy I worked with that does drones and helicopter stuff and 3D animation. So we'll take a sketchup model, we'll film it from a helicopter, and they put it from a helicopter first, and the site. We'll take a 3D sketchup model or 3D Maxwell from the architect, rebuild it and then map them together so that you get this aerial view of the real neighborhood and then the building and the trees and the green space to show a very clear idea of what it's going to look like.
And that's super valuable for architects, developers, and builders. In marketing, sometimes they need to lease these spaces before they build them. They need to get a lease signed ahead of time, so they need to show what it's going to look like so that they can get a four-five year lease from a certain tenant that'll help finance the construction of it.
So, pre-design and, I call them, developer visualization videos, is a really big part of it and then the second part of would be the work's built. Now the work's built, now they want to use it as a portfolio piece, so it's just like you have photos on a website, you also have a video. And you can share your video on social media. And you can share with your clients, so once it's built; it's kind of a portfolio piece on the specific building.
A third type of video I do is called a firm profile. It's a prom file not on one building or one side or one space, but more on the firm and the process. And we usually interview multiple people. You have a kind of team feeling. People talking about the philosophy, showing several different works instead of one specific work and that's kind of purely a marketing piece. That would usually be on the homepage of an architect's website that says, “Here we are. Look at the work we're doing. This is how we think. This is the work we build. And this is our space we work in.” It shows their sketching. It shows them building models. And it just gives the client or developer a look into the audience and who they are in three minutes. It's a nice way to quickly introduce yourself to somebody if you're trying to get a new job. So that's a firm profile video.
And then, the fourth one, is sometimes, architects have lectures or- a lot of architects lecture. A lot of architects have work shown in galleries or museums, and they want some type of video to go into that realm. And that could be a firm profile video. It could be video on one project. Or it could be maybe some type of- I've done videos that kind of show a life's work of somebody. Maybe they've passed away, the firm wants to have a display for them. And I've done videos on people's life and their past work. Almost more like a biography piece on an individual. So those four types of videos are generally the majority of the videos that I do.
Enoch Sears: Now, if there's a firm who wants to hire a videographer, what are the steps that they would be going through? What do you recommend in terms of vetting a videographer and how do you find a good videographer, and how do you know who they are. If you're sitting down- I'm an architect and you're just advising me, saying, “Enoch, look, if you want to get a film done, this is what I recommend you do.” What are your recommendations, Jeff?
Jeff Durkin: It is tricky, because, I'll be honest, 99% of people who do video in your city and community aren't going to have any type of design background. They're typically going to be corporate. They're typically going to be wedding. Wedding is a huge industry where a lot of young creatives work in on the weekend and then try and do work elsewhere. So, that's an interesting question. I wonder where they would even look. I guess you can Google someone online. I guess you can maybe find a work that you've seen in your city and try to find out who did it and pursue that person. Maybe that's what I would say, is if they've found a video that they like, to find out who made it and then contact them.
It's tough to find someone who understands design to actually make a video. It's just not a very common industry at this point. You can Google. You can Google people. You're going to get a mixed bag. You can definitely hire a PR firm. PR firms who do marketing will have contacts with multiple people in videography who they know may be a good fit. How I find collaborators when I travel to the city, if I travel to London, I'll get on Vimeo and I'll type in “London drone” and I'll find a bunch of freelancers doing drone work in London and I'll hire one of them. And I've done that. So maybe that. Maybe that's the way. Go to Youtube and you type in your city plus “architecture video” or “drone” or something and you could probably find some younger freelancers. That would probably be a good start. That's what I would say.
Enoch Sears: Okay. That's a great little hack.
Jeff Durkin: Yeah.
Enoch Sears: What kind of questions would an architect need to ask a potential videographer to know if they're legit, to know if, there's a lot of camera terminology out there, 4K, HD, drones, what are some of the- could you give us some advice in terms of questions to ask and what you might see these videographers offering, to know that they're going to be able to do the job?
Jeff Durkin: Well, yeah. A few components in the video that you want. You want drone stuff. You just do. It's awesome. It looks cool. It's great for architects because it shows their building and the site, so right away you want to see, “Do you do drone work? Do you have somebody you work with that has drone work. We need some photos and video up above.” You want your photos as well. You want to try and get both. So when you hire someone, you try to get photos and videos with a drone because it can give you great shots that maybe your regular photographer's not able to get you. So, you want to have that.
So if you want to say, “We want an interview to describe the process. We want to make sure you can do audio and do an interview.” There's an art to interviewing, you know. When I first started, I would just put a microphone on him and say, “Okay. Tell me about the project.” I didn't have any questions, really. And that worked okay but as you get older and you learn interviewing is an art, you want to get those really good sound bytes from him. You want to hear about how these buildings are helping people live and stuff. So you kind of frame things in a certain way to get the best sound bytes. So you want good interviews.
And then you're going to want some B-roll, is what they call it, shots of the building, shots of the firm, shot of people drawing and sketching. And the best way to communicate is to find a video you like and say, “Hey, look. This has an interview. It has drone shots. It has shots of the building at dusk. That would make it look really pretty and I like that. These are the three things that you should try to achieve in a video.”
Enoch Sears: And tell me, what are the price ranges that an architecture firm would look at when they're out there in the market, all the way from freelancer working out of the garage to corporate? Give us an idea for how much it would cost, what we would be looking at in terms of investment to get a video produced.
Jeff Durkin: You know, it varies so greatly. It varies so greatly. If someone has a little house that can be filmed in a few hours, that's one thing. If someone has a big building on a city college campus that may need a day of filming and you may want to come back to get that dusk lighting a second night. The pricing is actually the hardest part for me because it's all over the boards. So I try and with a basic video on your building or your firm for like four grand. If it's a big building, maybe it's a little more, I've got to spend more time on it if you have a big development you want to see.
And then the mid-level prices I do is like six to seven grand, it's maybe I'm filming a few buildings now, so maybe you want a few buildings done so that you have a video portfolio on your website. And then I'm up at ten grand for the next round, which is maybe I'll spend a week in your city filming like six buildings, interview you, your people, show your process, and you're getting multiple videos, too. Maybe I do a two-minute profile video on your firm and then I do a couple of one-minute standalone videos on the projects I've filmed. So at the end, you may end up with five videos for ten grand that you use in marketing for the next 5 or six years, maybe even the next ten years.
And then, the bigger budgets ones are the developer-driven ones, where you need to visualize the project on the site. It just takes much more reanimation. Those are the ten to twenty range, ten to twenty grand range, where you're trying to do a lot of animation, a lot of computer graphics. You're trying to do graphics that show, maybe, the area and how it's connected to public transportation and how it's connected to jobs and stuff, and why does building make sense for that community because it's connected to the neighborhood. And you've got to visualize that. It just takes a long time. And to make it look really compelling and dynamic, it needs to come from a filmmaker.
The cheaper way is an architect can give you a still rendering. You need to show that on the screen but that's not very exciting. That's not very compelling. It looks kind of cheap. But what's compelling is having a drone fly over a parking lot and then having a building start to grow out of that empty site and then have the trees fall down and then the music come on. And that's something a filmmaker has to do. An architect can't do it. A lot of times architects say, “Yeah, we've got all the renderings. We've got all the stuff. We'll take care of that part.” But they don't quite understand the storytelling aspect of it. I just can't show a JPEG on the screen for 25 seconds and have someone get really excited about it. So that's something architects don't quite understand and that's why those are in the 10,000 to 20,000 range, because of that level of cinematography, that level of visualization. It just takes much more.
Renting a helicopter and flying and filming a site is $2500/hour. So that's for the helicopter and the cameraman. So, from three to twenty grand is usually the range I work in and I've worked in. And it all just depends on the complexity of the project.
Enoch Sears: Okay. So an architect who's looking at something in the three to four grand range, what do they get for that?
Jeff Durkin: Typically, for me, I'll come to your office, I'll find out what the building's all about, we'll talk, I'll come up with the storyline, I'll come back and then film the building, and then interview you about the building and you'll end up with a three-minute video and a couple photos that you can use to market the project. So that's kind of your standard, I would say, three-minute portfolio video for three to four grand. Or if you needed something like a firm profile video, sometimes I'll do those for four to five grand. I'll come, interview you, fellow architects, have you guys talk. If it's simple, if it's one day's work … and then I'll edit it together with the drawings, showing your office, kind of. Those are kind of my basic beginner packages.
Enoch Sears: Awesome. And if there's an architect in New York City or in another state or even in another country, that wants to work with you specifically, Jeff, are you open to that? Tell us about that.
Jeff Durkin: Yeah. Yeah. I've been all over the world. I've been all over the world. I was all over the country last year working with AIA on different projects. So yeah. I give you a proposal, like the prices we mentioned, and then plus travel. So yeah. It's no problem. I worked in New York three times last year. I have drone guys there. I have different crew that I bring on, so you don't actually have to pay for my San Diego crew to come out. Maybe I'll bring my assistant, but as I get into bigger shoots, if I need drones or helicopters, I usually use local people. So it's little more economical. Yeah, I know New York well. I know LA, San Francisco really well, San Diego, of course. Anything in California, I've filmed at. Did a project in Portland. Did a project in Newbern, Alabama last year. Going to Riley, North Caroline here for another project. So yeah, you can reach out. I work all over and we can set something up.
Enoch Sears: That sounds awesome, Jeff. How do people reach out to you and contact you?
Jeff Durkin: Jeffdurkin.com is my website. It's got all of my work on it. You can just do firstname.lastname@example.org is my email. You can find me on Instagram: durkin.film. Just follow my work. Contact me through there. And that's usually it. That's the best way.
Enoch Sears: Awesome. Hey, is there anything else that we've left out architecture, design, and video that you feel needs to be said before we wrap up here?
Jeff Durkin: Do it. The short answer is do it because your competition is doing it and if a developer's looking to hire an architect who designs some big projects or small projects, they're looking at multiple firms. One of them is going to have a video and that's just going to be a lot more compelling. There's reputation and stuff that comes into it as well, but I would say do it because in probably 15 years everyone's going to have- I mean, not even that. In like five years, everyone is going to have a video just like they have a website, just like they have a business card, it's just going to be one of those fundamental marketing materials that you're going to have to need to communicate and compete.
Enoch Sears: Awesome. Well thanks, Jeff. So I've been joined by film director, Jeff Durkin today. Jeff, thanks for being on the Business of Architecture.
Jeff Durkin: Yeah. Thank you. Loved to learn more about what you guys are doing.
Enoch Sears: And that is a wrap. Thank you for listening today. If you're looking for more time, freedom, impact, and income as an architect, get instant access to my free four-part architect profit map by visiting freearchitectgift.com.
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