The Hollywood Post Alliance’s Sales Career Resource Group held a timely panel this week, at the Sheraton Universal Hotel in Universal City. “How to Get, Keep and Not Lose My Business” was the topic that packed the room. Moderated by industry veteran Herb Dow, the panel was made up of four clients: Aaron Staudinger, associate producer at Rocart/Nick; Bruce Sandzimier, VP of post production at ABC Studios; Joe Fineman, independent post production consultant; and Charlie Davis, HPAeventEVP of post production at CBS Films.

The following are some of Dow’s questions and answers from the panel.

What do you notice when you visits a facility?

Sandzimier: I go to a lot of facilities where I don’t know anyone but it’s nice to go in and know some one because of the comfort level. The other thing I look for is if people on are the ball. Are they asking the right questions or waiting for you to give them information?

Also, does the company have a reputation for doing the kind of things you need to do? I look for a company that’s known for doing the things we need done.

Talent versus technology – which is most important?

Fineman:  Management is a third factor. If you don’t have the management, the talent and technology don’t mean that much. Facility to facility, the technology is pretty much the same thing. Just because they have great talent doesn’t mean it’s the person I want to work with. If your DP or director has some relation to the person operating the control, that’s better. Having all the technology working is absolute. And yet we know crashing happens, technology goes down. But if I don’t have a manager, a producer who will watch after my interests, the technology could be perfect and the talent could be great, but I won’t go back there.

What are your hot buttons?

Davis: If I have to re-ask for a bid. If I have to re-ask, you’re off my list. It’s amazing that I have to ask for a bid again. If I do, the level of service has dropped to a point where I don’t want to go there. It’s about service to me. It’s all about management.

Also, when a colorist says he’s worked on five movies I worked on and I know he didn’t…just be real with that credit list. I vet every credit list, I really do. If the talent can’t do it, don’t put someone forward who can’t do the job. Do not take on a job if you can’t do it. Understand the limitation of your facility and be willing to let something go, to say no.

What do you read in the bid?

Staudinger: I want to read that the facility has a deep understanding for what my goal is in post producing the film/TV project. That they understand my workflow and can get me there as cost effectively and quickly as possible. I don’t want a bd for 4K DI if I can go color correct it in a way more relvant to the end result.

How much does the personality of the rep play into your decisions?

Sandzimier:  It is important. You want to know that person, to be able to communicate with that person. There’s a shorthand; they know what to expect from you and vice versa. But just because I haven’t dealt with someone doesn’t preclude a business relationship. You have to allow people into your inner circle, so I try to have an open mind.

Fineman:  To have someone call me to talk helps pave the way for me to want to have an interchange and get to know the person. Then I’m willing to talk more about dollars and cents, equipment. It can be price or personality that gets me to return phone calls.

What kind of sales approach works for you?

Davis: I’m a straight-to-business guy. I truly believe that fluffing–meaning a lot of friendly phone calls and lunches–are well and good but don’t get to the heart of it for me.

What are your communication preferences?

Staudinger: Email, phone, sit-down: it’s all important. Face to face is often the best way to put an end to something that might be a tough situation.

Sandzimier: I would agree. I communicate in whatever way works: I respond to email, I’ll take a phone call and I like face-to-face because you can deal with it quickly and there are no misunderstanding that can happen with email or on the phone. Whatever is necessary to get the job done is the way I’m willing to do it.

Fineman: I agree with Aaron and Bruce. If a friend calls and says will you meet with this picture editor even if I didn’t have work. I’ll do it. But if I did it with every picture editor who called, I’d never get any work done.

Davis: I do belive there’s a fine line between what you put in an email and what you can say on the phone. I went away for a week into the mountains and I came back to 150 emails on my phone and three-quarters of them were ridiculous and didn’t need to be sent. Email is an amazing communication tool and it’s the way we run our business. But when you have a situation you need to deal with, there’s nothing better than talking to someone in person. Email can be misconstrued.

What about Facebook?

Fineman:  It does seem like an additional way of communicating–especially if you’re having a revolution–that and Twitter. I think that every means of communication can be well used. My experience so far with Facebook is 99 percent of it is people talking about their day-to-day life. On the other hand, a colleague asked me if I knew of an assistant,  I put the request on Facebook and got four replies.

Davis: I think Facebook is great. It was a great way to reconnect. There is a great line between what is business and what is social. To say, I want to have lunch with you because I want to give you a bid–I’m kind of turned off by that. But understanding new technology/communication tools is very important for all of us.

How do you respond to a low-ball bid?

Staudinger:  I ask, is everything there? Is the talent there? If the talent isn’t there, I won’t entertain the bid at all.  Of course, it piques my interest. The cost effectiveness at which I’m supposed to work makes it tough but I have to make sure all the pieces are there.

Sandzimier: One of the concerns I have with a low-ball bid is, Is this company really desperate? A sign of desperation isn’t such a good thing when we’re trying to interact with new business. I feel bad for them, but it makes me concerned.

Fineman: We’re always looking for the lowest bid in the indie film world. Who’s dealing with that bid?  If it’s a trusted vendor and they give me a very low figure, I have to vet the numbers. If I know the person, I’m much more trusting. They don’t come out of thin air. A director will come to me and say, I have a friend from college who’ll do the main titles for $1K. That’s a very low bid. My problem is that I don’t have the ability to tell the director, No I won’t go to your friend. It becomes wrangling. Sometimes a low bid is a good thing, sometimes not.

Davis: I’m a very straight forward guy. I tell people the numbers I have and I expect the services that number will give me. The problem is that you get reduced services to get the number. So a low-ball bid is, usually, one that doesn’t have the services you need.

Here’s a question from the audience: How do we get you out of the comfort zone to try someone outside of the facilities you’re loyal to?

Davis: If I’m looking at three bids that are the same, it comes down to relationship. All of you providing services to us are making us look good when the services are on schedule and on budget. We’ll go to facilities that do that for us.  Whoever will go the extra mile to make me feel comfortable–that’s what gets me, bottom line.

Do you outsource projects overseas?

Sandzimier:  For us in TV, it’s not really practical. There’s an immediacy with what we do – having something that’s not in close proximity to either where we’re shooting or posting isn’t really feasible. Even doing VFX – getting the financial benefits of doing them in Vancouver – the turnaround time for even that distance isn’t always that practical. So we don’t find ourselves farming them out across the country. It has to be within 30 miles of where we’re at.

Fineman: The only work I’ve done outside the US has been VFX. I’ve dealt with 6, 7, 8 countries. It comes down to creativity. If you’re working with the right vendor, where you do the effects doesn’t matter. What matters is the creativity and having the communication so that what you tell them is understood.  I’m still an LA person and want everything to be done here.

Davis:  I agree wholeheartedly and am lucky that I have a senior management that knows we have to stay close in LA. We’re always searching for ways to try to figure out how L.A. will work.

Staudinger:  Out of circumstance, we’re doing a lot of work with Vancouver. The only thing I feel comfortable dealing with outside of LA is visual effects. What happens when there’s a problem?

Davis: This is the test of the facility: to come to bat and fix it. Some are really good at it, some aren’t. More importantly, we are faced now with a different editorial team than we had 5 years ago. Assistant editors have to be engineers. The workflows are creating a level of expertise that didn’t exist before. The assistant editor and editorial group has to step up, and facilities as well.  On that note, I’m a strong proponent of competition.  I’ll give my work to a bunch of companies because that’s what keeps us all in business. That’s not one company, that’s all of us.

The Sales Career Resource Group (SCRG) was formed under the aegis of HPA to create community among sales and marketing professionals; provide a forum of support and resources; and stimulate HPA member growth.