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In October 2014, MAKEACHAMP decided to produce our official video. Now that it's on the home page and YouTube, we wanted to give the MAKEACHAMP community a little taste of what it was like behind the scenes. Take a look at the making of this video -- no holds barred.

Yet another explainer video?

A good video can get people excited about your product, even when they've been using your product for years! Not only that, but a video is a powerful tool to spread the word about your product on social networks.

The vast majority of startups choose to have an explainer video with illustrations and a descriptive voice-over. They are affordable, can be made with accessible software or outsourced talent, and can do the job. What's not to hate?

The sandwich video production company for example, does a fantastic job at creating well-crafted explainer videos about new tech products that will make your life easier.

Take a look at some of their work:

The "Dollar Shave Club" video mixes humor, interesting visuals and bold acting from the startup's founder:


We could have followed this formula and created a basic explainer video, but instead, MAKEACHAMP took the bold decision to follow a different route. How did it happen?

From Zero to Hero

There's a natural attraction to stories of athletes overcoming obstacles through determination, courage and of course the support of friends, family, and the crowd, to ultimately be crowned a champion. This is what MAKEACHAMP embodies.

We believed that this is a story that many athletes can identify with, and having a movie to illustrate this point would serve to motivate athletes worldwide to join the crowdfunding movement. Alexander Rozenblit, director and owner of White Ink Film Production, worked with screenwriter Julien Roy on the idea:

"MAKEACHAMP embodies the moral support from a large community, which will bring the athlete to the podium."

The script made clear that it would be more of a TV spot, or even a short movie, than a traditional explainer video with animated infographics. Alexander Rozenblit has more than 10 years of experience in TV and advertising experience and this film would leverage his unique skills in this field.

Choices, choices, choices...

The movie's basic production cost was estimated at $5,000, excluding professional fees. Most of the MAKEACHAMP team was to be involved in the film production as well, so we had to account for the time they would spend on it. When we did the math, the movie would cost more than $15,000.

Our alternative was not to produce the movie and instead work on something else - or maybe outsource a nice explainer video. The latter would save a lot of money and dozens, if not hundreds, of hours.

The decision was taken at a table when Alexander Rozenblit promised he would make "the best startup video in Canada." Alexander had just moved to Canada, so this would be his first big project in the country and he was willing to put in his all:

"My goal was to deliver a Hollywood-quality movie on a very small budget"

We evaluated the risks and ... it was a go!

Other more rational startups would have said no and chosen a more affordable explainer video. We chose a timeless film that would still portray the MAKEACHAMP values 10 years down the road.

Working with a professional film director

We started pre-production by casting talent as well professional crews. Storyboards made by Alexander Rozenblit helped executive producers Heri Rakotomalala and Hannah Maldoff imagine the shoot:

storyboard makeachamp

Not everything was smooth however. My advice for other startups is to sit down and establish, from the beginning, what the goals of the film are. What is the vision? What are the roles and responsabilities? Are there any deadlines? What buffer do you have, if any?

When we started working on the project, we realized there was a dichotomy between what we, as a startup, envisioned, and what Alexander, as a director, envisioned for the film. 

The startup mentality would be to put "people" in front of the camera, include shots of the website, nice crescendo music, and insert the logo highlighted at the end. A startup is also conscious of the costs and above all, wants a video that contributes to the bottom line.

A director on the hand, focuses on portraying subtle human traits. He dreams about recreating award-winning movies such as "Raging Bull" or the more recent "Million Dollar Baby", featuring tenacious fighters, epic boxing, as well as dramatic cinematography. This is what he wants to show to his peers. The immediate utility for the startup is therefore not the absolute priority.

In the case of MAKEACHAMP, we knew the goal of the project was to create a Hollywood-quality movie on a small budget, but we needed to control the costs and the time. We had discussions day after day about which main actor, supporting actresses, and which location to choose. There had to be a girlfriend with a unique smile and an old battered boxing gym. The main actor had to bear the weight of his past on his shoulders. We had to find an epic boxing venue similar to the Bell Center. Discussions turned into heated exchanges. It was the vision of the director vs practicality.


We conceded on the main points such as the actor and the location, and it was deemed good enough. We didn't have to find a boxing ring with spotlights and benches. Additionally, we asked to include parents, and other people such as a professional business man, reflecting the crowd on the platform.

Movie production hacks

Everyone knows about craigslist to source potential talent who would work in exchange for experience and shots, but we decided to try Kijiji and ended up being amazed by the talent we dicovered. Additionally, we targeted a few Facebook groups, such as the local Non-Union actors group or the video DSLR group. A nice Facebook event let us get the word out to the community who had an interest in joining as extras.

In exchange for all the free hands and free work, the least you can do is provide (hot) food for everyone. Don't underestimate the power of a good meal to boost morale on a long shoot, and give poeple the energy to stay on set longer than expected - even if it meant working for 14 hours straight!

Alexander Rozenblit hired his crew, who were all professionals from the movie and TV industry. The budget was limited, but they agreed on a "friendly" rate due to MAKEACHAMP's mission

team day 2

Make sure you have a budget for emergencies, understanding friends you can call for special requests such as a shiny boxer robe, and a tolerance for stress. Due to several factors, on the night before the shoot, which happened to be a Saturday, we had a major problem: we had no boxing robe! With nothing open on Sunday, our team was left to problem solve under extreme stress. Thankfully, Hannah Maldoff managed to track down a professional boxer, Ghislain Maduma, who was nice enough to lend us his robes at midnight on a Saturday, and bring us his friend's robe on Sunday. 


Thanks Ghislain, we owe you! 

ghislain boxing

We used a Sony FS-700 main camera for the first day. While the image is "thin" and heavily compressed (8 bit 422), the results can be satisfying with an external recorder (Odyssey 7Q), and it's also one of the rare cameras that can record super slow-motion shots:

sony fs700 slow-motion

We used Zeiss lenses that has nice constrast. Unfortunately, we did not have the budget for a focus puller but our experienced director of photography François Gamache managed to pull it off:


We had a fog machine to enhance the light work and dramatize the set:

fog machine

The talented make-up artist, Catherine Brunelle, made it look like David was sweating all the time:

make up artist movie

Make sure to hire everyone from your local judo club. They make an enthusiastic crowd and they love a nice chicken meal after a good judo workout!

judo friends club

Coffee is a must in a movie production. Make sure you have some at the end or you will have talent like this:

coffee movie

Post-production : Director to the rescue!

Our shoot was spread over 2 days, rather than one. Other issues such as sourcing props or long working days days meant we spent most of the budget in production.

To reach the goal of producing a Hollywood-quality movie on a limited budget, Alexander Rozenblit took it upon himself to personally do the editing and color grading. The work was compared to other professional colorists, and our results are definitively bettter! We worked in similar ways for the VFX -- visible in the light effects in the second part of the video -- and for sound editing as well. The music was by Nigel W.Graham, Christian Telford from a LA music company.

It had the perfect balance of rhytm and tone for the video.Allowing Alexander to take on all these extra roles (editing, color correction, and sound editing) was a tough decision because we knew that it would cause delays in post-production - he's a director after all, not an editing specialist -- but the end result was well worth the wait, and thank to him we managed to stay on budget. 

From the start, Alexander Rozenblit insisted that he have the final cut, and this mission was accomplished.

Launching a startup movie

Almost 6 months later, the movie is now showcased proudly on home page of the site. To celebrate the launch and thank all those who helped make this movie a reality, we hosted a special event at the new MAKEACHAMP offices, which included a VIP screening of the movie. 

It's too early to tell if the movie will meet all of our expectations and engage the MAKEACHAMP community, but we are certainly proud to have made this movie and hope to inspire athletes worldwide!

We hope you enjoy the video and can find a minute to share it ! 

If you have any feedback about the movie or the tagline at the end, please ! We'd love to hear your thoughts!