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15 Questions to Ask Commercial Production Companies Before Hiring One

Updated: Jul 3

The success of your commercial can hinge on the production company you choose. With plenty of options available, it's important to ask relevant questions that ensure a smooth and successful production process.

This guide provides 15 questions to ask potential commercial production companies—covering everything from budget ranges and styles to post-production and insurance. By asking these questions, you can gain valuable insights into their capabilities, experience, and approach, ensuring your commercial production is in good hands.

full shot of a film production crew, including a camera operator, a dolly grip, and various other crew positions
Commercial production crew setting up a dolly shot. © Good Pictures

1. "Do you have experience with budgets of [x] size?"

From the start, understanding commercial production companies' experiences with different budget ranges is crucial. Do they have experience with budgets in the tens-of-thousands? Hundreds-of-thousands? Millions?

If considering larger, high-production value commercials, look for a company with a proven track record of handling complex projects and delivering exceptional results. Ask to see their featured work, which showcases their ability to scale their resources and expertise to meet the demands of larger projects.

When high-quality visuals and thoughtfully constructed narratives are essential for elevating a brand and grabbing audience attention, production companies that can seamlessly scale their capabilities to project needs are valuable assets.

2. "How adaptable are you to [x] need and/or [y] style?"

Commercial production companies may have unique specializations and/or styles. Some might excel in docu-style, narrative-driven storytelling that focuses on people—like this Samsung TV commercial—while others might focus on visually stunning product shots and rely heavily on motion design and visual effects (vfx)—like this Apple AirPods Pro commercial. Others might specialize in sketch comedy vignettes that entertain and engage viewers.

If you have specific needs—let's say, 2D motion graphics composited and tracked into footage (example below)—confirm with the production company that they have that specific capacity or expertise.

Nurse wearing mask sits next to patient laying in hospital bed, with various fictional social media graphics appearing around the patient
2D motion graphics composited and tracked into footage. © Good Pictures

In terms of style, commercial production companies likely have more flexibility and adaptability than what you see on their website. Many production companies also have director rosters—presenting you with various stylistic options. Because different directors bring unique ideas, styles, experiences, and identities to the table, commercial production companies may suggest or select a specific director who best fits your project's needs. If you're looking for adaptability, consider asking production companies if they have a director's roster, or check to see if a roster is included on their website.

3. "Can you share relevant commercial work samples?"

Reviewing commercial work samples is an essential step in evaluating commercial production companies' quality, creativity, and technical skills. Most commercial production companies have a featured work page on their website.

Feel free to look for examples that resonate with your brand's aesthetic and target audience, but also keep in mind that work samples for other clients will likely differ from the exact style and tone you're looking to produce. More importantly than finding exact matches to your vision, pay close attention to the quality of commercial production companies' storytelling techniques, visual style, and sound design, as well as the overall impact of their commercials.

4. "Can you share past client reviews?"

Client reviews and testimonials provide valuable insights into commercial production companies' professionalism, communication, and ability to meet deadlines and expectations. Look for reviews on reputable platforms like Google, Clutch, The Manifest, other industry-specific directories, or the reviews page on a production company's website. Positive feedback from clients can indicate a reliable and trustworthy production partner.

Screenshot of Good Pictures' Google Reviews, showing 18 5-star reviews and 3 quote snippets from reviewers.
Google Reviews Example

Also, consider asking if they have any references you can contact directly for further feedback. A reputable company will be transparent about their past work and eager to share the positive experiences of their clients. Additionally, consider asking for references from clients with projects similar in scope and style to yours, as this can provide a more accurate picture of what to expect.

Bonus tip: In addition to the content of reviews, consider looking at who left a particular review. Was it an employee with a senior position at a notable agency, brand, or organization? Reviews from reputable employees at reputable organizations can carry additional credibility.

5. "Are you a full-service production company?"

Determine whether commercial production companies offer a comprehensive range of services or specialize in specific areas. Full-service production companies handle everything from concept development and pre-production to filming, post-production, and final delivery; whereas some commercial production companies focus specifically on production, requiring a footage handoff to a post-production company for the edit, graphics, color grade, and sound mix.

Beyond standard production services, if you need additional services like scriptwriting and/or casting, ask if commercial production companies either offer this in-house or can offer it via trusted partners.

Full-service commercial production companies can help you streamline your workflow and meet all your production needs under one roof, potentially saving you time and resources. If production companies don't offer a particular service, ask for recommendations for reputable vendors or trusted freelancers.

wide shot of a commercial production crew and equipment, with on-camera talent sitting on the couch chatting with a smiling director
Commercial production crew setting up a shot for a Samsung spot. © Good Pictures

6. "Can you assemble a bid for a budget of [x]?" OR "What will the total cost be for this project?"

Regardless of which question you ask, obtain a detailed cost estimate from commercial production companies before starting a project to ensure you'll stay within budget. Estimates should include anticipated costs like:

  • prep, shoot, and wrap labor & expenses

  • art department labor & expenses

  • location & travel expenses

  • props, wardrobe, makeup, & animals

  • stage rental & expenses

  • equipment costs

  • media

  • miscellaneous production costs

  • director's fees

  • talent labor & expenses

  • post-production labor & expenses

If you have a specific budget, commercial production companies should provide a treatment and budget breakdown that fits within those financial parameters, outlining where resources will be best allocated.

If you have a general budget range, commercial production companies can propose a specific treatment and accompanying budget in their bid to outline where your investment will go. This approach can be helpful when you're open to adjustments based on different creative visions or levels of production value.

If you have a concept but no specific budget, commercial production companies can develop a treatment and budget based on their expertise and understanding of the project goals. This approach may be necessary if you're new to commercial production, or when the project is particularly unique or complex.

Bonus tip: Before entering an agreement, inquire about production companies' payment terms, including whether or not they require a deposit. For example, a fee structure for a commercial production might be a 50% deposit upon entering an agreement, and the final 50% due upon your acceptance of the final deliverable(s).

If you're ready to start a project and are looking for quotes from commercial production companies, Good Pictures is happy to help. Go to our commercial production page and select "Start a commercial project" to get the ball rolling. If you have general questions, feel free to contact Good Pictures.

7. "Do you offer creative development & writing services?"

If you're thinking about hiring commercial production companies, you might already have your creative locked (or close to it). Or, you may have a clear idea of your general objective and approach—for example, increase brand awareness through a branded entertainment series on YouTube—but need help clarifying that idea and translating it into the most compelling and effective story.

If the latter is the case, ask production companies if they also offer creative development and writing services. A company with in-house writers or a network of trusted writers can be invaluable in crafting—or consulting on—a compelling narrative that aligns with your brand's message and resonates with your target audience.

Ask for examples of previous concepts they've developed based on client requests. This will give you a sense of their storytelling abilities and their understanding of the nuances of commercial concepting and scriptwriting.

8. "Can you provide a schedule overview?"

Establishing a clear schedule for your commercial production is essential for planning marketing campaigns and product launches. Reliable commercial production companies will provide a detailed schedule outlining key milestones, from pre-production meetings and casting to filming days, post-production editing, and final delivery.

Discuss your desired schedule and ensure they can accommodate your deadlines without compromising the quality of their work. Consider asking about contingency plans and/or how they communicate with clients to keep them informed of progress. A realistic and well-planned pre-production schedule demonstrates their commitment to meeting deadlines and delivering a high-quality product on time.

Bonus tip: As the client, you also play an important part in keeping commercial production companies on schedule. Whether you're providing brand assets, facilitating introductions to key people, or providing feedback, it's essential that you communicate clearly and promptly in response to the production company's requests.

9. "Can you handle casting on-camera talent?"

If your commercial requires on-camera talent, ask if commercial production companies can handle the casting process. Inquire about how they collaborate with you during the casting process. Do they involve you in auditions and provide options for your approval?

It's important to delve into specifics like casting fees, whether they're included in the overall budget, or if they're an additional expense. It's also important to understand how production companies handle talent contracts and agreements to ensure all legal aspects are covered. A well-defined casting process ensures that the chosen talent fits your brand's image and effectively conveys the commercial's message.

Bonus tip: If production companies are union signatories, they will cast union talent exclusively, while independent production companies will cast non-union talent. Be aware that union talent come with specific rate and contractual requirements.

10. "Can you handle location scouts & permits?"

Location scouting and securing permits can be complex tasks, especially for commercials requiring specific or unique settings. If your commercial necessitates particular locations, confirm if production companies have a proven track record in location scouting and obtaining the necessary permits.

Inquire about any additional costs associated with location scouting, permits, and insurance requirements for filming in certain areas. Commercial production companies with experience in navigating location challenges can ensure a smooth filming experience.

medium shot of a female producer on the phone, looking out the window of a downtown loft in Los Angeles
Commercial producer on the phone with a location owner. © Good Pictures

11. "In post-production, how do revisions, cutdowns, & formats work?"

Post-production is where raw footage is transformed into the final polished commercial. It's important to understand commercial production companies' post-production workflows and approaches to revisions. Ask about the number of revision rounds included in a standard agreement and their policy for handling additional requests.

Discuss the turnaround time for revisions and ensure it aligns with your project timeline and marketing schedule. Ask about their capabilities in creating different cutdowns (shorter versions) and formats (e.g., square vs. vertical) of the commercial. This ensures you have optimized assets for use across various platforms and channels, maximizing your reach and engagement.

12. "Is your commercial production company a union signatory? If yes, for what unions?"

Union signatories are production companies that have agreed to adhere to the rules and regulations of specific labor unions, such as the Screen Actors Guild‐American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA), the Directors Guild of America (DGA), or the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE). Working with a union signatory production company can have certain benefits, including access to a large pool of experienced talent and standardized pay rates.

However, working with union signatory production companies might also come with higher costs due to union wages and benefits. Working with non-union commercial production companies can offer more flexibility with both logistics and creative.

It's important to choose the option that best aligns with your project requirements and budget. If union membership is important to you or your project, clarify which unions production companies are signatory to and how that impacts the production process and costs.

Bonus tip: As the agency or brand client, you may decide to handle on-camera talent hiring and payment on your side, relying on the production company to handle everything else—from crew and equipment to locations and insurance.

13. "Will you provide commercial production insurance coverage?"

Commercial production insurance is a non-negotiable aspect of any project, safeguarding you from unexpected events like accidents, equipment damage, or legal issues. Confirm that commercial production companies carry comprehensive insurance coverage that adequately protects your investment and covers all aspects of production—including liability and workers' compensation. Ask for a copy of their Certificate of Insurance (COI) for verification and peace of mind.

14. "Will you run payroll for cast & crew?"

Especially in a state like California, ensure commercial production companies run payroll for cast and crew members, complying with labor laws (like California Assembly Bill 5), tax regulations, and industry standards. Verify that they have a system in place to handle taxes, deductions, and any other financial obligations related to employment. Responsible production companies will prioritize the well-being of their crew and ensure they are compensated fairly and legally.

15. "What differentiates you from other commercial production companies?"

This final question allows commercial production companies to showcase their unique strengths and value proposition. Listen for their passion, creativity, and commitment to excellence. Look for specific examples of how they have gone above and beyond for previous clients and delivered exceptional results.

A strong answer to this question should highlight their unique approach, whether it's their emphasis on emotionally resonant storytelling, their innovative use of technology, or their dedication to client satisfaction. Ultimately, trust your instincts about whether or not they might be a strong fit as your production partner.

Bonus: It may not be helpful to ask, "What equipment does your commercial production company own?"

Most professional production companies don't own an exhaustive range of equipment themselves. Instead, they typically leverage the expertise and resources of equipment rental houses, which offer wide selections of professional cameras, lenses, lighting, grip, and sound gear.

A production company's resourcefulness and ability to leverage external resources—including discounts from rental house partners—are often more valuable than their owned equipment inventory.

Commercial Production Companies in Los Angeles

  • Good Pictures

  • Sandwich

  • Smuggler

  • Epoch Films

  • Stept Studios

  • ZANE Productions

  • Bacon & Eggs Media

  • Froth & Fur

  • Tiger House Films

  • Highline Studios

  • Ezra Productions

  • Stray Angel Films



  • Retrofit Films

  • King Toledo

Ready to produce your next commercial?

If you're looking for a full-service commercial production company with excellent reviews specializing in narrative-driven commercials spanning six-figure budgets, available to handle everything from casting and locations to production and post, who's commercially insured and "an absolute dream" to work with, schedule a free 30-min call with a Good Pictures producer.

Based in Los Angeles, Good Pictures is a commercial production company specializing in crafting dynamic stories that resonate with diverse audiences and drive impact. Contact us today to discuss your next commercial project.

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