The Freelance Creative

Chatting Content Marketing 101 With an Award-Winning Filmmaker

animated videos

At Contently, we’re home to more than 160,000 creative freelancers specializing in everything from hard-hitting journalism to interactive design to full-scale video production.

Apolla Echino is one of our all-stars. Her company, Apollonia Productions, is an award-winning, Indigenous-woman-owned boutique production house based in New York City. To date, Apolla and her team have created dozens of videos for Contently’s clients including a variety of financial brands and travel companies.

We chatted with Apolla to get her insights as an expert in video content marketing. Here’s what she had to share about her content creation process and the best practices she employs.

Could you give us a quick rundown of your background in the content marketing industry?

Apolla: I’m an award-winning Indigenous filmmaker and founder of Apollonia Productions. I started creating content to be a platform for women’s stories, voices, and experiences.

I’m inspired by helping brands get to the front of the conversation by creating meaningful content—whether it’s a branded video about an Indigenous chef, a webinar series about financial wellbeing, conservation success stories told through the lens of a bank, or simply a video about how to fall asleep faster. I’ve been a production partner with Contently since 2018, and they continue to be my favorite platform. I work consistently with their project managers, editors, and Zoom call pals.

Recent work includes the 2022 Webby Award-winning film “Destination Indigenous,” Lululemon’s holiday campaign, and multiple campaigns for Canadian banks Simplii Financial and CIBC.

My documentary work includes “Hard Labour,” a film about a transgender woman working in the oilfields of Alberta, which will premiere in 2022; “The DNA of Adventure,” which premiered at the 2019 Tribeca Film Festival; and “A Woman’s Guide to the World,” a documentary series about adventure travel as a solo woman, which we produced for Air New Zealand and Outside TV.

Finally, “A New York Love Story,” a narrative feature film, is now available to stream on iTunes, Amazon, and Hulu.

When measuring the success of a project, what specific metrics do you consider?

Apolla: Views and clickthroughs and other KPIs like that are great for evaluating the success of a project, but as creators, we really want to look for the meaningful conversations our work can start.

Beyond [the typical] metrics and data, we evaluate the impact of the project in ways that are sometimes harder to quantify. Did it drive engagement to a particular site or call to action? Is there a discernible conversation happening in comment sections, forums, posts, etc. around the project itself?

Piggybacking off that: In your opinion, what makes content successful?

Apolla: Successful content lasts. It sticks with the viewer because it teaches them something, makes them laugh, inspires them, or excites them about a product or service. A successful piece of content is one that is not skipped or silenced, but viewed as intended and discussed again.

“Successful content lasts. It sticks with the viewer.”

All that said, we like to create very catchy openings in our videos to stop the scroll!

How do you stay on top of current trends in content marketing?

Apolla: I genuinely love watching content, so this part comes naturally to me. The intersection of art and commerce really excites me. The shift away from glossy to authentic branded work has been not only compelling, but essential. It has made [working in] content so much more engaging—not to mention better for our mental health. I like seeing what creators in other parts of the world are doing, and I like to think both globally and locally in terms of trends.

During a difficult project, how do you make sure a client’s wants and needs are top of mind?

Apolla: It’s easy to keep a client’s goals, wishes, and needs top of mind when they are a great collaborator. If a client’s vision is clear, it becomes our vision. We’ll only push back when the integrity of that initial vision is at stake, and we’ll come up with creative solutions to re-route the project if the vision changes.

We also put extensive work in at the start of the project to map out expectations and ambitions, as well as to set the project up for seamless success.

How do you approach things like SEO in visual content?

Apolla: As a director, this is something I ensure we capture on set with our talent. If it’s a scripted commercial, that’s an easy ask. For non-scripted interviews and branded content, it’s a bit trickier—but planning and fostering a sense of comfort and ease on set allows for an organic read of any SEO keywords or key messaging that needs to be conveyed.

I’ve been called the golden retriever of directors; I create easy and natural set environments, where the subject feels safe, seen, and heard—and that allows for genuine messaging [to shine through].

Do you have any go-to tools that help with the content creation process?

Apolla: Tools of the trade! Google Suite for pre-production, Adobe Creative Suite for post-production, Frame.io for internal edit reviews, Slack for team communication, and Monday.com for organization and goals.

“It’s easy to keep a client’s goals, wishes, and needs top of mind when they’re a great collaborator.”

On a personal note, I just bought my first smartwatch (Garmin), and I appreciate the reminders to stand up from my desk, stretch, and breathe!

How would you approach a new vertical that you have yet to create content for?

Apolla: We like to watch or listen to as much content in the space as possible. That way, we discover what works for us as viewers, and then we reverse-engineer that to make it work [from a creator’s perspective].

We know that good content—engaging stories, compelling editing, visual artistry, etc.—translates to any platform. Sometimes, you just need to change the size or format you’re working in, or adjust the length of the videos.

What content marketing blogs/newsletters do you read?

Apolla: I love the newsletters coming out of Contently. Ad Week and Variety are great resources. And then I’m always engaging with many different types of brands in various spaces: their own blogs, social media accounts, apps, etc. We’re always looking for innovative and inclusive companies to which we can be of service!

Take a look at the Apollonia Productions portfolio—and be sure to subscribe to Contently’s blogs, The Content Strategist and The Freelance Creative, and follow us on LinkedIn and Twitter.

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