You walk into the kitchen, pour yourself a cup of coffee and casually browse through emails on your phone. Sounds pretty easy. Try doing that same action on camera. All of a sudden it’s not quite so easy. Now add some speaking lines. Yikes, why does this feel so awkward? It’s like when the frog asked the centipede how it coordinates all 100 of its legs and walks in perfect, synchronous motion…causing the centipede to promptly forget how to walk. Like the frog, the camera puts us under scrutiny. It makes us self-conscious and causes us to doubt ourselves and overthink every move.
In the world of corporate video, I’m the frog that puts scores of innocent centipedes through their on-camera paces—from formal, on-camera interviews to basic dialogue scenes or simple cover footage (or B-roll, as we like to say). For some, having the opportunity to go on camera can be a unique break in the day, even a highlight of their week. For others, not so much. When asking someone to be our amateur on-screen talent, I’ve seen reactions ranging from completely unfazed to full-on panic attack…and everything in between.
Now, we aren’t asking talent to deliver a monologue from Glengarry Glen Ross. Any scripted lines tend to be minimal; interviews involve talking about what the talent knows best, and any B-roll will be actions they perform regularly. That said, it still isn’t easy and can be very stressful. I understand and respect that and do whatever I can to make the experience as painless as possible—the fate of the project often depends on it!
In my experience, the success of the video comes down to attitude and commitment. They go hand-in-hand. If one goes down, it drags the other down with it. If the talent for the day arrives with a positive attitude about the project and their role in making it come to life, I know things will work out. But it’s not always that easy. Whatever the talent’s attitude is, it’s important to connect and get them involved in the process. You want them to be as authentic as possible. Whatever you are shooting, they should be the expert—take advantage of that. Phrases like “show me how you would do that” and “how would you say this?” will keep the atmosphere light and casual for the talent. If you make them the hero, things will come together.
Commitment involves keeping the talent engaged through the duration of the shoot. Getting the right shot often comes down to the smallest details, and nailing those nuances means enduring the necessary amount of camera coverage. This nearly always catches amateur talent off guard: “Really, I need to do that again?” “You want two good takes of everything?” That’s why it’s critical that expectations are set properly: the talent fully understands what he or she will be getting into and knows from the start how much time it will take and why. The earlier you can get this information out to the talent, the better.
The bottom line: the process is fun and engaging. At least, it should be if the crew and I are doing our jobs—creating and facilitating an environment where inexperienced talent can forget about the camera, be themselves, be in the moment and effortlessly control all 100 of their figurative legs in perfect synergy. It’s an amazing feet… I mean, feat.