A filming day is certainly not ‘just another normal day’ for those on camera.
Almost all the time I film my non-broadcast projects, I’m usually pointing a camera at people who have never been filmed in a professional capacity before. That morning when they wake up and realise ‘it’s filming day’ thoughts may be going through their head of what to wear, where will the filming take place, how many of the camera crew will turn up, what questions will they ask….
It may be another filming day for me, but as I’m walking through their door with my camera saying that first ‘good morning’, it’s deep breathes all round. It’s not like a trade or sales person visiting where they know what to expect.
It’s weird, strange, unusual, out of depth and out of comfort zones. I know they are thinking ‘is my accent too broad, is my hair okay, do I look big on camera!…’ Then also it depends on the circumstances of filming. If it’s the business owner I’m filming their concerns of how things look on camera, and how the audience will react. If it’s staff members they may be worried about saying the wrong thing on camera and getting into trouble with the boss!
My first hour of filming is crucial to do what I can do in putting people at ease, to aim for it to feel like ‘just another day in the office’, and to find common ground with those I’m filming. After all usually the video is to be a true reflection of the business I’m filming.
From the years of camera work I have discovered the following helps putting people at ease.
The sooner I start filming, the more natural responses are. The moment people feel they are repeating themselves with answers to questions on camera I could have asked before we started filming, them saying ‘like I said before’ and talking about something they already know I know the answer to, you start to lose natural responses and people feel like they are acting.
Also the sooner it seems natural for me to be holding a camera as I chat the easier it is for people to relax and relate me with the camera.
I work around people’s natural environment. Particularly if someone is nervous, rather than getting them to sit in a different chair in a room they would never normally be in, if it can work I set up around where they already are, surrounded by the things they would normally have. They will feel so much more at ease.
I preempt problems ASAP. Any potential challenges such as loud noises, people really uncomfortable with filming, confidentiality issues such as family pictures on desks or client details displayed on walls, are dealt with before I press record.
I run through time frames. I check everyone involved knows how long things will take and what time we will be finished. It’s also a chance for me to check if we are likely to face any delays such as lunch time, other visitors or even fire alarm tests!
I read my filming notes. When clients have completed my filming notes document this never leaves my pocket, and I check through it near the end of each interview to make sure everything has been covered.
Coming from a broadcast background the approach with filming TV is to go and get what you are expected to with a dogged determination. Non broadcast and corporate is a whole different skill set, and empathy and putting people at ease makes all the difference not just to the end results, but the likelihood of being asked back to film again.