Alex, you film people all the time. Why is this process so uncomfortable for so many professionals?
Alex: A lot of people are professional in their niche market, their business, their industry, the things that they're specific to that they've worked in for years and have built their career off of.
That isn't necessarily acting, or being in front of the camera, or being a newsperson. So it's not as easy as everyone thinks. Most actors and people that are in film and that are in the industry, they've been doing it for years. That's their trade. That's their craft. Similar to if construction is your trade or craft, right?
So the biggest piece is getting people to understand the process and trying to get them to wrap their heads around how we capture what we capture and how to get it as genuinely as possible.
And it really just comes down to educating them and getting them to understand all the different steps that we need to take in order to make it a successful shoot.
Learning the process
John: So, what do they need to know about the process?
Alex: In order to get people to feel comfortable, I really walk them through everything. I get very granular with how I do what I do in my process.
All the pre-production leading up to it, we work together to write the scripts or write whatever they're going to be saying on camera.
I rehearse with them.
I try to practice as much as I can with them just to get them not only to feel comfortable with what they're going to be speaking about and comfortable with me, but also to get them to just kind of understand how involved of a process it is and that it has to be thought through.
Some people can shoot from the hip. You're one of those guys. And he really is. He's one of those guys that you just naturally, the way you are in person is the same way you are on camera.
And for a lot of people, myself included, as soon as the lights and cameras go up, I sort of put on this like, "Oh, everyone's watching me and I need to say the right words and this and that." And you start to overthink everything.
John: Let me pause there for a second. Do you recommend that people rehearse or write scripts? To what extent is that the best practice and to what extent is it better to be extemporaneous and just kind of go with it?
Alex: Great question. And it really comes down to the type of video we're creating. Rehearsing, I think, is really important, but it again depends on what we're shooting.
Sometimes it can have the reverse effect. So if you're trying to get a candid conversation and you're trying to get genuine commenting or people that just have an interaction like this, scripting it might make it seem rehearsed.
It might make it feel fake or artificial and not be as genuine as it could be.
So in certain scenarios like that, or videos like this, you want to keep it conversational. You don't want to prep too much because you want it to be candid.
Then, in other situations, and depending on the style of video, it needs to be very matter of fact.
So sometimes we'll even pull out a teleprompter because people are talking about things that are really technical and there's so much technicality to what they're talking about that nobody in their right mind could remember all that succinctly.
So in those situations, it's great to have a guide for people to see and to remind them of what they're talking about.
And then in other situations, if there's a monologue or certain things we want people to say, then rehearsal is important because you want them to practice that and have it ready so that they feel comfortable and confident about the material that they're going to be discussing.
It really varies depending on the style of video that we're trying to create.
John: And I would think it would also depend on someone's comfort level. Some people are going to be able to do something in one take and someone else might feel much more confident if they have a script in front of them or a teleprompter in front of them.
How to dress to impress
John: So, when you know you're going to be on camera, how do you dress and prepare for that, appearance-wise?
If you're making a sales style video or something that's going to speak to your customers, what do you think your customers are going to want to see? And your customer base is important. Are your customers wearing t-shirts and shorts?
So that you need to have a more casual look and feel and it's that type of demographic.
Or, are you talking to business people in a suit and tie and you need to be much more formal and have a similar attire.
So you really need to think about who you're speaking to. That's a big one. And then I always tell people to be true to themselves. Don't wear something that you wouldn't normally wear because you're on camera like you don't need to wear a ballgown for an interview.
I know that's an extreme example, but other things I tend to tell people is not to wear heavy patterns. So the cameras nowadays are getting better and better. And technology allows us to shoot in 4K, 6K, even 8K. And the detail, it's incredible.
But depending on the patterns that you're wearing, if you have a very flannel pattern shirt, or plaid shirt, or something like that, it can cause some dancing effects to happen, which can be very distracting.
I also tell people to stay away from logos. So if you have a big huge Polo logo or something like that on your shirt, it's really hard to get the rights and usage from those types of companies. So we try to stay away from that as well.
John: Do you find people show up for shoots with jangly bracelets, or scarves, or other things that might impede sound?
Alex: Absolutely. That's a really good point. So there are times where people will want to wear jewelry, bracelets, things like that and it can cause a negative effect towards getting clean sound.
I try to work through all these things beforehand.
I try to look at a few different wardrobe options before we come out to shoot, and then I also have the people that are going to be on camera bring a couple of wardrobe options so that we can pick and choose in case something like that happens because some jewelry can look great and can add to the color palette or look and feel you're going for.
But again, you don't want it to impede sound. And if someone is very active using their hands when they're talking and it's jingling, it's going to totally ruin your audio. So those are things you'd need to be mindful of for sure.
When the camera starts rolling
John: What about the moment of the camera clicks on? How are you your best once the film is actually rolling?
Alex: Yeah, so that's a really great question because everyone reacts to the camera differently. Sometimes people really want you to call action and want you to go through the motions because they want to feel like they're on a film set. And it energizes them and gives them that like, "Action, go." We're in the zone right now.
And other people work better not doing that. So there's sometimes where I'll even pull tricks if I start to figure out a person's personality, and I get to know them, and I can tell that when we say action, they tense up and they get a little nervous.
Sometimes I'll just hit record and I'll tell my crew to start rolling and I won't let them know and I'll just start talking to them. And some of them we'll be like, "Oh, we're not rolling yet. I just want to work through this with you."
And more often than not, that's the footage and the content that we end up using because it's genuine to them and they're not putting on like that, "Oh, okay. Lights are on, cameras on. I need to say things succinctly and go into my SAT word Rolodex and pull out everything that I..."
You know what I mean? So it just keeps it much more candid, which is what we're really going for.
John: What about when you have to do more than one take? Is it hard for people sometimes to think, "Okay, I have to say that all again"?
Alex: It can be difficult, especially if we're not doing a conversational interview and they have a script that they have to read, and certain lines that they have to hit, and marks, and things like that. It can be difficult. People can get hung up.
And what I try to do, if we get to a point where you're on take 10, 11, 12 and you're starting to look at each other like, "This isn't coming together."
And usually after the first couple of takes, because they can't get it in the first two or three, it tends to, it's not always the case.
Sometimes you can break the mold, but more often than not, once you start to go down the rabbit hole, there's no coming back.
So part of that for me is identifying when that's happening, and stopping, and giving them a chance to catch their breath, get a drink of water, whatever the case may be.
Or there's other times too where I'll have them stop and reset at a point where I know we can naturally cut and we can fix it in post.
So let's get to the end of this section, this sentence, or to get those locked in, and then stop and take a breath, and then I'll feed you your next lines off camera and keep going that way.
And then as long as you're not running a single camera — so if you're running two or three cameras, set up dual system, something like that, then you have edit points to cut back and forth and do some editing magic where your final audience would never know there was any cuts or anything going on like that.
John: So you just mentioned editing and post, and I've worked with you long enough to know that post is often the biggest piece of the pie when it comes to making any video.
And I think for people so often it's like when they see themselves, they're like, "Do I really sound like that? Do I really look like that?"
How do you recommend people are a part of or not a part of that post-production process?
Should they be the ones kind of being like, "Well I like this take, but not that take." Or should they be hands-off at that point?
Alex: That's an interesting question. And again, I think there's variables that depend on the situation, but I tend to let the decision making happening in the post production workflow fall to the editor.
So rather than letting the client pick and choose, because I know if it was me, I pick apart every little piece of like, "Oh, I didn't say this right. My hair is not this, that, the other thing." And you'll never end up getting a final product.
So I've tried to leave that and rely heavily on the editor's creative skills and ability to tell stories to pull that together and present something to the client or to whoever we're working with, that they're going to be happy with.
Obviously, we want revisions and feedback. So clearly if there's something in there that they don't like, I want to know about that. But I think what really it comes down to is the pre-production side of it.
So if you can get them prepped. Most of the time if someone hasn't been on camera before I ask up front, "Have you ever done anything like this before? Do you work in the news industry or have you done anything?"
And if the answer is no, part of our process is I try to get them to practice.
John: Like at home in front of the bathroom mirror?
Alex: I hope they do. Sometimes I'll even have them record if I'm really not confident or not sure and I can get a sense that someone's really feeling uneasy.
I try to get them to record themselves, audio and video, so that they can see what they look like, they can hear their voice, they can have that initial, "Is that what I sound like? Is that really what I look like?"
Because everyone does that. I do that. I hear myself all the time and I'm like, "My voice is weird man."
But it really helps them get a sense of who they are on camera and from a third-party perspective. And then they can see that and study it and go like, "Okay, I didn't like that I did this, so I have to remember not to do that when I'm actually filming."
And, "The tone of my voice is too high and I'm kind of dancing around. I need to make sure I kind of mellow myself and calm and it'd be as succinct as I can when I talk."
John: And it gets them over that sort of initial hurdle?
Alex: Yeah, it gets them over that initial shock and hump.
And sometimes too, we'll go through an exercise like that, and they'll see themselves, and they really don't like it to the point where we can make a decision upfront like, "Okay, this isn't working. Clearly you're not comfortable with this.
Who else in your company could be a spokesperson versus you? Because you're investing a lot of time and money into a project like this.
So the last thing I want is for us to go through all the motions and then not use anything that we've created because that would just be a total loss."
One final piece of advice
John: So do you have one key piece of advice that you give everybody who sits in a chair like this?
Alex: Yeah, that's the question to ask. I feel like the cliche thing to say is, "Oh, just imagine everyone in their underwear." Right? Because you hear everyone say that all the time, but there is some truth to that.
So whether you do that or not, whatever you imagined in your head, you need to go to a place that's going to make you feel comfortable and go like, "We're all humans. This is something that I know, and that I'm familiar with, and I'm a professional in.
And I have the ability to like explain this and educate a lot of other people and audiences I would never be able to touch on."
So think of people in their underwear, think of people at a rock concert or whatever you're comfortable with so that you can get over that initial fear and nervousness.
And it's very similar to going out on stage or if you've ever presented, or spoke publicly, or anything like that.
That minute or two before you go out in front of everybody, at least for me, it's like the butterflies and sweaty palms and you're a little nervous, but within 30 seconds of starting, at least for me, you settle in and you're like, "Okay, I'm good." And then you're fine.
So it's the same thing being on camera. You need to just get over that initial hump. And then once you're in the zone, then it's hopefully smooth sailing from there.
See you next time!
John: Awesome. So we're hoping what you take away from this is that being on camera doesn't have to be as scary as you might think.
Alex: Yeah. With some practice and with some coaching, I believe anybody can be on camera, yourself included. So if you have any questions about how to act or how to be on camera, you will need any tips or tricks you want to ask me, any other questions, I love talking about filming video.
And John is also an incredible writer, so hit us up. We'd love to discuss anything to help you and your next production be the best that it can be.