Four Pro Tips for Filming Non-Professional Talent
In our recent collaboration with Dwyer Plumbing, Heating, & Air, we had the opportunity to support the historic service provider as it rolled out its new brand identity in a series of 30-second tv ads produced by our LAI Video team.
Our approach was to tell the story of Dwyer’s legacy of excellent service through other people. In doing so, we enlisted long-time customers and employees to provide short and impactful testimonials that would be the foundation for an evergreen mini-campaign to connect Dwyer with consumers in their target market.
The Dwyer “Legacy of Services” shoot was another example of our team working with non-professional on-screen talent (aka real people) to produce a professional video. Here are four pro tips from our team on how to get non-professional talent comfortable and confident for their big moment on screen:
1. Guide Talent Toward Your Ideal Messaging
It’s likely that the non-professional talent you’re working with will have little-to-no experience speaking in front of camera. Add to this that they may be unsure of what to say once the camera starts rolling, especially if it will be their first time hearing the questions. Something that was vital to the success of our collaboration with Dwyer was having a fully realized script for each of the four 30-second spots that we produced.
Our senior scriptwriter and editor wrote the interview questions and then scripted out the key messaging points that we wanted each person to hit in their interview. This helped calm any of their nerves about not knowing what to say, while also being able to tell Dwyer’s story through their own eyes. We also emphasized that they weren’t expected to memorize each line verbatim. What we provided was just a starting point and interviewees had the freedom to add any color that they felt would strengthen their testimonial.
Scripting also helped us overcome one of the challenges that we ran into during this shoot. English wasn’t the first language for some of the people we interviewed, so having pre-crafted responses was especially handy in this scenario. Our scripts put the talents’ minds at ease as to what they should say, and with a little coaching from our LAI Video team, they were able to speak to the camera with confidence.
This scripted approach was captured seamlessly on camera. While we guided the two technicians and customer featured on what to say, the end product still feels authentic and natural:
2. Build Rapport with Your Talent
It’s vital to communicate with non-professional talent before putting them in front of the camera. There are several steps you can take to build rapport and help ease any nervousness so they can contribute to creating the end product you’re looking for. Engage in casual conversation with them and let them know that they’re not expected to be experts. You should also assure them that filming doesn’t have to be perfect on the first take since you can cut, edit, and splice to your heart’s content in post-production. To add to that, filming doesn’t have to be completed in one sitting either. If the person in front of the camera gets nervous, let them know they’re free to take a breather or drink some water until they feel comfortable again. Deadlines are important, but it’s more important to empathize with the talent, especially if they’re struggling with confidence once you hit record. Comfortable talent is confident talent.
3. Give Talent a Familiar Face to Look At
Few things are as uncomfortable as staring into the void as you’re speaking to the camera. It’s enough to throw both professional and non-professional talent off their game, which is why we use an EyeDirect system to help make talent more comfortable. An EyeDirect is a device, that combines a mirror and beamsplitter and, when mounted in front of the camera, shows the familiar reflection of the interviewer while keeping the camera lens out of sight and out of mind.
The EyeDirect helps to accomplish a few things. For one, the placement of the interviewer’s face in front of the lens helps to facilitate eye contact between the talent and the camera. Before this type of technology, establishing this connection often felt artificial when filming, but seeing someone’s face instead of the camera lens has proven to be great in bringing the talent’s attention to the lens rather than staring off into the distance. It also creates a more engaging experience for viewers and helps to establish a greater level of comfort for talent. They’re likely to forget the camera is even there and can instead focus on speaking directly to the interviewer, who’s face they can now see and interact with.
The image below shows what the EyeDirect system looks like in action.
4. Meet with the Client and Talent Ahead of the Shoot If Possible
Something we didn’t have the opportunity to do prior to filming day was meet with the talent who would be telling Dywer’s story on camera for us. While they loved the end result, the more information you can gather about the non-professional talent you’ll be working with ahead of time, the better equipped you’ll be going into the shoot. Be sure to ask who will be used, what their background is, and whether they’ve given an on-camera interview before.
Something we advise against in most cases is sharing questions with talent beforehand. In the past, we’ve found that they’ll put too much thought into their answers, which can then make them uneasy. Instead, you can loosen them up on interview day by asking some off-the-cuff questions or leading questions before you get into the heart of the interview. Be sure to keep the tone light and casual for best results.
While we didn't get to meet with talent before the shoot, the time we spent with them on filming day was enough to get them camera-ready. Look at how confident the customer interviewee is in this version of the commercial featuring just her:
LAI Video Can Help You Get the Best Out of Non-Professional Talent
Looking for a partner to help your organization tell its story using non-professional talent? Contact us to get started! You can also reach us by: