Through my work as a senior producer, I get to work with all kinds of different on-screen talent. I am amazed — on an almost daily basis — at how different people react when faced with the prospect of being in front of the camera.
It can be a daunting task standing in front of, or being interviewed on, camera. Consider these things next time you get told it’s time for a starring role in your next video and you’ll be fine.
1. Remember, it’s our job is to make you look good
Unfortunately we don’t have a lens that can take 10 kilograms off a person, or a filter that makes you look 20 years younger (these have been genuine requests from people). Believe me when I say our job is to make you look as good as possible — however long it takes.
There is no arguing this is sometimes easier said than done but, as a creative team on set, we have a few tricks and techniques we can use to help get the best out of you. Most of the time you won’t even realise we are using them!
There are also many editing techniques we can use, once we have the footage, to cover up any minor bumps or hiccups you make along the way.
We can’t always promise we can make a silk purse from a sow’s ear, but we will get as close as we can. Otherwise we are not doing our job properly.
2. Trust you know your subject better than anyone else
There’s almost never a time when someone has been asked to go on camera and they’re not an expert in the subject they are talking about. Whether it’s an interview or a piece-to-camera, you will have been selected to appear because you know the information backwards. Most likely you can recite it in your sleep.
Undoubtedly the camera adds an extra pressure factor. We always tell people to imagine they are telling someone about the subject over a cup of coffee. We are not trying to catch you out or test what you say you know. We are there to get the information in the most natural, authentic way possible.
“Imagine you are telling someone about the subject over a cup of coffee.”
3. Don’t over prepare for an interview
How prepared you need to be is an interesting question. I think there is a difference in how ready you need to be depending on whether you are delivering to camera or featuring in an interview-style video.
Let’s look at an interview first. Nothing fills me with more dread than when someone turns up with pages and pages of prepared answers to the questions they have asked to see beforehand. Instantly the interview becomes about what you’ve written down rather than just answering the questions in a natural manner. Any hope of the interview sounding authentic disappears. It’s then a struggle to get the information out in a way that makes everyone happy.
The first thing I do when I see this is confiscate the notes and start the conversation. This isn’t to try trip you up but your audience can tell straightaway if you sound too scripted or over prepared.
Trust yourself to be able to answer the questions naturally. Remember, it’s not live TV, so you can go back and answer them as many times as you need before you move on.
A piece-to-camera is a bit different — especially if an autocue is being used. Being completely unprepared in this situation means you are being asked to deliver a script someone else has written for you. If you have time beforehand, ask to see the script and put it into your own words. Make yourself comfortable with the content and see if you are happy with the way it flows.
It takes pressure off when you find yourself in front of the camera because you know what you are saying is how you want to say it.
4. The first few takes are always the worst
If you’re not used to being on camera, it’s very unlikely you’re going to walk straight in and nail it the first time. It really doesn’t matter if your first few takes fail harder than the ABS website on census night. Unlike that mess, no one is ever going to see or hear about it.
Allow yourself a few takes just to get used to things. We are on-hand to coach you and give you pointers. Usually, after about five minutes, people forget their initial fear and sometimes, just sometimes, actually begin to relax.
5. Enjoy it
Being in front of the camera is never going to be easy for everyone. If you find yourself thrust into the limelight, don’t worry. We are there to help make it an experience you never forget for all the right reasons.
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