There is a saying that goes something like this: “People are sheep.” In other words, people tend to go in the direction a good leader, or Shepherd, takes them and I think this same principle applies to coordinating talent for a video shoot. When each person on camera understands clearly what is expected of him or her and their time, then they are much more willing to agree to put themselves in what is, for many, an uncomfortable position: appearing on camera. Over the past few years I have picked up on a few tips that have worked for us. I hope these prove to be beneficial for your shoots as well!
1. Convey the three W’s.
This means that each potential participant, regardless of age, understands the three “W’s” of well-organized video shoots: when, where, and what.
He or she needs to know when she is needed. Will this be a thirty-minute interview, or a two-hour Easter testimony? A morning or evening shoot? Make sure they know how much time is involved so they can make plans to leave school or work early, etc.
Where will you be filming? Is it obscure? Should you send directions to your participants? I think it is always best to err on the side of too much detail, so I send travel directions, addresses, and telephone numbers to our participants. I also give my cell phone number to people for shoots where additional details may be needed.
What will they be doing? What do they need to wear? This is where it really pays to be specific. Oftentimes, the more details a participant knows, the more comfortable they will feel. Some parts aren’t speaking ones. That bit of information can really put people at ease who feel uncomfortable talking on camera. Another thing to consider is if your participant needs to be willing to be honest about an issue they are facing? They need to know that in order to prepare their story, and to pray through what they will say!
2. A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down.
We have found when working with video participants, regardless of what type of project they are participating in, go above and beyond to be compassionate and understanding towards them. For example: Susan can’t film at 3. Offer 3:30 instead. Keep your word. If details change, let participants know as soon as possible, and above all else, be kind. “Kind words are like honey--sweet to the soul and healthy for the body” (Proverbs 16:24) should be your motto.
Pray before each participant goes on camera. Offering to pray before participants share their testimonies makes all the difference. Inviting the Lord’s presence to be in the room not only allows His Spirit to move, but it brings such a peace to the situation and to your participant. Pray for the right words to be said, and supernatural blessing to be on them, their families and their homes. Also, let your participants know that you will continue to pray for protection for them and their families.
4. Look for authenticity and energy.
When looking for people to appear on camera, always look for those that are passionate about your subject and energetic. In our experience, outgoing, personable people tend to do better on camera than those who are introverted. Also, the camera mutes energy, so you need those people who are willing to be a bit over-the-top in their actions and enthusiasm.
5. Contact those outside of your world for participant ideas.
Some of the best people we have shown in videos have come from outside-of-our-department recommendations. Get outside of your own social world and ask around. Looking for Mother’s Day video participants? Ask the Children’s department and a parenting small group leader. Looking for a Sabbath testimony? Ask Student Ministries. Varying age and ethnicity is key in appealing to a broad audience, and that only happens when you are willing to step outside of your social world for contacts.
6. Be honest.
We really can’t stress enough the importance of honesty when you invite people to trust you with their stories! Avoid our past mistakes of telling people that they did a great job and that they would be on video on Sunday morning, only to edit them out at the last minute. What follows is an awkward conversation about why they, or their story, wasn’t used.
It is always best to tell a participant, “Thank you so much for coming today. We appreciate you giving your time to help us. We hope to use your story soon.”
7. Practice the art of the follow-up.
As a gesture of our appreciation for video participants, we regularly send them thank-you notes and small gifts of appreciation. For example, for our recent Mother’s Day video we interviewed small children. Any parent knows what an ordeal it can be to get a child checked out of school and to a video shoot early in the morning! So we sent our moms Starbucks gift cards. Make sure people know how much you appreciate them, and what an eternal impact their generosity can make.
We'll leave you with a recent video that required many participants. We had a lot of fun making this one.