Staged vs Un-staged Action in a Corporate Shoot

I was wondering what to say about this one. Yea, I know, I said this blog has run its course and the next lot of stuff would be about drones.

I do have one waiting for approval that features drone shooting in a distribution centre warehouse, but meanwhile this one was approved.

It occurred to me that there is something I’ve never really mentioned in regards to run and gun corporate shoots.

I never stage action.

Everything you see here was shot in about 1 1/2 hours, not including the interview which was another 45 minutes.

Staging action is almost always a bust. The people get so introverted they either ham it up or act so silly you can’t use it.

So what I do is run around with the camera in my short allotted time and shoot just about everything that’s happening, as it happens–including all the bits I know I have to cover in terms of the machinery itself. But the working staff are always shot discretely just doing what they are doing.

Yes, they often notice I am there and maybe get a little introverted, or smile or something, but you know they are working and doing what they always do. If you staged it, you can always tell that too. So just don’t–unless it’s an emergency.

The key is to shoot a lot. You don’t know in the end how you’re going to use it or how it will fit in with the narrative from the interview, but if you want to show how something works, you just shoot all parts of it as much as you can. Later, in editing, you’ll find you have enough pieces to put together B roll that supports the narrative or tells the story of what the narrative is about.


3 responses

  1. Interesting. I have found that the three deadly words in filming unstaged action is to say, “Just act natural,” particularly when their face is in view. That will guarantee that the next cut will get not only unnatural action, but totally unusable footage from the goofy to overly deadpan expressions. If you must have people in close perspective, it is usually possible to shoot something other than face view. Like you say, it is best to avoid the opportunities and instead capture machines, signs, wide shots, or the best people shot—hands.

    I would add that another no-no is to ask people to walk “naturally” from point A to point B across the screen—with or without facial view. For some reason, people who you observed only minutes ago in completely natural bodily movement instantly return a hilarious rendition of the walking dead the moment that the camera starts. Their pace becomes a slow articulated version of zombie death march. Nobody walks like that! It’s the tension created by the presence of a lens that causes this—and it is also the same reason why we should generally avoid using amateurs as staged or rehearsed on camera talent—especially in speaking situations. Actors have developed that special camera presence—that most of us simply don’t have. But every once in a while we get somebody who performs like butter.

    One technique that I have used is to directly ask the people to “overact” or even be silly before the action starts. Generally, if they are game to do that, then all of the tension in their body is released, and the next take is, in fact, much more natural and is often usable footage. Of course, that doesn’t always work. So back to rule 1—avoid people other than their hands.


  2. Nice work, as always. Which Picture Profile are you using? I’m sure you’ve covered this in previous posts. But I thought you might have a quick link to a previous post.


Don't just sit there...say something!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: