Confessions of a Run and Gunner

The Ritz

 

Warning: This is an 11 minute video. The  subject is St. James’s Square, London, one of the most historical and prestigious districts of London.  All of the following will be of no value at all if you don’t plan on watching it. This is for those of you who plan to.

This video is not typical of what I do, but I treated it like any other that I do. And all that is covered in the book Run ‘n Gun Videography–The Lone Shooter’s Survival Guide.

It wasn’t typical, because it is long (11 minutes).

In the book I talk about how to do and edit interviews. Up until now, I’d say for an hour of interviews, I cut out on average about 50% or more. That means all of my questions and all of the answers that I know I won’t use. What’s left is what I use to construct the narrative.

In this case, I had just over an hour of interview, and with my questions cut out, over 95% of is was totally usable. That’s never happened before.

This was a case of a very educated, experienced and articulate Brit. There are many like him. I just never got to interview one. And I’ve done over 1000 interviews.

I already knew I was going to produce multiple properties from his interview, but when it came to the first one–an overview of the St. James’s Conservation Trust, when I got it reduced down to about 11 minutes, I felt I couldn’t cut it down any more without losing.

Sure, he didn’t say it all in the order your hear it, but in crafting an overview and knowing that it’s first showing would be to a prestigious event in St. James Park attended by a lot of very important people, I felt I just had to work with that 11 minutes and make it as visually interesting as possible.

That was what was different about it.

As to the rest, it was all hand-held, except for the interview of course.

Why is that worth bringing up?

Well try going around St. James Square and in the vicinity of a working palace and other important clubs and high-end shops in the heart of historic London with a big camera and a tripod and see how far you get.  The client was even concerned that I get all the right ‘permissions’. I told him, “don’t worry about it”.

All that B roll was shot with my teeny weenie Sony HXR NX30 hand-held.

The interview was shot with my Sony PXW X70. And guess what? I somehow screwed that up, inadvertently shooting with high gain.

Though we were in the offices of the Ritz Hotel, we weren’t able to get a suite in the Hotel for the shoot. I was your typical white room. So to get that interview look I had to 1) apply Neat Video de-noiser to it, 2) use Color Finale to get the best separation from subject to background (after doing my best with foil to keep spill lights off the back wall) and , 3) Used the vignette tool from Digital Rebellion (it’s awesome–much better than the FCPX tool, because you can manipulate it on all axises, control its shape, ctc.)

TIP: When using Neat video, get your look, then disable it. It’s very processor intensive and whenever you change an edit it will want to re-render again. So get your look, disable it, and when you’re all done, re-enable it and let it render everything one time.

The other regular practices were shooting tons of B roll and how I found a stock music piece that worked (two in this case) and made them seem like they were written for the video. Seriously, if you manage to watch it once through, try again and just listen to how the music plays to and enhances the narrative. It was pretty magical–considering it’s stock.

B roll:  As much as I preach about shooting TONS of B roll to cover your edits, even I, in this case, did not shoot enough. In fact I made 3 trips to London in all. And still didn’t shoot enough. There was just SO MUCH covered in more than an hour of interview, I was lucky to scrape by in order to produce this one (and the next one I’m working on now). More properties will probably develop from this, and when that happens I’ll edit the narrative first and then get back on a train to London with a list…

Shooting handheld:  Shooting hand-held is one thing. You should also know that for almost all of these hand-held shots I applied 50% slow mo. And in most cases ALSO added stabilisation. Some from FCPX and some using CoreMelt’s ‘Lock and Load”.  Also (did you know?) that once you apply any kind of speed change in FCPX, you can then select a video standard of either ‘frame blending’ or ‘optical flow’. I used optical flow which smooths it out just a little bit more. Also, in some case (shooting those wall plaques), I shot them both as stills (on the NX30) and as slow zooms. In the edit I wound up animating the stills rather than using the zooms. And finally, (as dictated by the edit and conformity with surrounding shots, i.e. continuity), I also often applied manual key-framed zooms to my shots.

Marketing yourself: Also covered in the book. Relevant here is this: Sometimes you do something for cheap with malice aforethought. I had done another video for an organisation that had often asked but never hired me. Finally I did a birthday video for the daughter’s 18th. That was so well received I was asked to do one for the organisation–for cheap. I did it because I knew their upscale clientele would see it and it would likely get me more business. It got me two commissions worth £6000, including this one.

Now you know all my secrets.

Ok, so this is run’n gun. As covered in the book, it ain’t perfect. It won’t stand up to the scrutiny of the various film geeks out there. But it does the job and the stuff that the geeks will gleefully point out won’t be the things that the intended audience will ever see or concern themselves with.

The test is, does it get the message across with clarity and impact.

 

When Marketing and Video Don’t Mix

 

IMG_2440

I thought that title might get some attention. Doesn’t seem to make sense, does it?

Well don’t worry. It doesn’t apply to all. This may have been written in a moment of frustration, but there’s still a lesson to be learned.

But some marketing people just write marketing hype. That’s what they do. They write stuff they think you and I want to read or hear. They don’t write or talk like real people yet somehow think these perfectly phrased key words will get you to buy something. I hate to tell you, but those days are pretty much over and have been for some time. No one believes it any more and they can see it coming a mile away. If they manage to sneak up on you, you can hear it in the first few milliseconds. It rings false. It’s like listening to a merchandising politician.

What happens when these type of marketing people are around when you’re trying to do a video to effectively MARKET their product or service is that they drill the people you’re going to interview into what they are SUPPOSED TO SAY. They fill up their heads with bullet points, slogans, marketing speak and other drivel. You suddenly find the person in front of you is not really communicating with you. Instead they are frantically trying to remember what to say and desperately searching for their notes where these gems were written down. They talk fast and nervously. They interrupt themselves when they realise they haven’t said it right. They say, ‘oh I can’t say that’ and other nonsense. In short, they come off like robots and would be better off just sending off their promo to people who won’t read it anyway.

Just to be clear, there are professional marketing companies that can do both. They write good copy showcasing the quality of the product or service in real terms and are also able to talk to people on a level that connects with reality. In fact, I work for one. And that MD is the one who conducts the interviews for many of the videos I have produced. And there are also marketing departments that come up with very clever and effective video campaigns, but they are usually based on humour or unexpected and entertaining approaches to selling. But that’s what they specialise in. 

Just don’t ever let someone dictate what they think the interviewee should say or talk about. If the person you’re interviewing knows his or her job (and they should if they’ve been selected to be interviewed and so represent the company), you can get it out of them just by talking to them. And when you do, you’ll get natural real responses. If you detect that they’re slipping into the ‘company speak’, just follow up with, ‘Well what do you think about that and carry on in a line of friendly conversation that gets them to tell you what they think, not what the ‘company’ thinks. You’ll very often get surprising gems that are perfect for–you guessed it–marketing the product or service (because it’s sincere).

These days videos give you a golden opportunity to give a face to an otherwise faceless business. They give you an opportunity to meet the actual people of the business, warts and all.

When you shop on line for a product, what’s the one thing you almost always do before buying? You read the customer reviews. You get the feedback from real people. “Yeah, sounds great, but let me see if your customers really think so”. The hype might get your attention, but you know well enough to not believe it without questioning and will go to great lengths to verify if it has any real merit.

When I do marketing videos, my approach has always been to interview the key people involved. I don’t even really need to go in very prepared. If I’ve got the MD sitting down in front of me, I’m pretty sure he can tell me just about anything about the the products or services he offers–along with the history of the business, why he gets up in the morning, why he’s passionate about it, and so forth. I don’t care if that’s 60 minutes of material to trim down into a 3 minute video.

It’s MY job to edit it in such a way as to effectively sell his product or service. In other words, it is MY job to market them with video. But before that, my job is to get them to talk to me like they would talk to any friend. I think I went to great length discussing this process in the book Run ‘n Gun Videography–The Lone Shooter’s Survival Guide.

Like I said, I haven’t had to go through this often thankfully, but recently was faced with 5 interviews of people who were prepped by marketing people (despite my advance warning to not do so). Interestingly, after the local marketing person was finished running the first interviewee through all the questions (meaning trying to prompt the answers she wanted to hear), she asked if I wanted to ask about anything else. So I asked the girl something like, “You seem to really like your job here. What makes you get up in the morning?” The answer was pretty good, but the most remarkable thing was that her former almost frantic delivery was gone. She slowed right down and started speaking naturally. And it was sincere and believable. And that’s what you, the consumer, look for these days, isn’t it?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Free Book Offer: Run ‘n Gun Videography–The Lone Shooter’s Survival Guide

Run 'n Gun Videography

I’ve decided to enrol in KDP Select which gives me some promotional options including making the book available for FREE for 5 days.

So that’s what I’m going to do.

I’m doing it for two reasons.

  1. I’m locked into KDP select for 90 days during which period the book can only be available on Kindle. So that gives me a sort of deadline for making the book available in soft cover and putting it on other platforms. I can’t promise it, but it’s a good target for me because I’m going to be pretty busy before then anyway. Plan is to update it and make it available in hardcover next fall.
  2. Though the book has sold a few hundreds copies, it’s only gotten about a little over 30 reviews between the UK and US markets. They’re all good reviews, but I’d like to see a lot more reviews.

The Free Download Offer is NOW LIVE on Amazon and runs through Sunday.

I hope that most of my subscribers here who don’t have it yet will take the opportunity to download it.

In exchange I have a humble request: Please review it on the Amazon page once you’ve read it.

US Amazon Link

UK Amazon Link

Available world wide.

‘Run ‘n Gun Videography’ — Amazon reviews

Run 'n Gun Videography

 

Some newsy stuff.

The video review of the Sony PXW X70 completed its journey from page 26 on a Google search to the number 1 video spot in just under 2 1/2 months. Still annoyed by the couple of sound faults in that video but strangely in just under 17,000 views to date, no one has complained. That’s good because that was a 26 hour upload on a tenuous internet connection.

Run ‘n Gun Videography–The Lone Shooter’s Survival Guide has now been out 5 weeks, with 125 copies sold. New territory for me. Not sure how that rates. Here are the reviews so far:

 

This book is an amazing find! It is one of those rare gems 5 Feb. 2015

By WisePurchaserPublished on Amazon.com

Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase

This book is an amazing find! It is one of those rare gems that occasionally crosses one’s path, if at all. I say this because the author has distilled a wide assortment of complex issues related to videography into one easy-to-understand source. The author, Joe Caneen, is a veteran videographer with years of industry experience – 30 years and counting, in fact. Yet, unlike many seasoned authorities of this caliber who usually get locked into trade convention or spout out-of-reach techno jargon, Mr. Caneen is refreshingly unpretentious and accessible. So, if you are a beginner videographer who values a didactic approach that fuses intellect with common-sense, that balances artistic technique with practicality, then the good spirits of fate have led you to the right place. Read this text! Learn the many nuggets of wisdom contained within! And you will most assuredly thank me later.

By Kenneth Mullinge

Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase

I’ve just finished reading Joe’s book and I have to say I found it very enjoyable and easy to read. He points out a number of things that I found very useful, the single main point which he makes (and I will not describe here) was more than worth the cost of the book alone. Definitely buy this book if you are interested in becoming a better videographer.

Kenny M

5.0 out of 5 stars

A no-nonsense book stuffed full of very good advice and tips 16 Jan. 2015

By J. J. Robertson

Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase

A no-nonsense book stuffed full of very good advice and tips. Joe Caneen really knows his trade and gets straight to the point with his writing. I wish I’d read this book years ago instead of learning the hard way by making lots of mistakes!

5.0 out of 5 stars

The most inspiring video teacher I have found! 6 Jan. 2015

By Justin OpinionPublished on Amazon.com

Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase

I have waited patiently… oh who am I kidding, I’ve never been patient about anything! But I’ve waited for this book to be finished because – well, because I had no choice. But Joe (The Video Whisperer) was kind enough to share snippets of the text on his blog site during the process, and that helped.

Let me preface (what, preface has to be at the top?), okay then let me just say that I have not read the full finished work as yet and am reviewing it anyway. I don’t normally do that – but want to give full disclosure to it. I do feel qualified to offer you my opinion now because I have read so much of it already, and am familiar with the work of this expert craftsman. Joe, from what I’ve learned over time, has spent a career behind the camera in many types of productions. The kind of work where you get one chance to get it right, and that’s it. And even if you can take a second try at it – it comes at a high cost. You don’t have a long and rewarding career if you don’t excel at meeting those objectives.

Good quality cameras are readily available now on nearly every budget level. But if you want to get beyond “point it that way and hit the red button” skill level, you need advice and insight. And The Video Whisperer is the best I’ve found. In part, I freely admit, because I just like him. His personality and easy communication style are very relaxing and familiar. And I find that with that relaxed feeling, my mind is much more receptive to the information being given.

I make videos on YouTube – mostly about the shooting sports and guns in general, so I was not only not offended by the many gun references, I enjoy them. If you are of a different opinion on that topic, don’t fret – the book really is about cameras and how to use them. The analogies are just too easy, and I think quite entertaining. I mention that I make videos because my point is that I fumble at it, and I struggle with it. The improvements I have made have come largely from the inspiration and information from The Video Whisperer – whom I discovered accidentally by watching his review of a Sony camera (that I ultimately purchased and use). The quality of his work in that review left my jaw on the table, and I’ve been hooked since.

If you have a passion, just an interest, or simply a need to learn more and improve your skills with video cameras, I can’t recommend this book enough. What I think you will receive from it above all is INSPIRATION!

5.0 out of 5 stars

This Should be a Required Text for Video and Film Students!! 18 Jan. 2015

By M. RajaPublished on Amazon.com

Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase

I am not a videographer or a photographer, but do need some help in taking nice pictures of my orchids. Years ago, Joe had given me some basic suggestions about photography and, having internalized them, I have often found myself using those basic techniques even when taking pictures with my iPhone camera. This book, thus, provides a whole wealth of practical and conceptual explanations that would be useful for all those who enjoy filming or hope to launch a professional career as cameramen/women or as film-makers.

I found it especially refreshing that the author first provides the fundamental and core concepts about larger practices (Read Chapter 2 as a great example of this) and then builds on that: this is what we do in our literary studies classes, where we encourage our students to learn the basics first and after that performing complex tasks becomes easier. It seems Joe has given his audience a kind of how-to-book that explains, beyond technique, the how and why aspects of the craft of videography!

This book will be highly useful to all those studying film or film production at college level and I, for one, am certainly going to recommend it as a possible text to the film department at my university!!!

5.0 out of 5 stars

Concrete advice for solo videographers 22 Jan. 2015

By MatthewPublished on Amazon.com

Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase

Great read on fundamentals and advanced techniques of a solo videographer’s world. Easy to read and filled with practical info on lots of topics: gear choice, marketing yourself and your videos, interview tips, editing, what to charge for your services…. Written very conversational and witty, this book kinda feels like sitting down with a trusted mentor sharing his wisdom.

5.0 out of 5 stars

Brilliant book from an authentic working professional explaining the concepts and mechanics of invisible camerawork 11 Jan. 2015

By Miklos NemethPublished on Amazon.com

Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase

Absolutely worth every penny. The book has general “life philosophy/wisdom” as well as videography/cinematography/photography (concepts) sections, and specific detailed technical chapters, too. The main advantage of reading a book like this is that it comes from the pen of an authentic/original source, a professional videographer who has been earning his family’s bread for decades on videography. On a couple of videography forums I found a number of excellent comments, but I wanted a book that you can read from page one to the end covering practically every aspects of videography.

4.0 out of 5 stars

Good honest book about videography with tips earnt with experience. 12 Jan. 2015

By cheekysaffer

Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase

I am one of those people who watched the Sony NX30 camera reviews on YouTube a while ago looking for a new camera.

The first thing I noticed when watching the video was that Joe seems very sincere and it was obvious that he has years of experience in the video and film industry. I am just starting up my video production company and it was very assuring to hear that you don’t need to have a really expensive camera to be professional. Although I did spend £4k on a second hand one which I wanted….

I visit thevideowhisperer YouTube channel from time to time and this is how I learned that Joe has now written a book on the subject of videography.

I just bought this today and finished it tonight. Its a good honest book that really strips down the whole professional videography subject into core chapters. Its filled with really good advice that you can tell was earned in the field.

As I don’t have any professional paid experience yet, I was looking for this kind of book. Anything that can help me produce better quality videos for my future clients and possibly help to prevent me making silly mistakes is worth the asking price of this book.

As someone who is about to leave an engineering career to do what I always wanted to do, its good to find that extra little inspiration from a real professional in the game.

A good easy read, highly recommended for people who are thinking of going pro.

 

Final preview of the book “Run ‘N Gun Videography”

For anyone interested who has been following this, I’ve been writing an ebook entitle “Run ‘N Gun Videography–the Sole Shooter’s Survival Guide”.

I’ve now finished the first draft of the book which sits currently at 40,000 words and 25 chapters. I suspect there may be one or two more chapters added, but besides that I’m in editing mode and starting to think about graphics and layout. Should be finally published some time this summer.

Thought I’d share one more sneak preview, this one of Chapter 10. (most of it anyway. Hey! I can’t give away all the punch lines!)

Any feedback would be appreciated.

P.S. For the moment my Video Whisperer website is down for unknown reasons, so you may get an error message if you click that link. I’ve been wanting to re-do the whole thing and move it over to WordPress. Maybe it’s a sign….

Chapter 10, Corporate Shoot-outs

The Video Whisperer Approach to Corporate Videos

I’m using the term “corporate videos” loosely here. I am referring to the full range of business videos likely to be produced by a lone shooter or small production company. In my case, that ranges from home business owners, shop owners, small business owners and on up to multi-national corporations.

Clearly, when you start getting into the big name global corporations, they’re probably not going to be taking you on as a lone shooter.

So we’re not competing here with video production companies that are essentially small film studios with a full complement of specialized personnel.

“Corporate Shootouts” is probably an apt title. The bigger they are, the more people you have to please, the more meetings you have to have, the more planning you have to do and get approved (and modified ‘till everyone’s happy), the more back and forth on your edit, the more unwanted input from executives that want their stamp on your good ideas…and those larger video production companies have people that deal with all of that.

At any rate, I don’t play that game anymore, and if you’re reading this book, you probably don’t play it either. I like to keep it simple.

I travel light.

I don’t go into a corporate shoot like a swat team.

I walk in alone with a 6 shooter.

But I have a strategy.

And the funny thing is, even in that corporate environment I’ve walked into a conference room full of harried scriptwriters and producers and won with this approach, so don’t get the idea that because it’s simple, it can’t be effective.

Are you ready for this?

1)  I don’t script it.

2)  I don’t storyboard it.

3)  I don’t rehearse it.

So far that sounds pretty lame, doesn’t it?

Let me clarify it starting with a little story.

I used to be sent out to various parts of the globe to do a mini documentary on some interesting character by a corporation who had already fully pre-conceived the story and had it scripted by the “very best scriptwriters” based on glowing PR reports from the “very best research personnel”, right on down to the expected content of the interviews and testimonials.

The only trouble was, the real scene on the ground was never what the script said it was. So I used to get beat up about this pretty regularly by the corporate people for “not following the script” because I found real life far more interesting than their imaginary version of it.

One day it dawned on me why it was that the reports sent in to management from the field always understated the actual scene.

The real heroes on the ground that we were sent in to do stories on were too busy (and too humble) to waste much time on paperwork and bragging themselves up to the higher ups. So in the 25th hour of their day, they probably just didn’t spend much time sending their obligatory reports to management.

It was only when I tossed the interview questions and started really chatting these people up that I began to realize that they were too humble to know how extraordinary they really were. They had far more interesting stories to tell than anyone who sent us there knew about.

How ironic. Those “higher ups” were so damned concerned with their own PR that they chose the certainty of false reports based on faulty research over the actual truth which was far more interesting and better PR than they ever dreamed of.

Ok, this is a personal story and won’t have much to do with what most people will run into, but it did teach me a very important lesson that later formed the simplistic approach I started taking toward corporate videos summarized in #1-3 above.

And that lesson was: Real people are far more interesting, sincere and believable than imaginary ones.

I learned this by watching one director interviewing someone in quite a different and remarkable way…

The Secret of Interviews

Let’s face it. We’ve all seen standard, run-of-the-mill TV news interviews.

And we’ve all seen those high-end journalists who make the big bucks because of the compelling stories they supposedly draw out of people.

I’ve seen these things from the back end too. I’ve seen Mike Wallace of 60 Minutes fame (one of those supposed high end investigative journalists) doing a story. He arrived in a limo with a full entourage and large crew. “Intimidating” comes to mind. But this time he left in a big huff with his tail between his legs because the people he was doing a story on decided to run their own 5 cameras on the 60 Minutes interview so that 60 Minutes wouldn’t have the freedom pull off their usual skewed agenda-driven story through the magic of editing. That’s right. You can make people look like fools or criminals or worse just by the way you edit the footage—and I’m afraid that’s probably done more often than not depending on who is financing the story.

Anyway, that’s one extreme. But generally speaking, reporters are after controversy because that’s what sells. They’re after tears on camera and true confessions. They’re after salacious material and confrontations. They either have an agenda or their editors or producers do. That’s the world of journalism for the most part.

Documentaries can also be agenda driven with a similar approach to conducting interviews.

Tell me if I’ve gotten this right:

An interview consists of someone asking a list of prepared questions and getting responses to those questions.

Seems to be a reasonable definition, but it’s about as idiotic as it gets. I wouldn’t even call it simplistic. Not only that, it gets worse.

Typically the interviewer almost never acknowledges the answer before asking the next question. (wouldn’t that make you feel uncomfortable? You’d be wondering, “Did he hear what I just said?”) Worse still: (and I’ve seen this countless times) “that’s great, but could you give that to me again with a smile?” or “great!, but I need you to mention (_________)”, or “don’t bring up (__________)”, or any of an infinite number of other ways to introvert the interviewee because of some stupid pre-conceived idea that the interviewer has in regards to what he thinks the interviewee should say. After a short while the interviewee, convinced that you’re not interested in what they might want to say, spends the rest of the time trying to figure out what you want to hear, and the more he or she apparently “gets it wrong”, the more introverted he or she gets.

If anyone ever asked you a bunch of questions and never once acknowledged anything you’d said, you’d get the idea he wasn’t really very interested in what you had to say and you’d be right. If you had any integrity at all, you’d end the interview and tell the guy to buzz off. But too many people forge on and try to please the interviewer. They cease communicating about their own interests and passions and try to second guess what it is they’re supposed to say to make the interviewer happy.

I don’t care if it’s a news interview or a corporate interview. You get the same results; a dull, lifeless, stilted interview that forwards a supposed news agenda or marketing agenda.

It is so prevalent as a style that too many novice directors fall into the same “reporter mode” because they think that’s the way it’s supposed to be done.

I know I’m generalizing and I know there are exceptions to the rule. There have been truly great and memorable interviews and biographies, but I’m making a point that it is a pretty common approach to corporate videos by small productions companies and lone shooters who “learned it” by watching some of the “big guys”. It probably came about simply because some of these journalists who were on a deadline just didn’t have time to actually talk to someone, or (more likely) had orders from producers to obtain specific content.

A good interviewer puts his or her interviewee at ease and then engages in friendly conversation that makes the person happy and willing to talk. That should be the easy part—like riding a bicycle. The hard part is at the same time steering the interview to the end of obtaining quality, usable material for the purpose intended—like fixing a flat tire. Not very hard really.

The secret to interviews is getting people to talk about what they want to talk about, not what you think they should talk about.

But how to do know what they want to talk about?

You don’t.  You just don’t.

It’s no different than meeting someone for the first time.

So you start off with the minimum of what you have in common, even if very little. Well, you’re at their company, right. That’s a start. You’re both aware of the company and what it does. (It goes without saying that you will have done your homework and have some idea of the content or marketing message you are after). Nothing wrong with starting off with “So how long have you been working here?” Easy enough to answer and gets things off on an informal foot. The guy relaxes. He thought you were going to ask a tough question.

And you go on from there finding out about his specialty, his knowledge, his contribution to the company.

Just don’t make the mistake of getting caught up in the brilliance of your own questions. And don’t assume that you know what the ideal response should be, regardless of what the marketing people think.

Your questions are meant to be a good guess at what might get them going and what they want to talk about. And presumably you’re talking to them because they have some intimate knowledge of the subject at hand.

So start chatting. Keep it real. Keep it light and conversational.

And watch their eyes.

When those eyes light up, you’ve just found the entrance to the subject of what they like to talk about, what their passion is, etc. I don’t mean start talking about fishing or motorcycle racing. Obviously he knows what you’re there to talk about that’s relevant. What I’m saying is that when you’re in that area you’re probably going to find a hot spot that lights up his eyes. That’s the subject that’s going to get you some good material. Chat it up from all directions. He may start brief, but due to your interest, he may open up and dump a whole load of great stuff on your lap. It’s your sincere interest that will get him talking.

Listen to what they say. Really listen. Really be interested. Acknowledge what they’re saying by smiling or nodding or whatever is appropriate. Don’t cut them off.

When they seem to be finished, ask them more about what they just said. Better still, ask them something specific about something that they seem particularly interested in or emotive about. You don’t even have to ask a new question. Simply commenting on, agreeing with or otherwise acknowledging some aspect just mentioned will be enough to get them to continue talking about it.

And let them talk.

Of course you also ask all the perfunctory questions. But ideally you first establish a great rapport by talking about their interests. Then all the rest of the stuff will come off great too.

You can talk to anyone about anything that THEY are interested in.

When you find those topics, all their inhibitions disappear–so long as you do your part by listening, acknowledging and not cutting them off.

If it all goes wrong and you can’t seem to get off on the right foot, be humble enough to realize that you’re the one that introverted them and got them to stop talking. There is still an out.  I’ve done it many times to miraculous results.  It goes something like this:

“Forget about everything I just said or asked. Forget about what you think you should say or what the company thinks you should say or what you think I want to hear.  What is it about this subject that interests YOU the most? What about it are you most passionate about? Go ahead, let your hair down.”

Sometimes after 30 minutes of interview, I’ve gotten the greatest percentage of my editable narrative after making that statement alone.

Look at it this way. It’s really simple.

An interview is simply a directed conversation.

But it’s still a conversation.

It’s not formal. It’s relaxed. It’s fun. It’s interesting. It’s something you’ve done naturally all your life.

If you’re shooting a corporate interview or a testimonial, the only difference is that you are a director and you know the sort of content that is required to fulfill the marketing angle (or instructional angle—or whatever kind of video you’re doing). It doesn’t matter how long it takes to accumulate that information. It doesn’t matter a hoot what you say or how much you banter with the interviewee. All that gets cut out. But as you go along you will be making mental notes, “that was a good bit”, or “that’s a great opener”, or “that will work great in the wrap up”, etc.

With experience you’ll know when you have enough material to be able to edit the interview and achieve your objective.

The main point is, that the best of your material in that interview will be honest, sincere, passionate, and believable. But better still, you might well turn up with some great material that no scriptwriter or marketing person could ever have dreamed up for the very best actor or presenter to deliver with all the right hand gestures.

The intended audience for your video can see marketing hype a mile away.

But the real guy, warts and all, speaking from the heart is also something they can see from a mile away. And that’s they guy they’ll listen to.

Ok, that’s a basic overview. I’ll cover some more on this subject later, but for now, let’s get back to what this has to do with shooting corporate videos, or more specifically, how I do it in terms of “the Video Whisperer approach”….

 

Run ‘N Gun Videography, sneak preview

Almost done with the ebook “Run ‘N Gun Videography–the Sole Shooter’s Survival Guide”.  Looks like it will be about 42,000 words in about 25 chapters. A few weeks ago I published the introduction here.

I won’t publish all the chapters on the blog, but here’s Chapter 1 (first draft) for your perusal:

 

Chapter 1   Run ’N Gun

What does that mean anyway?

Funny enough, if you look this up you’ll find it’s a term used in the video gaming industry. As the name implies, it’s a rather brash and unconsidered approach to winning—sort of an AK47 approach to getting somewhere.

Speaking of guns, I’ve shot the AK47 and I must say it’s a gun that’s meant to be shot on full automatic in a spraying motion because it’s not very useful in single shot mode for hitting a target. The bloody thing is so nasty in its kickback that once you’ve fired it, you have no idea where the bullet just went–and you don’t care either because your ears are ringing so bad. (The US AR15 is much better on that score).

But I digress.

I doubt any of this is what anyone in the field of videography means when using the term.

For the purposes of this book, however, I thought I’d better define what I mean by the term, lest anyone start off with the wrong idea.

Since I have a gun theme going (for a bit of fun), it’s not an AK47 or AR15 approach either. More like a 38 police special (short barreled pistol) and you have to be pretty good to hit anything with that.

Let me couch it this way:

After years of working in the regimented, scripted approach to film and video production with production crews (nothing wrong with that), I became a video documentary director/cameraman. That meant I traveled around with a small team—usually one other person and sometimes two—to shoot short documentaries of people or events around the world. Because there was little time allotted for each production, and each production had a looming, unalterable deadline, it was necessary to develop a shooting style that was very direct and economical without compromising on quality. This also extended to kit, which I’ll detail in a later chapter. In short, I had to be quick on my feet and quick of wit while being as thorough as possible.

Despite the fact that these productions had scripted narration to be added later, my job was to produce material that would stand on its own without the need for narration. What dictated the content for me was the material obtained in the interviews I did with key people on the ground.

I learned some very important things early on about interviews. While this will also be the subject of a detailed chapter, it bears mentioning now that the most important thing I learned was that everyone has a story. Getting them to tell it is the trick. Part of the trick is to be willing to find out what the story is. And to do that you pretty much have to knock out of your head whatever you think the story might be (forget about the stupid interview questions) and just start engaging in normal human conversation.

Once you’ve go the story you have some idea of the B roll (relevant and related shots) you need to shoot so that the interview and/or greater story can be edited.

And that’s all there is to it basically.

It applies to documentaries, biographies and corporate videos alike.

Knowing what to shoot, how to see it and doing it quickly, professionally and thoroughly is “run ’n gun”.

By definition, “run ’n gun” will never be perfect. You’re bound to make mistakes. You’re bound to get home and find a shot out-of-focus or with any of an almost infinite number of potential technical flaws. But if you “shoot the hell out of it” in the process, and to the best of your ability, you will walk away with editable video footage that will achieve whatever its intended purpose was.

I always make the time to light important interviews and obtain the best sound possible. That doesn’t mean one could necessarily tell that the shots were lit because, in my case, I tend to employ “atmospheric lighting” which appears to be natural. But it looks a hell of a lot better than the “real world” looked.

On the other hand, it’s not always possible to light an interview, particularly “vox pox” (latin for “voice of the people” and meaning the “man-on the-street type interview). But in these cases one still tries to get the best possible lighting and camera angle possible.

Sound recording is another vital element. Using an on-camera mic (and the resultant high ambient sound levels) is the mark of an amateur. Close, present-sounding audio recording for any type of interview is vital – a fact which apparently many videographers do not give adequate importance to.

That said, there are unexpected circumstances when something is happening that simply can’t be stopped to allow proper microphone placement, so you’d be daft to not record it anyway with your on-camera mic. If the content turns out to be precious, the value of the content will over-ride the technical flaws.

And so it goes. It’s a constant exercise of judgment while seeking to obtain the best technical quality in the process under varying circumstances.

It takes practice.

It takes experience.

You have to be willing to learn from your mistakes.

You have to be pretty good to pull it off.

And that’s what I mean by “run ’n gun”

 

 

The Secret to Interviews, Part 2

Based on feedback, I’d like to post a few more tips on the subject of How to Do Interviews.

Bear in mind, the original post, was written to emphasize the most important of all these points; In line with what you’re trying too achieve marketing-wise or otherwise, find out what the person likes to talk about, be interested, listen to what they have to say, and acknowledge what they’ve said once they’ve said it. This is simply a partial distillation of the whole subject of good communication, and the original post expanded on that somewhat.

In the excellent feedback, others shared some of their tips in doing interviews, all things I’ve done myself as have many interviewers, so let’s round them up. Let’s also remember they are tips and tricks and can only really be effective if the point in bold above is also in place.

1.  An old film director trick is to announce a rehearsal to the actors on the set. He then winks at the cameraman who rolls the camera during the “rehearsal”. It’s a bit hit and miss, but often enough it’s the best take of the day.  A savvy director knows when to do this though based on his observation of the actors up to that point.

2. For an interviewer that same approach can be even more effective as he or she is often dealing with non-actors who are a bit put off by the camera and lights. So when everything is technically set up, the interviewer turns on the camera and sits down and starts “chatting about the up-coming interview.” Very relaxed and conversational. For example, ” I’d like to cover these various topics (A, B, C…). Which of those is closest to your heart? Chat about that one a bit and steer the person through the aspects that seem to make his eyes light up–the things he seems most familiar with or seems to like to talk about.

There are all kinds of things you can say to put him at ease along the way.  ” Go ahead, let your hair down, etc.”

Just lightly breeze through all the topics you want to cover.

(make sure you either turn off or tape off your red camera running light!)

Some of your best material may drop into your lap here.

Don’t say anything about it.

Finally tell him the “interview” won’t be any more complicated than that. Get up and “turn on the camera” and then proceed with the interview.

My advice is to start with his best topic (based on responses so far) and say, “I’m fascinated by your opinion on (Topic B). Can you tell me a bit more about that?”

You see, he’s already warmed up to the fact that this is easier than he thought it would be and now he gets to talk about something he likes to talk about and the interviewer seems interested in.

Now you’re set up to roll through the whole interview and have a good chance of getting even better material.

But please don’t tell them that you rolled the camera from the beginning. Maybe when the whole edit is done, sure, but not now. For one, you don’t want to come across as having “tricked” him or her, and secondly, you don’t want to introvert him into the process or start editing himself as he “said that already earlier”.

By the way, I’m not advising that you do this all the time. I don’t. But it can be helpful if you’re just starting off as an interviewer and learning the ropes of how to get usable material.

3.  Remember, an interview is simply a steered conversation. You don’t always have to ask a question to get an answer. It can be much more effective to make a comment on something they just said–which will get them to continue talking about it.  Or, when they seem confident enough, you can play devil’s advocate and state some opposing point of view–” you know, most people think______”, or, “I’ve heard (some opposing point of view)”, or “how do you handle people who think (opposing or different point of view)?”  and that gets them to really start explaining and expanding on the point.

4. Don’t turn off the camera. If you have to get up to adjust a light or mop some sweat off their brow, just let it run. You’ll kick yourself the day they say that killer line when the camera was off. And it happens all the time.

5. Don’t ever ask someone to “say something again”. Yep, if you screw it up and have to ask that question, you’ll never get it the same again because they’ll be trying to remember what they said as opposed to just communicating. It unnecessarily introverts them. Just work around it and try to come back from a different angle to get them to say it again. If you’re lucky, it will be even better. If you’re not, just kick yourself later.

6. Don’t ever ask someone to repeat something but with different wording, or ” can you say that and end with a smile this time?”  If you do that, don’t wait. Just kick yourself right there on the spot. That’s the mark of an amateur interviewer.

7. Don’t make the mistake of thinking a good statement has to be said with a smile. Conviction, yes. Emotion, yes. Heart-felt, yes. Smiles are optional. That “must smile” business is just years of conditioning to crappy Madison Avenue marketing where everyone is always smiling all the time which is a good part of the reason they’re so unconvincing. How many ads have you seen where people are pointing to and smiling at their laptops? Looks ridiculous, doesn’t it? It’s just not real. Not 100% of the time anyway.

8. (thanks to David Bonyun for reminding me):  A great last question to any interview is some form of this one (and this is what I ask): “Is there anything I should have asked you and didn’t?”  David’s version is this: “Is there anything you wish I asked you about today that I missed?”

A good interviewer puts his or her interviewee at ease and then engages in friendly conversation that makes the person happy and willing to talk to you. That should be the easy part. The hard part is at the same time steering the interview to the end of obtaining quality, usable material for the purpose intended.

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