Weathering a TV Shoot

July 28, 2011

As storms rolled through the south last month, I rolled into Arkansas, prepared to weather an HGTV show taping with a client. Taped television segments come with their own set of benefits and challenges – there is the added control of being able to say “let’s take that again,” but also the added nerves that come with presenting the same information five different ways to find the most “natural” sound bite.

If you have a taped television opportunity on the horizon, below are some key lessons from my recent experience to help guarantee the best possible segment – for both your client and your media contact.

  • Think Visuals First – and Second, and Last! Cover the basics first: the dress code for anyone who will be near the camera, the preferred background for the shoot and the recommended b-roll visuals. If the shoot is on location, go over pictures of the “set” with the client to make sure everyone is on the same page. You’ll want to have these conversations when you still have time to ship in new product, rearrange accessories or choose a new location. Finally, the day of the shoot, be critical to remove distractions. If you can see debris on the floor, have someone sweep it. If a shirt looks wrinkled, iron it!
  • Put Your Preparations on Paper. Get organized with a master planning document, including key messages, talking points, dress code and emergency contact. Spokespeople tend to forget details when they are nervous and a camera can be very intimidating. Create a book to keep all of the essential information in one place and make a copy for your spokesperson to reference as often as needed.
  • Let Confidence Rule. Taped segments invite feedback and retakes, requiring your active engagement and ongoing counsel. Discuss your role with the producer beforehand to establish a rhythm for your relationship. If something said on camera is incorrect, should you interject or wait until the take ends? Keep in mind that if you won’t have any input in the editing room, you’ll want to be especially careful about what is captured on camera. On the client side, now is the time for confident counsel. Take each spokesperson aside several minutes before filming to prepare for the questions ahead and review key messages. And don’t be afraid to give constructive criticism between takes. “Speak louder,” “smile more,” “talk slower,” and “we’ll have to redo that, it’s incorrect” are all things I said recently to clients. And all feedback that led to a better overall segment.
  • Record it. Since you have paper handy, you might as well take notes! Record the takes you liked best and the time they filmed. Also note bad quotes, incorrect statements and awkward scenes. You can share your notes with the producer afterward as helpful input for the editing desk – just be careful not to overstep your role. You also can use your notes to help your spokesperson prepare for future interviews and to give feedback on his or her performance.

Stormy weather aside, our recent TV shoot was a big success, and I attribute that success to the full preparations our team took to develop messages, coordinate visuals and find the best faces to bring energy and life to our story. It’s something I’m sure will shine through on screen, despite the cloudy skies in the frame.