The days of the yearly half-million dollar TV spot are dwindling. The trend toward nimble, efficient content production continues. Equipment is getting cheaper, cameras are getting exponentially better, and a skeleton video crew can do far more with smaller budgets than in the past.
However, there’s one cost that’s remained rather constant: talent. Celebrities are still just as expensive (if not more so), and professional union talent comes with a price. Brands often look to alternative on-screen talent to bolster their content. We’re seeing everything from experts in a given field, to internal company representatives, to up-and-coming personalities, athletes, and musicians -- all of whom may have little or no on-screen experience.
So how do you get the best, most natural performances from people who aren’t experienced and comfortable on camera?
1. Prepare. Always over-index on preparation. Sending out scripts, questions, and briefs ahead of time will allow your on-screen talent to familiarize themselves, make notes, and be far more comfortable on shoot day than if they were to take a blind leap.
2. Encourage practice. If possible, conduct in-person meetings with talent to practice lines, discuss the project, and go over any necessary talking points. Budget permitting, investing in professional media training can be useful in certain cases, especially if your talent will be public-facing for press needs.
3. Minimize the number of people on-set. Nothing is more uncomfortable than being leered at by a crowded set of crew, agency personnel, and clients. Generally, the more people on the set, the more uncomfortable your talent is going to be. You can seek to further reduce the feeling of being watched by physically blocking out the sight line beyond the camera. That way, your talent can focus on the camera, the director, or interviewer – and not on dozens of onlookers.
4. Create a natural conversation. It’s often helpful to start conversing naturally with the talent to warm them up, or to get certain talking points from them. Having ample time to gather responses is crucial, as rushing through a script or questions can often have the undesirable result of sounding rushed or uncomfortable. Encourage your talent to take a breath, take their time, and pace themselves so they are comfortable. If you’re directing or interviewing, speak to them on their level -- just as if you’re having a conversation with a friend.
5. Be an emotional coach. It’s sometimes tough to gauge the performance of your talent when you’re on-set, so play close attention to body language, tone of voice, and overall energy. There’s a fine balance between genuine enthusiasm and feeling fake or forced. Remember, the goal is to appear as natural as possible. Sometimes, something as simple as encouraging your talent to smile can change their tone and energy through the power of suggestion. Keep the session light and playful, tell a joke, and encourage enthusiasm without being forceful.
Follow these simple steps, and you’ll make the most of your next branded video -- and save a little money, too.