The use of video has proven to be a very valuable tool when it comes to ministry!  Finding volunteers to get in front of a camera can sometimes be difficult, it gets even harder when they’ll be the only one in front of the camera!

For several years when I first started shooting video, I had a contract to shoot commercials for a local cable company.  The budget on these projects was low and there was no money to hire professional talent.  Overnight, I had to become an expert in shooting videos with people that did not feel comfortable in front of a camera.  I learned a lot, and I had to learn fast, I was shooting 3-5 commercials a week.  More often than not, I was meeting my talent just a few minutes before they’d go on camera.  These are some of the tools I used to make an amateur look like a professional on a consistent basis!

1. Work with a Script

The volunteer you’re working with may be a really great public speaker, or even feel really comfortable in front of the camera, but a script will remind them what they should say and what they shouldn’t say.
    1. Make sure they have the script ahead of time
    2. Additionally, a teleprompter could really help, but they’ll need to know the script regardless!
    3. Make them an expert on what they’re talking about.  People are always more comfortable talking about something that they are familiar with.
    4. Go all the way through the script the first time.  Don’t reset every time there’s a mistake, as soon as you fix one mistake, you’ll make another.  The first time through is just a chance to go over the script in the environment you’re shooting in.

2.  Setup Everything Ahead of Time

Having your talent wait or watch while you set up the camera and lights will add to any anxiety they may already be experiencing.  
  1. Have your talent prepare in another room if you can’t get there early.
  2. Have everything on and ready when they enter the room.
  3. Use a stand-in to set lights and get focus.
  4. Mark your spots with gaffer tape.  Even professional talent moves out of focus. 

3.  Eliminate Distractions

There are several common distractions that I’ve always tried to eliminate, but your role will be to find and eliminate distractions that no one else would think of.  Here are a few common distractions and how to eliminate them:
  1. Silence your cell phones.  Don’t put them on vibrate, make them completely silent.  You may also need to put your smartwatch on airplane mode.
  2. Send children out of the room.  Any damage they cause in another room will pale in comparison to distractions they cause in the room.
  3. Don’t let your talent see themselves during recording– no monitors, no mirrors.  A mirror is great for preparation, but  allowing them to see themselves during the shoot is a huge distraction.
  4. Don’t assume that another person in the room is a distraction.  Often times a close friend or spouse will make the mood lighter and people more comfortable.   

4.  Take a Break

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve spent 20+ minutes trying to get something right on camera, then taken a two-minute break that fixed everything.  Take a drink, clear your mind, get out from under the lights.
  1. Don’t let short takes keep someone from being prepared.  Taking a break because they aren’t prepared isn’t going to give them the clarity they need on camera.
  2. Don’t take a break just because “it’s time.”  You’ll start to notice that people have different rhythms, the last thing you want to do is stop a shoot when it’s going well.
  3. Have water bottles and a clean towel ready to go.  Standing in front of the camera can feel like being in the desert sometimes.  You want to give them a break, but you don’t want them to have to go find something.
  4. Have a mirror in the room, just make sure they can’t see themselves while taping.

5.  Give authentic affirmation

Talking to a person is much easier than talking to a camera, don’t tune out.  Stand behind the camera and reassure the person you’re working with that things are going well.  Nod, smile, listen.
  1. If you smile, they will smile.  Smile.
  2. Never stop a take, let them stop a take if it’s necessary.  If you see something that they didn’t, that would require another take, shoot it again.  Say something like “I think one more time will make it perfect” instead of “That wasn’t good enough.”
  3. If you have tips to give your talent, always do so before they arrive for the shoot.  It’s okay to reinforce or remind them of something you’ve already told them, but don’t give them new things to be worried about right before they go in front of the camera.
  4. Unless you’re working with professional talent, you can’t be a director.  You have to be an encourager.  Any directing you do has to be done before they arrive for the shoot.