10 valuable lessons I learnt from directing a video shoot

A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of directing a video shoot on behalf of one of my clients. It was their Christmas advert to help drive sales over the festive period.

Directing a video shoot is no easy task. It involves far more than just hiring a videographer and expecting them to work everything out, and it’s surprising how quickly time flies over a day’s filming. Being prepared and having a clear vision for the end result are absolutely key.  Despite the video’s success, there were a few hard lessons learnt along the way that I wanted to share with you:
1. Nail the script
The script is the foundation of the video so I used this as my starting point. It establishes location, number of actors needed, the type of video you want, the length of the video and therefore the number of hours you’ll need for shooting. At first, I wanted the actors to have dialogue, but this demanded a Sound Technician, so to keep costs down, I opted for a voice over and this worked out brilliantly. I planned a storyboard for each line so I knew exactly what footage was needed.

2. Brief the videographer
Don’t skimp on a cheap videographer. Hire one who’s experienced and who can guide you through the process. I found that by keeping him informed throughout each stage of the process not only ensured he had all the right kit required, but it also meant he understood the overall message we were trying to communicate.

3. Don’t take a risk with your Risk Assessment
If you are filming on your own premises and/or hiring actors for the filming you’ll need to do a Risk Assessment. It covers you in the unlikely event of an accident happening and it also helps to identify potential areas of danger that you can watch out for during the day. Our first and last scene was filmed in a car park, so we had to be mindful of traffic passing in and out and making sure that we weren’t getting in the way of customers. We wore high visibility vests throughout and I made sure I briefed the actors on all the potential areas of danger before we began.

4. Hire experienced actors
You don’t have to be an experienced casting agent to find great actors. I put a free advert on Mandy.com and got a great response. I had a clear vision about what I was looking for in terms of age, build and look and this helped eliminate submissions quickly. I made sure that the actors I chose all had film/television and corporate experience so they were used to close-up camera work and the demands of filming.

5. Get written location permits
We wanted to film three of our scenes within shopping centres, but in order to do this, you need written permission by the management of those shopping centres. Doing this in advance, not only saves a lot of embarrassment on the day, but also prevents the film crew and actors standing around whilst you negotiate with the management. Besides, there’s no guarantee that they’ll let you do it without advance warning, so your day could go horribly wrong if you don’t plan this in advance.

Be sure to tell them exactly where you want to film and where you will be promoting the video.

6. Time it
Time your script in advance so you know roughly how long your video will be. I recommend having extra cut-offs and some scenes for additional footage should you need them. This saves your videographer having to go back the following day (which could incur extra costs).

Remember that if you are using the video on social media, short and punchy is better (recommended 45 seconds – 1 minute long).

7. Agreements
If you are hiring actors, make sure you have a simple written Agreement that they sign in advance. This should include their rate of pay, how long you intend to employ them and what copyright you have over the footage and where it will be used. Your actors are then very clear where they stand in terms of their contractual arrangements and it saves any embarrassing conversations on the day of the shoot, or worse still, when they see your video being shared all over social media!
8. Call sheet
A call sheet is a summary of the day that everyone needs before the shoot. It should include things like weather forecast (particularly relevant if you are filming outside), timings, contact numbers, details of a qualified first aider, nearest hospital and call times. That way, everyone is clear where they should be and when.

9. Have a publishing schedule
Plan where your video will be published well in advance. You’ll want to make the most of your footage and promote it across the right channels to ensure it fulfils your objective.

10. It’s a WRAP!
The director is responsible for making sure you shoot all the scenes needed within the time you have available, so don’t spend hours on one scene and leave yourself short at the end of the day when it might be dark and your actors are tired! Keep thinking ahead and working with your videographer on expected completion times for each scene that you don’t overrun.

Well I bet you’re dying to see what the finished product was.
Here it is…. ENJOY!

If you would like help planning a video shoot or need advice about video marketing, please contact me for experienced advice.

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