We all know how important it is to create and distribute video in order to compete with todays ‘streaming-centric’ audiences. The majority of businesses do not have the luxury to contract out professional talent so they leverage the in-house personnel that they have available. Honestly, the employees, stakeholders and owners are typically the best people to showcase the company’s brand, essence & origin story. Here are some industry tricks and recommendations to make amateur actors shine.

Having a full or half day shoot with people new to the production process can create various challenges. But with a production strategy,  patience and staying cool under pressure you can create fantastic results.

Consider the fact that an experienced director is more like a coach rather than a Drill Sergeant. So it is imperative that the director stays calm in the eye of the storm. The director must see from a 30,000 foot view, keeping every detail in focus, in concert with getting the best performance out of the talent at hand. To say this could be challenging is an understatement.

Here is some food for thought as you prepare for your big video shoot.

1. Practice…practice…practice.

The final edited production will have much better continuity if everyone is proficient with their content. Make sure everyone who is being filmed commits to rehearsing and becoming comfortable with their parts. Then rehearse on set with your actors and always roll the camera during the rehearsal. You will be surprised how many times the rehearsal becomes the best take of the day.

2. Being in front of the camera will make them anxious.

Even for experienced actors, performing on camera is very stressful. First of all, everybody on set will be watching, the lighting will get hot and video cameras will just keep rolling. There also looms the added consideration that these videos will have a lifespan of many years and could potentially be seen by a large group of people. Anybody would find this situation difficult. Here’s a tip to assist your talent and help things along and to improve their performance.

There will be times when your talent gets stuck during a take, a great way to get momentum again is to have them mimic your style. For example: you can read their lines and tell them to “follow my lead”. You can easily project to them the proper tonality, timing and delivery without giving any verbal direction. It would be best to use a teleprompter, and write the script in a conversational tone.

3. Slow your roll to start, then gain momentum.

Avoid getting right into the heart of the shoot – maybe start the take by rolling the camera and asking your talent about a topic they are familiar with. This will start more of a conversation instead of “performing”. Once they appear more relaxed, start shooting their lines and you will definitely get a more natural, honest performance.

4. Provide direction and enthusiastic support, NOT demands.

The enthusiasm, environment and attitude is everything on set. Each production carries its own “energy” and the role of the director is to control that “energy” for your crew and talent. Yelling is never productive and immediately startles everyone and puts them on the defensive.

Remember you are a Conductor so it’s your job to guide everyone to create the best results and final production. The ultimate goal is to draw out everybody’s best performance, so be patient and let it happen organically.

5. Earlier takes will play better as a general rule.

The energy and enthusiasm level is typically better earlier in the shoot than as the day wears on. As the production and hours go by, the talent will fatigue and begin to over analyze the process and content.

Avoid this by having the very most important content covered as early as possible. Save the less important lines for later after your talent is a little more fatigued.

In addition, getting higher priority content “in the can” will give everybody a sense of accomplishment.


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