How you can improve performances

I have recently been asked to discuss working with actors on this blog.  While that’s not really in the purview of a blog on corporate video, it did get me thinking about techniques from acting that can be translated into the corporate video sector.

“Look over there”

One of the problems that you will encounter both with inexperienced actors and inexperienced interviewees is nervousness.  There are many causes of nerves in a filming situation, but the principal ones are to do with confusion about what’s happening and not knowing what to say or what to do.

A typical interview for a corporate video

A typical interview for a corporate video

As a corporate filmmaker, you can very easily help with one aspect of nerves by communicating clearly what you need your interviewee to do, where you need them to sit or stand and where you want them to look.  I also tell them what I’m doing as I’m doing it – for example, I’ll explain that I need to fit a microphone to their clothes and then I will ask them to help me to fit it.  I have seen some sound recordists just walk up to an interviewee and just take control of their clothing without even acknowledging them.  That’s hardly going to make them feel relaxed!

If your interviewee is struggling with not knowing what to say, a simple way to help is to ask them to tell you a story about something they did or helped another person or company with.

“It’s all about focus”

Another aspect of nerves can be brought about by the interviewee or actor being too “internally focussed”.  They’re worrying about how they sound and how they look.  You need to get them to focus out of themselves.

Award-winning director Brian Barnes directing a shoot

Award-winning director Brian Barnes giving a verb action to an actress

Now, in acting, we use verb actions to help to refine a performance and to get the actor to focus on their scene partner, rather than themselves.  For example, when working with an actor, I might say, “I want to see you undermine him in this moment.”  This is a really powerful technique and it can so easily be transferred into corporate video interviewing with very impressive results.

It’s a very simple, two-step process.  The first step is to ask your interviewee if they are proud and/or excited about their new product, service or scheme that they are promoting.  You’ll usually get a great big smile from them and they’ll tell you how fantastic it all is.  This is great, as you’ve now prompted a kind of “sense memory” for them.  In the second step, you say to them, “Excellent, now in this interview I want you to make me as excited about your project as you are.”  This forces them to focus on trying to move you with their answers and immediately makes them more present and raises the energy of their performance.

You’ll now have much better interviews!


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