In Front Of The Camera


Monday was unusual. Even by the random standards of my life. It was film day. For me. I was going in front of the camera. Usually I prepare other people to go in front of the camera or on stage. I am the backroom guy – the guy in the green room giving advice, holding your hand, cheering you on. But not Monday. I have been told repeatedly that my website needs a video. Of me. That I am the product, the service, the package. The coach. So prospective clients need to see me and hear me. So today was filming of me.

I am the speaker coach – so this better be good! Scripts were written, rewritten, edited, shared, collaborated on. I think the final doc was called Script Final 9 or Script Final final final 5. Then I set a deadline, a date and we were off to London. I cancelled. Or postponed. That was last week and I was just back from the US, I had loads to do and my head wasn’t there. Plus I hadn’t learned my lines. The film guy understood. He said.

So this Monday dawned. The team of 5 assembled in Canada Water near the Hilton on the Thames walkway. We were south of the river with Canary Wharf as the backdrop. The weather was perfect. The film crew of two were cheery. Sam and Danny work for me and were excited to be out of the office and doing something different.

I still hadn’t learned my lines.

The film guy said he had every confidence in me. I hoped he was better with his camera than he was at deceit.

I was “miked up”, the lighting was checked, the serious professional camera sat on a huge tripod, a light panel explored every wrinkle on my face. I tried to remember my advice to my clients on how to keep calm.  My young team were reassuring even if some of their jokes were off-colour! The film crew reassured with their words but I was sure they were thinking “Another wally who hasn’t learned his lines!”

We were ready. Or at least everyone else was. The “talent” wasn’t. Not a word came to me. Blank. Totally. Nothing. Nada.

Sam read out the script I was supposed to have learnt. That I had spent 3 hours learning over the weekend. The script that I had written and approved. That we had agreed and shared with the film team. I hated it. Too clunky, too braggy, too long. Not. Fluent. At. All.

Eyes furtively rolled. My team smiled encouragingly willing me me to win. I cursed myself.

The film guy’s assistant interrupted. She hadn’t been part of the pre-briefing. She asked me what I did. I told her. She said – “Say that – talk like you have just spoken to me.” Which is the sort of thing I say. But I needed someone else to say it to me.

I pulled myself together. I instructed Sam to make sure that all the key components of the script were covered. He was anointed Chief Prompter for the day. This meant he read out what needed to be covered – I made a mental note of the essential points, shut my eyes like a diva, assembled my thoughts, mentally walked through what I was going to say, then said “Am ready”. And the film crew sprang into action – or at least pushed the button.

Theory. Of course the film crew wasn’t always ready just because I was. Background noise interrupts (i.e. stops) filming and there were planes and boats and cyclists and waves and even helicopters all joining in and laughing at me. So it took a little longer than it should have. Double the time at least. But in the end I was happy with the words and it was nearly a minute shorter. Everyone else was smiling too. We hadn’t moved on from a clip until all 4 of my “audience” were happy.

Midday isn’t great for filming apparently (says the thirsty film guy!) because of the light. So we went for lunch. In a pub – I think the crew deserved and needed that.The film guy seemed much happier after that!

After lunch we went to Westminster, again south of the river, by Lambeth Palace. This was shorter – we didn’t need to film so much and I had learnt my lines by now. And the next day we did some close up work shots on my desk at home. The film will be coming out soon – hopefully this weekend. Danny found some music for it. Graeme, the film guy, has edited out my stumbles and gaffes.

Film is powerful. But it has to be done well. 2 minutes clips are part of the internet culture – but they take ages to make in preparation, production and post-production. The investment is significant – but the end product is well worth having. Or at least I think so. When I publish the video you can decide for yourself.

Lessons and tips about filming promotional video

  1. you must know what you HAVE to say
  2. preparation and preparation time are mega-important – they are part of the investment you make
  3. get a film crew you like and who can work with and who will put up with you
  4. it takes longer than you think on the day
  5. it takes much longer than you think in preparation
  6. post-production is seriously important – be nice to the editor!
  7. working with, listening to and getting feedback from professionals is mandatory
  8. getting feedback from those who know you well, and care about you, is important too  – it keeps you real




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