Five Tips for a Successful Video Shoot

Video Creative Director
Published 1/23/14
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Be as prepared as you can be, but expect nothing to go exactly as planned.

So you've decided to become a video producer. Good for you! Prepare yourself for an exciting career filled with adventure, late-night emergency phone calls, early-morning shoot times and an impressive collection of hotel shampoo bottles. Or… maybe you’re just curious to see what it takes? Basically, it boils down to one simple mantra: Always. Be. Prepared.

Here are my top five tips on how to prepare and execute a successful shoot:

1. Never underestimate the importance of pre-production

I’m a planner by nature -- organization, spreadsheets, coordination – the idea of several moving parts all harmoniously coming together like a perfectly played symphony sets my heart aflutter. Pre-production is the time period when you’re planning the details of your shoot; in our world of travel video production on a budget, this includes (short list):

  • Chatting with the client about what’s important to feature and the overall vision of the shoot
  • Writing scripts and creating shot lists
  • Booking travel (airfare, cars, hotels, etc.)
  • Setting the shoot dates and confirming timing for each location
  • Obtaining permits or any other necessary permission

Generally, if something’s going to go wrong (beyond weather or other “acts of God” that you can’t control), it will go wrong with something inherent in how the shoot was originally planned. This becomes especially important when, like us, we have multiple teams all moving across the United States. The more time you allow yourself for pre-production, the better off you will be in the long run.

2. Be ON

From the moment you meet with your clients, be ON. This boils down to having good customer service skills. As a producer, you’re the face of whatever company or body of work you’re representing. It’s important to be timely in responses: 24 hours at most for a phone call, within the day for an email, even if it’s to say you’re asking other sources for an answer.

As someone who is inherently shy (yes, this might come as a shock to some), I personally view my clients as people I want to befriend. I’m genuinely motivated to make sure they’re comfortable with me/Miles and the entire experience and, most importantly, excited for the shoot.

While video production is becoming more affordable, the vast majority of clients I’ve spent time with have never produced a video before. Not only is this a big investment for their organization, but it’s an exciting opportunity for them. So, while it’s business as usual for me, I never make the assumption that it’s that way for them.

3. Pack for what you can’t plan for

This awesome Guac-action at Boudro’s in San Antonio did not require TUMS for Mr. Focus or Sunshine in the backdrop

As producer, you’re the leader. The rest of your crew will look to you for guidance and direction. During my stint on the road, I often felt like “Mom” as I would frequently be the only person to have cold medicine, TUMS, sunscreen, bug spray – or heck, even the darn schedule! – available. (There will be a future article on all the things I pack for a shoot. Yes – it’s that detailed that I can make an entire blog out of what I pack for a shoot.) 

4. SLEEP

The days leading up to a shoot are not the time to pull all-nighters editing footage or whatever you do in the PM hours.

During my days on the road, I was queen of the between-location nap. Twenty-minute drive to location #2? I was napping on the couch in the RV. Shoot postponed due to rain? Sounds like nap time!

Sleep is not something that comes easily or that you will have a lot of time for while on the road. Not only are your work days very long (12+ hours), you’ll be ON all day since the client will probably be on-set (see item #2). You’ll also be contending with the excitement of wanting to explore a new place (if you’re a true Crew Geek) or the difficulty of adjusting to a new bed you’ll probably only sleep in once.

So stock up on sleep while you can! Besides, no one likes a crankopotamus (I’m copyrighting this term right here, right now).

5. Get Excited

Brand USA team – Amon Focus, German talent Heike Bachmann, myself and Nadja Koch with the Visit Gainesville team on a recent shoot at Paynes Prairie

Research, plan and get excited about the places you’ll be visiting. Not only will it be easier to market the destination and the key features about the locations you’re filming, but it will be easier for you to connect with your client while on-site. If you have any downtime, it’s also a good way to figure out what locations you’ll want to visit on your own. If you’re passionate about what you’re doing, not only will clients be appreciative of the work you’ve put into the shoot, but you’ll come away with so much in return. Passion is infectious! 

There is only so much we can do before a shoot to make it go as smoothly as possible. What actually happens is a delightful combination of planning, people and happenstance. Be as prepared as you can be, but expect nothing to go exactly as planned. Oxymoron? Sure, but just as much as we can plan for life itself, we can plan for life on the road.