Just Do It Filmmaking

Recently I was asked by a local synagogue to create a video to get people excited about a new program they were launching. With only a month before the deadline, I knew timing would be a challenge, but four weeks gave just enough time. And then I got sick - just before we were supposed to film. Not a cold, but an in-bed-for-an-entire-week kind of sick.

When we went to reschedule for the following week, more than half of our participants canceled.  I can’t tell you that I didn’t panic. But, in the end, we were able to find other fantastic participants and pull off the filming and editing of a video that people were truly excited about.

It made me realize that last minute filmmaking isn’t always such a bad thing.

Often during the start of the holidays, I like to talk about capturing stories, particularly those of family members, and ideas for planning ahead for filming and interviewing. But I realize that most of us don’t have the luxury of that ever precious commodity – time.

With that thought in mind, whether you are looking to capture the stories of your family or your company, I offer you my tips on last-minute filmmaking:

Grab a Camera, Any Camera

In an ideal world, you’d have a high quality video camera with a tripod, and a jack for an external lavaliere microphone that you could clip to your subject’s shirt.  In reality, you may only have your cellphone or your point-and-shoot still camera that shoots video.  It’s OK.  Use what you have.  Often it is better to have something than nothing.  Some things to keep in mind:

  • Take care to turn your cellphone camera the right way. Not all cellphones will automatically change your framing for the correct orientation, so you may end up with a sideways interview.  (Most are better if you film so the phone is horizontal, rather than vertical, but check your phone first.)  It makes it much easier to watch, edit, upload, etc. if it’s in the right format.
  • Your grab and go device may not have the camera stabilizer built-in. Remember this and try to brace the camera in some way to make it steady.  (For example, shooting with a cell phone, you might try sitting at a table, arms up at 90 degrees with your elbows on the table, to steady the camera.)
  • Audio is likely to be severely lacking on your device. Get close to your subject or go to a space where there is mostly quiet so you can hear your subject.
  • Be aware that your device will record only for as long as your memory card has storage capacity. The quality of the video you’re shooting (HD vs. SD, 1080 vs. 720, etc.) will determine the amount of space you have available on that memory card.  So if you know you’ll be filming several minutes of video, consider shooting at slightly lower quality to ensure you have enough space. (Or make sure you have more than one memory card.)

Get the Conversation Rolling With One Great Question

Would I rather see you make a list ahead of time of all the questions you might want to ask someone? Absolutely. But in lieu of this, sometimes all it takes is one thought provoking question to get the ball rolling.

For A Family Thanksgiving:

  • Go around the Thanksgiving table before the meal or between the meal and dessert and ask each person the same question. (For example: Tell a story about something extraordinary that happened to you this year that you are grateful for.)  Take turns going around the table and film each person’s answer. This will ensure maximum quiet while each person (ideally) listens to what others have to say.
    • If it’s a big table, you may want to forgo filming at your seat and instead get up and move around so you get the best shot and audio level for each person.
    • Share your video clips on Facebook or a family web page if you have one.

For A Company or Non-Profit Holiday Party:

  • If it’s a small group gathering, when you have everyone’s attention, ask employees or members to share a favorite memory from the past year and film their answers.  The question could relate to something they did that made a difference to a customer or something they feel grateful for in being a part of your organization.
    • Use clips from the video to share as part of a holiday newsletter, on your Facebook Fan page or in an email to clients to say thank you.
    • If it’s more of a cocktail party atmosphere, designate a room nearby but away from all the noise and pull people out of the party individually to record their thoughts.

The Bottomline: You don’t always have to plan every detail to get decent video. The most important thing is to push that record button!