View Full Version : Working witih people bad in front of a camera

11-17-2004, 02:47 PM

So I might be shooting a music video for this guy who really doesn't do well in front of a camera. Not great looking(kind of a big guy), not a great performer. The song is great and well produced.

Anyone have any tips / ideas for dealing with this?

Thanks much!

11-17-2004, 11:54 PM
maybe use another actor to tell the story or meaning of the song...
some music videos, you don't even see the musician

11-18-2004, 05:11 AM
Sorry, I don't mean this to sound rude, but what's the point in shooting a music video where the star is a non-photogenic non-performer? The music might be great, but that doesn't mean that there needs to be a video. Obviously there's tons of non-photogenic people in music, but they usually have some stage persona or enthusiasm that drives their charisma.

That being said, as long as you're getting paid for it, tell them it will turn out great!

I think if a person is scared of the camera, then you can work with them often times...but if a person is scared of performing, there's really little you can do to help them.

Here's what I'd try. Shoot one or two of the other band members in close up first for some portions of the song...enough to get them warmed up. But, here's the key...shoot them wide angle so the camera is totally in their face. Next shoot the main performer in closeup, but do it as far telephoto as you can so that the camera is as far away as possible. This might allow him to totally forget the camera while he's actually the only person being filmed.

Sorry I can't offer more advice.

Jim Brennan
11-18-2004, 08:59 AM

11-18-2004, 10:11 AM
I can't catch a buzz on guinness... wouldn't work for me personally.

Oh, you mean for the talent? Yeah, that's a thought...

Although, there are few things more annoying then a drunk actor on set. (from personal experience)

Jim Brennan
11-18-2004, 11:04 AM
...Like a drunk director...

Although my remark was tongue in cheek, it is a good idea to put the talent in a comfortable environment. *For example, if there is a certain location that the guy might feel more at home with, or a certain person (or People) that would put them at ease. *The opposite is true as well. *The point being, I would get to know the talent a little better, and find out what they think would help them out. *With their input, you might find a few simple things that would smooth the road and garner a better performance. *I believe that a director can only help themselves and the project by having a good dialogue with everyone involved. *

I think that good communication on a personal level is an overlooked responsibility of a director. *I'm not saying that you need to buddy up with your talent, but getting to know them as more than a performer is a great asset. *I realize that some of us are more prone to this behavior than others, but (IMHO) that's no excuse for not doing it if it can help out. *A couple of hours chatting over a cup of coffee or a few beers can do wonders for a production. *Of course, you have to maintain certain professional boundaries as well, but that doesn't preclude you from getting to know someone better.

11-18-2004, 12:03 PM
Thanks guys. Some good ideas. I think I'll start with the guiness, or maybe something harder. Heh heh.

I met with him this morning and he definitely wants to be off camera as much as possible. Which is a good thing, I think. Better than him wanting to be all over the place.

To be fair I've never seen him perform. I've just seen him in some other videos he was in (they were horrible). He's a singer /songwriter, emphasis on the songwriter part. And he's a piano player, so he's usually hiding behind a piano when he performs live. And in this song there's no piano. I'm not sure how much I can get out of shots of just scenery and stuff, so I may need an actor or two to help out..

Good call, Jim. I'll try to find out what it is that he's uncomfortable with. And I'll keep the nudity to a minimum. ;)

Too bad the song is pretty serious, otherwise I'd just put a hot chick in there!


Jim Brennan
11-18-2004, 12:09 PM
Hey! There is NOTHING more serious than a hot chick.

11-18-2004, 12:16 PM
A hot chick is SERIOUSLY a good idea ;D

11-18-2004, 12:49 PM
I'm going to dissagree with most on this. Being a big indie music fan myself, I've seen thousands of shows with less than attractive guys/gals, with little to no stage presence...but no one gave a crap, the music, that's what it's all about. With that said, it just makes it more challenging to capture the essense of the song, which should be the focus, not a dancing stud with camera presence, that's a shortcut to capturing the video's vision.

If their song rules then the audience will flock, and if you integrate a solid story or theme visually, reflecting the song's image, then you've got a strong video on your hands. I think it's simply shallow to confuse a vision with vanity. A handsome theatrical singer bores me anyway, and it's a cliche in most respects. If he's boring, then how can you make that a good thing? There's ways to incorporate this guys look into the feel of the song. Ask yourself this, if he knew how you felt about him and his band would he even keep you on board? I doubt it. No offense, just something to think about.

Jim Brennan
11-18-2004, 01:13 PM
I think a lot of people will agree with you on that, at least to a certain degree. *But as a director having a frontman who has a challenge being in front of the camera limits your options. *Especially if the band wants to be featured in the vid. *

11-18-2004, 01:25 PM
I agree, Jim. I will however go back into my extensive database (small brain) and figure out some examples, there's just so many videos by bands featured in the video who just stand around...but deliver a kick-ass song, backed up by stunning visuals and a cool story, or idea.

It does exist, one off hand was this cool band I remember from way back called Screaming Trees, those cats just stood there, but there were these great sweaping camera movements with a great backgound and killer theme, I was very forgiving, in fact the wailing guitars and hard beat contrasted the still performers, which in fact is pretty cool itself. Just some additional thoughts.

Jim Brennan
11-18-2004, 10:48 PM
It's not what you got, but what you do with it. That's what separates the men from the boys...in a politically correct, non-gender specific way.

11-19-2004, 03:03 PM
I think that good communication on a personal level is an overlooked responsibility of a director.

You hit the mark Brennan, it is the job of the director to find out what the strengths and weaknesses are of talent and then capitolize on the strengths.

A simple example that comes to mind - Cynthia Rothrock (the martial arts B movie queen) is a bad actress, but a few years ago I saw you her a major studio release and presto! she was actually pretty good...because the director knew how to get a good performance out of her (please refer to strengths and weaknesses)


Is this guy going to hide all of his career?

You said that all of his other videos are horrible, so this now means that you as director has the job of making him look great.

Show your stuff!

11-23-2004, 09:21 AM
It doesnt matter if the person is not "good looking".
If the music is cool and you will shoot the video well everything will be cool.

But - if the music is hmm ... no good, even if you will shoot your video very well and have two hot chicks dancing and the frontman will be even hotter than those chicks ... - the final stuff (music video) will not get much audience.

Just like movies, right?

But - you are working for those guys so, shoot the best video you can. Be a good director (communicate!). And have fun.

11-24-2004, 03:40 PM
I have to agree with whats the point in taping this guy if hes not good in front of the camera. Even if the song is "great" and would make the video "worth it" why go through the trouble when you can just listen to the song. Come up with a killer story idea, film it with good looking people who know how to act, and insert some shots of they guy performing, preferably in a casual enviorment where he is focusing on the performing and not being filmed. Sorry if this is redundant, thought I'd get my two cents in...

11-26-2004, 12:46 PM
I do a lot of work with bands (I manage one, actually). There's always the shy/quiet one in the band (not in mine though, they're all crazy). Do this:

*Give them a couple of drinks. Not enough to get them hammered, just enough to take the edge off.

*Get the camera in front of them as much as you can before you ever start shooting. "Film" any meetings you have with them in pre-production. Get the camera right in their faces while they're talking. They'll get over that camera phobia in a hurry.

*Joke around with them as often as you can. This is just another thing to get them thinking about other things.

*Anything else you can do to let them know that it's video. It's not a play. You're allowed to make mistakes. That's what take 2's and editing are for.

Jim Brennan
11-26-2004, 01:42 PM
A director I know never shuts the camera off when he's doing that. He has to go through miles of tape, but he gets good stuff because they are relaxed. They stop thinking about it.

11-27-2004, 03:14 PM
Yes, be a good director...and therapist and motivator and teacher and babysitter and...