Shooting the CEO – 1

Q: We are looking for a company to produce a ‘talking heads’ of our CEO (and cool graphics) for an internal staff webcast.

Are you able to give me an idea of your cost and availability?

Communications Assistant
Marketing Services Group
London

A: Producing a CEO video has always been a special kind of a shoot, as expectations are high when the leader has to speak on camera.

A number of steps have to be taken to ensure this comes across flawlessly.

I wouldn’t recommend a live webcast shoot, unless there is a particular reason for it, or your CEO is very skilled as a speaker.

The better option is to shoot and edit the video earlier, and once it meets with approval from you and your CEO, to provide a video file suitable for streaming online.

Specifications for doing this can be found here

Digging deeper, there are three stages to a CEO video, each of which has its own special requirements:

> Pre-production
> The Shoot
> The Edit & Post Production

Looking at these in more detail:

>Pre-Production
CEOs rarely write their own scripts. Typically (though not always) they’ll be written by a professional scriptwriter based on a verbal briefing with either someone in marketing, or occasionally the CEO.

A room for the shoot will also need to be arranged, large enough for a shoot, somewhere where there’s relative quiet.

The script can be circulated to the CEO prior to the shoot, but my experience is that most of them rarely read it closely, although there are a few who do. So be prepared for last minute changes!

> The Shoot
I recommend shooting the CEO against a Green background so the images can be graphically keyed (more of this later).

A teleprompt is needed to so the CEO can read the script while looking at the camera.

This is fairly essential as most CEOs won’t learn a script, and will tend to ad-lib loosely around the bullet point themes of the script. You don’t want ad-libbing. Ad-libbing is fine for a conference or meeting, but it tends to produce lots of ums and ahs which don’t look good on video, when every word and every pause will be closely scrutinised onscreen.

We need the exactitude that a teleprompt offers.

I’m assuming a static shoot, where the CEO sits before a green screen looking at the camera. Multiple position shoots, or walking/mobile shoots, are possible, but for webcasting with its smaller fuzzier image, a straightforward sit-down shoot comes out clearer.

You can expect the CEO to make numerous changes to the script during the shoot. With a teleprompt this doesn’t present too much difficulty, and a skilled teleprompt operator will be used to this.

I’d also suggest that everyone except essential crew stay out of the room during the shoot. If the CEO makes a gaffe during the shoot, they won’t want witnesses.

Five takes or more is not unusual. It’s good to get takes in different styles, eg, fast and slow. I always go for a “wacky” take where the CEO exaggerates the whole script. Often this has produced some good lines which can be cut together later in the edit with other “less wacky” takes.

The important point is not to be scared of taking risks, once you’ve got some “safe shots” in the bag.

It’s also a good idea to let the CEO review one of their takes. It’ll give then a realistic appreciation of what they look like. And if they’re not happy for some reason, you know you need to reshoot another few takes.

Tomorrow we’ll take a look at what goes on behind the scenes when producing a CEO video

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