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How to Approach People for Interviews or B-Roll Shots

Jourdan Aldredge

Asking permission to film people in public places isn’t always easy. Keep these tips in mind to make the process painless.

Cover image via Shutterstock.

We’ve all been there. You go to corporate events, community fundraisers, weddings, and the like where videographers are necessary but not always welcome by everyone in attendance. As a video professional, it’s important to understand the boundaries of personal space and privacy, but at the same time it’s important to get the shot.

Let’s explore some helpful tips to help you respectfully, professionally, and pragmatically approach people for interviews or B-roll shots.

Be Confident

How to Approach People for Interviews or B-Roll Shots — Be Confident
Image via Shutterstock.

Because you can just be more confident, right? It’s not always easy, but if you follow the tips below, confidence will come with understanding and time as you get out there and try it a few times. Besides the practical tips below, approaching strangers for permission to film them can be a fun experience if you frame it that way. Big smiles, professional demeanor, and respectable distance are all key.

Have a Plan

How to Approach People for Interviews or B-Roll Shots — Have a Plan
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Before heading in, ask yourself what you need for your edit. If you need three interviews and at least ten good cutaways, keep that in mind. Once you know what you need, make a plan and stick to it. This will allow you to focus on specific people and types of shots — and help you stay on track and avoid unnecessary footage.

Stay Back (Use Zooms)

How to Approach People for Interviews or B-Roll Shots — Use Zooms
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A good zoom lens can be your best friend for shooting unobtrusive, candid B-roll. Canon’s 70-200mm is an industry standard for videographers and photographers alike for that very reason — especially if your lens is coupled with a crop sensor camera so you can get extreme closeups from far away.

Record Audio Simply and Discreetly

How to Approach People for Interviews or B-Roll Shots — Record Audio
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Audio is always very important, but it doesn’t have to be obnoxious for event attendees. If you’re shooting an interview, you’re certainly allowed and expected to mic them up with either a boom setup or wireless lav. However, if you’re just getting room tone and ambiance, you can keep it discreet and simple by placing an audio recorder (like an H4 or H1) on a nearby table or using attachable mics (like the Rode) with your camera.

Be Prepared To Film Right Away

How to Approach People for Interviews or B-Roll Shots — Be Prepared
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If you’re going to politely approach people to film them at an event, it’s important to be ready to go immediately upon their consent. Nothing can be more awkward than asking to film a casual group conversation, then proceeding to get equipment out of a bag and set up a camera on a rig.

By the time you ask permission, you should have your camera and settings ready, and you should know  the type and duration of the shot you’re going to get.

Offer to Circle Back Later

How to Approach People for Interviews or B-Roll Shots — Circle Back
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It’s important to be flexible when asking permission. Give attendees a chance to say “No, not now.” That’s perfectly all right, and it does not reflect on you. People can have private moments that they don’t want captured. Don’t dig yourself in, and be prepared to smile, move on, and circle back later.

Have Release Forms Ready

Also, don’t forget to have talent release consent forms printed and ready to go. It’s helpful to have not only a full stack but also a good binder where you can access and store them quickly and safely. Depending on your event, you may get away with having a sign posted acknowledging video release consent, or you can always keep a stack out if there is a front desk — but it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Here are some resources on release forms (including some free templates).

Looking for more event video production tips? Check out these articles.

Browse our full collection of video production articles here.

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