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2.06.2008

Cutting Testimonials

I've been shooting a few testimonials recently. Testimonials are much like interviews, but are about a specific thing with the intention that the editor (me) can make a compelling piece out of what they tell me.

The difficult part is that these people are not actors. In fact, they hate the camera. They were asked to talk about a subject and so they show up, nervous, and worse, unprepared.

Nerves I can deal with. If you sit someone in front of a camera long enough they get used to it ("mere exposure effect" is the psychology term). So, you make sure that your camera's recording light is turned off and instead of saying "Action!" you tell them "go whenever". After a few times through they are doing okay.

However, no matter how I much I urge people to come prepared with a short piece to say, it almost never happens. People know what they want to talk about, so they think they are prepared. This may be true if they were giving a speech, but this is a video. A short video. And it has to rock.

So we roll tape and let them talk. I listen for interesting points. By the third time through I start to recommend a structure of what they should say based on things they repeat.

I shoot this five or so times from different amounts of zoom, to give myself something to cut to (I start out far and then move closer over takes because signs of nervousness are not as noticeable from farther away).

Even with this lengthy process (it often takes a hour of shooting for someone to tell me 45 seconds worth of material), I don't always have something to edit. It's not like we're on a set doing something so I have something to cut to. No. We're just sitting there, and the person is stumbling through their spiel.

It's very rewarding when everything comes together. It's terribly frustrating when it feels like there is nothing there.

~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor

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