5 Reasons To Consider Using Professional Talent
5 Reasons To Consider Using Professional Talent In Your Next Corporate Video
Phenomenon post by Sarah Ackerman
Imagine your medical products company needs to shoot a marketing video. In what you think is the best move, you enlist the most outgoing employee from the break room; a young up-and-coming employee with potential. You and your marketing team choose her as the lead for an exciting new sales initiative your boss has identified as a significant push into new markets. Video will spearhead the efforts.
Fast forward to the day of the shoot. Jenna from accounting has received the script days ahead of the shoot. She gets make-up. A microphone is pinned to her blazer. The crew has set up lights, sound and a video village for you the client. The camera rolls and the director calls action.
The lights are hot and constantly adjusted around Jenna after each take. Directions are being thrown at her from production personnel as well as you and your marketing team. She’s drifting from her mark. She’s uncomfortable looking into the lens and worse, she’s having a hard time seeing the script as it rolls on the prompter. The words escape her with each new take and the next thing you know, your production is thirty minutes into shooting. Still no usable material in the can.
What happened here? The employee seemed so comfortable in social situations and she is a rising star in the organization. It seemed obvious she could do the same on video. She said she’s done some videos with family and friends. However, today on set, we’re not seeing Jenna feeling at home in this production world. The alternative choice for your team and the production crew would have been to consider hiring professional actors and actresses for the project.
Why hire professional talent for your company’s next corporate video? It’s an important question that you as the client on a production will need to consider during prep for the work ahead.
“Talent” decisions cover a wide range of options. “Who will be the face of your video that audiences will have to connect with?” “Who is the main voice people will hear?” Or, “What’s the intended attitude, posture, emphasis or cultural nuance you need to communicate?” Should we use employees or professional talent on camera?” These questions hold weight for any company contemplating a production.
Today, it’s rare for businesses not to have a public-facing presence spearheaded with some mix of media content. For recruitment, advertising, promotion or creating awareness, video is established as the most powerful tool in the Marketing & Communications professional’s arsenal. With budgets, deadlines and stakeholders to keep happy, you’ll need crew and talent that can hit the ground running. Moreover, every production is different. As Mark Fallone, producer and director at Phenomenon Post would say, “each project has its own DNA.”
Once you review some industry best practices, hear a few anecdotes from the set and compare professional talent performances to those of non-professional like Jenna from accounting, it’s clear professional talent might be just the ticket to handle talent responsibilities in front of the lens.
Here’s our top 5 reasons to consider using professional talent in your next video.
- Pro talent is comfortable on camera.
If you are not producing a video where real employees have to be in front of the camera (for training, HR, operations or product expert demonstrations, as a few examples), our team at Phenomenon advocates using professional talent every time. There is no way to predict how an employee will perform when they hear the director call “action.” However, 99% of the time, professional talent is already comfortable under the lights and surrounded by gear and crew with the clock ticking will perform very close to what you saw in the audition. The professional audition and selection process makes sure you get what you want. It’s a practice and process that helps you and your production company vet the talent and fit a person to the part.
It is not hard to spot the difference between a professional actor and Fred that amiable and smart manager on you’re organization’s Safety team. Fred is very capable, caring and a company-player, but sometimes these qualities don’t translate to reliable performance in front of a lens. The most prominent difference is the non-professional’s lack of ability to adapt to the pressures of production.
It’s no easy task to deliver lines and action into a camera, in front of peers and without the on-camera experience of a professional actor. There’s tremendous pressure on the non-pro actor and with the clock ticking and budget being burned, the huge weight can take a toll on Fred or Jenna let alone the production.
“The people who are trained can adjust in front of the camera and that adjustment is all you need,” says Jared Pascoe, a talent agent with the Docherty Agency in Pittsburgh. “My goal as a talent agent is to pull out potential in people that I know is there and meet the needs of the client and talent while keeping everyone happy.”
Just like an expression of terror on the face of a victim in a horror movie, nervousness shows. Fear or a feeling of ease can affect the way we talk, look, stand, and move. During the production, we expect the emotion or enthusiasm we saw in an audition. If you opened a sealed can of Pringles, you would not want it to be filled with Doritos.
“You will often witness and professional talent during a shoot grow further into their roles, adjusting and improving with each take,” suggests Phenomenon Director-DP Mark Fallone. “In all my years behind the camera directing and shooting professional actors, I’ve have seen pro actors who are amazingly ‘comfortable’ just ‘standing’ in front of the camera. “They are simply used to improving and improvising on their lines or even delivering serious ad lib,” adds Fallone.
It’s a craft. In most cases, 9 out of ten times, the acting is easiest for professional talent because they know the material and are willing to go beyond the script to accommodate the production. And don’t underestimate the notion that there is “motive” for professional talent to perform well. They want a call-back for the next job. It’s their livelihood. For Fred or Jenna, if they don’t deliver the goods, they probably just head back to their day job and continue their good work behind-the-scenes. With experience, flexibility and on-set grace, professional actors in most cases are more likely to be cast in a reoccurring role or other videos for the production company and possibly even you the client. Even professional actors get nervous but they channel their nerves into a performance and know what is expected during a shoot.
- Professionals know the job!
Professional talent has experience from previous shoots. Julie Didiano, Business Lead and Producer at Phenomenon Post says, “sometimes talent arrives too early which can be distracting for the production setup.”
“Any production set is a busy place,” says Fallone. “Production equipment is being set up in a choreography of heavy grip gear, lights, cameras and crew. Non-professional actors can get a little star struck by all the activity. It’s a little intimidating for anyone not used to production work.”
For producer Didiano, the big thing with pro talent is that they know the routines. “They bring plenty of wardrobe, have something to keep them entertained, and possess set-awareness,” says Didiano with a smile. “During a shoot, there is lots of waiting. When not performing, it’s important to have something that will keep the talent entertained and out of the way of production,” she adds.
While on set, talent must be cautious of what is going on while they are not performing. It is important to stay alert in order to know when it is appropriate to talk or to be on your device. Knowing that every production is subject to change, professional actors and actresses understand and follow set etiquette instinctually with veteran time under their belts.
“They’re prepared for long days, waiting, twiddling their thumbs and keeping themselves entertained or busy,” adds Fallone. “They stay hydrated, healthy, groomed, and fully rested in expectation of the tough work that day.”
Professionally nurtured routines like the above are vital to those on-camera. Moreover, thinking ahead is key and professionals understand that they’ve got to expect the unexpected on set. Julie Didiano says, “the more options, the better when it comes to outfits for a shoot.”
- Experienced talent can help you save money by saving time
It is often said that “time is money.” As humorous as it might seem, for production, the old adage usually rings true. If people are getting paid hourly, time really does mean money. If a crew and gear are working the traditional 10-hour day, then time surely is money. If an employee can get you a shot in 20 takes and a professional can get the same shot for you in three, choosing the employee because it is cheaper could actually have cost you two extra hours on location and added time in the edit suite. Mark Fallone says, “Budget buys you time. And, when you lose time, you are bleeding budget.”
Playing the roles of hosts, scripted characters, voice actors or extras, using pro talent can pay huge dividends for your production. In a tight-budget situation, some employees can deliver a “passable” onscreen delivery. However, for consistent and quality results, it is wise to invest in a professional production crew and talent.
Missy Moreno, professional actress and comedian says, “professionals are in a perpetual state of ‘prepared’. We are 24/7 READY to get the job and be the best to get it and keep it and while we have that job we are mentally and emotionally hustling for the next one.” Moreno adds that pro actors are always pushing themselves to get better. It’s their profession. “A true professional is always competing WITH THEMSELVES more than anyone or thing else, Says Moreno. “We thrive on feeling growth and stretching ourselves to be more than we ever thought we could be. And that is one of the number one reasons I believe a professional is a superb choice because all that genuine hustle keeps you humble yet earnest to evolve. We give you our whole self and that my friend, is priceless.”
- Commitment to the copy is key with a professional.
As an actor, the main priority of any job is to please the client. Mark Fallone also offers, “please the director as well.” How can an actor accomplish this?
The importance of knowing the lines (copy) is unmatched by any other task for the actor. If an actor does not know their lines, it is extremely difficult to take direction. It’s difficult to hit marks. It’s nearly impossible to be liberated to the extent that one can simply “be” the part.
During a shoot, the person behind the camera is expected to know how to successfully work the camera. The gaffer is expected to know where to put lights, how to turn them on and where to aim them safely. The make-up artist is expected to craft the actor’s face according to the script, tone of the piece and of course to the creative criteria directed by the director and you the client.
An actor is expected to know the lines. It’s tough work. Memorization and assimilation of the “copy” (the lines) takes a tremendous amount of time for most corporate scripts, even if the actor has minimal parts. The suggestion here is that playing the part takes dedication and dedication to committing to the copy is key for a smooth performance on camera.
“So many times you’ve got well-meaning employees working hard to perform parts in their company’s videos,” says Fallone. “What happens is, they have work lives that carry duties and pressing delivery dates. They have lives outside of work, families, activities, responsibilities. It’s not often that they get the time and freedom to immerse themselves in preparation and memorization of their lines. When they, do, it’s a hug surprise and an even greater win for the production. “But nine of ten times, this doesn’t happen. It just can’t,” says Fallone. “People have real jobs and doing a television bit in the company video doesn’t take precedent unless management further upstream is buying in to the fact that Fred from Safety needs some time and space to get ready for his role in the organization’s new marketing video.”
- Hired talent brings the look and fits the part.
Through all the expected and unexpected changes, one element of your production you can have control over is your choice of casting talent for the project. For you to consider this item as a reason to hire pro talent, it might be helpful to first have a sense of what’s involved in casting.
Here’s how the process of casting works:
First, the production company and client meet to discuss the mission of the video, the characters they’ll need to tell the story and what the creative look and vibe of the video will be. What’s the tone of the piece? Sales or Promotion? Instructional or Social? Will we need a single actor to host the story? Do we need a troupe of characters to share the narrative or an entire department ping-ponging lines back and forth in a 60-second television piece for the organization’s digital platform?
After, you and your production company create the shared vision, the project gets green-lit and moves into gear. At this point, the production company contacts one or more talent agencies providing character descriptions, rough copy and character back-stories all in an effort to recruit actors that fit the bill.
Actors will gather at their respective agencies. The performers might be union or non-union talent. These fine professionals record their auditions on video in hopes of booking the job. Their agents curate numerous auditions, place them on a proprietary digital platform with passcodes to protect your project and then they share the online links with your production company who in turn shares the links with you. After plenty of deliberation, and there will be deliberation, you and your team book the actor(s).
“It’s a long process and with many chefs in the kitchen, the decision-making can be complex,” says Fallone. “Sometimes you get lucky and that special actor jumps off the screen and you know you have found the right actor for the part- someone who will make your video a stand-out in every respect,” adds Fallone.
For a recent TGI Friday’s production, Fallone recalled how casting with agents for a front-man in a corporate video training series was going nowhere. Although Fridays and Phenomenon planned to use numerous employees to play the roles of scripted characters in the training piece, they needed an on-camera host to navigate the story and lead the audience.
“We cast with three different agents who provided talent in our price range, however, it wasn’t until the scriptwriter Greg Rempel volunteered the name and resume of an actor who eventually was hired to front the production,” said Fallone. “You just have to keep digging for what you want.”
You may ask: “Aren’t my employees the best for the job because they are the face and heart of my company?” Yes. True. But professional talent is typically trained to dramatically serve your vision and message. They respect that the role is a craft. They are committed to the on-camera role. They become human face of the project and recreate the personality of the company. With the help of the agency, you truly get to choose the person who will express the same look, views, and passion that your company is built on.
Professional talent can be a satisfying and cost effective resource for your next video. Professional actors can ensure a quality product with minimal headache. We might even advocate for one more good reason to hire pro talent.
“I’ve seen it happen many times,” says Fallone. “You cast an employee in a company video and the next thing you know, a few months or a year goes by and for one reason or another that employee has left the organization. It’s a tough pill to swallow, however, it does happen. It could put you back into production a lot sooner than you’d like.”
INT. ACCOUNTING OFFICE. LATE DAY.
Back on set, Jenna from accounting is ready to go. Her make-up and wardrobe is perfect. The light is lovely. The camera is dollying in for the close-up as the director hollers, “Stand by, here we go.” There’s a look in Jenna’s blue eyes and everyone is fixed on her first words. And, “Action!”