My job as a producer of creative content in the resort and hospitality business comes with many expectations. Clients want a great image or video that perfectly represents their property, using the best lighting, angles, and people talent.
But here’s something else that’s crucial—a great overall experience for the people involved. From the client to the staff to the talent, it’s all about creating a hospitable, friendly, and respectful atmosphere for everyone.
Whether I’m working with professional models, staff, family, friends, or guests on property who have consented to be in the production, it’s imperative that everyone feel cared for, respected, and appreciated.
Here are five steps that help this process along.
1. Prepare in advance
Always do a pre-production scout and create a working schedule available to everyone involved—whether they have it on their phone or in an email. The scene should be propped and lighted prior to the arrival of talent (and we always attempt to learn each of their names for ease of communication during the shoot.)
2. Communicate expectations up front
Before any photo or video begins, I explain fully to the cast and crew expectations for the next period of time: What we’re shooting, what the scene and action should look like, what we’re hoping to accomplish, and how long it will take.
3. Walk through the scene
Next, we walk through the scene and help each person know their role, where we would like them to be looking—never, never at the cameras!—and what we want their actions to be. We’re often shooting a scene with two or three cameras, so it’s imperative that people know what they’re doing through the entire scene.
4. Shoot, review, and repeat
Now we shoot, review, and work through the rough spots to help each person get a feel for their own actions and how they can be improved.
Here’s where the situation can get really dicey. As a dad of seven kids who often used family for shoots, I’ve learned this lesson well: Always be kind and respectful when someone isn’t working out quite the way you want, or they’re just stiff and uncomfortable.
You can always trade folks out between takes or shoot with an optional look. But if you’re unkind and frustrated because someone cannot walk and chew gum, everyone will pick up on it and the whole mood of the shoot will change. What’s more, it reflects poorly on the property as well as on your professionalism.
I once had a five-year-old boy slap his mom open-handed when she asked him to be a good kid and sit still in the chair so that his faux granddad could look at the computer with him. The boy was getting over $2,000 for the shot.
I calmly asked his mom to leave him to me and go relax by the pool. Two hours later, we finally had our image.
I found out later that his folks were going through "stuff.” The talent agency asked if we would like a fee reduction. My answer was simple: It's my job to work with people and to deliver the image, always willing to forgive those who may be going through issues way beyond my purview.
I've carried that approach forward and try to make each and every time on camera a fun and enjoyable experience for all parties.
5. Express gratitude
Once the scene is done, we don’t race off to the next location. Instead, we take the time to thank each person who was in the shots and give some love to the staff (especially chefs that are cooking food) for the time and effort that they’ve taken above and beyond an already busy day to help us.
And at the day's end, thank your crew and the client for the wonderful opportunity to work your craft to create great new work for their property.