5 Top Tips When Filming A Royal Visit
When we were told that Elstree Studios would be having a special Royal visitor and that we would be filming the event we were thrilled. It turned out that HRH Prince Andrew, the Duke of York was due to receive a tour of Elstree Studios and we would be covering the event. This would be one of those times where you only get one shot at filming with little to no set up time. You need to be responsive and work quickly and efficiently. Here are our 5 top tips that helped us deliver a successful shoot.
1. Communicate as soon as possible with all parties:
The minute you learn that your services will be required you need to start work by liaising with the client and the guest of honours office. Depending on how important your guest is you might have a lot of red tape to clear including security clearances for crew. You also need to clarify the brief and ask questions, in our case it was what can or can’t we film? (i.e. members of the security services, vehicles, other guests and film sets currently in production at Elstree Studios). We also found out that were not cleared to record sound and we could only use one video camera, this helped us when planning our kit requirement. The final things to check are dress code and in our case learning how to address the Prince correctly.
2. Walk the route with your camera before the visit:
This is one of the most important things you can do in advance of the shoot, because during the shoot you wont have time to think. By liaising with the client in advance you can determine if there are any hazards (trips or falls) how the light works in different areas, what obstacles you might need to negotiate (i.e. staircases), where eye lines will be and where you should be standing. For us the Prince’s route would take him through a variety of different interiors and exteriors each with different technical challenges. Walking the route in advance and knowing the timings for each stage of the visit really helped us to plan ahead.
3. Set up early on the day:
This goes for all filming, but especially when you have time sensitive assignments. You never know when a guest of honour might appear early. So use this safety time to check batteries, make sure lenses are clean and all of your kit is in good working order. Get set up where your first shot will be and think of a contingency in case that angle becomes compromised (either by physical obstructions, security restrictions or weather). Let everyone around you know who you are and what you are doing there, make sure your security pass is visible and that you have any written clearances to film on your person.
4. Work with a light and flexible kit:
The chances are you will be running around following the visit, up and down staircases and all over the place. Ensure that your kit is fit for purpose. We elected to use a monopod and light weight DSLR. Because we knew that we would not be recording audio we did not need to carry microphone equipment. Give yourself a few extra moments to manually focus the camera before you start rolling. We use a small kit bag that slings over the shoulder to carry all of our extra bits and pieces including: Spare batteries and memory cards, lens cloth, water and a snack if it’s a long shoot.
5. Be discrete:
When covering events your job as a film maker is to remain as discrete as possible. You want to avoid getting in the way of guests which means you need to be reactive to changing situations and you will need to think on your feet. In our case we also had a press photographer with us and so it was important for us to not appear in every still image. We done our best to stay behind the stills camera. Due to the fact that we were only allowed one camera we ran ahead of the tour as much as possible to get shots of the Prince arriving in each location. If you have muliptple video cameras remember to avoid appearing in each others shots too much.
These 5 tips all describe the benefits of forward planning and they can all be applied to event filming of any kind. Sometimes you don’t get given much time to plan ahead but in these situations you can still bear in mind the above tips. Think about safety, take a flexible and light kit, check your kit, wear sensible but appropriate clothes, be discrete and professional. Filming live events is always going to throw up challenges so the more preparation you do the better. Finally remember to try and enjoy the event! It might be a once in a lifetime experience.