6 STEPS TO CREATE GREAT PERSON ON THE STREET CONTENT

You need to pump out a lot of content that’s impactful, easy to produce and won’t break the bank.

How about Person on the Street (nee Man on the Street) pieces?

I’ve directed/edited dozens of POTS campaigns - commercials, branded content and segments for TV shows.

It works.

Just one day of shooting can give you footage for MANY short pieces of content that you can run on TV or the web to promote your brand, or entertain your followers.

I want to show you how you can create great POTS content at a reasonable cost. Here is the six step process.

1. CREATIVE - THE GENUINE CONVERSATION

Conversations often start with an interesting question.

Case in point, for the Soylent campaign I just shot (and is airing on TV in NY), we wanted to see if people were aware that their on-the-run choices for breakfast in the morning may contain more sugar than they’d guess.

We could have just asked people how much sugar was in their morning muffin or breakfast bar, but then we’d have a lot of people saying “I don’t know.” So we built in a demonstration. We literally spooned out sugar into their open hand to show how much sugar they had that morning.

They were ALL surprised.

We combined a fun conversation with a fun demonstration, and got the point across… in an entertaining way!

So think outside the box when building a Person on the Street bit.

Be provocative, look for a conversation that would get big reactions from people you talk to, avoid “yes” and no” questions and don’t forget, props are your friends!

2. TALENT - WHO’S ASKING?

The interviewer should be fast on their feet - often funny and/or thoughtful.

Billy Eichner has developed a unique style. So have Jimmy Kimmel and Conan O’Brien.

They are masters at interacting with the public in a hilarious way - study them!

An experienced interviewer can remember all the questions, discussion points and comebacks prepared in advance for the POTS exchange.

And, since many can’t, I sometimes put an earpiece in their ear and prompt them off camera with funny lines or good follow up questions.

Either way, find someone appealing and personable, and willing to prepare.

They shouldn’t be smug or talk down to people.

The subject should enjoy the experience, even if they find themselves in a somewhat embarrassing conversation.

I did a pilot for a female-hosted comedy show, in which one of the hosts took a diagram of a woman’s reproductive system and simply asked men to identify the “openings.”

The host was funny, and personable, and nearly every man was flummoxed.

Many of the men were with women who were shocked that their men had so little knowledge of the female body.

The host was able to keep the mood light and fun, and not “shame” the man, or make him feel stupid (well, maybe a little).

So keep it light, and make sure your talent and/or producing staff is prepared and energetic.

3. EQUIPMENT - HANDS OFF MY MIC!

There are a number of online articles on how to find the best camera and sound gear, so I don’t need to discuss that.

And I’ve seen people record beautiful content on iPhones, so don’t let your lack of equipment stop you!

In general, I like to have two to three camera operators using the best, small footprint cameras we can find. Two cameras is often plenty if you want to make sure the host gets in the shot.

So I’ll have one camera on a “two shot” of the interviewer and the interviewee, and the other camera solely on the interviewee. If you want to use a third camera, put that on the interviewer.

For sound, I’ll have a lav mic on the interviewer and a stick mic that (hopefully) they will move back and forth from their mouth to the interviewee’s mouth.

Good sound is crucial, and sometimes the best way to get that is to keep it simple, so explore NOT going wireless.

Wired stick mics connected to the camera or a deck usually ensure you don’t have problems with radio frequencies.

And do NOT let the interviewee hold the mic!! The host must be controlling the interview - and a civilian holding the mic is a recipe for them to pontificate… not good for Person on the Street!

4. STAFF - YOU AREN’T GOING TO NEED A BIGGER CREW!

How many people does it take to go out and shoot Person on the Street?

It varies, but consider this: you’ll need a host/interviewer, two camera ops, a sound mixer, a director/producer and some kind of PA/Casting person to get personal releases signed.

That - IMO - is the bare minimum.

I’ve seen great content in which the host was the producer and they were asking the questions off camera.

I shot a scene for a feature documentary with a two person crew: I was asking questions and operating camera, while another person operated the boom mic.

All of this CAN work, but my preference is, get at least six people.

It’s true, my crews are bigger, but not by much.

If you start to operate with a huge crew, you might have a hard time staying nimble.

5. LOCATION - GO WHERE THE PEOPLE ARE

I shot a recent piece on the Santa Monica Third Street Promenade.

It was well lit, with plenty of interesting, diverse people and a pretty background (those multi-colored Adirondack chairs give a nice pop of color).

Malls DO offer the problem of shooting a potential logos in the background, so try to frame them out, or use a longer lens that drops backgrounds out of focus!

I generally scout (look for) a locations at least a week in advance. If we’re shooting on a Thursday, I’ll go the previous Thursday to get an idea of the mid-week foot traffic in the area, the lighting and the noise.

Do some research: is any loud construction planned at the time/day you are shooting?

I saw a scissor lift in the location a few days before we were shooting.

I asked someone what that was for. They told me they were putting gay pride flags up the day before we were shooting. Great! Colorful flags in the background and the noisy, ugly scissor lift would be gone!

6. EDITING - HOW CONCISE CAN YOU BE?

A lot of times, I’ll direct Person on the Street AND handle post.

I love to jump on a Premiere Pro or AVID system because the POTS content is MADE in the edit (And I’m the freak who ENJOYS taking 7 hours of footage and cutting it down to 10 mins of gold).

The key is, cut your piece down to the essentials to make the point, be entertaining and concise! Most “civilians" ramble and stumble.

See if you can cut around that (if you have multiple angles). Lose the “ums” and “ahs” and repetitive wording.

Try to avoid making the subject look heavily edited or manipulated (that’s why I hate one camera shoots!) The piece should feel honest and not faked.

When I was directing/show-running “Impractical Jokers” the reactions were so real, and the guys so consistently funny, we had PLENTY of genuine moments!

That’s enough for now. Get out there and make some content!