Behind the scenes at a MEC video shoot

27-May-2011

At MEC we get frequent requests for video material from customers all over the world. Over the past few years we’ve been expanding the number of videos on MEC and we now have over 100 video activities.

Last year we published 21 business video activities. The videos were filmed by a professional production company with MEC editorial working to make sure everything ran smoothly, looking after everything from script editing to sourcing props and providing lunch for the crew. We’re very proud of the results. But although the camera never lies, it also doesn’t show everything … Here’s a glimpse behind the scenes.

We knew we wanted to produce low-level video activities, but where to start? The first step was to find an author to write the video scripts and activities. David Baker was happy to oblige and Servicecool, the international supplier of air conditioning units, was born. The scripts have lots of functional language which can be used directly from the videos – exactly what we were looking for.

Once the scripts were ready they had to be checked, not just by our in-house editors, but also by the video producers to make sure they were filmable. We read each script through with a stopwatch to make sure we weren’t filming something of Titanic length and had a meeting with the producer and art director to make sure we could create the set correctly.

We then had a problem. The videos needed to be filmed in an office, but a film crew needs a lot of space but also silence while filming. We therefore couldn’t film in the busy MEC offices. We ended up creating a set on a floor of the building which was luckily empty at the time of filming, using one corner for Sophie’s office, one for James’s and another for the meeting room. The furniture was brought up from the Macmillan basement and the stationery was ‘borrowed’ from colleagues’ desks. Most of it was returned afterwards.

Casting also presented some challenges. In the videos, we wanted to include a range of accents, so we have British, American, Scottish, French and Asian characters. However, when we had the casting session for the videos it soon became clear that the production company had omitted the accents from their casting call. We had a lot of surprised actors for the part of the interviewee – a character originally called Keith MacDonald – who had no idea we were looking for someone Scottish. To their credit, the actors recovered quickly and had a go at a variety of Scottish accents, usually veering towards broad Glaswegian. But we wanted real accents and only an authentic Scottish accent would do. Late in the day, we saw a female actor for the part of Sophie Leveque who was Scottish. Her accent was perfect and we rewrote the part of the interviewee so we could work with her. Keith became Karen.

Filming the videos took a week and a crew consisting of a director, cameraman, art director, boom operator, a lighting engineer plus our six actors. Here’s a photo behind the scenes of video 7.

What you can’t see in the picture:

1)    The MEC editorial team.
We had two MEC editors on set every day, one to direct the filming and the other to make sure the actors stuck to the script. We had to make sure every word was spoken clearly and slowly. You can just see one editor’s feet, to the right-hand side. Don’t be shy, Jeremy!
2)    The shots we didn’t use.
Sometimes, the cameraman was a little bit too creative and started shooting a scene through a pot plant. Or a slatted blind. We did numerous edits of each video to make sure that while an actor was speaking, the camera was on his or her mouth and not on the pot plant.
3)    The number of takes for each scene.
Sometimes, the actors just couldn’t get it right and after multiple takes the actors got tired. And sometimes, they got attacks of the giggles. When this happens, it’s time for a cup of tea and a biscuit. We went through a lot of biscuits.
4)    The fun we had making the videos.
Although it was hard work, we think it was worth it. And finally, some of the extras in video 12 are members of the MEC team. See if you can spot Pedro, or my star turn as Jemma, the personal assistant. I don’t think Colin Firth or Natalie Portman need feel too nervous … just yet.

To see all the MEC video activities type “video activity” into the word and phrase search.

Jenny


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