Worship Media Arts

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How to Make Good “Man on the Street” Videos

One of the easiest ways for churches to get started with creating great video for worship is to begin with the “On the Street” interview. Made popular by Jay Leno and NBC’s The Tonight Show, the “On the Street” is usually fun, entertaining and educational all at the same time. It’s a great way to get a finger on the pulse of the culture at large. It’s also a great way to start worship (or, in some cases, keep it moving). We’ve compiled a list of some of our best tips that will aid you in creating your own On the Street (or, OTS) videos. These all come from personal experience. We hope you’ll find them helpful.

Before you shoot

Find a good interviewer. The best interviewers are ones who have some charisma. Whoever is asking the questions needs to feel comfortable both on camera and in approaching and striking up conversation with complete strangers. It is an asset to use someone who can think fast on his or her feet. Making funny comments or follow up questions is a real addition to the finished video. In fact, the stronger the “personality” in front of the camera, the more the editor might have the option to integrate the interviewer into the cut. We’ve also found that sticking with the same interviewer over multiple OTS videos is beneficial, because the interviewer develops a style and the congregation will begin to look forward to seeing the same person in that role.

Pick a good question. The simpler/more universal the question, the better the answers will be. Always look for questions that will elicit an open-ended answer.

Stay away from issue-centered questions, such as “Is abortion wrong?” or “Should gays be allowed to marry?” OTS videos work well when their purpose is to enlighten congregations on the state of the culture, not create divisions with hot-button issues.

Avoid questions that can be answered with a yes or no, such as “Is there absolute truth?” or “Do you ever pray?” When people are allowed simple one-word answers, the interviewer is put into a position of having to badger someone to elicit a more detailed response.

Also avoid the use of believer language, such as “What are you called to in life?” and heavy questions that would alienate seekers, such as “Are people naturally sinful?” or “What is the meaning of life?” If you can’t come up with a funny, interesting or thought-provoking answer right away, chances are people on the street won’t be able to either.

Good examples in our experience include: “What is heaven?”, “What is grace?”, “What does God look like?” and “What do you hope for?” Try to think of questions that might allow a person to answer without pressure, but cause them to think on the question as they continue through their day.

Choose a good location. Large downtown areas work great. You’ll find that indoor places such as malls, airports, and schools will usually kick you out. Sometimes you can get permission to shoot in these types of establishments, but more often than not, they don’t like you “harassing” their customers.

Use an external microphone. Don’t rely on the microphone that is mounted in or on the camera. You’ll pick up too much ambient noise from the surrounding environment, and if it’s windy you might not be able to make out what the subject is saying at all.

When you shoot

Ask everyone you see. People who look like they might not answer will sometimes give you the most interesting responses. Sometimes even those who reject you might give a response that is usable in the finished piece. We’ve even included rejections in videos both as cutaways for pacing purposes and to convey to the congregation that what they are seeing is what really happened, and not a one-sided representation.

<p>Get permission. When you interview someone you usually need their permission to include their answer on the finished piece. After asking the question, ask for permission on camera to get a verbal OK. Don’t do it beforehand unless you want fewer responses and more “church-y” responses. Try to avoid anything that could make someone give a less than candid answer. The quicker the reaction from people, the more likely you are to get candid answers.</p>

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2 Comments so far »

  1. The MO Guys said,

    Wrote on March 29, 2006 @ 9:25 pm

    What do you think? Leave a message if you have something to say about this article. No registration is required to post a comment, but we will moderate for spam and obscene language, so your comment will be delayed in posting until we clear it.

  2. Fred Sprague said,

    Wrote on July 31, 2008 @ 9:10 pm

    Very good article. I have a problem choosing questions to ask that won’t embarrass the person. Where can I find good question?

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