Sunday, June 2, 2013


So, you showed up on set to help out and somebody hands you a camera you have no idea how to use and says "Hey man, can you get us some BTS material and maybe grab some interviews?"

Don't panic.

While it scares many folks, filming BTS is a great opportunity that can lead to bigger better things!

The key to good BTS is to have a simple shot list and some interesting questions to ask. If you have no idea what to do for either of those, don't worry. Read on, I've got you covered.

BTS Shot List

Bad Things to Film

People eating.

People resting.

Injuries/Bad karma moments. Yes they make good youtube fodder. But they also make you a dick. Don't be a dick. If someone gets hurt, turn off the camera and see if you can help them.

If for some reason real life drama erupts on the set, turn the camera off and set it down. Continuing to film makes you a dick and could make the situation worse.

Also keep in mind that you are missing the point completely if you spend a majority of your time simply capturing the actors performance from a different angle. You are not making your own version of the film. You are capturing the work that goes in to making the film.

Good Things to Film

Director working with the actors.

Director working with the Director of Photography.

The Director and Director of Photography in the act of filming a scene.

The Director looking at the monitor while filming a scene.

Playful actor and crew antics while chilling on set.

Setup of things like cranes. Dolly's, complex set pieces.

Before and after photo's.

Close ups of the crew operating their equipment during a scene (pulling focus, adjusting audio levels, adjusting a light)

Get different angles, Wide, Medium, Close.

Interviews. These are gold and when done properly mix well with any and all of the above as b-roll!

BTS Interviews

Folks to Interview

  • Actors
  • Director
  • Director of Photography
  • Audio Folks
  • Prop folks
The actors will be the easiest to interview. They love the camera and generally have a lot of time as they wait for the set to be ready for them to deliver their performances.

The Director and Director of Photography will be difficult (sometimes impossible) to get time from. Get it when/if you can, but don't worry too much if you can't. If they want an interview they know how to run a camera and can do it themselves later.

The Audio and Props folks can be shy at times, but ask them about their gear, ask them about technical challenges with the shoot. Sometimes you can get some great stories.

Doing the Interview

Find a quite place with a decent backdrop. Do not use a bathroom or a storage closet.

If you need to go outdoors, or find a quiet room off to the side. Don't wander too far offset. These people may be called back into service at a moments notice!

Interviews should generally be done with the camera dead level at medium wide (upper chest and head). Or close up (face only). How ever you decide to frame it be consistent so the editor has the flexibility to cut between interviewees in post. Whether you have the subject look into the camera or you give the subject something to look at just off camera is not important as long as you be consistent about it. As a courtesy ask the director. He may have a preference.

Interview Questions

Bad Questions:

Don't ask simple "yes, no" or short answer questions. Give the subject questions they can sink their teeth into and expound upon.

Good Questions:

Who are you and what is your role in the film?

What made you interested in the role? (for actors)

How does the character you portray compare to you in real life? (for actors)

Tell me a bit of what you know about the film.

Tell me a bit about the gear you are using.

Have you worked with the director before? What are your impressions of the director?

What is it like working with <another actor or crew members name>?

What is the most challenging thing about this shoot?

Ask them to rephrase the questions you ask them as part of their answer.

For example if you ask them:

"Who are you and what is your role in the film?"

They would ideally answer something to the effect of:

"Hi, I'm Jane Doe and I'm playing the part of blah blah blah."

This gives the editor more freedom in editing the material.

Have Fun with it!

You have the luxury of shooting without a script. Have fun with it!