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  • Tom Brooksher

Anatomy of a Video Shoot

Project: elearning and classroom course to teach rural and small urban transit operators how to deal with problem passengers Client: The National Rural Transit Assistance Program (National RTAP) Date: Aug. 3, 2017 Location: Via Mobility Services, Boulder, Colo. Description: This was the first of two video shoots, the results of which will be used in both the online and classroom versions of National RTAP’s course. The second shoot was completed the following week in Ada, Okla., in cooperation with the transit agency that serves the Chickasaw Nation in that city.

The Problem Passengers course shows transit driver/operators how to handle difficult customers. The original course was developed about 15 years ago as a classroom program, and National RTAP hired Zipline to create an updated edition with separate versions for classroom and online learning. Zipline developed all the content for the program.

For the video, we wrote the scripts, developed storyboards, cast the on-screen talent, hired video companies in both Denver and Oklahoma City, and directed the shoot and the post-production editing. For the classroom version, we’ll provide a DVD and downloadable version of the video, which the instructor can play for the class. For the online course, we’ll embed video into the elearning modules.

Using professional actors, we staged a series of interactions between riders and driver/operators, covering issues such as inebriated customers, a rider sexually harassing another rider, customers refusing to pay, and so on. In each vignette, the driver/operator does some things well and others not so well. Two additional actors playing industry veterans then critique the driver/operator’s performance, offering students tips from their years of experience to help them develop techniques that de-escalate confrontations and provide firm authority to keep all customers safe, while making the experience as customer-friendly as possible.

Videographer Rand Lechner (right) crouches in the corner of a small transit van to get the perfect shot. Meanwhile, Paul Rohrer, a professional actor portraying a transit driver/operator, tries to keep the tone light with a passenger in the back who is being difficult.

Kyle Brooksher is the Zipline project leader on the assignment and was also the director for the video. On the client side, Liz Taylor came in from Boston to oversee the shoot; our subject matter experts (Gary Hegland for the Colorado video and Kary Hughes for the Oklahoma videos) assisted with script development and were on-site to ensure that the vignettes portrayed driver/operator and passenger interactions as realistically as possible.

For the Colorado shoot, we worked with our long-time video partners, Emmy-winning MedCenter Network led by videographer/director Keith Singer. He was assisted by videographer Rand Lechner and teleprompter operator Emily Singer, both of whom we’ve worked with many times.

The crew gathers at the end of a long and productive day of shooting. Left to right: Rand Lechner, videographer; Gary Hegland, subject matter expert; Keith Singer, videographer/director; Kyle Brooksher, director; Liz Taylor, senior project manager, National RTAP; and Lyndsy Morse, communications manager, Via Mobility Services.

In Oklahoma, we had the good fortune of partnering with the creative team at Grapevine Media led by James Price. It was our first time working with Grapevine, and they did an outstanding job.

We worked with nearly 20 actors during the two video sessions, including about a dozen with speaking parts and the rest as extras. Several of the actors we’d worked with on previous videos. But we also employed a few new actors we located through our contacts and through talent agencies in Colorado and Oklahoma.

Shooting video is always a balancing act. A good shoot is a collaborative experience with everyone from the director to the crew to the actors providing great ideas that make the final product interesting and instructive.

The shoot itself is the culmination of weeks of planning. During the few hours that you have to actually record the video, every minute counts and everything has to fall into place. Talent must arrive on time and prepared, and the crew must have all the equipment they need and be on top of their game. And all the logistics—from the weather (if it’s an outdoor shoot) to props and costumes—must come off without any major hitches. Balancing that pressure is the fact that producing video is fun and a great creative experience. Bloopers and wisecracks from the crew and actors keep things light.

In the end, the video production sessions for National RTAP were highly successful. Now that we have the video, we’ve moved on to completing the curriculum development. Special thanks to:

  • Kyle Brooksher, who did a terrific job directing

  • Liz Taylor, for being a great client yet again

  • Gary Hegland and Kary Hughes, two of the leading experts in the country on rural and small urban transit for their guidance and wisdom

  • Lyndsy Morse, communications manager extraordinaire

  • everyone at Via Mobility Services for providing buses, vans and the locations for the shoot

  • and Keith Singer, James Price and their teams for making the magic.

Top photo: Keith Singer, videographer/director (left), and Kyle Brooksher, Zipline director, discuss the next shot.

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