Filming VIPs: A 10 Step Guide to Filming Royalty

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filming vips

Ever wondered how you go about filming VIPs? How would you handle the responsibility of filming royalty?

We at Bold Content Video are extremely proud to announce that we have recently wrapped a charity project that featured His Royal Highness, the Duke of Cambridge, Prince William. This shoot was done on behalf of CALM, or the Campaign Against Living Miserably. They are a non-profit charity aimed at combating male suicide in the United Kingdom.

This article will explore the steps that we took to pull off this Royal Shoot successfully.

Filming Royalty – An Introduction

First, some context. We are collaborating with CALM on their #BestManProject, a campaign that encourages men to speak out about their emotions and tell their best mates how much they mean to them. We were contacted by the Palace, who expressed interest on behalf of Prince William.

At this time, we already had several A-list celebrities lined up for this shoot, including Rio Ferdinand, Loyle Carner, and Roman Kemp. So not only did we have celebrity pressure, we had Royal pressure, as well.

While this was a super meaningful project for our brand to be involved with, there were several things that set this shoot apart from others we have done in the past. While our overall advice is to treat it like any other shoot, there are some things you may need to do differently with a Royal in mind.

filming vips

1. Confidentiality/Security

The very first thing that stood out about this shoot was the heightened secrecy. Our Production Manager, Joanna, was one of the few people in the company that knew all of the details of the shoot.

“Confidentiality was extremely important. It sounds dramatic, but I can’t downplay it…all of the information such as the shooting location, times, even the fact that Prince William was going to be there at all needed to be kept under wraps. If the location was leaked to the press, it would not only disrupt our shoot, it could also have put our crew and talent in danger.”

So, our first piece of advice is to clearly establish who is allowed to know what. While we are sure your employees are all trustworthy, people get excited about this type of opportunity and may be tempted to brag.

2. Establish Communication Pipeline

Working between three different organizations (ourselves, CALM, and the Palace), it was easy to cross wires. We recommend that you establish a specific chain-of-command to ensure questions and information reach the correct people.

For example, we appointed one person at CALM who communicated with the Palace. We then had one person here at Bold that liaised with CALM. This streamlined any concerns or questions we had, and ensured that our queries reached the right person. Clear communication between organizations and staff is an on-going step that will need to be maintained throughout your production.

filming vips

3. Delegate Responsibilities

Just like with any job, it is crucial that everyone takes care of their own part. As with every film shoot, everyone’s role will depend on their coworkers fulfilling their own tasks. Making a project-wide to-do list can go a long way towards keeping everyone accountable. Constant meetings are recommended, as well.

4. Logistics and Security

As with any shoot, you will need to arrange parking and equipment loading / unloading and setup. However, when filming a Royal, there will also be security involved. This could simply include someone checking IDs at the door, but it could also entail security checkpoints, where both personnel and any bags / equipment is checked.

Providing staff with a company ID or set pass can avoid any unnecessary confusion. Depending on dress code, which we will discuss later, you could also have your staff wear set uniforms. This can ensure your film crew is easily identifiable.

We were lucky to have filmed on a closed set, so we did not have to worry about a large fan presence, but keep in mind if you are filming in a more public space, security will likely be tighter.

5. Establish Interview Etiquette

We definitely recommend talking about interview dos and donts with the Royal’s team. Just like with any other person, they will have topics that they won’t want to discuss on-camera. Getting your questions and talking points approved by the Palace ahead of time can avoid any awkward situations during filming.

For example, Prince Harry got engaged just prior to our shoot. We checked in with the Palace to make sure it was acceptable to ask Prince William about this.

filming vips

6. Dress Code / Dress in Layers

This is a step that may seem like a no-brainer, but in fact, we must emphasize never to assume the dress code. We had initially planned to dress in business attire out of respect for Prince William.

However, upon further discussion with the Palace, we learned the Duke would be dressed much more casually and we would need to be dressed in kind.

Even when establishing this ahead of time, we definitely recommend that your staff dress in layers. This way, just in case, you can adjust to whatever your VIP / Royal is wearing. Some other tips is to keep smaller items such as ties, jewellery, lipstick, or heels tucked away just in case. Better safe than sorry!

7. Plan Ahead – And Plan Some More

We have found from working with other celebrities in the past, their time is extremely limited. This was no exception with Prince William: we had exactly one hour in which to procure all the footage we needed. It was crucial that we have every step planned.

Part of that preparation may include having a problem-solver on-set. Our Production Manager Joanna says, “I was on set as a failsafe; someone to resolve any potential issues that may have come up on the day. To prepare [for the day ahead of time], I thought of all the potential things that could go wrong, and I took steps to alleviate these potential issues. I also made a backup plan (and a backup plan for that!) in case something did go wrong.”

Something else we recommend is having a test-shoot if possible, or at least a setup rehearsal. Which leads to…

filming vips

8. Visit Your Location

It is always wise to scope out your set ahead of time. We filmed at a high-end hotel in central London, so we were able to do this. We also were able to practice our equipment setup.

As our director, James, mentions in the video, the setup was not complicated, but it did take time: “[The crew and I] arrived way ahead of time. With the first turnover scheduled for 4:30 pm, we arrived at 10:00 am to go through both setups and do plenty of crew rehearsals switching between both.”

Having this practice under your belt can help put the crew at-ease, since it is likely there will be a lot of emotions flying around on such a high-priority shoot.

9. Blend in During Production

Our staff was thrilled to meet Prince William and company. Our Production Manager Joanna says, “The thought of meeting a Royal was really exciting. In terms of prestige, this was the most important shoot I have ever done. I have been on bigger shoots before, in which there were more things that could have gone wrong, but this shoot was very meaningful.”

Our director, James, says he felt a combination of nerves: “I was excited because I love the concept of the films, but I was nervous because we have to capture the best reactions and answers, and it was my job to try and pull out the best responses…It was very fleeting [to meet the Duke] as myself and the crew deliberately tried to blend into the background as much as possible. But he was great and puts everyone at ease around him.”

Something for everyone to remember is, no matter what you are feeling going in to the shoot, your top priority is to procure the best footage possible. Mentally prepare yourself to go into this shoot and treat the Royalty just like you would any other client.

filming vips

10. Post-Production Approval

We were presented with a unique post-production process. As with any other project, we needed to get client approval before we could publish anything. In this case, that was the Palace.

However, after such a high-profile shoot (and for such a great cause), we as a company and as individuals wanted to share our experience. We had to be very careful to get approval on video and images from both the Palace and CALM before we released anything.

Due to this, it was very important that we have a quick editing and approval process established. This allowed us to be able to share content mere hours following our shoot. We were also able to release the final edit of the ‘official’ #BestManProject video soon after.

Filming VIPs – Recap

There you have it. Ten steps to have a successful shoot with a member of the Royal Family. Though there are an endless number of things to think about, anticipate, and plan for, we emphasize to treat a project like this just like any other project.

You will want to do your best for your client:

  • Plan ahead,
  • be respectful on set, and
  • get client approval before publishing.

Though this is easier said than done, we hope these steps will better prepare you for a successful shoot.

You can learn more about the #BestManProject here.

I hope this article on filming VIPs has been helpful. Take these tips to mind and create your own tips and best practice as you experience this kind of work and start filming VIPs.

What are your tips and advice for filming VIPs? Let us know in the comments below.

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