On an idle autumn afternoon in London we took to Brick Lane to shoot a “Fifty People One Question” style video. We stopped almost fifty people and asked them all a common question about their lives. The goal is to edit it together to make a short video about how much we all have in common.
People in London don’t generally like to stop and chat to strangers, so we got a lot of No’s, but we managed to get Yes’s enough to make a short video. We had a real adventure filming the video and we even got asked to leave at one point by a security guard. It was a fun process and we’ll be releasing the footage on the London Street Photo channel on YouTube.
Questions to ask for a 50 people 1 question video
The crew that filmed the first 50 People 1 Question videos have their own website and the format involves stopping random strangers on the street and asking them one common question. Past questions have included:
- What would do you wish would happen by the end of the day?
- Where would you like to wake up tomorrow?
- What did you want to be when you grew up?
We’ll be revealing the question that we asked soon, but I put together a quick trailer for the video on YouTube:
Gear to use for a Fifty People One Question Shoot
We used a Panasonic GH2, a Panasonic GF2and a Zoom recorder with a Rove directional mic. The audio is incredibly important because you want to capture people’s tone and emotion. I did the basic edits in iMovie synced the external audio by hand in iMovie. Next time I’d use Final Cut Pro because it can do the audio automatically.
A good camera and lens with a shallow depth of field does make a difference because you want to draw attention to the subject and blur out the background. But you could make a good video even on an iPhone (if you got the lighting right). We filmed using a shoulder brace but next time we’d probably use a tripod to keep the camera steady.
You can see lots of other examples of the fifty people one question videos on this YouTube playlist.
How to stop people on the street
People in the UK are a bit reluctant to stop for strangers and hate being on camera. But you can overcome this with a bit of enthusiasm. The key is to make it seem safe and fun. By coincidence, several of our crew had done a personal development course called the Landmark Forum. This teaches a few techniques about personal interaction, like being polite and firm at the same time, and how to bounce back when people say no.
We got a yes from about one in five people, so it’s important to be fearless and ask lots of people. The tones to avoid are “charity mugger”, “I’m selling something” or “needy”. Instead you create a mood that your crew is having fun, and you want the subject to simply be part of the fun. The aim is for them to enjoy their time on camera and come away with a good anecdote to share with their friends.
We always made sure to tell them where the video was going to be used and how to find us. We also mentioned that the project was going on around the world and that it’s not a commercial thing, just a fun idea for people to see a slice of life from different people.
Behind the scenes on shooting street video
Street video like Fifty People One Question is a bit like shooting street portraits because you need to stop people and interact with them rather than just shooting them as they walk past. It allows you to tell a more personal story. But it requires a good team of people. You need:
- Camera person
- Audio guy
- Person to stop people and get them to agree to be on camera
- Person to stand behind camera man and encourage the subject
These jobs can be shared and swapped so a crew of three is plenty on the day. We swapped around roles and it makes it more fun. The job of greeting people is lots of fun and directing people from off camera is very important because the camera person needs to pay attention to focusing the camera.
We really enjoyed the afternoon and we’ll be releasing the full video soon.