When [Expletive Removed] Bad Takes Happen
Immediately following last week’s State of the Union Address, Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) responded by recording a video criticizing the President. Unfortunately, his staff uploaded the wrong version, a version in which Cruz stops and asks to start over again.
Bad takes happen all the time when recording straight-to-camera video, and Mr. Cruz reacted the exact right way by stopping, asking to begin again, and recording a clean version. (A cynic might say that this “wrong” video was a wily strategy intended to attract more people to his message; I doubt that’s true, but it had the same effect.)
Unfortunately, not everyone handles bad takes this well. In our video training sessions, people routinely mess up their takes—it’s normal and part of the process—but a few of them become quite frustrated and swear or make silly faces into the camera.
That’s a bad idea for a few reasons. First, the wrong video could accidentally be uploaded instead of your “correct” take. Second, someone could use the tape maliciously against you. Third—and I get this request all the time—your co-workers might want that video for a holiday party “gag reel.” (I don’t comply with those requests, because training should be a safe place to stretch your comfort zone and make mistakes.)
When the camera is on you—even if you aren’t “live” and can redo the take—act as if that’s the tape the world will see.
Perhaps the most infamous example of a behind-the-scenes bad take belongs to current Fox News anchor Bill O’Reilly, who is still dogged by this piece of tape from his Inside Edition days (this is definitely not suitable for work — but it is terrifyingly hilarious):
And that’s the same lesson a young reporter named A.J. Clemente learned a couple of years ago, when he preceded his first (and last) newscast by swearing before he realized he was on the air.
The next time you have a bad take, realize that the pros have them all the time. Stop, take a breath, and do it again. But whatever you do, don’t pull an O’Reilly and let tape of your worst on-camera moment follow you around for years.
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As John Wooden always said: be quick, but don’t hurry.
Uploading the outtake definitely was embarrassing for the Senator… but what was going on with the production values? He was responding to one of the biggest political events of the year and put together a grainy, off-coloured piece of footage that Jon Stewart said looked like a ransom video. If he was trying to look Presidential in advance of his expected run, well, epic fail.