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Ten videography tips from the NFL sidelines

7.25.14

John Kuhrt, an award-winning photojournalist for NBC’s Denver news affiliate, has been filming the Broncos for over 25 years. While Kuhrt has witnessed his fair share of sideline antics, his portfolio ranges far beyond the gridiron.

We interviewed Kuhrt, who shared his top 10 tips for a successful career in videography:

1. Practice

Kuhrt started filming in high school and never stopped. He didn’t wait for the ideal situation or job. He just started doing it.

If you have a passion for videography, go for it. Practice everywhere. Practice always.

2. Anticipate

Kuhrt thrives on the pressure of watching the clock and the distance up or downfield in pursuit of each shot. To be successful filming sports (or anything that doesn’t involve scripts), videographers have the unique challenge of needing to be 100% engaged in capturing the current situation while also being 100% engaged in anticipating what’s next. This is impossible, of course, but you have to do it anyway.

Calculate where you need to be and when, position yourself the best you can, and then go on instinct.

3. Accept mistakes and move on

No matter how much experience you have, sometimes your instincts will be wrong. You will never have a perfect game (or shot), but getting stressed won’t help anything. In fact, it could cause you to miss the next big play, too. Brush yourself off and move on.

4. Never give up

Never give up on a shot. Even if you miss a play (or shot), follow through because you might get the end of the play or find a good reaction.  This principle isn’t just about videography—it’s about life. “Never give up. Don’t ever give up.”

5. Be hyper-aware and hyper-prepared

Being aware of who and what is around you—the setting, fellow crew members, your subject—minimizes preventable errors.

Being prepared for everything (changes in weather, dead batteries, lack of storage space, gear failures, etc.) saves time, energy, and expense in the long run. You won’t always need what you bring and it will sometimes seem like a burden. But when you do need it, you’ll be endlessly grateful.

6. Know your subject

Be as familiar with the game (or situation) as possible. Kuhrt knows football well enough to have a second career as a referee. He also knows the other photojournalists (both from his station and others) by name and by style. All this knowledge helps him move around the field with ease.

The same goes for interviews. You don’t want to walk up to John Elway and ask him a question you could’ve found online. Being respectful of their time makes for a smoother interview and a better relationship.

7. Focus on the relationships

Speaking of relationships, they really do matter. I don’t care how well you can compose a shot—if you don’t have anyone willing to work with you or step in front of your camera, you don’t have a career.

Kuhrt considers each relationship important—whether it’s with the people on the sidelines, on the team, or cleaning the stadium. He is an avid Broncos fan, but in pregame, he chats with both teams and wishes the players good luck. This approach has earned Kuhrt a rapport with players who are notoriously tight-lipped. Be patient. It’s taken Kuhrt years to gain a relationship with certain players, but it’s worth it. Some will ignore every other cameraperson on the field, but will stop in front of Kuhrt.

If your subject needs some space, give it to them. Think of the bigger picture rather than what you think you need in that moment. Sometimes being sensitive to the situation and timing will lead to a better interview later.

8. Don’t cheer from the sidelines

Early on, Kuhrt found himself cheering or showing his disappointment much like he would watching the game at home. He has learned to be disciplined about keeping his reactions internal. It’s inappropriate and unprofessional to interrupt what you’re documenting. Your job is to document a game/record history. It’s not about you.

9. Don’t be selfish

You can get the shots you need without being selfish about it. You don’t need to jump in front of people or cross the boundaries that have been laid out. Some people will break the rules and it will benefit them in the short-term. No matter how many others you see breaking the rules, you’ve got to face yourself and be able to feel good about how you handle yourself. If you want a long career and you want to feel good about your choices, you’ll need to approach them with integrity.

Be courteous with everyone. Everyone.

10. Stay humble

This will serve you well from the beginning of your career to the end. It will serve you in life. Whether you’re just starting out or are well established, there’s always more to learn. Kuhrt asked questions in the beginning and has never stopped.

He found that most people want to share their passion and experience. Kuhrt says, “If they don’t, shake it off and go to the next person.”

As you gain experience, be available to give tips to newer people (even if they’re from other teams/stations). It doesn’t hurt your photography.

Even when you find yourself with Emmys and other awards on your bookshelf, don’t get a big head. There’s always someone out there doing it better than you.

Crew Connection connects you with video production crews across the country and around the globe. With more than 25 years of experience and thousands of shoots to our credit with film crew pros, you can trust our expert coordinators to match you with the right freelance video crew and equipment every time.

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