You've decided that a video presentation can add value to your case. You've coordinated the dates and times. You've chosen the locations. You've put together a list of interview questions. But, there is much more to consider when planning one of these shoots. Let our experience guide you through this process, so it is painless for both you and your client.
These are our most FAQs:
There will be three distinct sections: "Life Before", "The Incident" and "Life Now" (which will highlight the damages). The story will be told by your interviewees that will cut back and forth between them to keep the story moving along. One person might start a story, a second might add to the middle and a third could finish it. We might see a photo montage or home video footage while we listen to the speakers talk about a particular memory.
The only deviation from a television show is that you and your interview questions will NOT be seen nor heard. The story will be told strictly through the interviewees' voices. This will be more of a conversation with the interviewee rather than deposition-style questioning. Start with "Tell me about..." rather than "Who?" "What?" or "Where?" FTB Productions will work with you to put together a topics list.
Ask your clients to get together some pertinent photos and home video footage of life "Pre-incident" that can be added in during post-production. If the case involves an accident, do a Google search to see if reports were aired on the local news stations and then download that footage. Are there accident scene photos? Were photos were taken of your client in the hospital? These can also be added to the final video to highlight the pain and suffering your client went through.
If your client was catastrophically injured, we would include day-in-the-life footage to the "Life now" section. We would show activities of daily living such as getting out of bed, grooming, dressing, preparing a meal, getting in and out of vehicles, transfers to and from wheelchairs and whatever else may be pertinent. We would also show modifications made to the home and vehicles. During the interviews, we would ask you client to describe their daily routine and this will serve as a narration to the footage.
Some video companies may suggest having a professional narration added to the final video. States such as California and New York tend to use that practice more than in New England. Determine who your audience will be and if that will have added value. Most times, your client and other interviewees do a great job telling their story without a professional narrator.
What about adding music to the final presentation? By going that route, you run the risk of making your viewer feel emotionally manipulated. This could undermine the credibility of the video and ruin chances for settlement. If you are going through the effort of producing a Video Settlement Brochure or Wrongful Death Video, you probably have a very compelling case to begin with and won't need to guild the lily.
If your case were to go to trial, who you would you call to the witness stand? Determine your interviewee list from that answer.
Ask your client who has been a constant in their life before the incident and is now part of their support system as they navigate life's new challenges.They will, most likely, suggest their spouse, children, parents, siblings and close friends. Consider interviewing a former co-worker or boss who will speak to your client's work ethic and lost earning potential. Sometimes teachers or other school officials can describe changes observed in your client's children.
Expert witnesses will support the testimonies of your interviewees and add credibility to their concerns. Medical experts can describe your client's condition, what their current limitations have become and what they face as far as future surgeries and therapies. Life care planners and economists can discuss what needs your client will have in terms of home modifications, medical equipment/supplies, and services. Psychiatrists can describe the symptoms of misunderstood diagnoses, such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, and how they apply to your client's current patterns of behavior.
In the end, you will want to get the list down to about 3-7 good candidates. Anything more than that can get confusing.
Was that clear? Let me say it again:
Picture this: You, maybe a colleague and the videographer go to your client's home. The videographer starts setting up, re-arranges furniture, goes through elaborate processes to cover-up windows and skylights. They might send your client upstairs to change their shirt if it's not camera friendly. Other interviewees might show up early. Pets might start acting up because of all the disruption. You might bring up some issues the case is having. Other stressful distractions might occur.
Then we all sit down. The studio lighting gets turned on. A sound check is performed. Instructions to answer in "Essay Form" are given. The red recording light on the camera goes on. And you say to your client, "Ok, tell me about the worst day of your life."
Deer-in-the-Headlights syndrome occurs.
How would you perform in such a stressful situation? Especially if you don't know what you will be expected to talk about.
By sending your interviewees a list of discussion topics, you help alleviate any anxieties they might have about what they will need to revisit emotionally. It will also give them a few days to recall memories and the chain of events. When you are only a year or so out from the incident, people are still struggling to come to grips with life now. Re-visiting the past might either be too painful or a luxury they really don't want to allow themselves right now. So give them a week to mentally prepare for the topics at hand.
Your clients aren't experts witnesses or actors, so they won't appear rehearsed. You are not giving them a script to recite. You're just letting them know what to expect.
Ask your interviewees to be ready with two to three favorite stories of the person they will be discussing. These stories can be funny, touching or even mischievous. These are the details that make your client likable and relatable.
Your interviewees may find looking through photo albums helpful to prod their memories. This will also provide you with photos that can be edited into the piece during post-production.
If you are shooting Day-in-the-Life activities, plan on about 4-6 hours of shooting time. Your videographer will need time to scout the location and decide where to set things up. Lighting will need to be adjusted and furniture will be rearranged.
Interviews can take anywhere from 1-2 hours per person, depending upon each person's relationship with the client. Children and experts will take less time to shoot, whereas the plaintiff and his/her immediate caregiver will take much longer. Never schedule more than 3-4 interviews per day. It will get emotionally draining for everyone, including yourself.
You should ALWAYS make it a point to visit your client's home beforehand to see what state it is in.
The day of the shoot is NOT the day you want to discover that your client should be a candidate for an episode of "Hoarders". When your client pulls back the shower curtain to demonstrate getting in and out, you don't want to see black mold and mushrooms growing in the bathtub . You don't want your videographer spending time trying to navigate a huge rabbit hutch smack in the middle of the kitchen (True story). Nobody is expecting a magazine spread, but excessively messy or dirty backgrounds can distract a viewer from focusing on your client's struggles.
If your client is physically impaired, housekeeping is low on their list of priorities.So, help them out by getting a family member or cleaning person in there the day before to make the home more presentable.
You also want to determine if your client lives on a busy street. Near a bus stop? Train tracks? A fire station? An airfield? A construction site? Downstairs from noisy neighbors? Near barking dogs?
If the answer is "yes" to any of these situations, try to find an alternate location. When shooting interviews, sound quality is of the utmost importance. Frequent interruptions will prolong the shoot and cause unwanted distraction.
We've created this video to demonstrate what colors work well on camera. Learn how you can look your best.
Young children might not understand that their parent is busy and can't attend to their immediate needs. Find out if a play date or daycare can be arranged. You can also arrange the shoot to take place during school hours.
Pets can occasionally cause disruptions. Most times they are fine, but if they are prone to barking or whining, have a quiet place they can retreat to.
Day-in-the-Life videos are usually shot for catastrophic injury cases to give your jury a glimpse of what your client's activities of daily living are. These videos are subject to the rules of evidence, so the the activities should be documented fairly and accurately and without prejudice.
Talk with your client to determine which activities comprise their daily routine. Depending upon your client's affliction, these activities will vary. Common examples include: getting out of bed; grooming; transfers to commodes, shower chairs and wheelchairs; getting dressed; preparing and eating a meal; and getting into vehicles.
Be sure to also include any therapies and modifications made to the home.
If shooting any activities that include a PCA or therapists, make sure to get permission from their agency that their employee may appear on camera. Be sure to explain that they will just be interacting with your client as if a camera wasn't there. They do not need to narrate their activities, because they, or your client, will narrate live at trial.
Stick with your client's daily routine and veer away from shooting overly dramatic demonstrations of a task that is impossible for your client to complete. Instead, focus on what they can do for themselves and how they have adapted to their current lifestyle.
Day-in-the-life videos should always be eligible for an MPAA rating of "G".
It is entirely unnecessary to allow a jury and an entire courtroom to see your client with their bits on display. You never know who you may offend -or worse- alienate by doing so.
Have your client wear, at the very least, a t-shirt/tank top and shorts before showing the assistance needed in getting dressed. If someone needs help getting pants on and buttoning a shirt, trust that the viewers will understand that underwear and diapers will also need assistance.
Your client has suffered a devastating loss and deserves to be treated with dignity. There is no added value to showing them in a state that you yourself would not want to be seen.
Yes, it can. It rarely happens, but it's a possibility you should be mindful of.
If the camera is rolling and you feel the need to interject, be sure to say, "Let's go off the record." Wait until the camera is off, THEN have a discussion with your client. You don't want anything recorded that can be construed as instruction.
Tell your client that they may not ask you questions while taping. They should also never say things like "Was that good? or "Was that what you wanted?" Let them know that they may also suggest going off record if they have a concern or question.
Before shooting scenes for Day-in-the-Life videos -which is subject to the rules of evidence- have your client review the steps involved in the activity they are about to engage in. This will allow the camera person to determine which angles to shoot from to avoid re-takes or additional discussion.