Man-on-the-street style videos are unscripted, authentic and the opposite of ‘corporate slick’. It’s the perfect style to use if you want to document a range of opinions on a topic related to your marketing or advertising goal.
The most famous examples of man-on-the-street are the comic variety but as a news organization, Tribune Media South Florida makes man-on-the-street videos on an almost daily basis. We use this style in our news broadcasts to gather public opinion on local news headlines or events. We also film them for our client’s social media or native advertising campaigns. They are relatively easy to execute, easy to edit and work well on your website as well as on social media.
Man-on-the-street style videos are unscripted, but they take interview skills and planning to make them entertaining. When you decide to use this format, go in with a plan. This guide will give you the tools and information to know how to successfully execute this style of video.
Pick a good question.
Write a question that is general enough to not get the same response from everyone, but not so general that the question could mean any number of things to different people.
“Do you eat donuts for breakfast?” is not a good question because it only has two answers — yes or no. “What do you like about breakfast?” is also a bad choice for a question. Breakfast could mean different things to different people and the odds say most answers will not line up with the ‘breakfast’ you’re interested in. Instead, ask a question that narrows the focus of possible answers and points those answers at the marketing message you are looking to convey with the video.
PIX11 Media worked with Dole Foods on a man-on-the-street native video. Dole wanted to raise brand awareness of their healthy food options and encourage people to take the ‘pledge’ to eat healthy (and to collect their email address at the same time). Our question was “What did you have for breakfast this morning?” We wanted to find New Yorkers who had made some unhealthy breakfast choices. Of course, that was not hard to find! Cookies, brownies, cakes, nothing at all….We followed up with a free sample of foods made with Dole products and then recorded reaction shots of people enjoying the food.
The perfect question is one that can have a number of answers on a theme. You want all the answers to be on the same page, event if their answers are different.
Have at least 3 people working on the shoot.
At the very least, you should have 3 people working on a man-on-the-street shoot. You’ll need a videographer, an interviewer, and a wrangler.
The videographer takes care of the filming and should know how to position interviewees and shoot them off-center. They should also have good quality equipment. You can shoot with your iPhone or GoPro camera but you’ll get the best results with an HD-quality camera.
The interviewer is the most crucial member of the shoot team. They need to be able to draw out the interviewees and get the most interesting responses. Not everyone will be good at this job, even if they are television professionals. At PIX11 Media, they have certain reporters and on-camera talent that are better at the unscripted nature of man-on-the-street interviews. You’ve got to be able to think on your feet, have a sharp sense of humor and to be able to relate to a wide variety of people.
The wrangler is in charge of drawing people in to be interviewed. They are also in charge of gathering legal releases from interviewees. They should have skills similar to the interviewer – personable and relatable – but should also be able to pick out good potential interviewees.
Count on okay/boring with a sprinkling of gems.
On the whole, the general public is not that interesting on camera. Only 1 out of 10 people will be terrific and the rest will be okay or boring. That’s not a knock on the public, it’s just that most people are not comfortable in front of a camera and most will not be entertaining in their responses.
If you have a talented editor, you can compensate for boring/bad responses with good pacing and editing, but you should make sure that you interview enough people to ensure you get good footage.
Film outside in areas with high foot traffic.
Filming outside is almost a necessity in man-on-the-street videos.
First of all, the street is outside (;)) but also because only outside will you have enough natural light for your camera set-up. The best time to shoot is just before sunset. Referred to as the golden hour in photography and magic hour in cinematography, this is the time when the light from the sun is indirect and does not cast hard shadows.
High foot traffic is important because you need to have a high number of interviewees to create a good man-on-the-street video. Luckily for us, we are based in New York City, a place with no shortage of people.
Have your interviewees sign a release waiver.
If you’re using the man-on-the-street video in your marketing and/or advertising, particularly when you are paying for media, you need to cover yourself legally. When PIX11 Media shoots man-on-the-street videos for our clients, we get two levels of consent from interviewees. First, we record verbal consent on-camera prior to each interview. In the broadcast news world, this is called ‘implied consent’. This means that if someone is in a public place, sees the camera set up and chooses to answer questions, they have granted consent to use their answers. For our news broadcasts, we stop here. But for our native and social media videos for clients, we also ask for the interviewee to sign a release waiver after the conclusion of the interview.