The most important thing you can do to make sure that you get a good spot to set up your tripod and camcorder is to arrive early. In a way, this sucks, because the only sure thing at these events is that they never start on time. Still, be there early! Before you set up your camcorder, try to track down the event organizer and introduce yourself. Here are the questions you should try to ask the event organizer when you arrive:
- Where will the candidate be standing and speaking from?
- Will there the candidate be using a PA system
- Is anyone else speaking? How do you spell their names? (Write this down if you can because it comes in handy when you’re editing)
Set up your tripod and camera based on what you’ve learned from the organizer, getting as close as possible. Since you arrived early, you’re not in anybody’s way, and people will assemble around you to see the candidate. Test your equipment if you can, ensuring that the microphone works, that your battery is fully charged, and that you’ve got a blank tape in the camera (plus an extra one). Resist the temptation to film the candidate as he or she enters if it requires moving your camera. It’s better to miss a shot of the candidate working the crowd than it is for you to miss the beginning of the speech or lose your spot.
If the event you’re filming is a regular stump speech and meet & greet, you probably won’t have to compete for space with any news cameras. If you’re filming a press conference, you might. At a press conference you need to hold your ground. Bigtime. You may end up surrounded by big tripods and big cameras manned by big guys from the big networks, but don’t budge. If the lectern is close enough to where you’re at (and/or if you’ve got the microphone extension cable) put your microphone up there with the big ones. You’ll get great audio, and you’ll have the same shot that all the networks will have on the evening news.