Have you ever wanted to interview someone to tell their story or share their point of view? Do you know how to make a subject feel comfortable in front of a camera? Or how to make sure you'll get the best material out of the time and resources that you have? What's your mother's maiden name?
Ok last question: Do you know how to shoot an interview? If your answer is no, then this is the Video School lesson for you! Watch this video and read on. You'll be the one asking questions in no time!
Before you're even in the same room with your subject, the very first step in the interview process is to PREPARE:
-Do your research! You'll want to know any information that's already out there so you can ask questions no one has asked before. Read up about your subject on the Internet and in publications.
-Write up a good list of questions. The amount will depend upon the complexity of the topic and the length of your final piece.
-Order your questions from easiest to hardest. You'll want to warm up your subject and help them feel comfortable with easy to answer questions.
-Think about the story you want to tell, and what questions will help you to tell that story.
-Don't give your subjects the questions beforehand. If they want to know what you'll ask, give them a general guideline of topics you will cover. If they're too rehearsed, it becomes awkward and not genuine.
With a list of questions in hand, you'll want to ENGAGE with your subject:
-Even though you have a list of questions, you don't always have to stick to them! If something comes up, feel free to go off the script and ask questions as they arise.
-Also don't be afraid to ask your subject to clarify something. If it didn't make sense the first time, it won't make sense when you sit down to edit. Most likely your subject will not be annoyed — they'll be happy you gave them a second chance to really get their point across.
-Don't try to guide the subject by stating your own opinions or asking leading questions. Make sure your questions are open ended.
-At the end, ask the person if there is anything he or she would like to add. They might bring something up that you hadn't thought of, but is totally relevant and interesting. Sometimes the best material comes from this question!
Along the same lines, remember to LISTEN:
-Everyone wants to tell their story. If you listen, make them feel comfortable, and that they're being heard, they'll talk!
-To show you're listening, make eye contact and nod while the person is talking.
-Don't cut your subject off. Even if they go off on a tangent, let them finish. They may say something important, and you can always get them back on track with the next question.
-Remember to pause, and don't be afraid of a bit of silence. Silence can actually be a useful tool, as most people will try to fill it by re-stating a sentence or clarifying a point.
As you conduct the interview, THINK ABOUT EDITING:
-Before you start, ask your subject to form complete sentences. You can even ask them to re-state the question in their answer. Don't ask yes or no questions. Those answers are useless to you.
-Sit or stand next to the camera when interviewing, so that the subject can look at you while talking, but they'll also be looking near the camera. People will feel most comfortable if they talk directly to the interviewer, so you don't want to sit way off to the side, or make them feel awkward by asking them to look straight into the lens and talk to the camera.
-Do not speak while your subject is speaking, not even an affirmative "yes," "uh huh," "OK," etc. You may think you are being a good listener, but when it comes time to edit, you'll wish you had kept your mouth shut!
You're on your way to capturing some great material, but don't forget the TECHNICAL STUFF!
-Choose a location and backdrop that are appropriate for the subject and topic of the interview and film. Your backdrop can greatly influence the content of the interview and the overall feel of the piece, so choose wisely!
-Shot composition and framing also go a long way in illustrating a theme or mood. Make deliberate stylistic choices. Decide if a close up, medium or wide shot is best. Close ups can emphasize intensity while wide shots are more relaxed.
-Although it's not a steadfast rule, don’t forget to consider the rule of thirds!
-Lighting can also greatly affect the mood and tone. Consider using the three point lighting setup.
-Or, if you don't have access to professional lighting equipment, use available light, a house lamp, or maybe a bounce.
-All your hard work is for nothing if you fail to capture good audio. Equipment is key, so use a lavalier or boom microphone, make sure you don't have distracting background noise, and monitor those levels! Depending on your camera you may need to record audio separately and sync it in post. Also, don't forget to capture room tone!
-Your work will also go to waste if you don't have permission to use the interview footage later, so make sure to have your subjects sign release forms.
And that's all there is to it! While the technical aspect are very important, in the end, it's important to stress that a good interview is simply a good conversation. You'll get the best material that your audience will resonate with most if you listen, engage, and take a genuine interest in your subject. Good luck!