1. Research – know your subject.
Know the person you are interviewing, what’s their background. Why are they a suitable person to be interviewed? What’s their area of expertise?
If it is just vox pops then ask those questions while the camera is rolling – Why are you here, what did you enjoy about …, what do you think about …
2. Know the context of the interview.
Be clear on the how this interview will fit into the overall production. This will affect how you frame your questions and where you steer the discussion. It will also determine just how much information you need. Is it a 15-second grab or a 10-minute interview? And if it is a 15-second grab then do your editor a favor and don’t record a 10-minute interview – it will only blow out your editing costs.
3. Prepare open questions.
There are actually two points here – one prepare your questions and two make sure they are open questions. Closed questions can be answered with a “yes” or “no”. Such as – “Did you enjoy the concert?”
Open questions require a more elaborate response. Such as “What did you enjoy about the concert?”
4. Listen to the answers
Although you will have some questions prepared, if you listen to the answers you should be able to enable the subject to open up. Your question might be “How was the concert?”
They reply “It was great”
You follow up with “What was great about it?”
Then they give you the answer you need.
When you hear a short response ask them to tell you more about why or what. Often that will deliver some great information.
Also, listen for opportunities to edit. By this I mean can you hear a self-contained part of the answer that can be used for the video? Sometimes people ramble. We are able to decode it in conversation, but if they start off then get diverted and it takes them a minute to come back to their point, it can be difficult to use. If this happens then perhaps ask them to restate their answer in a shorter version. Sometimes after having said it they are now more clear in their own minds about what they are talking about.
5. Don’t talk over the top.
It’s very tempting to confirm you are interested in what is being discussed by verbally engaging with the interviewee – don’t. This will make the editing a nightmare if the interviewer can be heard throughout. Instead nod enthusiastically, smile lots. If you are a normally chatty person, then perhaps warn the subject that you will be more quiet than normal so as not to interrupt their delivery.
6. Don’t pre interview before filming
This is a big trap for new players. Eager to put the interviewee at ease, they have a conversation directly before filming about what you’ll discuss. The interviewee essentially answers all the questions before the camera starts rolling.
When the interview recording starts, they give less information, shorter answers or worse start saying things like “as I said before…”.
I think what happens is they feel we’ve already discussed this, I’m just repeating myself so I won’t go into as much detail. If they do insist on seeing the questions beforehand, that’s fine, but avoid discussing the answers with them while setting up the equipment.
7. Get at least one thing before they go.
Some people are better than others at being interviewed. When the camera rolls and the lights go on, they start firing and giving you gold. Others struggle. They are intimidated, they give one-word responses or just lack any energy. If you feel this person just isn’t going to shine in the production but you know you really need them to be included them give them a short line to say that will work.
I once was producing an induction video for a large international public listed construction company. The CEO of the organization was required to deliver some motivating words to the new staff who would be watching the production. After 45 minutes of takes and retakes, I asked him to say to the camera – “Welcome on board. I wish you the best of your time with our company.” His 1-minute presentation was reduced to this.
At the end of the day that was the best I could get out of him and that was what was used.
What tips do you have to get the best out of interviews?