I’ve been presenting a series of workshops about “Interview Techniques” both from a producer’s perspective (things to consider) as well as from a DP’s perspective (equipment considerations and lighting approaches).
Here are some of the essential tips I share during these events.
1. Interview Structure
An interview is a conversation that involves three people, not two. We have the interviewer, who is the facilitator, asks questions, and guides the discussion. The second person is the guest who is essentially answering the questions. And third is the viewer, the person who is watching and following the interview. We should always keep this last element in mind.
2. Before the Interview
As a producer, these are some of the things I like to consider:What is the goal of the interview?
a. What type of questions will we be asking?
b. Will the client provide specific questions or do you need to provide them in advance?
c. Who will take care of the post-production work?
d. Carefully research the subject(s). Make them feel you truly care about their stories and lives.
e. Test the questions with someone else before the interview to make sure they’re clear.
As a director of photography, these are some of my pre-interview questions and considerations:
a. How many and what type of cameras should we use? (Whether of not the interviewer will be on camera will determine what type of coverage is needed.)
b. We need to think about the ideal lenses, lights, audio gear, and accessories for this project? (Keep in mind, it typically takes 20 to 30 minutes per interviewee to get a great, one-minute clip. So storage and batteries for all equipment are important.)
c. Can we scout the location ahead of time? If so, when can we access the location?
d. How much time do we have to set up? Can we set up the day before? Will we need to move between locations?
All these are at the top of my list of considerations.
3. During the Interview
a. Make them feel at ease. Make it a conversation not an interrogation.
b. Keep technical instructions to a minimum, but be sure to ask them not to look into the camera.
c. Keep your questions short: avoid yes or no answers, and try not to answer your own questions.
d. If the interview isn’t flowing smoothly, ask your subject to wait, and repeat the question. Get what you need. Interrupt if you have to.
e. Learn to nod and truly listen. As often as possible, aim for stories or anecdotes, as they are more interesting than straight answers.
4. After the Interview
It’s usually a good idea to ask the interviewee for feedback. They might want to clarify something or mention a topic that wasn’t covered.
Obviously, there’s a lot more to cover, but hopefully some of these tips are helpful. I’ve learned most of them after many years of trial and error and really wish someone had shared a similar list with me.
Eduardo Angel is an independent technology consultant, educator, and Emmy Award-winning visual storyteller based in Brooklyn, NY. He currently teaches at The School of Visual Arts and the International Center of Photography, and mentors the photography program at the Savannah College of Art and Design.
He is a co-founder of the idea production company The Digital Distillery, author of popular filmmaking courses on Lynda.com, and regularly shares his thoughts on technology, photography, and cinema on his website eduardoangel.com.