Today, filming interviews are a staple of any video company, church media outreach, or nonprofit organization. Capturing someone telling their own story is one of the most creative and compelling ways to share your message with the world.
Most video producers and filmmakers are highly skilled at running the camera, lighting the scene, and capturing the audio. But there’s more, and the “more” in this case can mean the difference between an average interview and an amazing interview. It all begins with making your subject feel at ease and comfortable.
Here are a few techniques I use that make an incredible difference:
1) The interviewee doesn’t wait for me, I wait for them. In most filming situations, the person being interviewed is a novice around a camera. They get nervous and are usually pretty uncomfortable from the start. And yet, most producers make them stand around and wait while they set up the equipment – which makes them even more nervous!
I never want the person being interviewed to stand around and wait for me. So I don’t bring them in until we’re ready to go. I’ve actually seen producers make the interviewee wait around so long the poor person was exhausted by the time the camera rolled.
An easy solution is to use a crew member for a stand-in if you need to check lighting or sound. The interviewee is nervous enough. Don’t make them work.
No matter how early you need to be there, or how big the set up, never make the interviewee wait on you.
2) Clear the set. I was being interviewed for a TV program recently, and during the entire conversation, crew members were walking around behind the camera directly in my sight-line. It was such a distraction, I could hardly stay on point.
Clear the room. Get rid of extra crew members. Don’t allow people to stand around. Reduce the distractions and you’ll be amazed at how much they’ll relax.
3) Cut back the side shot. I’ve ranted about this before, but why do directors use a 2nd camera profile shot so often? In the middle of an interview why cut to a shot of someone looking away from the camera? Have you ever had a conversation with someone who turned their head away from you half the time?
I understand it’s needed – sometimes. But for the most part, covering edits are what B-roll shots are for. Plus, in a 4K world, you can punch in to cover an edit if necessary. Let’s stop the madness of the 2nd camera profile shot so much. It really doesn’t help communicate the story very well at all.
4) Understand that an interview is different from other types of filming. When filming with actors, or shooting other scenes in a studio or on location, the crew can pretty much take over. We make noise, move furniture, and – well, if you’ve ever been on a film shoot, you understand the chaos.
But interviews are most often done in someone’s home, office, or other personal space. Which means the normal chaos of shooting only creates anxiety for the person being interviewed. They’re not used to having their furniture moved around, setting up big lighting, or having a crew walking around in their living room.
So be sensitive. Respect their property. It doesn’t mean you can’t move things, but get their permission. Be nice. Be gracious. And most of all, train your crew to do the same thing.
Along that note, be proactive and think ahead. When you’re standing in someone’s private office or living room, that isn’t the time to start planning. You can’t be ready for everything, but as much as possible, remember that you’re not in a studio, and planning ahead respects people’s time.
Scout the location, know where the power is, and listen for the noise level outside. Knowing little things like that ahead of time, will cut your setup time (and the interviewee’s anxiety) dramatically.
Interviews are so important, and millions are filmed everyday around the world. But no matter how great your camera, lighting setup, or audio gear, if you don’t do everything you can to make the interviewer comfortable and confident, the resulting product will be a disappointment.
Here’s to your next great interview!