Conducting The Perfect Interview
Over the years, we’ve conducted more than our fair share of interviews!. Sometimes it’s part of a doc project or sometimes it’s in order to give structured voice over to a commercial. Either way, when it comes to interview, you want to make sure you get it right the first time. After all, there’s often no second chances While we’re no Barbara or Oprah, here’s a few tips we keep in mind when interviewing anyone from regular people to experts.
Making them comfortable
This goes without saying - but any person getting interviewed wants to feel at ease. This means starting on time, making the area clean and welcoming and having water and snacks on hand. On top of that, make sure they’re chair is comfortable if they’re sitting! It’s simple but important.
If you sense they are nervous, assure them there’s no pressure to ‘perform.’ Lots of people want to give the interviewer the response they want - but make sure you communicate with them that they should be themselves and that any answer can be re-done or re-filmed if they request. Always verify how long you have the subject for at the top of the interview, especially if you know they’re a busy person.
Once the camera roles, that’s when some inexperienced people act unnatural. If you’re dealing with a new interviewee a little tip I like to use is rolling the camera before they even know. This isn’t to trick them, but so you can just roll from light conversation right to the interview without pause. It makes things go much more naturally.
When possible, it’s always a good idea to ask subjects to cloak your questions in their answers (i.e. Q: What did you have for breakfast, A: Today for breakfast I had eggs NOT A: eggs. The latter is virtuously unusable in an edit if you don’t want the interviewers voice in the footage)
Organize your questions
You’ve probably organized your questions by topic - but what’s more important is organizing them from general questions to specifics. We like to start with intros and context, then get in to nitty gritty story re-telling and anything emotive. Remember to let your interviewee lead and think of unplanned questions based on their response. If something seems emotional, good or bad, inquire further while remaining respectful. This is the meat of a good interview - how the person feels about a given subject. It’s just as important as re-telling a story.
In some cases, you may want to share your questions with your subject so they can prepare their answers. This is a great tactic for nervous subjects - but be sure they don’t come off rehearsed!
Sometimes in an interview, you’ll have to re-do an answer to a question. With a big celebrity or other big wigs, this might not be a possibility! But if you’re dealing with a contestant, performer or other person who is more invested in your project, asking to re-tell an answer is totally understandable in many circumstances. Sometimes, the interviewee will want to re-do answers too! It will be the job of the editor to weave this together naturally, however try your best to make their job as easy as possible by getting a natural response.
Another little tip for re-dos I like is doing a re-take of the intros at the end of an interview. Sometimes unexperienced people are nervous at the top of an interview, but loosen up by the end. Therefore, I get them to re-introduce themselves to the camera at the every end. The result is way more relaxed and natural!
Ask them if you missed anything or if there is anything else they’d like to add. This might be the proper time for re-takes. Remember to thank them!
More than anything else, a good interview comes from proper preparation. Have your questions ready, prepared and verified. On the other side of the coin, stay curious and don’t be afraid to ask something unplanned. Ask questions you know viewers would have and always be ready to ask people to elaborate or go into detail. That’s where the juicy stuff is!
Good luck and have a good interview! We’ll see you on set!