Simple Steps to
a Successful Interview
2) Audio is unforgiving! If you poorly shoot your interview (and we know you won’t), your audience may not mind and continue to watch. If you blow the audio, your audience will change the channel. What you hear is more than 50% of the picture! Make sure you are using excellent lapel or boom mikes that are not obtrusive or seen in the picture. *somebody must always have headphones on when you are conducting an interview or doing a shoot. If you hear a pop or the audio drops suddenly, stop the inter view. Instruct the interviewer to ask the question again when the problem is resolved. This is especially true for trains, planes and cars.
This guide will help you shoot interviews that are technically strong and visually beautiful. Also see the “8 Simple Steps to CONDUCTING a Successful Interview” for suggestions for a more relaxed and personal interview.
Keep the following timetested techniques in mind (understanding, of course, that youth media is about breaking rules): 1) Use 3-point lighting. With very few exceptions, 3point artificial lighting heightens the colors and texture of a video shoot. Even outdoors. *be careful not to create "hot spots," with artificial lighting (like on a person’s forehead). *additionally, you can use a reflector for outdoor shoots. A reflector is (top)Youth pro easy to make: crunched ducers from the Educational Video up tin foil (the dull side Center -EVC- in face up) stuck to a piece New York City use of cardboard. The sun 3-point lighting. can be a backlight while the reflector is used for "fill." *for outdoor shoots, the best times to shoot are in the morning before 11am and then after 4:00 pm in the afternoon. Why? The sun’s intensity when directly above tends create dramatic shadows a person’s face can be overexposed on one side and underexposed on the other. Artificial lighting and reflectors help that situation.
For this EVC shoot, they use a “medium shot” that’s really well lit. In post production, the producers desaturated the shot for the black and white effect.
3) Shoot interviews on location. The place where you shoot also communicates something about your subject and your story. Generally speaking, interviews in studios tend to look boring. 4) Shoot your subjects with plenty of background distance. Video looks crowded when a person’s back is too close to a wall or bookcase. We suggest at least 2-3 meters between the background and your subject. 5) Make the interview personal. *for Beyond Borders, we are not looking for "man in the street" interviews with a microphone stuck up to a person’s face (like news programs). We are looking for sitdown, personal interviews where the mic is not apparent.
Producers from Baltimore’s Wide Angle Community Media shot on location at a High School for the Arts. Shooting on location reveals information about your subject.
*get your subject out in front, not behind a desk. Try not to put stuff between you and the subject
Student’s at the Española Valley High School in New Nexco used plenty of space between their subject and the background. They also creatively used a blue “gell” to cover the backlight. The gell beautifully tones down the back ground bringing greater attention to their subject.
*maintain eye contact – your subjects are not "addressing the nation" by looking at the camera, nor responding to four other people in the room with their eyes not sure where to look. They are responding to you.
*for multiple interviewees shot at the same location, keep it personal by using different backgrounds
6) Never use auto-focus. Manual focus only, please. Zoom in to a persons nose, focus and then pull out. If left on manual focus, your shot will not go fuzzy! 7) Use a medium shot (chest up to the top of a person’s head). The placement of the camera is usually right next to or sometimes over the shoulder of the interviewer. Keep the camera at eye level. 8) Use non-verbal communication. Keep your interviewees attention by affirming their responses by nodding your head and using your eyes to communicate.
In Evanston, IL, producers from Youth for Social Action used a medium shot on location for this interview. They found a private place in a public space that helps communicate the subject’s urban surroundings as well as a familiar spot where a relaxed, open conversation can happen.
This simple guide will help youth media producers conduct interviews that are relaxed and more personal. Also see the “8 Simple Steps to SHOOTING a Successful Interview” technically strong and beautifullyshot video. Beginning filmmakers tend to stick to the script. Of course questions must be prepared and written, but dynamic interviews are not conducted in a vacuum of preprepared questions. During the interview, not only are you managing prepared questions, you’re also listening closely to your interviewee. It is when you listen that youcan improvise and adapt your questions on the fly. Also, simple follow up questions or statements like "I didn’t understand,” or “Is there an example?," can help your subject expand on their thoughts. Listening carefully helps you develop questions and guide the discussion. Otherwise, you may miss out on the best part of the story. Here are a 8 steps to conducting a successful interview. 1) Help the interviewee feel relaxed. Smile, joke and make light conversation while your team sets up. 2) Casually get the camera rolling. Keep the light conversation going when the camera light turns red.
a Successful Interview
3) Get their consent. Before the interview begins, inform interviewee about Beyond Borders and young people around the world working together to tell their own stories. Ask them if it’s alright if you can use their interview for the Beyond Borders project. Also, ask them to say their name slowly and spell it if it is not readily understood. 4) Get complete answers. It’s OK to stop and have the interviewee repeat an answer. As your voice might not appear in the documentary, it is important that your questions are apparent in their answers. For example:
Simple Steps to
In Oakland, CA, Vicki Chan from Youth Media created a very relaxing atmos phere with physics teacher Mr. Sears. Also notice how there is plenty of space between Mr. Sears and the background. The out-of-focus fuzziness of the background really brings attention to Mr. Sears while still managing to commu nicate the classroom environment in which he works.
Question: Is there poverty in your community? Answer: Yes, there is. (INCOMPLETE ANSWER) Stop the interview, and ask you intervie wee to complete the answer. Question: Is there poverty in your community? Answer: Yes, there is poverty in my community. (COMPLETE) 5) Stop the interview if needed (but keep the tape rolling). Inform your interviewee that they can stop the interview if they would like to repeat or rephrase something. 6) Keep the camera rolling. Until the interviewee gets up to take off the mic, keep on shooting, even after your questions are done. Sometimes they express afterthoughts that are revealing to your story. 7) Thank your interviewee. 8) Watch, discuss, log! As soon as you can, watch the interview and discuss how it could have been done better. Is it technically sound? Does it look great? Can you hear the audio perfectly? Are the interviewees answers complete? Is there information that was not revealed? Log this footage immediately using timecode as a reference for the tape.