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Interviews 3: The Interview

Greet the Interviewee

The interviewer should greet the subject(s) upon arrival and make them feel as comfortable as possible. This is the time to take care of any preliminaries, including answering questions and signing the release, while the crew finishes the set-up.

Seat the interviewee and ask them continue to talk while the crew makes adjustments. Position the interviewer next to the camera on the same level, so the conversation will look comfortable. Make sure there is enough light on the interviewer so the two can communicate visually. Adjust the lighting to make the interviewee look their best.

Place the lavalier microphone on the interviewee. Video interviews often show the lavalier, but you should still minimize its appearance by carefully placing it and hiding the cord. If you do need to hide the lav, see 17 Ways to Hide a Lavalier Mic, 4 Nifty Techniques for Hiding Lav Mics on Your Subjects or Microphone Hide and Seek: 7 Ways to Hide a Lav.

Finish setting up the camera(s)

Check settings, battery level, available memory card space, etc. White balance and adjust manual focus on the interviewee. Consider a polarizing filter if interviewee is wearing glasses or if you are having difficulty with window glare or reflections.

Adjust the framing of the shot. If the interviewee will be looking at the interviewer, use the Rule of Thirds to position them on one side of the frame, looking into wider open space on the other side of the frame. If the interviewee will be looking into the camera, usually put them in the middle of the frame.

Just before the interview starts, the interviewer should cover the points below. Keep this quick to avoid being intimidating.

  • Remind crew to turn off cell phones
  • Review the focus of the interview & timing
  • Remind them where to look (camera vs. interviewer)
  • Tell them not to worry if they make a mistake or stumble. The video will be edited, so they can stop whenever they want, rephrase, etc.
  • Ask them to wait a beat after each question and to answer in a complete sentence. After answering, they should wait a beat again before relaxing or looking away.
  • Ask what they need to be comfortable, e.g., monitor adjustment, body position, water. (Usually have water available anyway.)

Interviewer Tips

  • Start out with simple, basic questions to get them warmed up. Name and spelling, then title are good if a lower third ID graphic will be used in the final cut.
  • Ask questions in a logical order for person to tell story, build to main point, then ask them to sum up afterward.
  • Ask questions starting with how, why, where, what, rather than questions which suggest a response, like did, are, will, was.
  • To draw out the interviewee, ask questions about their answers, amplifying parts you are interested in. For example, "It sounds like that made you angry. Did you let the other person know?"
  • At end, ask if there’s anything else they’d like to cover.
  • Be respectful of their time constraints.
  • If they are losing energy or getting tired, move on.

Videographer tips

  • The camera should be slightly above eye level to create a strong chin line and make them seem more casual and friendly.
  • Use manual focus so the interviewee is sharp and the background slightly out of focus. Adjust the focus if the interviewee moves forward and backward.
  • Wear headphones and listen to be sure there are no rubbing sounds from hair or clothing. Interrupt if necessary to make adjustments.
  • Zoom in slightly and slowly if the interviewee begins to get emotional
  • Wrapping Up

    Take time to review and make sure everything needed was captured on camera. Thank the interviewee, provide contact information, and answer any questions. Return the location to its original condition, using the photos taken earlier as a guide. Thank the crew for their great work!

    Jacquie Greff, author

    Sharon Derby, author