Interview advice from Skylark Media’s director, Jo Haywood.
No matter how good your interviewee, if you don’t have a confident interviewer you won’t get the material you need. Flexibility is key. Get to know your subject and work out what kind of interviewee they need you to be. If there’s time try to have a short chat before the camera starts rolling so that they’re nice and relaxed. You need to be doing more than just asking questions. A great interviewer is a good listener, drawing out insights and enthusiasm from the interviewee. Bear in mind that most of the time the interviewer’s questions will be cut out of the final edit, so make sure that your subject references the question in their response and try not to talk over them!
Make sure you’re prepared for your interview. Do some research and make sure you have an idea of what you need your subject to say to communicate the video’s message. Often it’s helpful to write a rough script or a list of bullet points that you need to cover, then ask open ended questions. Follow up questions are also really useful and allow the interviewee to elucidate on their favourite subjects. Occasionally your interviewee might come in with pre-prepared answers. Whilst this may be useful as a starting point the best results are often achieved when the interview sounds less scripted and more conversational.
Time is of the essence:
Your interviewee is a busy person and often there is only a short amount of time allocated to your interview. Preparation in advance can ensure you make the most of your time, but it’s good to have an idea of how answers will cut together in the edit. Don’t be afraid to go over a point again if you didn’t get what you need, but also don’t be nervous to just move on. Bear in mind that you might be able to splice two answers together and the longer the interview drags on the more likely it is your interviewee’s energy and enthusiasm will wane.
Appearances do count! Your interviewee should be wearing smart clothes that don’t detract from their message, so avoid T-shirts with amusing slogans and quirky ties. Don’t be shy, make sure you take a good look at your interviewee before starting the interview. Watch out for the top button undone or a shiny forehead. It’s easy to overlook these details in the heat of the moment, but they’ll thank you later and a little bit of powder is cheaper than a reshoot.
Make sure the location you chose says something about the person you’re interviewing. What can you put in the background to add interest? Is there something that you can add to the shot that reveals something of your interviewee’s personality. At Skylark our policy is never to film an interviewee against a white office wall, as this turns your viewers off before the interviewee has even opened their mouth. However, interviews next to a busy road or an open window are not ideal. For the Wildlife Photographer of the Year Exhibition video is was a no brainer that our interviews would be conducted in the exhibition itself.
The audio for your interview is arguably the most important thing and the biggest pitfall. People will accept bad images, but not an interview that they can’t hear. Use a microphone. Preferably a radio mic for nice clean, warm audio. But word to the wise try to hide the mic as best you can, whether it’s behind a tie or inside a blouse – trailing wires aren’t very pretty! If there is background noise you can get away with it if you can see where the noise is coming from. But if we hear off-screen traffic or bangs and crashes that you haven’t established then your viewers will be distracted by those mystery noises.
No matter how attractive your interviewee it’s always nice to give the viewer something else to look at now and again. A picture says a thousand words, and multiple shots not only illustrate what your interviewee is saying, but provide those golden opportunities to edit your single camera interview so that it communicates the video’s message as clearly and concisely as possible. In our Wildlife Photographer of the Year Exhibition video we weaved in beautiful cutaways so the viewer can see the exhibition for themselves. Even if cutaways don’t work for your particular video consider filming your interviewee with two cameras. It’s amazing how the odd close up can bring your interview to life, not to mention hiding those sneaky cuts.
If you’d like any help with interviews at your business, just get in touch.