HOW TO CONDUCT AN INTERVIEW FROM BEHIND THE CAMERA

On its face recording an interview seems a lot like having a conversation and, it is – just two people sitting around having a chat.  But add the lights, mics, camera equipment and a time frame and suddenly it can get intimidating for the interviewee and distracting for the interviewer.  

If you are a solo videographer and you have to conduct an on-camera interview where you are not featured in the video I have 5 tips for you.

KNOW YOUR GEAR

Your focus should be entirely on the interviewee, not on your gear.  To the degree you can hide the complexities inherit in your setup is to the degree your subject will avoid anxiety.  So, arrive early to setup. Have the environment ready when your subject first walks in so you can keep their focus away from the intimidating stuff.

ESTABLISH RAPPORT

Relax the interviewee by engaging them in conversation before you start recording.  Keep it light and do something with your camera or lights as you chat – tweak your audio levels or confirm your focus, something small.  What you’re doing here is establishing conversation in an otherwise uncomfortable environment which sets up a seamless transition to the actual recording.  We want to smooth our way to the record button.

QUESTION YOUR QUESTIONS

How you ask your questions is as important as the content of your questions.  The first thing you should ask your interviewee to do is state their first and last name and spell both.  Not only is this the softest of softball requests it also helps your editor avoid spelling mistakes when they visually identify the subject in the final edit.  Avoid yes/no questions. Instead ask broadly about the subject at hand and leave the interviewee to dictate the direction of the conversation. Your subject will come across more authentic and you might discover an unexpected bit of information you’d otherwise have missed.  Let your questions create space in which the responses can breathe.

LISTEN

Respect your subject by actively listening to them.  While you can’t verbally acknowledge the interviewee during their interview, (as you might when ‘actively listening’ in an off camera setting), an appropriate nod or smile here and there will let them know you’re engaged with the conversation.  When asking follow up questions restate something they said that justifies your follow up question – that too shows you’re listening. Consider also asking your subject to start a sentence by saying, “…blank”, then elaborate. This achieves the latter and gives you a perfect sound bite in post.  

STICK TO THE POINT

Once you’ve got momentum maintain it by asking relevant questions and sticking to the point.  Keep your questions as brief as necessary. If you waffle on the journey to your question you’ll confuse your subject, waste record time and loose any momentum you might have generated up to that point.  

Keep it tight and you can expect a basic interview to run 10-15 minutes of record time.