Advanced Video Camera and Editing

Conducting Interviews

In many interviews you will have only a single chance to get it right. You need to become competent, not only in organising the shoot, but also in doing your homework. The interview subject, or talent, will quickly gauge the unprepared interviewer as a waste of their time. Therefore....


Before the interview

Start by developing a rapport with the guest. Don't just jump into asking questions. As you set up the lights and camera, talk to the person. Do a sound check while you're chatting so that you can get the guest to say something natural. Don't make them count down from 10 - this simply reminds them that they're going to be recorded. When doing a sound check, many BBC interviewers ask their guests what they had for breakfast or lunch. The simple rule to follow is....


Interview Checklist

  • When you start recording have the talent say and spell their name and to suggest a title that is concise for your lower-third graphics.
  • Make small talk to ease the talent into the interview. Start with an "ice-breaker" question, but not too broad or vague.
  • Ask questions that encourage conversation, otherwise known as open-ended. Closed-ended questions demand brief responses such as "yes" and "no."
  • Ask two or three good questions. More if the story is a longer format.
  • Don't talk over your subject. When they answer a question, nod your head or smile, but don't utter supportive sounds like "mmmm" or "sure" which could interfere with the quality of the sound bite.
  • When the talent finishes answering a question, pause for a couple beats before you start into your next question to pad out the response. 
  • Occasionally, silence will encourage the talent to say something more natural than from a direct question. People want to naturally fill silence with words. NBC correspondent Bob Dotson refers to the silence as the "non-question question." 
  • Leave general questions for the end of the interview to help fill gaps in your knowledge or to clarify issues. It also helps to summarise the conversation to be sure you understood it. Then ask if the talent has anything else they'd like to add.
  • One final question would be "What else is going on?" You might get lucky and find another good story to follow.
  • Finally, record 20 to 60 seconds of ambient (room) noise. You might find the room noise helpful when editing.

Interviews are essentially good conversations. As an interviewer you have to engage in conversation. It's that simple.