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Making a Short Documentary

Lesson 24 of 35

Different Types of Interviews


Making a Short Documentary

Lesson 24 of 35

Different Types of Interviews


Lesson Info

Different Types of Interviews

So I think we wanna share some other examples now of, you know, ways we've done interviews, in terms of lighting and, you know, sometimes there are interviews that we do that are very formal, and the lighting is very formal. Other times, it's more in like true documentary style and we're on the move, we don't have time or the ability to control everything. Sometimes we try to do interviews, and this is something I know we strive to do more and more of, which is figuring out a way to do interviews on the fly, on the go. You know, because sometimes, maybe it's because after you do one thing a lot, you wanna find a different way of doing it, but, you know, this idea of having everybody sit down, "Hi, I'm Ed Kashi, I'm a photojournalist," blah, blah, blah. You know, it would be nice to just sort of get me as I'm maybe doing something, ask me the questions, and then, you know, to capture a much more natural way of speaking. And when a subject is in the moment, you know, you never know what ...

kinds of magic you'll get out of them. Emotion, or detail, or description. The problem with doing interviews on the fly or on the run is the audio background that, as an editor, even though I'm not an editor, but for editors it becomes such a problem with audio continuity. You know, you might have one great sound bite when there's a bus going by, which is fine, it's usable, but then the next sound bite it's completely quiet. So, there's a discontinuous nature in the background noise. I would say that's the biggest stumbling block with doing more informal, on the move interviews. Yeah, it makes the editing trickier for sure. So, these interviews, these have a combination of natural and artificial light, so these are not so dissimilar to what we did with David Goed. These were a series of artist interviews that we did for a project on a mural. And so, they all participated in the same mural, but what we wanted to do was to show them in their own studios, so it was really, really important to place them in their own context. It was an opportunity to show more of their work, because the mural is only one piece of, you know, a body of work. These were also done to be used on the Verse multimedia interactive platform. And so, when Verse runs Q&As, they need a field on one side where you can have the questions, you have a menu of questions that appear, so we were framing these up also knowing that we needed to have an area that you could have these bars, hot buttons, you know. That's another thing to think about when you're doing interviews is, you know, especially with the online, you know, digital platforms now that so often we're working with or for, is that, you know, we now can have graphics, you know, on the interview. And, as Julie said, sometimes you need to allow space for that. Also, Julie decided on these. You know, we did tight and wide, but on the wides, they were much wider than we would normally go. You know, and that was an interesting, certainly a variation for us. You know, often the tight is somewhere here and the wide is maybe here. Not a huge, huge difference, but in this case, we really wanted the wide to be wide because we were in these artists' spaces, and we wanted to give sort of breathing room to them. And it felt like, yeah, we knew they'd have visual environments, so I wanted more environment. The intimacy was less important than establishing them as creatives in what might have even been chaotic creative environments. So, this one in the upper corner, look at how much visual information. We cleared out all kinds of visual information to distill to that, but it's great because, you know, you look at it and you're there with them. These are pretty cool looking people in a cool setting. We used diva lights on these, so we used sort of pretty big light boxes, you know, light sources, light panels, excuse me. Something to think about too when you do an interview, in a number of different settings, we've done things where we'll have somebody walk in and sit down, and you just let your camera run because that could be useful. If you're going to, you know, to break that wall and show some of the production elements, we've done that too where there'll maybe be a third camera that's showing the big setup, because it's that kind of video that gives you that latitude. This fellow in the lower right corner was talking all about how he's inspired by this hybrid of martial art and dance, and so, at some point in the interview, I was like, "Could you show me what it looks like?" So you gotta be prepared, too, to shoot it where all of a sudden we just ratchet it out. He was like, "Oh, yeah, cool," and I didn't know if he would or he would. You know, it's like asking somebody to sing a song and they're like, "Really, now?" And he was like, "Okay, cool," and he picked his chair up and he moved it and then he started doing this tutting stuff, and you know. And so, we were there, and you gotta respond to it, 'cause it was this brilliant moment. And then when it was like, "Oh, could you do that again?" He's like, "Nah," and he sat back down, you know? Did I miss that? We got it, we got it. Okay. All right, so then, these are examples of natural light, and you know, tight and wide. This is from the work in Nicaragua, the kidney disease project. So, this is a case where I have brought no lighting with me, none whatsoever. Not even a small LED. Just, I'm going natural, whatever I have, whatever I confront, that's what I'm gonna work with. And you know, you can use that effectively. The trickiest thing about natural light, particularly if you're relying on more than sort of open shade is that, if clouds come and there are variations, it can create so much stress and just be super problematic. You know, because it's kind of funky. Yes, you can adjust your exposure, but ultimately it's going to look different in the course of the interview. So, that's something that, you know, even though that always happens, I still continue to do it because there's that part of me that wants to just use the natural light, you know? But it's something you need to be aware of. And then these are more formal, you know, sort of studio, in the field, with a backdrop, probably three lights here, two in front, and then one behind to really light up the background. And this is client work now where we're, you know, for a foundation, where there's no hair and makeup, but you know, to address one of your questions, they do need to look good. They can't have things out of place. And in this instance too, we've got one or our lights on the floor shining up at the backdrop to create the halo. All right, and then one more example. This is from the film we did called Hijabi World. We'll play that, and then we can field some questions. The most ridiculous thing I've been asked is like, "Oh, what's the color of your hair?" Somebody will come up to me and be like, "Wait, do you speak English? "English?" And I'm like, "Yeah, I speak English." Or like, "Do you shower with that on?" And I'm like, "Yeah, totally, I shower with this on." And no, I'm not deprived or oppressed. No one forces me to wear hijab. There's nothing that really limits me just because I wear hijab. Hijab itself feels like a feminist movement because you're controlling what the world sees. Over the years, it's become part of my identity. It's become a part of my skin, it's become a part of who I am, and without it, I'm not me. I rock my Islam, I rock my blackness, I rock my femininity with all the pride that I can because I love it. It would be a lot easier if I just took off my hijab, but I feel like once you do that, you accept the idea that Muslim women who wear hijab aren't part of the American story, when in fact, we are. So, with this film, with this film, it was a completely different approach. I just had this kind of like, we'd been given this Newest Americans project where this handful of young Muslim women at Newark had done a kind of, they'd interviewed each other, and they'd done a pretty static version of, you know, asking, having themselves express what it's like to wear the hijab, the good, and the bad, and all that. And so, I had this idea that what I wanted to do, so I got a Ronin, I got a Steady Cam, and my vision was that, you know, I would have the camera just right here, sorta just right in front of them, and then have the mic, and let them just walk so that they could speak in a sort of prideful, strong way to the camera, and then also allow it to have kind of, you know, just sort of a sense of place, this sort of urban setting. And we, you know, we did a train station, we did downtown Newark, we had one woman on a bike. We tried to do a swimmer. That never worked out. We did, oh, so you didn't see her? On a track, we had one on a track. A Palestinian woman who was in the track and field team. Anyway, so that was the idea there, which was something we had never done before, and it was kind of cool. Very interesting way to try something different. And part of it was, again, sometimes there's something about a compressed energy when you get people to sit, and you've got the cameras on them, and you've got something up their shirt. That doesn't mean you can't do something great, but sometimes it's just nice to sort of break out of that, and this was an example of that. So, back to lighting just for one second. Do you tend to light differently for men and women? I know a lot of women kinda prefer that more direct flat light versus kind of the side light, or do you sort of have your own look with that? Yeah, well, I don't do what our subjects prefer. No, no. (laughing) No, simple answer is no, I don't. You know, I think I look at lighting based on what I'm trying to say and what's appropriate for the message or the story we're trying to tell. Yeah, I would say that's it. But in general, I think, you know, I sort of tend to set up lighting about 45 degrees, generally sort of off-center so there's a little bit of modeling. And then if we wanna do something more dramatic, then of course, put the light at a more dramatic angle. Pretty basic stuff. You know, and then whether I use fill light or some sort of a fill, you know, a light source, we'll do that as well. But it's really about what, you know, again, client work is different, 'cause often, you've either talked about or you know what is expected. It's very rare that they want very dramatic lighting. Sometimes, but it's pretty rare. In our own personal work, we can do whatever we want, you know? And so then it's really about using the lighting to tell the story you wanna tell and characterize the subjects the way you want them characterized. For both of you, do you like to shoot in a log profile, or you prefer just a built in? Log, yeah. So, we color correct on the back end everything, and so it's much better to work with the most flexibility possible. That said, the pre-shoot, the video we're gonna watch later that we did for CreativeLive, we did that in, it was an EOS setting in a Canon C100, and the reason was there was zero time for color correction, and that's also not my expertise. So, I could mess around with it, but what a waste of time, because I really don't know what I'm doing in color correction. So, we shot that in an EOS profile because it'll look beautiful just out of the camera without having to monkey around. But I'd recommend shooting log. You know, the drawback is that it doesn't look good, and sometimes is actually harder to focus, right? So, there are, I mean, I'm not a huge tech person, but on the cameras we use, there are viewfinder settings where you can adjust the viewfinder so that it looks a little, you know, there's a little more contrast. But it's sorta like shooting, in still photos, you shoot in raw. Why would you not shoot raw? You want the best, the most information and the best quality to work with. But back to budgeting, don't forget to add color correction into your budget, because if you are going to work in a flattened profile, then you better give time or money for that.

Class Description


  • Figure out what your story is and create a story arc or narrative.
  • Perform extensive research and gather background information.
  • Prepare for, conduct, and edit an interview.
  • Use B-roll footage to round out your story.
  • Master the post-production process and create a polished finished piece.
  • Find partners and funders through pitching and trailers.


Documentary film is an incredibly powerful way to tell a story, but it can also be a daunting project to undertake. How do you figure out your story, theme, and vision? What’s the best way to interact with your subject? What about all the technical aspects—from lighting to audio to editing? And of course, how will you get the funds to complete your film?

If all these uncertainties are causing you to rethink your idea of making documentaries, then this class is a must for you. Award winning documentarians and photojournalists Ed Kashi and Julie Winokur will give you all the information and inspiration you need to tackle your project and see it through to the finish.

In this class, you’ll learn how to:

  • Identify a great subject and define your vision.
  • Research your subject thoroughly and find other work that’s been done on it.
  • Choose and gather the equipment you’ll need.
  • Prepare for your interview, including formulating the right questions.
  • Conduct an interview, including setting up your lights and capturing the audio.
  • Create a post-production workflow.
  • Write a compelling pitch and create a trailer to gain funding and support.
  • Generate a variety of end products, including videos for social media and still photos.

Whether you’re looking to create shareable videos on social platforms or hoping to gather funding to produce a bigger project, this class will help you simplify the process and begin creating documentaries for clients or to fulfill your own artistic vision.


  • Photojournalists and photographers wanting to get into video to expand their capabilities and explore new ways of telling stories.
  • Budding filmmakers who need the knowledge and inspiration to get started on their project.
  • Those who want more technical information and skills on how to develop and produce video and film


  1. Class Introduction

    Ed Kashi and Julie Winokur, a husband and wife filmmaking team, offer an overview of this class on how to make a short documentary.

  2. How Did We Start Making Documentaries?

    Ed and Julie describe their backgrounds, explain what has led up to their careers as documentary filmmakers and talk about how to start making documentaries.

  3. Universal Themes Through First-Person Storytelling

    See some of Julie and Ed’s early work and listen to them discuss the importance of first-person storytelling, the integration of stills and video, and publication across media platforms.

  4. Use Visual Language to Tackle a Theme

    Julie and Ed show a more recent project to talk about how to structure a documentary and the infinite options for tackling a theme.

  5. Issue Driven & Non-English Story Development

    Ed shares his documentary about young Syrian refugees and discusses documentary story development. He talks about what it’s like to create an extremely personal project that is both emotional and newsworthy.

  6. Translate a Theme Into a Film **Warning: This lesson contains scenes of graphic violence**

    Learn about the differences between themes and stories, how to translate your concept into an actual film, and what goes into the documentary storytelling process. **Warning: This lesson contains scenes of graphic violence**

  7. Turn Failures Into Lessons

    Look at an example of an idea that didn’t pan out and learn about the mistakes documentary filmmakers make.

  8. Finding Your Subjects

    Your subjects are your collaborators. They’re with you throughout your journey of making a documentary, so it’s important to learn how to find a documentary subject.

  9. What is Your Motivation?

    Discover what your motivation is for telling a particular story and learn about finding a documentary theme.

  10. Follow Your Passion & Invest in Yourself

    Sometimes you need to invest your own time, money, and energy to do a project. Julie and Ed talk about getting started in documentary filmmaking.

  11. Client Work Vs Legacy Work

    Learn how to bring your documentary filmmaking skills to short videos for clients.

  12. Translate the Idea to Reality

    The first thing to do once you have an idea is to do a lot of research. Learn about researching a documentary so you can understand the issue inside and out.

  13. Create Multiple Products from One Idea

    Sometimes you can create smaller pieces that focus on a particular story from larger projects. Here you’ll learn more about documentary storytelling techniques.

  14. Pre-Production Plan

    Before you start shooting, get on the phone with your subject to talk about logistics, background information, and other essential aspects of the documentary production process.

  15. You Just Have to Dive In

    At a certain point, you need to just dive in and get to the work—there’s really nothing to lose. Here you’ll go over the steps to documentary filmmaking.

  16. Time & Cost for Projects

    The harsh reality of trying to get films made is the difficulty of raising money to get the job done. Ed and Julie help answer the question of how much do documentaries cost—from person hours to equipment to travel.

  17. Writing a Strong Pitch

    Learn how to pitch a documentary idea so you can clarify your vision, get others excited about your project, and propel your idea forward.

  18. Develop a Fundraising Trailer

    Creating a documentary pitch video will help you showcase your idea and raise money for your project.

  19. Identify & Approach Partners

    Learn about finding documentary partners who might be interested in working with you or supporting your idea and how to approach them.

  20. Define Your Desired Impact

    Finding a topic for a documentary means you’ll have to think about what you want to accomplish with your work, whether it be a personal goal or something more far reaching.

  21. Introduction to Working in the Field

    Get an introduction about working in the field and location scouting for film.

  22. Shoot: Interview Set Up

    Learn about documentary interview setup, including doing a pre-interview, coming with the necessary equipment, and knowing where you’ll be placing your cameras.

  23. Shoot: The Interview

    Here are some interviewing tips for documentary filmmaking, including how to prepare your subject, figure out your questions, and allow your subject’s voice to truly come out.

  24. Different Types of Interviews

    There are many different documentary interview styles. Some have a formal set-up with artificial light, some are more casual with natural light, and some are done on the go.

  25. Shoot: Capturing B-Roll

    B-roll is everything you shoot outside of the interview and is used to establish a sense of place, put your character in context, and tell more of your story through visuals. Here are some things to consider with b-roll.

  26. Shoot: Detail Shots

    Detail shots allow you to focus on something small and particular that helps to illuminate your story. Here’s how to create a filmmaking shot list.

  27. Shoot: Capturing a Scene

    A scene is an opportunity to watch your subject interact with someone else, offering further information about their life and character. Learn some key documentary film shooting tips.

  28. Shoot: A Set Up Shot

    Creating a great set-up shot involves thinking about the lighting, the background audio, and the camera angle. Here you’ll learn about some filmmaking shots and angles.

  29. What Video to Keep in The Edit?

    The film post-production process workflow is an intensive process of figuring out what to keep, what to toss, and what to polish for your final product.

  30. Identify Strongest Audio as Starting Point for Edit

    Learn about audio post-production techniques, including starting with your strongest piece of audio so you can begin with something powerful and compelling.

  31. Use Audio to Guide Narrative

    Ed and Julie discuss the importance of sound in documentary. Listen for the narrative spine, the unfolding of information, and the integration of multiple voices.

  32. Transform Raw Content Into Finished Piece

    The quality of your final cut depends on your visuals, music and ambient sound, and the editing rhythm. Here you’ll learn about documentary post-production editing steps.

  33. Building Scenes in Your Edit

    One way of creating a short documentary is to focus on building your scenes and try to create some drama within them. Find out about some key drama film editing techniques.

  34. Short Doc Created from Pre Shoot: Resonant

    Watch the final cut of “Resonant,” the documentary that Julie and Ed created for this course, and learn about finishing a documentary film.

  35. Final Thoughts

    Ed and Julie talk about why they work on documentaries and provide some filmmaker inspiration.


Elisa Correa

wow, wow, wow! what a amazing course! I learned so much, I was inspired so much... congratulations, Julia and Ed, you are excellent teachers and do a really wonderful and powerful work. thank you!

a Creativelive Student

OUSTANDIING COURSE, congratulations creative live for bring Julie and Ed in teach about documentary filmmaking. I have watched and bought a fair few courses on this subject and not one of them comes close to this. You can see the amount of work Julie and Ed have done to make this course amazing. The best bits for me are the real teaching opportunities when Ed and Julie are making their violin documentary. I have never seen this before in any course. Thanks Ed and Julie for an amazing course and letting us see inside there work that you do and sharing all your experience with us. I've never really written any feedback for most courses, so this must be a good one :)

a Creativelive Student

Ed & Julie provide so much insight & knowledge into the documentary making process. This is a high-level class that gives you a wonderful overview of what goes into making a powerful and interesting documentary film. It was so helpful to watch them work on an actual short film from start to finish, and to hear their workflow. You'll need to learn the technical nitty gritty elsewhere, but this course will help you dive into how to tell stories on video. I particularly loved the segment on doing interviews, and Julie is an absolute pro at this! Also really nice to see Ed & Julie working/teaching together and how their different skills complement each other. It was a pleasure to learn from them!