Making a Short Documentary

 

Making a Short Documentary

 

Lesson Info

Shoot: The Interview

With the interview, you saw some of the setup and I've talked a little bit about explaining in advance what is about to take place. Also, the sight line is really critical. As you saw, I ended up kinda having to boost myself up because the slightest bit of variation with the eyes in either direction on camera is exacerbated, especially in a tight shot. The wider the shot, the less you're gonna see that variation, but as much as possible. And during an interview I really lock in. You're gonna see the pre-shoot for the interview, you're also gonna watch a bunch of the interview on camera here. Now we got to meet David in that last pre-shoot video. And he is clearly not a man of many words without prompting, right? What'd you have for breakfast? Coffee. That's it? A donut. (laughs) Right? So what's going through my head while I'm smiling at him is like, oh... (laughs) (audience laughs) Laconic. Oh my god, this is gonna be interesting. It's so important that I'm really locking in with ...

him and he's forgetting about the camera and I'm gonna try to ask him questions that are going to bring out the inner David, right? (laughs) I wanna see that personality come out. Now some people, you say one word and they give you gold and other people it's sort of like okay, that question didn't work, what am I gonna... Going into an interview, typically I will have prepared five to 10 questions. I do not want a long list of questions and I'm gonna be thinking of questions that are lead-in questions. I do not wanna have questions that elicit one word answers and anybody who's already edited in here knows full well the need for answers in complete sentences. So I am gonna talk David through that. What it is that, again, we need to have come out of this interview. So you're gonna get to watch how we prep him and how we get him going. Never, never, never be afraid to interrupt somebody. Not interrupt them, but stop them during an interview and have them repeat things. Ask them to reframe, restate, ask them the same question five times in a different way. But you have to be such an acute listener. Because every moment you're listening for the editable sound bite. So it's not just a question of yeah, we'll talk, and I'm sure I can make something out of it. It's that moment of like, oh, he said something valuable but out of context. Oh, he said something valuable, but swallowed an important word in the sentence. Ambient sound, what's going on outside the door, trucks, airplanes, that stuff could kill a great sound bite if you need to edit it together. Which is why you should use good headphones on interviews. And speaking of which, when, I don't know about you, but I know when I do an interview, when I'm manning camera and interviewing, I have one headphone on and one off. Because I can't be in a bubble and have a legitimate conversation with somebody so I have to kinda split brain. One ear is always mindful and the other one is the ear that's in the room with the subject. But never take your headphones off. It's gonna bite you. At some point it will bite you 'cause like, a battery will die and you didn't know it and you're thinking you got it in the can and without audio, again, you don't have anything. So let's watch the interview segment. You're gonna watch more for the prepping. Normally I would go in with prepared questions. I didn't actually prepare questions for David. I had an idea, 'cause I've done this for so many years, I had an idea of the questions I would ask. In the pre-interview I had learned a couple of things about him that I was going to mine for. And listening really closely for where he wants to take the conversation. So I'm a firm believer in an interview that it's not just about what I wanna know. It's about what he wants to tell me. Because I don't really know the most interesting information he's got, and I don't quite know the questions to ask because I don't know his most interesting information. I know what I'm curious about as an outsider, but I am always, always, always listening to what he's saying because he will probably feed me things that I should ask a few questions about. And I've seen plenty of people, plenty of students I've had over the years, who will do an interview where they've prepped their questions and they go down their list of the questions and then they're done. And then when I listen to the interview I was like, why didn't you, did you hear how answered? There were five more questions. So it's one of the reasons I don't like to prep too many questions 'cause then I feel I have an agenda. I would rather walk in knowing the five topics I need to discuss with him and then go from there and really lead the questioning down the roads that he's offering. How important is it, do you think in every interview you need to get the ID info? Yeah, well, always-- That's something that people might take for granted. My name is, whatever it is. I am X years old. This is my job and this is where I live or work. Just sort of getting that basic stuff in one clean sound bite. And when you're doing client work, the very first thing after you have them identify themselves, what does your organization do? I can't tell you how many interviews came back in the early days where we had never asked that question because you just take it for granted. It's like what's your organization, and... So how do you do X, Y, Z? And we never had the statement, which is your establishing statement. Lava Mae provides showers for homeless residents of the San Francisco Bay Area. Okay, good, we got that. 'Cause inevitably you need that statement. And it's funny 'cause when you're in an interview you're mining for what's really interesting and you completely forget to get what's essential. You can't assume or presume you have anything. You have to have that ear that I only have what I've captured. You know what I mean? It's very different than conversational listening. Where you can infer, you might tell me something and I've inferred three other facts around it. With interviews, you've got to get it. You have to get it in a usable, clean sound bite. All right? Onwards. Okay. The interview. This like going to the dentist? Yeah, a little bit. There's a bright light. Hopefully you can forget about that, I know it's hard. But you look great-- Thank you. So that's the good news. Okay. I'm gonna have to start out just, well, a couple things. First of all, as I said, you're gonna talk to me, forget Ed. And it's gonna be conversational, so if you start answering a question and you feel like you haven't articulated yourself well, you stop and start again. We're gonna edit this. You don't have to be speaking poetry. Don't worry about it. All right. I'd rather that you just feel comfortable. We'll do it conversationally, but my questions will not be in the finished film. My voice will not in the film. So I just need you to answer me with a complete thought. So if I say to you, "How old are you?" I need you to say, "I am 34 years old." As opposed to "34." So I'll do my best to help get you to say complete thoughts, but if I stop and I say wait, who are we talking about? It means that I need you to restart and tell me who, what, or where we're talking about. Okay. All right? Yeah. Don't worry about it, I'll guide you through it. Okay. To start out, I do want you to just tell me your name and tell me where are we. My name is David Goad, and we're in my workshop. And where's your workshop? It's in West Seattle. My workshop's in West Seattle, Washington, and I've been here for about nine months now in this space. And what do you do? I do violin repairs and restorations and sales, do some bow work, and I have a small rental program. What's the name of your violin shop? David Goad Violins. Okay. Yeah, simple. All right, I'm gonna have you tell me just one more time. So tell me what do you do and what's the name of your shop? I do violin repair and restoration, sales, handle bow work as well, and I have a small rental program. And tell me again, what's the name of your shop? David Goad Violins. Says it all. Yeah, that's it. How long you been repairing violins? About 16 years I've been in the business, yeah. But how long have you actually had your own business? 'Cause I understand it's a new business. I've had my business here for about nine months now. It'll be a year in August. And before that, where were you, what were you doing? I was working for another shop in the University District here in Seattle. I was there for about four years. Before that I worked for a shop in Chicago for about six years, and then before that I came from Dallas where I worked for a shop there about five years. And always working with violins? Mm-hmm. Early on when I first started I worked on guitars as well, and harps occasionally, other stringed instruments. It was a general repair shop. And whenever I wanted to specialize, learn more about restoration and violin-making, I went to Chicago to work for a shop there. And how did you get started? 'Cause it's a pretty unusual profession. I was working for a music shop in Dallas and I was doing inventory and stocking and stuff like that and it was pretty boring and I liked hanging out in the repair shop. And eventually they had a spot open up. They had an apprenticeship program. So I got into it there and that's where I got started. And I assume you're a musician? You must be. I play a little bass. I was trained classically when I was in school and I started playing when I was about eight years old, electric. My dad taught me that and then moved to double bass in junior high, high school. And then played a little electric after in a band for a little while and then I... Performing was never my passion. I was okay but I was more interested in the woodworking and the making and repairing. So that's what led me into this side. Do you play violin? No, not really, I don't play violin. Yeah, so the time you spend learning how to work on the instrument is kind of equivalent to the time you spend learning how to play the instrument. So usually you pick one or the other. Not a lot of makers are great violinists. It's not uncommon, though, that they started out as a violinist, but more often than not we're good at making or repairing, not so much at playing. So how can you possibly repair a violin if you don't play it? That's when it's important to work with the player. Because we're all different, sound can be subjective. So it's important to work with the player and find out how they're feeling, how the instrument's responding in their hand and under their ear and how it sounds in the room away from the player. Because sometimes what they're hearing isn't what I'm hearing sitting across the room. So it's important to work with the individual and their instrument and get it adjusted to where they're comfortable, everything feels right, and they don't have to fight with it or worry about how it's sounding. And so that's where you really dial in the sound of the instruments, working with the player. I have a general idea of what it should sound like under my ear and I can run a bow across the strings and see how it feels, but until the individual gets the instrument in their hands, it's hard to say exactly how it's gonna be. 'Cause all players are different as well. And is every violin unique in some way? And if so, how so? Yeah, they're all unique. In general you hear a violin, you say yeah, that's a violin. But they all have their own character, you know? Some sound really big. Some not so much. And it's like people, we all sound a little different. They're not made out of the exact same piece of wood for each instrument is different, right? So they're all gonna have slightly different character. And so were you always able to hear that, or is there a moment where you really master this? No, it takes time to train your ear to hear it. At first they all sound like a violin. And then as you work with them over time you start to hear the subtle differences. And you can hear if something's not quite right or if that's just the character of the instrument. So that comes with time and practice. And working with the player. It does almost seem like a language, it's like learning a foreign language where suddenly you're dreaming in Spanish or French at some point. Yeah, definitely think about it a lot. I guess, yeah, it is its own language, music, right? I don't know if this is appropriate or you guys wanna capture this, but I was blown away at that interview because David is someone who clearly is, I don't know if you'd say shy, but you're pretty quiet person. And I can tell you this, Julie prepared no questions. There was no list. 'Cause when I said to her, so what are you gonna ask? She was like, I don't know, I'll wing it. And so I'm continually amazed at how masterful Julie is at conducting an interview. But the key is that she expressed a genuine interest in what he does. So it wasn't like some superficial exploration of this man who happens to be obsessed with this particular line of work. That's the mark of a great interviewer is someone who genuinely takes an interest in the subject. It's like when you have a conversation with someone and you really wanna get to know them or you want to make them feel appreciated, You come up with these questions that allow them to talk about themselves, express who they are, what they do. And so I watched him come out and almost become like the excited little kid, if you like, about what you do. You went from yeah, so this is, I'm just exaggerating, yeah, this is what I do, to yeah! There was a spark in your eyes. And that's because of the way Julie conducted the interview. And it's a super important thing to understand. So to put it quite simply, it's so important for you to genuinely care about the subject you're learning about and you're asking questions about. Am I allowed to kiss him on camera? (laughs) Thank you. Aw. Sappy. So I have very well developed muscles right here from doing this. I suggest that that should be your calisthenic. It's the classic, you cannot interrupt your subject at all. So obviously it's very basic, it's remedial, but no uh-huh, uh-huh, uh-huh, no laughing out loud. It's that pantomime experience that everybody here is doing right now. (audience laughs) I hope everybody online can see that, like the whole audience silently like practicing. So in this pre-interview video, you don't get to see there's a moment after this portion of the interview where I said to him, could you show me on a violin what it is you're listening for? Because I realized also that he was delivering everything, like, I knew I hit a wall when I said, it must be like a language, like you dream in this language. And he's like, uh-huh, yeah. Music is a language. So I kinda thought, okay, what else can we do? What can kinda loosen him up? On a whim I said, could you show me what it sounds like? And he pulled a violin down and he plucked it and he's like oh, you can hear, you hear the resonance in that. And so giving him a prop was really helpful also. Because this is obviously a man who's most comfortable with his hands on a violin, right? So you'll get to see in the finished video what portions you just heard ended up in the finished video. So I do want you to keep that voice in your head for this afternoon, for later. In terms of takeaways, you did see this, putting him at ease and he-- As much as possible. As much as possible. (Ed laughs) Trying to give him lead-in questions. I often will give, and this is a great trick to use, is I often give two questions at once. It's the best way in the world to get complete thoughts out of people. Because if I ask you... What profession were you in before filmmaking, and what do you wanna do with it? You're gonna have to repeat the first question before you answer the second. Before I got into filmmaking, or I used to be a dentist, and now I really wanna make a film about the rainforest in Malaysia. So when you ask two questions, you will elicit complete thoughts. Often when you give one question, you're gonna get a partial answer. So it's just a good trick. I personally do not like that trick of repeat the question back to me when you answer it. Because it's a very unnatural way to have a conversation. And then immediately somebody is thinking about your question and having to restate your question rather than flowing with their immediate response to the question. So two questions at once resolves that. There are a lot of obvious ways you can play that out in your head, but it works almost every single time. Did you get your story? By the end of the interview, you chimed in with a question, I always will also ask everybody else in the room, is there anything I didn't ask? Is there anything you're curious about? Is there anything David said that piqued your interest? Because I'm only one person. I'm thinking about 500 things at the same time, I'm formulating questions as I'm listening to answers, a lot's going on in my brain. So often someone else in the room, there's some really interesting tidbit that I might have missed, or just it wasn't the way I was thinking. So I do wanna like, kind of think big picture at the end of an interview. Did I get it? Is there anything that maybe we oughta just have him restate? Or now that he's comfortable, or in some instance, I interview people so long, it's like now that you're exhausted and I've worn you down, let's go back over the thing that you were so stiff in the beginning of the interview answering, you know? Always keep your camera running after the interview's done. It is so funny. Here's what happens. So somebody's in that interview and they're answering all your questions and then I say to them, that was great, I think we got it, that was great. Ah, you know, when you were talking to me, I was thinking about the fact that when I first picked a violin up, I was only five years old, and it was the best experience of my life, I just knew from that moment. And it's so funny how they do that. Without fail, somebody just becomes themselves immediately when you say the interview is over. And then they often will share something useful. So just because I say the interview's done, the camera never goes off. I will see some very mean looks because I turned it off. (laughs) 'Cause it's like, I'm done. And then what other visuals came out of the interview? Maybe he told us about a process that's really fascinating. So you're listening for things that you might film. Yes, one question I have is do you ever worry about like hair or makeup, kinda shine off the lights or anything like that that you wanna try and address? Yeah, sweat is my biggest concern. Shininess and sweat. Because sometimes, and quite often, we're turning off an air conditioner because it's too noisy, and it will get really toasty. And so it looks terrible when somebody's just beading up. We keep some basic, basic makeup in our bag that is just like, I have those oil remover cloths. And then some powder. And I keep a light skin and a dark skin powder. So we don't do make up. It's documentary style, it's come as you are. And I don't really like fussing that much over the way people look because my feeling is that this is real life. And we've never done hair. No. Never done hair, yeah. But that said, I do try to just eyeball that somebody's collar is not crooked, you know, the basic stuff. And they don't have some funky thing sticking up. Probably much more careful about it, this is one of those like, I know this is gonna be online, but this is between us, right, in front of a client. Because you want them to feel like every detail is cared for so if they're there in the room then I'm much fussier. But for the kinda work that we're normally doing, it's just, yeah, it's come as you are. But to have basic pads and powder for the shininess, that's worth having. It's not a lot of extra to bring. That's more an aesthetic thing almost for your shot. Less about making them look better or worse, you know? One of the challenges, though, is like when you have a black person in a white shirt, right, against a dark background. I've had that kinda thing come up where you're like, damn, this is not gonna go well. The exposures are gonna be all wacky. So obviously just thinking about skin tones and what people wear. 'Cause we never tell people what to wear, but that sometimes becomes problematic. Yeah, a little challenging. Might giving the interviewee a written list of questions in advance be a good idea? Yes or no? I never think it's a good idea. The only time I do it is when we have a high profile person who is used to being on camera and is really busy and they're used to getting the questions in advance. When people answer questions they've been given in advance, they sound more canned. I would say avoid it unless it's requested or required. I know there were a couple of interviews in the last year or two. A couple of very high profile people where it was demanded. If you are required to transcribe the interview that will be published online, are you more conscious of grammar when asking questions? Or is there something different if you know you're gonna have to have a transcript? I'm not totally sure what the person who asked this question means in terms of having to put the interview online. We don't put our transcripts online. We do transcribe every interview. Obviously because I only had 48 hours, I had a day to edit this piece that you're gonna see, we didn't transcribe it. But for everything else, we transcribe all interviews 'cause it's much easier to... It's an interesting one, it's easier to review an interview in a Word document. But also, I firmly believe that you can concentrate on what's being said when you read it. Because you get distracted by how something is said when you watch it. So I'm always listening for what is really being said, what is the content of what's there? Often I'm working with interviews I conducted so I remember when delivery was great. There are moments where I'm hoping that when everybody watched the interview pre-shoot we just did that there were a few sound bites that you thought, oh yeah, that's gonna make it in. Oh yeah, I hear it. So hopefully during an interview you're hearing those sound bites. The question of grammar is an interesting one. I don't fully understand the question so I can answer in various ways. I think the person says if you're required to transcribe the interview that will be published online, so maybe it is something where that podcast always has a transcription or whatever it is, would you-- Do you fix someone's grammar? No. No. Because again, what you have on your tape is what exists. And the minute somebody would watch and see that the transcript doesn't jive with what was actually said then they question everything in the transcript. So you have to be true in a transcript. It is verbatim. Now that is a challenge when you edit. If you were not paying attention to grammar, and I've had this happen many times where somebody will say something in past tense and then you go to edit and the comment doesn't work because of the tense. Or they meant to say she and they said they or he or something. And so when you go to edit, those things become really problematic because you don't have the full thoughts so you can't kinda forgive the mistake in what was said. So sometimes we splice in a word, literally. And that's another beauty of having a transcript. If I just need the word walk instead of walked, I can actually search, did he say walk anywhere else in the transcript? And I will splice in a word. So we do do that and that's part of the license we take in editing. Not changing context, but cleaning up how something was said. Thank you. Yeah. I was curious about when you're interviewing people from organizations or companies, how do you get them to sound less corporate? (laughs) God, it's hard. And I like to get the mission statement out of the way. That's part of okay, so what does your organization do? 'Cause they all have a mission statement and they spend a lot of time and a lot of money to craft those 20 words, right? So let 'em say them. Let's just get it off our chests. There it is, the thing that goes into your annual report. Getting them to loosen up is much harder. And so you're constantly sort of trying to say, well, what does that mean? I'm a layperson, so I also feel like, why don't you tell me that in lay terms? Because I feel like they can't even hear corporate speak anymore and they're trying to create a video that's gonna speak to a general public and relate. That's why you're the expert. In this instance, they may be the expert of the field they work in, but you're the expert in communicating what they do. It's funny, one of my first jobs, I wrote computer manuals for NeXT software, for NeXT computers. What Steve Jobs did when Apple kicked him out before they brought him back. So I wrote these computer manuals. Now I'm not the most technical person and I said, you sure you wanna hire me to do these manuals? And they said, you're our market. So yes, because we'll try to explain, and if you can understand it, you could communicate it. I've always thought about that. If I can write a computer manual-- (audience laughs) Right? Totally unlikely. But that is exactly what we're doing. So I don't need to worry that I'm going in and doing something about a science gizmo. Because that scientist is gonna have to help me understand it so that I can then make it accessible. So there's an art to doing what you're asking. And it's not always easy. And some people are unbreakable. (audience laughs) Either because of their character and persona, because they're just, they're on camera, they're on message. Because they feel pressure or whatever. But it's the art of conversation, of loosening someone up, trying to figure out what joke or what can I say, I don't know, ask them about their kids. Whatever it may be. Something that will take them out of character. But sometimes you can do that and you put your foot in it because you think you're being funny, and you've offended them. So it's a tricky one. But I think that again, that's why there's an art to doing this, which is to read people and kind of get a sense of who they are and then how can I come in there and make them laugh or make them relax? I think there are a couple kinds of questions too, like why does this matter? And often nobody's asked them that question or in that blunt a way. So why does this work matter? And another one is why do you like doing it? What drives you to do this work? What about just saying to them, would you loosen up, please? (laughs) Seriously, would you ever do that? No, no, no, no. No, that'd be risky. (laughs) (audience laughs)

Class Description

There are stories happening around you all the time. How do you capture them and turn them into something meaningful to share with the world? Award winning documentarians and photojournalists Ed Kashi and Julie Winokur join CreativeLive to break down the technical and creative choices that go into crafting a short documentary. Whether you’re looking to create shareable videos on social platforms or hoping to gather funding for a more long term project, this class will be your quick guide into making great stories. Together they’ll show you:


  • How to “mine” for your story - what is worth pursuing?
  • How to get started translating your idea into reality
  • How to research your subject and optimize your shooting schedule
  • Funding support and techniques from writing pitches to reaching out to partners
  • Production logistics to get you moving, including gear choices, audio musts, and approaching people to be in your project
  • Interview tactics and b-roll coverage
  • Post production workflows to create a polished piece
  • How to generate multiple end products like trailers, social media videos, and even still photos
The only thing standing between you and telling a story through video is the knowledge to get there. Join Ed and Julie as they simplify the process and help you to begin creating mini-documentaries for clients or even just for yourself.