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Shooting Documentary Short Films

Lesson 8 of 16

Interview Questions That Yield Usable Answers

Griffin Hammond

Shooting Documentary Short Films

Griffin Hammond

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Lesson Info

8. Interview Questions That Yield Usable Answers

Lesson Info

Interview Questions That Yield Usable Answers

So now I want to talk about the actual questions I ask because we didn't talk about that in here we skipped right over the whole interview and what I do is I go back to that story circle dan harmon story circle you need go search find take return change and I wanna make sure hitting those points right that's a good checklist for me although I don't always need it because a lot of times I go into these interviews just genuinely curious and hopefully the projects you're working on you are excited about them and you really want to know the answer to some questions ask those questions and keep asking them until you get the right answer like sometimes people just answer really poorly the first time and like I showed you the more feedback you give people, the better you can kind of tell them with your eyes if they're going in the right direction or not I try to avoid yes or no questions because if it's a bad interview subject of its kid and I say hey was the was the event really fun today? Y...

eah all right, well that's I can't use that at all so it's more like tell me well what the most fun thing about today wass and the bouncy castle was great, but you know you get different answers depending on how you frame it and with adults they're usually better like, especially in business is if you're talking to an executive, they usually know that they're supposed to, like, reframe the question or better yet, they've gone through media training and they know that they're supposed to take whatever question you gave them and give whatever the hell they want as an answer like, tell me what you're going to do for the country in twenty sixteen well, my opponent is really horrible, and I'm gonna tell you about that for the next five minutes, they'll do that, but you could you could control the situation a little bit, and with the response that I give someone with my eyes like with george, I noticed sometimes I just catch myself asking yes or no questions because I am genuinely curious and I just want to know something, and then I realize I haven't asked it very well, so he'll answer, he'll go, yeah, and then with my eyes, I'll just kind of go like, I don't know what I do, but I guess because I'm actually interested, I just like smiling, I'm like, and I I can let him know that I'm not going to interrupt and start again just kind of nods like, yes, this is good, this is the right direction keep going and he'll naturally go like, yeah and look at me like, um so yeah, it is really nice and I will talk about that like, you kind of tell them what you want, the challenge I get myself into sometimes when I'm shooting like the handheld doing this is one it does get, like, not level it's nice that the levels on my camera because I can adjust it although there's something about its trying it's like trying to like was that pat your head and every time something like this when you're like holding camera sideways and the level is this way and you have to move it this way to get the level to change its mind boggling, I find myself trying to get a level and meanwhile I'm trying to give the right amount of feedback and I'm doing I probably look really weird when I do this because I'm trying to like nod but not move the camera, so sometimes I'm just like, yes, that's, right? We're trying to respond and not shake the camera too much, so it is about finding the balance of like you have to be there and I kind of hated sometimes I want to be the camera guy getting a perfect shot, but it's also justice important that they sound good and so is just doing a little bit of both if you can bring a really competent cameraperson with you, I brought my friend nick with me on a lot of the suraj documentary just cause I wanted it to be good and I trusted him. I knew that he shot the same way I do. We both kind of follow rule of thirds. We like the same amount of headroom and look room. I knew that that would work for me, so I would set up a shot. I would check let's, get it all right to say, nick, you got it standing here and do the interview and focus on that, which is nice, but I don't always have that luxury. So with with steven george's interviews, I'm trying to hit all those points on the dan harmon story circle. So after I've asked all my questions that I I was curious about, like george, how heavy is that mold that you're cleaning? Because they're like carrying around that fork lift so they go pro shot he's like, oh, yeah, that's four thousand pounds that's, that's pretty interesting. I'll probably don't make it in the peace we'll see with steve, steven does, but then I'm thinking, okay? I've gotten through a lot of the questions I had let's look back through that that checklist and in an ideal world. I've done a bunch of research about george in this case this was pretty quick turnaround I actually didn't know that much about a mac and what they do we did do a pre interview with steve the owner not so much that I wanted to tell him what I'm talking about but I kind of need to know some things about the business before I went talk to george and it was good to talk to him because now I know he told me about george george's new higher they have that he's a guy that's kind of saving the company in some ways so it's like ok, yeah I think he's the protagonist uh there's probably gonna be multiple even in a five minute film multiple characters and they have their own narratives there's george who's trying to solve a problem a tooling problem and meanwhile there's steve who's trying to solve a company problem and george solves that problem so I go through that you need go search find take return change and I try to map it out in advance knowing that george is my character he's my you what does he need? He needs to fix these molds these big, heavy things he cleans him up he fixes them so they work better on so of course I need to asking about that I need to get some shots of him actually doing let's see where's him actually doing the work uh there's him cleaning a bit so this is his not the most epic problem in the world but this is his challenge he has to overcome he needs to have the cleanest molds in the factory so that everything runs smoothly so he's going to go on a journey of polishing and he's going to start that project and it's going to be time consuming maybe there's challenges along the way I kind of going with like my ideal wouldn't it be great if george has this alike I write down for george uh that he has okay so his need is that he has identified a forty year old machine with a busted part based on my interview my pre interview with steve I'm thinking this could be plausible it sounds like a thing go he's going on this journey he would order this thing but no one makes the parts so he's gonna have to fix the one they have got to improvise search he machines his own part maybe it fails I'm thinking about like what are the complications along the way maybe he needs to bring in some employees he works with help solve the problem find he finally has a revelation and he uh he he comes up with a solution maybe it's a crazy idea but it could work like this is already too much drama for this piece but I'm at least thinking in that direction and ideal world, maybe this is the most dramatic story I've ever told and that it would probably look like this if it if it did take, I write in an ideal drama because I know it probably won't be, but I'm thinking to myself, in an ideal world, george is forced to destroy a part that he loved like this is that, like, he gets what he wants, but he realizes that he has to pay the price like to fix this machine, I'm gonna have to tear apart my favorite jukebox. I don't know, I mean, that would be really compelling. And then or I said, another take could be or maybe his solution is perfect. But we learned that that's just one link in the chain like yes, you solve the problem, but oh, man, there's so many other problems that could be a good take. The return is he finally installs the solution. It's the climax we're waiting to see if it works and the changes yeah, they flip on the machine and boom it's great good job, george. That could be the story. I don't know. I need to go talk to him, but I'm gonna ask questions that hit those points like what's, uh, what's the biggest challenge you face since you've been here and he told me a little story about something he fixed and how it solved the problem like improved production that's great that that could fit in the kind of a climax of the film you actually like made things better and then likewise I kinda had a similar thing for steve that I won't walk you through but you can imagine steve is the guy running the company has a need that maybe george solves so we go to that same that same thing so that's kind of how I identified my question list um and like I said you can you can always go back I mean I don't wanna make the interview forever trying to keep it moving along pretty quickly especially for my editor knowing that we got to turn this thing around today I was hoping that maybe five to ten minute interviews they actually turned out to be fifteen some kind of like oh no steve poor guy yes, you'll find the best sound bites but I think there's some great sound bites in there we'll see what ends up in the piece um and I'm just I'm just gonna keep asking the question like aiken this happened on sir raja is that I was able to do a lot of research for that I was able to read about david tran, the man who makes this sauce that I made a documentary about and he had given some great quotes to print media but I'm the first person talking to my cameras I'm thinking like this is the first time he says any of these things on camera and he had a quote about he said hot sauce must be hot we're not making mayonnaise here that's good that's really good and so I go in I means a long interview it's like an hour that I spent with dave because he's the protagonist of my thirty three minute film I know when you spend some time with him and uh I asked him something about how people told him to make it a little bit less hot and sure enough he brings out the line I mean people will do that they tell the same stories on so he says hot sauce must be hot I was like oh okay, what about that man on actually at the time I was nude teo so I was you know and I'm always trying to find that balance between like being a fly on the wall being nice but also getting what I want and I've gotten better at getting one of love but at the time I didn't I didn't bother asking that question again but I probably should have once he wrapped up I probably said we didn't you uh any system that man is once although I'm I wonder if that's ethical like I'm kind of on their side of like let's see what I get and let's not prod and in every subject but you certainly can because later nbc news didn't interview with me about the documentary and I was like, man, these guys are good getting the best stuff out of me and they were not afraid to be like actually could you just said they're kind of weird us we just say that again say that first part and then had that seconds and it's like they're kind of constructing something out of me and maybe that's okay, maybe it's not you got to decide what is okay in your world, but knowing that you're going to a lot of editing, get what you want ask again if you have to wait until they get warmed up they're gonna get louder they're gonna get happier. Ah, and finally the last question I asked george ended up being pretty good. I kind of ran out of steam, I was do this, my brain just gets like fried. I've asked all the questions I think I'm like, I think we got everything and then I just said teo george, so anything you didn't get to talk about that you want to say that's a great question means it's kind of lazy but still a lot times it works because george goes, yeah, you know what he talks about like the culture of of making stuff in america that people don't build stuff as much and we need more builders and it's like that's theme of this piece I think I mean we needed that line and I was just too stupid to ask for it didn't fit into my narrative model so just asking an open ended question like that could be really helpful to especially the end when you've like really gotten them to open up a little bit well I got a couple of quick questions that I want to get teo from our online audience thank you so much for everybody who submitted questions and we're getting a lot of people voting so keep that going just click the blue arrow we actually twenty five people vote on this question people are curious keira sixty four was the original person who posted it and as we're talking about interviews carrol wants to know do you have to have the subject sign a release or is it on camera permission all you really need and I know that we are going to get into a little bit more of the details of this but people really wantto on answer now a lot of votes so any anything you could say to carry on that yeah uh I'm not a lawyer that's a good place to start we'll say no you don't but yes you do uh we did get releases for everyone here and it's helpful because one on the documentarian of making of peace but also creative live is airing this right now so there's even more risk of you all being sued right? Eso it is good that we got releases for them I mean just covers our bases and we'll talk more about that like I don't think you need a release I'll get into that when I debunk some legal myths and segment for um but just make sure you have permission when I'm a news guy in the field I kind of feel like if I'm pointing a camera at you and I'm standing a foot away from you and you are answering questions to me you know what this is and I feel like what? We're going to sue me because you ended up on tv like you could have walked away I asked you I mean, but also I'm just nice to people if you're nice to people, they'll be cool cool all right here's another question a more general question, but we had a number of votes on this and griffin what stage of the filmmaking process do you often get stuck? Is there ever a point that you find where you really run into a problem and what is your approach to solving that problem that questions from samuel I do get stuck in the anything sometimes uh I've actually grown toe love the shooting so much I wasn't always like that but the more I learned about getting I used to be really bad shooter and I would try to like fix it in the editing just like I was I felt like I was a good editor when I was younger and over the years I've learned more about cameras and try to get better at that and now that the player I love the shooting like yesterday was so much fun just going in and getting creative shots and seeing right to put my camera and next segment we're gonna talk all about b roll and look at some of the weird stuff I captured that's so much fun to me and I'm so glad that steven is anything right now because I kind of um less loving the editing overtime because I do get stuck a little bit because I I start with this great stuff I'm really happy with it and then I always feel like I start off piece is really strong and I start to get to a place where like I don't know how to finish it but I think it's that story circle that keeps me honest if I don't check in with that then I'm like I don't know what my ending is but if I know that I'm sort of like a narrative structure is going to be effective and be compelling to an audience I can always look back at that and go this is why this feels weird. Cause I don't have a good take care. I don't have a good return or good change. It's, usually, that ending that freaks me out, probably because it's it's, an issue of stamina. I go in, and I'm editing for months and months and months on a larger project, or or it's, like I've been staying up all night, like stephen had to do. I do that a lot because I'm turning around for news. I'm just tired at the end and that's. When I'm getting to the end of the film and it's, it could be and comes on, sometimes just like peter out that's, where I get stuck, all right.

Class Description

Today’s media landscape is largely made up of regular folks who know how to spot a good story and use basic gear to document the world around them. Find out how you can join their ranks and make compelling, marketable shorts in Shooting Documentary Short Films with Griffin Hammond. 

Griffin made a name for himself with the ode to an iconic hot sauce, Sriracha. In this class, he’ll teach you how to identify, shoot, and share documentary-style video. 

You’ll learn how to:

  • Recognize and tell a good story
  • Capture high-caliber footage with low-budget gear 
  • Incorporate all the essentials for online and TV news
  • Produce corporate work clients love
  • Find your audience and monetize your work

Griffin will share tips on lighting, framing, and interviewing subjects so you walk away with lots of usable footage. You’ll watch as Griffin shares clips from a one-day shoot and you’ll learn exactly what it takes to turnaround a complete documentary-style short on a deadline.

You’ll also learn a handful of helpful editing techniques and get insights on the ethical and legal responsibilities of documentary filmmaking.

If you want to learn how to tell meaningful stories that look great and sell, while working on a shoestring budget, don’t miss Shooting Documentary Short Films with Griffin Hammond. 


Bruce Gruenbaum

First off, if you have not watched Sriracha, go and do that. The techniques that Griffin used in it are pretty incredible. This course expands on those techniques and what really surprised me about this course is how simple the setup is that he uses to make some absolutely amazing documentaries. The quality of what you can produce with the most basic of equipment is really mind-boggling. Some of the most interesting stuff was about B-Roll and how to use it to create a visually interesting presentation. The idea of a lot of small clips that show specific information is invaluable. The techniques he uses to create shots like the one where the camera was placed on top of a cart and pushed down an aisle was amazing. More than anything else, the ideas and tips I came away with have helped me find ways of making my own videos much more interesting.

a Creativelive Student

Griffin is a great storyteller and I was hoping to learn a LOT from this class. But I didn't. I'm an experienced corporate video editor/shooter who's always dreamed of doing a documentary. About half of the class is the very basics of video production (b-roll, rule of thirds, good audio) and the other half is interesting content that seems to cut off just as it becomes engaging. I'm not sure why Creative Live edited it that way other than to extend the number of segments? Although the next segment doesn't seem to pick up where the previous left off. I've never felt that way before about CL, but it seems like every segment is cut right as it gets to things I'm interested in. It did have some great information about revenue streams for a short form documentary, but I was left wanting to learn more. If you're just starting out... this is a great resource to learn the basics of non-fiction filming. If you already work professionally in the field I would pass.

Tim Greig

This is brilliant. Griffin is such a generous, self-deprecating filmmaker you just can't help but love him. He goes into great detail on just how he makes his documentaries and other work and is so inspiring, mostly because he is a one-man band and produces such interesting and wonderful videos. Thank you Griffin and CreativeLive for offering this.