How to Be
There are several ways to approach this notion of how to do an interview. And there's this side of all you can do you know ask these questions, and it can be this long, and it should never be in person and then it's done. And I don't think that there's any one way, I think that there are certain things that you have to be aware of how you wanna be in that moment. Trust yourself and your interviewee. What does that mean? What do we mean trust myself? Trust that you have a unique perspective, trust that you know your stuff, trust that you are an interested and engaged person and trust that your interviewee is also those things and that they've got something really special to offer. This is regardless of anyone. I know that each and every one of you have something very special to offer, and I'm not just saying that to compliment you. I know it, 100% sure because we all do. We all have a story that's interesting to us. So trust that and in trusting that you'll be able to really get some gr...
eat material. Listen. This is so key and I think that we forget that to really listen sometimes. listening is important in life, listening to your mate, listening to the sounds on the train, listening to what a stranger says, there's so many things that people say, that reveals so much in so few words. People are constantly revealing who they are. Listen for it you know just really really listen. So when someone gives you an answer to a question, don't think about your next question. Just don't even go there. Just listen to what they have to say because what they say will inspire some great responses. Also listening, has to do with listening to all the things that are not being said; the the seize, the laughter, the things that aren't words that's equally as loud as every word and I'm gonna illustrate this point by people often ask me what's the biggest interview we've done and the Dalai Lama was definitely a really big one. It was early in my career. So I wonder what it would be like now but I mean he's timeless, so it was incredible. And what's very special about this clip, is there's a lot of beauty in what he says but listen for the other stuff which is you'll hear.
Sometimes spirituality become like old fashioned. So modernisized now something very fresh (laughs chuckly) but interest is same. These are modern guru, guru of modern time. (cackle laughter) I'm Buddhist monk maybe guru of the old fashioned. (laughs chuckly) After meeting with this old gentleman, then this scientists (sarcastic laugh) say he sort of categorizes these certain sort of new emotions. so very very helpful and similarly, hopefully he also gets some useful information from my site. (cackle laughter) So that means good columnist (chuckle laughter) from that aspect sometimes I just got myself as a scientist.
I mean the laughter is the thing there. I should have told you a little bit about the background of that. It was an interview with the Dalai Lama and a scientist named Paul Ekman and it was about the science of emotions and it was about their collaboration., they had written a book together. So you know first of all you hear his closeness with this other guy he hits his leg and says, "this old man." You hear the joy in the room and laughing. The Dalai Lama is laughing, Paul Ekman is laughing and he is saying great things, "you know sometimes I do see myself as a Buddhist monk "but I also see myself as sometimes "I call myself a scientist." Now if he had just said it like that, I see myself as a Buddhist monk but sometimes I seem like also call myself a scientist it'd be interesting, it's the Dalai Lama, but he's laughing through it and he's so joyful and there's a humility there. I mean you're seeing so much of his character in that laughter, in those breaths in that pace so important to keep all that stuff in. I think you know what happens in the editing room, is that you want to clean everything up I mean of course not in a case like this but you just want it you know you strip strip strip and actually no don't strip. All of this, strip mindfully because all of that all of those key things those spaces between what someone says, the sense you have of them thinking and what you get from that those are so key. So I love that clip, I love the Dalai Lama. I love that moment. It was a very special moment just as a note he held my hand most of the time sweetheart I mean more than a sweetheart, he's amazing. (laughs) So I say this a lot, the magic and what I mean by magic is the unexpected. The stuff that illustrates your connection to your interviewee. The moments where you've you know you've gotten you take a deep breath when you shocked by something they've said. I was doing an interview last week and someone I hadn't you know we were talking about the woman's mate having passed away, and how... she allows for his spirit to still be very much alive in her life even though she's in a new relationship. And I did not expect to go there in this interview. And in that moment she got emotional, she didn't cry but you could feel the sort of crackling and as did I. And you just you want to allow for that. And you want to follow up on that, which we'll talk about in a minute. So... be open, you focus on what you aspire to but most importantly be open. Be bold. So it's important to be bold and what that means is... don't be scared to ask questions that might you know there's an elegance and a grace and a consideration that you need to engage with when you might be asking a question that might be a little bit tricky. So you really messed up on that. Not you really messed up that. Must have been really challenging when you did that very controversial thing because you're gonna talk about something they may not want to talk about. What was your first you know, what your initial reactions when you realize that what you had said was so badly received? You're being bold. Be bold, there are these that people open a door into sharing something that they're feeling that's close to their heart. They're inviting you in, whether it's conscious or subconscious they're inviting you in and it's important to walk right in with grace, with understanding and with gentility but with boldness. And when something comes up that might be a little bit tough be compassionate. Oh that's tough, I'm sorry. Or Wow when I'm gonna play you a clip now from Charlie Kaufman that I don't share my follow up question, but there was a moment well Charlie Kaufman is a filmmaker. He did Being John Malkovich, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. He's unique guy very really smart fantastic writer and he did this film called Synecdoche New York with Philip Seymour Hoffman, which was an amazing film. Not well received, but only because it's a an epic film. It's long and it's unique and so it didn't get you know it didn't get wasn't like blockbuster status. So deeply powerful and yeah I highly recommend it Synecdoche New York it's based on Schenectady New York so it's a little play on words. And I walked into the interview he was doing back and back-to-back interviews, sweating just like rivulets and I realized wow he's this is from the moment I walked in I say wow this is he's in a tough situation right now because there he doesn't necessarily want to be doing this. And you're gonna find out that. The actors are really important, is the audience really important you know there was a I realized while I was writing some notes that you know the play that Caden writes and creates over the course of this film is not necessarily seen by the by the public. And is about is the public necessary for a play to exist or for a piece to exist?
Well I mean I'm interested in the audience seeing it, and I'm interested in their than having reactions to it but in the sense that my work and the work of the people who worked on the movie is done, I mean what happens to the movie now is outside of my realm. I mean it'll exist in the world or it won't exist in the world or people will love it or hate it or not care about it. I have nothing to do with it anymore. I made it for myself, but I made it for myself with an eye on having people interact with it you know but there is that it's like, you know I when I introduced it in Toronto, I said this is yours to the audience. This is your movie I'm done. You know this is my conversation with you and now it's your turn to interact with it if you choose to. And I feel that way and philosophically I think that's the way I have to work, because otherwise if you what you do becomes pandering, and I'm very dead set against pandering. I mean I don't want to think about what an audience wants or what they're gonna like or what they're gonna pay money to see. I want to think about what I can give of myself in this work And that in a way is independent of them, although you know, then hopefully it gives them something but my goal isn't to trick them into watching this and you know I have no interest in marketing this movie. I don't think of it as a product. I mean I'll talk about it, I'm going to talk about it, I am talking about it but I'm not going to tell I'm not going to try to get people to go see it. I don't consider myself selling a product and I really don't want to think of myself that way.
So I mean really I thought first of all, I had done this interview over a decade ago and I hadn't thought about the whole aspect of I mean I know a lot more now about this but the whole aspect of having to collect money for your film, getting the support, then undergoing through the marketing. All the challenges that come about that's not just about the film itself it's all of that. And he's saying I don't wanna do this. I actually I'm not sure I want to be here right now. I'm not sure I want to be sitting I mean you're a great person, I think you're lovely but I don't want to be doing interviews about my film I just want people to go see it. And it was a really wonderful moment of having compassion for the challenge that he is you know is going through in that moment of I've made this film, it's an epic film I've worked a tremendous amount on it, and I'm done with the whole marketing bit of it. So my follow-up question was, is it difficult for you to be here with you know be here right now in this room? I didn't want to say be here with me because is it difficult to be with me? But is it difficult to so then what do you do ? You know how do you avoid this aspect of it could you bring a doppelganger? Someone that does it for you and does all the answering of the questions. And in fact I did ask is this therefore really quite difficult to do? And he said, "no I mean there's a part of this that " I also do like but ultimately, " I don't want to be doing this." So it's understanding in that moment. A is realizing that it's not personal. B is also understanding like wow, so that's a whole part of making a film to you know that you have to actually do all these interviews all over the country and how much time does that take? You know and so you can actually expand the scope of the interview by taking what could seem like potentially challenging moment and bring compassion and curiosity to it. Compassion for where this person is and curiosity because they've opened the door and they've said this is what I'm going through do you want to learn more about? I'm sharing it with you. Let's let's talk about it and let's connect because we can connect on all the lovely stuff, like all the stuff that feels great and all the stuff that means you know so much for us in our lives, but the stuff that's the hard stuff you know when you present something you know you see this with your friendships when someone says something that's hard that they're going through that's really tough you're I mean for me I kind of get I feel from my friend always but I get excited that they want to open up and that I can support in some way. It's the same thing in an interview, I mean such an intimate happening there's nothing depending on what you bring to it there's nothing sort of callous or you know I would almost say unimportant but it's just it's so special and potent that interview that moment you're listening to someone. They're sharing a part of themselves with you you're valuing that, they will remember that, you will remember that and you're recording it so it's you know. So don't forget about that. Now I did say like throw everything out and it's important but at the same time, if this is like a piece that you're doing or you have a goal in mind come back to what you hope to get out of it. So you can easily divert your way but maybe ask one or two questions that brings you back to the reason why you decide to do this. At the same time so it sounds like it's contradictory it's not. Allow for a new reason just like the lack of my story. So be focused on what you're aspiring to but allow for something else to emerge. So yeah that's really just to just to review it the things that I think are probably most important in this list are more listening and that's again not just for... Someone was someone was saying on the project that we did Coming Home on interviewing people who are living on the street, that they were excited by the fact that the interviews were so articulate. And I was saying that when you've really listened to someone it allows them to bring their best self forward which allows for the best tape. You know if you're really listening they're gonna they're like wow this person is actually interested, they're truly are. I'm gonna shine and therefore the tapes going to shine. And so listening is the the boldness is also very important and it goes hand in hand with the listening because like I said, when you listen someone opens up in a way, and I walk through that door and then of course you know ,allow for the discovery of new material.