The Art of the Interview
We could do a whole class on interviews. There probably is a creative live class just on interviews, but I want to demystify it a little bit and just talk about some basics because it can be a very important part as you move away from photography and into thinking about working with sound and it's often one of the first steps where you think, oh, I've been photographing this person for a long time, but I really want to hear their voice. I want to interview them. I want to hear what they think about this thing that I've been looking at. The interview is often the first step. Let's do some basics and I'm going to show you a video where we use an interview I think very much in this kind of way. Set up a nice, simple shot. You know, something nice and clean. If you've got a terrible background, or if you've got a terrible situation try to find a window, a light source that's nice and clean. Put someone in front of that so that the light from that light source is hitting their face and do s...
omething nice and tight. Two cameras is great. That's it's own kind of thing. That's a great thing to do because it means that you can cut. It's very awkward if it's just someone's face and you want to cut around something that they've said another angle allows you to cut away from something and skip over something that I said, as opposed to them talking and all of the sudden, blurp, and there's a little jump cut in there and it's like, oh, that director just skipped something that they said. When you have two cameras you're saying, well, I used to go to the supermarket everyday and then the next important thing that they say a second camera right here (snap) it just gets you right to that second idea that you need without having to obviously skip over material. Does that make sense to people? Okay. It's very important to ask open-ended questions. You don't want to say, did that make you sad? Well, yes. So, I've asked all the interesting part of that, the sadness part. The answer, yes, has nothing in there. How did that make you feel? Is a very different way about asking about something. What do you think about that? Not, did that make you angry? What do you think about that? What was your emotional state during that? Why do you think that happened? All of these open-ended questions that people can't say just yes or no to. You should encourage full answers, and by this I don't just mean the open-ended, but most likely in your interview setting your editor is not going to use your voice. Every now and then some directors choose to keep their questions in there, but often you just want to hear testimony from someone. You don't care about the director sitting there in the chair asking these questions. You just want this open flow of information. So, encourage full answers. I always start off an interview by saying, listen, they're not going to hear my voice, so, if I ask you, what did you have for breakfast today, don't just say cereal, say I had cereal for breakfast or for breakfast I had cereal this morning. Encourage them, and when you hear them not doing it, stop and say, sorry, can you tell me that again. It sucks in the moment. It's terrible to do in the moment. It feels very awkward, but it's way better to have it as a full statement, a full answer in camera then to have to be like, oh, I don't know what they're talking about. Same thing with names. Someone's talking about their sister or their spouse and they say her, well, I hate when she does that. We might not know who she is. I hate when my wife does that. I hate when my sister does that. You just try to encourage people to really incorporate as much information in their answers as possible. When people are talking, and this is something photographers are so bad at because in photography we are very good with people. We're great with gaining access and working with people and so much of it is because we've learned how to really communicate with people and in video you have to kind of reign that back in. You have to continue to connect with people, but you have to shut up because if you're talking while they're talking you can't use it and you need to let them answer and then not only answer and have a space after that, in my opinion, let them answer in that space where there's no talking afterwards is so important too. That thing where someone says, it just makes me crazy that these laws still exist this way and then they go. That's an important moment. That says just as much as the statement that they just made and if you're quick to fill up the dead space, which is why I find why we often do it. We're so good as photographers at making people comfortable and kind of holding their hand through this really tough access that we've done it so much that we are a crutch for people. We don't ever want to let them fall and in this you have to back off and let people live in that space, in that awkward space a little bit more because it's these in between moments that tell you a lot. So, don't fill up the space. It's really hard, or fill it up silently. Fill it up by being like, you know, really communicate to someone that you're hearing them and you're listening to them, but quietly. It's very, very important, but also that space at the end in addition to just wrecking your shot it also will kind of wreck your editor's ability to work with that material. So, if someone says, it makes me so angry that these laws exist and you go, I know! That can't drop and they might not be able to cut with it, so you have to give real pause at the end of these answers, so, that there's kind of a drop, but also that there's an opportunity for that editor to kind of move things around if they need to. And lastly, you should always collect what's called room tone at the end of the interview, and this is often a great opportunity to do a video portrait at the same time. You say to your subject, now that we're done I need 30 seconds just of everyone being quiet, just the sound of the room, the room tone for my editor. Why don't you just look directly into the lens and we're just going to be quiet for 30 seconds? Someone kind of giving a straight to camera portrait might be useful at some point, maybe not, but you have it, but it's very important that that editor has just quiet stuff that if he needs to kind of plug it in somewhere there's the sound of the room without people constantly talking over it.