I’m not going to lie. I hate when people ask me what I do.
“Director”. It’s just one of those titles that begs people to want to know more and guess what? I don’t always like talking about it. No seriously.
That said, I do love what I do. It’s actually not glamorous unless glamour can be measured in the amount of interesting people I meet and interview.
SPEAKING OF INTERVIEWS! How do you like that segue?
What I’ve learned about putting untrained people in front of the camera is that most people don’t like being in front of the camera. I’m one of them. So how then do you put your subject at ease and get the best from them in an interview? After all, a nervous babbling unfocused individual just isn’t going to work unless you’re filming an interrogation scene.
There are a couple of things that I swear by when it comes to the art of interviewing:
Have them prepare their answers in advance:
No, don’t have them prepare their answers in advance. Unless you’re purposely trying to get that award winning wooden Keanu Reeves look, trying to say things based on memory is the surest way to come across in an insincere way. If they have an answer sheet with them, ask to look at it and then discard your gum on it.
Get them to forget there’s a camera there in the first place:
An interview setting can be a daunting place for someone who isn’t used to it. After all, several cameras, spotlights and crew members standing by listening to every word uttered can be invasive and uncomfortable. Strike up a conversation with your interviewee. Talk about life, what’s going on in the news or ask them about their kick ass shoes. PAY ATTENTION TO WHAT THEY’RE SAYING. LOOK THEM IN THE EYES. Pretending to be engaged while you’re monitoring your crew’s progress isn’t helping them at all nor does it help this next point.
Did you know that conversation you just had to help your new friend settle-in provided a lot of insight? Their demeanour, their level of patience and most importantly, their interests; these are all important factors to help you to stay in control and keep your subject happy. Personally, I tend to find a point of common interest and explore it. If you feel like they’re still uncomfortable or their interest is waning, get away from the interview and talk about something else (perhaps something of interest that they alluded to earlier). I will often cross a line with someone in hopes that it cuts through the ‘stranger danger’ zone. By crossing a line I mean say things that would normally be deemed inappropriate by the politically correct but the truth is, people are far less sensitive than we often believe. That said, I don’t recommend this unless you’re willing to accept or can afford someone walking out on you.
Lend that ear:
I can’t stand watching an interview where the interviewer is clearly not paying attention. It’s like they’re in some kind of trance, hellbent on making sure their questions are answered and then they completely miss a moment, or response that is gold.
Interviewee: “After my heart attack, I realized how fragile life was…everything changed from that point on…”
Interviewer: “Awesome! So how long have you been a CEO for this company?”
The best interviews are really just great conversations. It should feel like two people engaged by one another, not one person addressing another.
Roll baby, roll!:
When in the thralls of pre-interview conversation, some of the best natural moments from your person of interest will reveal themselves. They’re still at ease and if you’re doing a great job, are caught up in your conversation or laughing. For that reason, I ALWAYS make sure that my cameraman is filming when they least expect it. These moments can make for some great b-roll.
Well, there you have it! Hopefully some of these tips help. If you’d like to know more, don’t e-mail me. Remember, I don’t want to talk about it.