By Tim Donovan
By Tim Donovan
Anyone who’s ever picked up a camera to interview someone has surely encountered their fair share of awkward, uncomfortable, nervous, and all around bad interviews.
You know how it goes, you go in thinking it’ll be a quick and easy interview, you’ll ask your five prewritten questions, they’ll answer them in a natural and charismatic way, and you’ll be out of there in time to binge watch a few episodes of your favorite Netflix show before going to sleep and doing it all again tomorrow.
Interviews can be one of the hardest things you’ll ever film because they’re so dependent on the performance of your interviewee.
If your subject delivers their answers in a useable way, you’re left with quality sound bites and footage you can use to create the video you dreamed of making – however, in lots of cases your interviewee isn’t as familiar with being around a camera as you are, so right off the batt their anxiety levels are through the roof.
However, there are a few insider tips and tricks to conducting the perfect video interview that I personally try to follow every time I set up for an interview, and now here I am passing them along to you.
Small Passive Income brings this up in their post about conducting an exceptional interview. Interviewing someone might just be part of the job to you, but your subject isn’t always as familiar with interviewing as you are. This can lead to some awkward and unfortunately awful interviews like I mentioned before. But, establishing a rapport with them ahead of time can help avoid an awkward interview later on.
You want your subject to feel safe with you, like they can trust you. Trust comes with time, it comes with putting in the effort to show them you’re actually interested in them as a person, and not just a piece of subject matter.
You’ll be surprised by what a few phone calls or an occasional face-to-face meeting can do for your interview. Once your subject feels comfortable with you, half of their anxieties about being in front of your camera are taken care of right away.
Forbes noted this in their blog post about interviewing and I really appreciate the sentiment behind it: you want your subject to feel valued, like their perspective is important because they’re important.
A really great way to relax your subject and make the interaction feel more about them and less about getting the questions answered is to start with a question about them personally. Where did they go to school? What got them into _____? Who are some of their idols in their field?
Let them answer these questions open endedly. Once you sense that they feel comfortable talking with you, start linking to the topic at hand.
A video shoot takes a lot of prep. There’re lights to turn on, sound equipment to set up, cameras to focus, white balances to balance – it’s a lot of work. A lot of work that your interviewee doesn’t need to see. You’re used to the set up and the tear down, you know what every piece of equipment does and why you need it, but they don’t.
Seeing all the pieces get put together can sometimes cause added stress to your subject just from being exposed to a process they’ve never seen before. Try to set up everything you can before they arrive. That way when they arrive for their interview they see a set ready to go with nothing required from them besides sitting down and answering questions. This also allows you more time to talk with your subject. If you set up before they arrive, you have more time in the beginning for some small talk – again establishing that relationship off camera.
It’s important to keep in mind that your subject wants their interview to look good just as much as you want to capture a good interview. That being said, often times you’ll go into a video interview with a particular direction in mind and it can be hard to produce that direction naturally from the subject. It’s 100% okay to brief your subject on how you’d like the interview to go.
Tell them you’d like them to answer your questions with the question in the answer, tell them where to look, if they should ever look at the camera, how loud they should speak. They’ll listen to your direction and you’ll be pleased with the quality of the interview.
Videomaker supports this point in their “Points for a Great Interview” article if you’re looking for additional information on how to lead up to your interview.
This is one of my personal tips of the trade. Often times when I get my subject in front of the camera, they freeze up when they see that big camera lense staring back at them. In college I spent my years managing and photographing for my college newspaper. Often times I would find myself on the streets taking pictures of people having fun at events or looking natural in their setting.
Nothing says “Awkward Photo” quite like a stranger walking up to you, saying “smile, it’s for the newspaper” and walking away. So I learned to approach my subjects with the vibe I wanted them to put out on camera. If I want a group of girls to be really excited for a sorority picture I’d walk up with a super excited vibe, I’d give them a big smile while I took their photo so they’d feel comfortable mirroring it back to me.
If I wanted my subject looking pensive in thought studying for their finals, I’d approach them with a much more subdued vibe, and as I took the photo I stayed calmed so my subject would stay calm. As I started doing more video interviews, I found this behavior to work there as well. Often times we forget as video people that the camera can be intimidating, so providing your subject with an example helps them stay relaxed on camera, while also giving them an idea of what to do.
So there you have it my video making friends. The next time you have an interview coming up, try to use some of these tips to guide you along through the process. For fun, you can compare these interviews to past interviews you’ve done and see how much these tips have transformed your interviews.
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