Interviews range from casual street encounters to friendly chats and probing interviews.
Here are a variety of areas to consider and techniques that you can use to capture an effective interview:
• Why is this person being interviewed? Is he or she a well-known person? Has he or she done something unusual? Or seen something unusual? Is an expert explaining something or giving an opinion? Whatever the reason, this information will form the basis for the type of questions and influences how you approach the interview.
• Preliminary research on the person always pays off, whether this takes the form of reading the person's book, biography, newspaper profile, or just asking around.
• Try to get to know guests whenever possible before the recording begins. This will put them at ease. It is also a good time to explain what will be happening during shooting.
• Avoid going over the whole interview in advance. You don't want the recorded version to lose its freshness. In addition, the talent may leave out information during the second time, thinking that he or she has already covered those points. If that happens, the interviewer can always prompt the talent by saying, "Earlier, you were telling me ... "
• Does the guest have any personal items, such as mementos or family album photos, that would be interesting to show during the recording? These may be shot later as cutaway or insert shots. It would also be good to let the guest know, before the interview begins, when the personal items will be discussed during the recording.
• If there is a video monitor nearby, angle it so that the guest cannot see it. Monitors can make a guest either nervous or vain.
• Before beginning the interview, test the audio level of the microphones. Both the interviewer and guest should speak at a normal volume so that the audio channel gain can be properly adjusted for optimum sound.
• Develop a fact sheet or background card, noting the points that need to be discussed. Create these points based on research and conversation. Don't prepare detailed, written-out questions, which can seem forced and artificial. The interviewer can introduce the guest or refer to any statistics or data by reading from a prompter.
• It is best if questions appear to develop from the guest's answers, moving back to prepared topics when possible. Do not simply work through a list of questions. It is better for a host to glance at notes briefly than it is for the host to ignore replies while reading the notes in detail.
There are regular dos and don'ts for interviewers:
• Be punctual for the interview and the preliminary checks (i.e., fitting intercom earpiece, checking voice levels, checking the prompter, shot checks of hair, tie, clothing, etc.).
• Try to maintain eye contact with your guest as much as possible. It helps him or her to feel "involved" rather than being interrogated.
• Ask specific questions, not general ones, and keep to the point of the interview. If, for example, you are talking to a witness of a fire, his or her opinions about the
neighborhood may be relevant or a distraction.
• These questions will help focus the interview: Where? When? Why? How? Who?Which? What?
• Use invitations such as "Tell' me about. .. ": "Let's talk about ... "; "Do you remember, you were telling me about ... ?" to prompt the guest to talk.
• Ask one question at a time and wait for replies. Some interviewers get their best responses by simply waiting. The talent feels uneasy at the silence and says something (often revealing) to break it, giving the interviewer the opportunity for further questions.
• Never interrupt interesting replies for the sake of asking prepared questions, and never ignore the guest's answers. Even if the replyIs "I see" or a nod, this avoids a
feeling of interrogation.