Interviewing people about their life gives us insight into the world that we live in. People's recollection of what they did, how they felt, and why they did the things they did remind us that history is not a thing which happened on its own, but rather, history is a series of personal experiences, created one at a time, by individuals, one decision at a time.
There have been hundreds of thousands of documentaries made that tell the stories of people and events. Many use the technique of interviews to give the audience insight and information about the subject that is being explored.
The people in your family, school and community are a great resource for discovering information on a variety of subjects ranging from historical events, the arts, geography, sports and much more. To make your interviewing experience the best that it can be, consider the following steps:
Step One: Establish who your subject is. This will depend on what you are researching and the information that you would like to explore.
Step Two: Confirm your subject. Once you have decided who you would like to interview phone or visit the person. Explain what your project is about and ask whether they would be interested in helping you by being interviewed.
Step Three: Permission Make sure that your subject gives their permission to be interviewed and recorded on videotape. A simple permission form should be completed and filed before filming begins.
Step Four: Determining a good time and place for an interview Ask your subject when it would be possible to interview them? Discuss where the interview should take place - this is where you can be creative and explore ideas for an interesting location.
Before the day of the interview arrives prepare yourself by listing on paper a series of questions. You may, and should ask new questions that you had not prepared, but it is essential to have at least some questions ready to ask.
You may want to think of some introductory questions to start with, so that you get your subject used to being interviewed on camera, e.g. What is their name? Where were they born? etc.
Next consider some questions to ask that relate to what your project is about. Try and think of questions that will encourage your subject to tell stories and details about your project topic, instead of questions that may result in a 'yes' or 'no' answer.
Even though you have prepared questions in advance, one of the exciting things about interviewing someone is that you discover new things - so remember to let your subject expand on things that are relevant, and ask new questions you may not have thought of until the interview.
Decide exactly what equipment you need and check that all of your equipment is in running order before you go to the interview.
Before you begin your interview determine what each person in your crew is responsible for - e.g. who will take care of the lighting?
Make sure that you arrive on time and have all the information, material and equipment you need. To set up the interview, determine where the subject is going to be - taking into consideration the technical aspects of sound and lighting.
Record a minute of test footage before you begin, to ensure that everything is working and that the lighting and sound is acceptable.
Now you are ready to start your interview!
Start your interview with your warm up questions so that the subject can get used to talking and can become less nervous. Make sure you listen to what your subject is saying and that you are not just reading off your list of questions. Take your time and remember to ask any new questions that you might think of at the time.
When the interview is finished be sure to thank your guest before they leave or if you are at their house, before you leave!
Follow Up: Write a thank-you letter to your subject and enclose any photos or videos that you wish to give them in appreciation of their time.
Congratulations - you have finished your first great interview!