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Interviews 1: Advance Preparation

Interviews are the foundation of many documentaries, news stories, and training and promotional videos.

The interviewer plays the essential role of getting the interviewee relaxed and drawing out key information, responses and reactions. The videographer and any crew must cover all of the cornerstones of high-quality video: lighting, camera and audio.

Any unforeseen issues during filming can slow down the process and ultimately cost more time during production and editing. Thorough preparation in advance of the shoot will be critical in mitigating potential problems that can adversely affect the final product and budget. The following steps can help make the interview a success.

Visual background

What should be the visual background?

Will this interview be paired with other interviews? If so, the approach should be consistent. It can be distracting to mix and match real life backgrounds with solid studio backgrounds.

For location interviews, the background should be relevant to the interviewee and topic. Interview an executive in their office, a teacher in a classroom setting, a wildlife biologist in nature, a dancer in a dance studio. It’s often a good idea to get a location release if shooting on private property. For disruptive shoots on public property, a permit is sometimes required.

Consider a fabric or studio background for specialized looks and the most control of the overall production. HBO’s “Unchained Memories: Readings from the Slave Narratives” effectively used black backgrounds to create drama. Apple popularized a series of commercials with stark white backgrounds. Green screen backgrounds can allow you to place your interviewee wherever you want them.

Where should the interviewee look?

Where should the interviewee look?

When the interviewee looks at the interviewer, the audience will feel they are watching a conversation. This tactic suggests veracity and works well for documentaries and other videos where the discussion is about something that is meant to be more realistic.

When the person looks directly into the camera, they are making a direct appeal to the audience. This method is perfect for training videos, commercial spokespersons or business owner statements.

Book the crew, equipment, and support personnel.

This will be heavily influenced by available budget and time frame. Possible crew typically include a producer, director, interviewer, camera operator(s), audio engineer, lighting expert and production assistant, as well as hair and make-up.

Prepare the interviewee

Provide scripts, storyboards and written confirmation of the date, time, approximate duration and location. Give the on camera subject relevant information on what make and and hair style to wear, and a selection of wardrobe items to bring, especially if set clothing is required. See Look' Good for the Video Shoot

Provide topics and/or questions (unless spontaneity is needed) to the subject ahead of the shoot, so they will not need extra time on set to review. If they will be signing a release, try to provide it in advance.

A lot more goes into an interview than just starting the camera and talking with your subject. Having all of these elements together will help make your finished product polished and precise. The interview will serve its purpose of informing your audience on your subject and look great while doing so.

To read more about this subject, click here for Part 2 of the series.

Jacquie Greff, author

Sharon Derby, author