3 Tips for Conducting Authentic and Engaging Interviews
Whether we're filming a brand film, documentary film, company profile video, etc - one thing is almost always certain: we'll probably need to film an interview. And while interviewing people isn't the most exciting or glamorous topic - it's one of the most important aspects to storytelling in our profession. And there is definitely an art to making it look good, feel authentic, and get what we need for a specific project.
Here are 3 quick tips we do to ensure we're always able to conduct solid authentic interviews:
1. Start Generic
We always start our interviews out by letting the subject know that we want this to just be a natural conversation. Many people are not used to being on camera with big lights fixed on them and a microphone above them - so we try to relax them by asking them very generic questions from the start (tell us your name and job title; give us a very basic overview of what your company does, what's your story, etc). This eases the interviewee into the conversation with a natural progression that allows them time to get comfortable in front of the camera. By the third or forth question they already look and feel more relaxed than they did from the start.
2. Dig Deeper
We absolutely always come to our interviews prepared with a list of questions - BUT one thing we're also prepared to do is dig deeper. This means rather than always sticking to the script, we stay engaged with the conversation and ask questions that we (and they) may not be prepared for. For example, when we were interviewing Shaper Studios, a surf board shop in San Diego, we asked them "What is it about your shop that's so unique?". Their response was that they wanted to get back to roots of surf culture and focus on the art of shaping. We loved this unexpected answer and so we dug deeper and began a string of spur-of-the-moment questions: "Talk to us about what surf culture means to you?", "Why do you think people enjoy the art of shaping their own surf board rather than simply purchasing one?". These new questions and answers ended up being the backbone to their brand video with more authentic and in-depth responses.
3. Circle Back
No matter how good or bad our interview is going, we try our best not to force or push interviewees for specific sound bites if we want it to feel authentic - so a little trick we do is "circle back". This means that we make note of what questions we want to get better answers to throughout the interview; and rather than pressing for them early on when they may be nervous, we circle back to those questions at the end when they're more relaxed after time has gone by and we're in a natural flow of conversation. If we're constantly asking people in the moment "Can you say this:____ ", "Can you give us this: ____", it's absolutely not going to feel natural and authentic - so we just give the interview a once over with all of our original questions (and maybe a few spur-of-the-moment questions) - and then circle back for what we need more of. For example if we didn't get a great answer to an early question, at the end after all questions have been asked we might say, "Let's circle back and talk a little more about the art of surfing." This is when we make sure we get everything we need (and any specific sound bites we need for our project).
These are just a few small tips we use to conduct our interviews. Let us know if you have any insight or tips to add!