A Beginner’s Guide To Interviewing On Camera

Your role as an interviewer is essential to every aspect of filming, from making your subject feel comfortable to the timely editing process that comes later. In most cases, you will be sitting down with someone with no experience as an interviewee and it will be up to you, your preparedness, and your skill to get the best possible interview out of them. You may be able to bumble through an interview and still have it come out okay, but why put yourself through that kind of unnecessary stress? Here are four key components to being a top interviewer that will knock it out of the park every time!

Preparation Is Key

Preparation is the absolute foundation of your interviewing process. Learn the backstory of your interviewee and familiarize yourself with whatever subject you will be speaking on. If you are interviewing someone about crocheting and you don’t know the first thing about it; Google and YouTube are your best friends. In 30 minutes you will know the basics of whatever you’ll be discussing and most importantly, you’ll feel more confident in initiating the interview. After learning your subject’s backstory and committing new and useful information to memory, you can begin to decide on your interview questions. Your questions should start out easy, like “What is your full name?” “Where do you live?” and progress into deeper questions after a comfort level has been established between you and your interviewee.

Building Rapport

In most instances, you will have met or spoken to your interviewee before the day of the shoot. It’s always helpful to start building rapport with them as soon as possible. On the day of the shoot, you want to make sure your interviewee is feeling comfortable and relaxed. Being interviewed and filmed doesn’t come naturally to most people, so the more comfortable they become with you the smoother your interview will go. You’ll want to reassure your interviewee of the process by explaining what will be happening but refrain from information dumping. This is when you run down an overwhelming list of things they need to remember during the interview. We know they mustn’t fidget, play with their hair or speak before you are done asking your questions, but throwing all this information at them at once can put pressure on your interviewee. Instead, mention these things as you get settled in your chairs in between casual chatting.

On Your Marks!

Speaking of getting settled into your chairs, be sure to notice any sounds as you prepare to begin. If you have a sound operator, they’ll be doing the same. Sounds you want to listen for are squeaky chairs, noises in the background like cars, or jingling jewelry, which can be problematic for people who are fidgety or expressively talk with their hands. You’ll also want to make sure there are refreshments and tissues available for your guest. Begin to casually talk to warm up your interviewee and get started!

It's Showtime

Listen. Listening is the most important thing you will do from this point on. When interviewees answer questions, they typically don’t know what they want to say in the moment. You need to give them time to find their answer. If they give a long, winding answer, ask them to summarize their answer now that they’ve had a moment to go through their thought process and come to a conclusion. This will help immensely in the editing process. You’ll also want to be engaged when they are answering your questions, which is where your preparedness comes in handy. This means looking them in the eye instead of at your question sheet for your next question. Try to know your next question with just a glance at the paper to ensure that the interviewee doesn’t feel as though they are talking to themselves. Because let’s be honest, who gives great answers when there is no one listening or engaged? You’ll also want to feel free to deviate from your questions when needed. As you dive deeper into the interview, you may find more information in their answers that is relevant to your story. Lastly, people tend to loosen up as the interview goes on. So when you find yourself coming to an end, and if the interviewee has the time, go through the questions from the beginning. In most cases, you’ll find they are much more relaxed and are comfortable with their answers.

TIP: If you plan to take your questions out of the filmed interview, it is important that the interviewee knows to answer all of their questions in full and complete sentences. This makes the editing process easier and the end product sound/feel more complete.

4 Responses

  1. This is a great article with good information especially for first time interviewers. Thank you for the read. I have been interviewing people on camera for over 20 years and I can’t stress enough the importance of key component #2 Building Rapport. This is crucial to making the person feel comfortable, as Leslie states that not everyone is comfortable on camera. Listening seems like the easiest, but for many of us it is the hardest. Practice this and be sure to let the other person know you hear them. I also agree from a technical standpoint that good audio is very necessary, but don’t forget about the lighting too 🙂 As the saying goes, “Lights, Camera, Action!”

  2. Having done a couple of these recently, I appreciate this advice. Very hard to know where the ‘hey I’m at home” vs. “hey I’m at home but I’m still a professional you’d want to hire”

  3. Don’t forget a good Halo lights! Also those living in a large city – you can look up construction hours online. I had to do a telehealth call in between jack hammering. Fun!

  4. What a great perspective and advice on not only how to interview, but also a great read for those who are being interviewed!! I will definitely forward this to some of my clients who very often interview others for their social media platforms who will benefit from the advice given! Great article!!

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