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Simple Steps to
a Successful Interview
This guide will help you shoot interviews that are 2) Audio is unforgiving! If you poorly shoot
technically strong and visually beautiful. Also your interview (and we know you won’t), your
see the “8 Simple Steps to CONDUCTING a audience may not mind and continue to watch.
Successful Interview” for suggestions for a more If you blow the audio, your audience will change
relaxed and personal interview. the channel. What you hear is more than 50%
of the picture! Make sure
Keep the following time- you are using excellent
tested techniques in mind lapel or boom mikes that
(understanding, of course, are not obtrusive or seen in
that youth media is about the picture.
breaking rules):
*somebody must always
have headphones on
1) Use 3-point lighting.
when you are conduct-
With very few exceptions, 3-
ing an interview or doing
point artificial lighting
a shoot. If you hear a
heightens the colors and
pop or the audio drops
texture of a video shoot.
suddenly, stop the inter -
Even outdoors.
view. Instruct the inter-
*be careful not to create viewer to ask the ques-
"hot spots," with artificial tion again when the
lighting (like on a per- problem is resolved.
son’s forehead). This is especially true
for trains, planes and
*additionally, you can use
a reflector for outdoor
shoots. A reflector is
(top)Youth pro -
easy to make: crunched ducers from the
up tin foil (the dull side Educational Video
Center -EVC- in
face up) stuck to a piece New York City use
of cardboard. The sun 3-point lighting.
can be a backlight while
the reflector is used for "fill."
*for outdoor shoots, the best times to
shoot are in the morning before 11am
and then after 4:00 pm in the afternoon.
Why? The sun’s intensity when directly
above tends create dramatic shadows -
a person’s face can be overexposed on For this EVC shoot, they use a “medium shot” that’s really well lit. In post
one side and underexposed on the production, the producers desaturated the shot for the black and white effect.
other. Artificial lighting and reflectors
help that situation.
3) Shoot interviews on location. The place
where you shoot also communicates something
about your subject and your story. Generally
speaking, interviews in studios tend to look bor-

4) Shoot your subjects with plenty of back-

ground distance. Video looks crowded when
a person’s back is too close to a wall or book-
case. We suggest at least 2-3 meters between
the background and your subject.
Producers from Baltimore’s
5) Make the interview personal. Wide Angle Community Media
shot on location at a High
*for Beyond School for the Arts. Shooting
on location reveals information
Borders, we are about your subject.
not looking for
"man in the street" *maintain eye con-
interviews with a tact – your subjects
microphone stuck are not "addressing
up to a person’s the nation" by look-
face (like news ing at the camera,
programs). We nor responding to
are looking for sit- four other people in
down, personal the room with their
interviews where eyes not sure
the mic is not where to look. They
apparent. Student’s at the Española Valley High School in New Nexco used plenty of are responding to
space between their subject and the background. They also creatively used a you.
*get your sub- blue “gell” to cover the backlight. The gell beautifully tones down the back -
ground bringing greater attention to their subject.
ject out in front, *for multiple inter-
not behind a desk. Try not to put stuff viewees shot at the same location, keep it
between you and the subject personal by using different backgrounds

6) Never use auto-focus. Manual focus only,

please. Zoom in to a persons nose, focus and
then pull out. If left on manual focus, your shot
will not go fuzzy!

7) Use a medium shot (chest up to the top of a

person’s head). The placement of the camera
is usually right next to or sometimes over the
shoulder of the interviewer. Keep the camera at
eye level.

8) Use non-verbal communication. Keep

your interviewees attention by affirming their
In Evanston, IL, producers from Youth for Social Action used a medium shot on responses by nodding your head and using
location for this interview. They found a private place in a public space that
helps communicate the subject’s urban surroundings as well as a familiar spot
your eyes to communicate.
where a relaxed, open conversation can happen.
Simple Steps to
a Successful Interview
This simple guide will help youth media produc- 3) Get their consent. Before the interview
ers conduct interviews that are relaxed and begins, inform interviewee about Beyond
more personal. Also see the “8 Simple Steps Borders and young people around the world
to SHOOTING a Successful Interview” techni- working together to tell their own stories. Ask
cally strong and beautifullyshot video. them if it’s alright if you can use their interview
for the Beyond Borders project. Also, ask them
to say their name slowly and spell it if it is not
Beginning filmmakers tend to stick to the script.
readily understood.
Of course questions
must be prepared
4) Get complete
and written, but
answers. It’s OK to
dynamic interviews
stop and have the
are not conducted
interviewee repeat
in a vacuum of pre-
an answer. As your
prepared questions.
voice might not
During the inter-
appear in the docu-
view, not only are
mentary, it is impor-
you managing pre-
tant that your ques-
pared questions,
tions are apparent in
you’re also listening
their answers. For
closely to your inter-
viewee. It is when
you listen that you-
can improvise and
adapt your ques-
tions on the fly. Also, simple follow up
questions or statements like "I didn’t
understand,” or “Is there an example?,"
can help your subject expand on their
thoughts. Listening carefully helps you
develop questions and guide the discus-
sion. Otherwise, you may miss out on the
best part of the story.

Here are a 8 steps to conducting a suc-

cessful interview.
In Oakland, CA, Vicki Chan from Youth Media created a very relaxing atmos -
phere with physics teacher Mr. Sears. Also notice how there is plenty of space
1) Help the interviewee feel relaxed. between Mr. Sears and the background. The out-of-focus fuzziness of the
background really brings attention to Mr. Sears while still managing to commu -
Smile, joke and make light conversation nicate the classroom environment in which he works.
while your team sets up.

2) Casually get the camera rolling. Keep the

light conversation going when the camera light
turns red.
Question: Is there poverty in your com-
Answer: Yes, there is. (INCOMPLETE
Stop the interview, and ask you intervie -
wee to complete the answer.
Question: Is there poverty in your com-
Answer: Yes, there is poverty in my com-
munity. (COMPLETE)

5) Stop the interview if needed (but keep the

tape rolling). Inform your interviewee that they
can stop the interview if they would like to repeat
or rephrase something.

6) Keep the camera rolling. Until the intervie-

wee gets up to take off the mic, keep on shoot-
ing, even after your questions are done.
Sometimes they express afterthoughts that are
revealing to your story.

7) Thank your interviewee.

8) Watch, discuss, log! As soon as you can,

watch the interview and discuss how it could
have been done better. Is it technically sound?
Does it look great? Can you hear the audio per-
fectly? Are the interviewees answers complete?
Is there information that was not revealed? Log
this footage immediately using timecode as a
reference for the tape.