If you’re into just about any form of filming you probably would have come across a project where you are required to film an interview. Here are a few tips and tricks that I have learned over the last few years of creating mini docs. The big idea is to simply move from an interview to a conversation.
1. GET COMFORTABLE
It sounds simple but it makes a huge difference in how the interview goes. There are three aspects to this. The first, if possible, try to go to the person’s home or office space where they will feel the most comfortable. If they are not accustomed to being in front of a camera, a full studio will surely make them nervous. Secondly, if time allows, spend some time together just to chat and relax prior to setting up the cameras. Don’t rush in and immediately set up your gear. Make the time for a coffee with your interviewee and then begin with conversation. The key to this aspect is to have the conversation spill over into the interview. The third aspect I borrowed from filmmaker, Ryan Booth. In one of his blog posts he stated he always meets with his interviewees/musicians prior to the shoot. I believe it’s a great way to start a friendship and build a rapport with your interviewee. This is one of the most crucial aspects of shooting a good interview.
Location not only helps with keeping the person comfortable, it can also visually help tell the story. Something to consider when choosing a location is background noise and distractions for your interviewee. I try to find a place that is quiet and I know we will not be distracted/interrupted. This helps the person being interviewed remain relaxed and present in the conversation.
3. TWO IS BETTER THAN ONE
I have also discovered that having someone interview the interviewee is a great help in filming a great interview. While the interviewer focuses on the interviewee and the content, this allows me to focus on the technical side of capturing the interview. Most often I am listening to the interview content. When specific phrases stick out to me I have asked them to go back and elaborate. Also, having a second person makes the interviewee feel more engaged in the conversation which keeps them relaxed. I have been in scenarios where I had to do both. I try to setup the cameras, position myself so I can see the frames and put on a headphones. I make an effort to not look at the frames but instead keep eye contact. It is a little tricky as you can’t make changes on the fly to the frame. Having the person come across as natural is they key. Story should always take precedence over the visuals.
4. SIMPLIFY THE GEAR
As my goal to make the interviewee as comfortable as possible I focus on using minimal gear. I also like to use natural lighting, depending on the location. Another thing I try to avoid using is a lav mic. Normally, to avoid distracting the interviewee, I prefer to throw a shotgun mic overhead and place the boom pole off to one side and also use longer lenses.
These are just a few tips that I have picked up over the last few years. Here is a story that I had the pleasure of capturing.
The following is more info on the tech side of things about how the above video was captured. I filmed with two cameras, Sony FS7 with a Canon 50mm 1.4 at 2.8 and the Sony A7S with the Canon 70-200mm 2.8 at at 5.6. I had the Rode VideoMic Pro and SmallHD 501 attached the Wooden Camera quick cage on the A7S. I find the SmallHD 501 a great addition to the A7S although both have focus assist, the SmallHD is just easier to make sure you are nailing the focus. The Rode mic on the A7S is great for recording sync sound opposed to the camera's internal mic. I then have a Rode NTG2 mounted on a c-stand running right into the Sony FS7. I then record four channels of audio on the FS7. Two channels are from the Rode NTG2, both set and different levels, just to save myself incase she laughs or says something on the louder side. The other two channels on the Sony FS7 are just using the camera's internal mic. This is great for picking up the interviewer, as this camera is placed right beside the interviewer in order to get a proper eyeline. This overall sound from the camera is a great help in the edit. Once cut together I use the audio from the Rode NTG2. I also carry the Sony UWP-D11 Lav system, however, I prefer the sound of the shotgun better. I also don’t really like the look of the lav. I have tried to hide lav’s in the past, but the sound sometimes turns out to be a little bit muffled. I tend to stick to the Rode NTG2, but always have a backup in my bag. Lighting was all natural. I strategically placed her by the window and moved the couch away from the back wall so we wouldn’t have any strange shadows falling behind her head. As far as shots are concerned I used the FS7 shooting a MCU (Medium Close Up) and the A7S with the longer lens which allowed me to shoot more of a side view CU (Close Up) depending on the part of the story that she is telling. This provided me with enough coverage and enough flexibility during the interview.