Naturally, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to hitting it off with your interviewee, but there are a few crucial things you can do to ensure you get the most out of your quality time together:
1. Do your research.
This may seem obvious, but it’s crucial. Get to know your interviewee and get to know their subject. Better questions will lead to better answers, and better answers mean more valuable content. Besides, no higher compliment can be paid to you as an interviewer than when your interviewee is pleasantly surprised by an informed and well-considered question.
Before you prepare any questions, it’s important that you and your end client have discussed your video content strategy and are on the same page about the following things:
What is the interview for? Consider the purpose and intended message of each piece. Where will it be shown?
How is the interview being used? Consider how many outputs the film is intended for. Do you need shorter and more detailed versions of certain information?
Who is the interview for? Consider what level of knowledge can be assumed from the viewer. What is the tone of the piece?
3. Plan your questions.
Make sure you turn up to your interview with a healthy supply of pre-prepared questions. Spend time on these. There is an art to asking the right questions in the right way. It’s important to avoid putting words in someone’s mouth. They have to believe what they say, so get them thinking.
4. Structure your interview.
Try to create a natural flow to the interview, so you're not darting around from topic to topic. Start with the simple questions to warm up, then delve deeper.
5. Choose your location.
The best video content is visually appealing as well as intellectually stimulating. When you’re shooting on location, what you see in the background can communicate more than you might think. Your location is representing your client’s brand, so it must look good on camera.
Often, however, you will have to make do with the space you’ve been given. But when it’s out of your hands, don’t despair. The difference between a dark, dank office and a bright, collaborative workspace can be a simple question of lighting.
Lastly, it's very important that you consult your sound technician before settling on a final location. The nicest backdrop in the world would mean very little if you can hear a digger in the background - unless, of course, you’re making a gritty exposé about the misuse of diggers in corporate real-estate new builds.
6. Compose your shot.
Firstly, you need to decide whether the interviewee is talking to camera, or talking off camera. Talking off camera tends to work better for a friendlier, more informal approach. It’s also usually more comfortable for them if they are talking to your smiley face.
How many camera angles are you shooting from? Remember, shooting from a second angle can help with post-production and make it much easier to edit different parts of an interview together.
Consider depth of field, too. It generally looks nicer if you let your subject exist in his or her own space, rather than up against a flat background.
If you’re going for a more artistic or creative approach, make sure it’s for a reason. Does your shot choice reflect or compliment the subject matter? A strange angle, camera movement or mise en scène can be distracting and seem gratuitous.
7. Brief your interviewee.
Whether it’s their first time in front of camera or they’re a seasoned pro, it’s very important that you do all you can to relax them and get them prepared for the interview ahead. Greet them, talk to them and get to know each other a little. It will help the process go smoothly for both of you.
8. Treat it as a conversation.
Nothing looks less professional than when experienced filmmakers don’t react in any way to what the interviewee is saying. Sure, you’ve carefully prepared a list of perfect questions, but if the interview is going well then you will undoubtedly uncover several unexpected wisdom nuggets. Adapt to this, pick them up on that really interesting thing they’ve just said and encourage them to discuss it further.
9. Enjoy it.
Remember, this is meant to be a piece of engaging content, so engage with it! Consider yourself in the viewer’s shoes. What do you find interesting about this person? What do you want to know from them? Showing your interviewee that you’re interested in what they have to say will bring out a better performance from them. Guaranteed.
10. Consider the edit at all times.
From start to finish, you must keep in mind how your footage will come across in the final edit. Was that answer a little too long? Could they have said that just a little better or clearer? Remember to keep calling 'Cut!' and taking a break. This will keep clip lengths down and make it easier to navigate through the footage. Trust me, your post-production team will love you for it.
Whether you’re talking to an expert or a novice, making a video interview can seem a daunting prospect for all involved, but if you follow these tips, you might just come away with some truly engaging content and a fresh perspective on the world.