Interview technique suggestions and tips? - Page 3 at DVinfo.net

Go Back   DV Info Net > Special Interest Areas > Documentary Techniques

Documentary Techniques
-- Discuss issues facing documentary production.


Reply
 
Thread Tools Search this Thread
Old January 4th, 2009, 11:17 PM   #31
Major Player
 
Join Date: Nov 2005
Location: Iowa City, Iowa
Posts: 670
Quote:
Originally Posted by Steve Sprague View Post
Hey all,

Im new to all this and currently working on some video that will be used as a recruiting tool for my organization. We are conducting a number of interviews of people and Im looking for tips on how to make everything flow better with the questions. Ive shot about 5 interviews so far and my first ones were kind of 'bad' in that the subjects were kind of searching for their answers (very easy questions so I dont believe it was the question that caused the brain-lock) and I believe that Ive found a few of the problems I was having and have minimized them (discussing the questions with the subject, doing a dry run etc. and filming *everything* including the dry run). So, can you all share some of your tips to improve how interviews are approached? Thanks

Steve
There are lots of ways to approach interviews and every solution depends on context; but from my experience in documentaries and newsmagazine TV, these things really help:
- Do your homework: Learn about know your subject and their milieu; I often interview "experts" on specific fields or industries and they are always more engaging if you take the time to familiarize yourself with their work.
- Bring professionals: having a good camera & sound op will not only guarantee solid footage but will allow you to focus on the subject & content.
- Think strategically: know what kind of contribution you want or need from a given subject so that your questions and your time with them will be purposeful.

The are many more things you can do and hopefully you never stop improving your process but so far these items make a big difference for me.
__________________
youtube.com/benhillmedia
linkedin.com/in/benhillmedia
Benjamin Hill is offline   Reply With Quote
Old January 26th, 2009, 12:39 PM   #32
Tourist
 
Join Date: Jan 2009
Location: Canton, Ohio
Posts: 2
Before the interview starts make *sure* you tell the interviewee to REPHRASE THE QUESTION before giving their answer or it won't make any sense.

The other big thing is asking questions that won't just elicit a 1-word response.

For example, you're asking someone if they enjoyed their wedding.

Wrong way:

Q: Did you enjoy your wedding?
A: Yes, I enjoyed my wedding.

Correct way:

Q: How did you feel when you said "I do?"
A: When I said "I do" it was a really exhilarating experience. I had been waiting for several years for this day and it is just so perfect that I can now call her my wife. I have never felt this way before and today really was the icing on the cake in our relationship.


Which would you rather have on tape? The first answer or second answer? Use open-ended questions that require more than one or two words. Ask "How did you feel about..." "What was the best about...." "What about it interested you..." etc.

Start off with a few easy questions to get them comfortable then ask them open-answered questions and make sure you listen more than you talk.

Those are the secrets of getting a great interview - many people will say 'prepare questions beforehand', and that's true, but you don't want to be reading from a list. Make it a conversation and it will make the other person less nervous and better on camera. Make sure you give them something to work with and get the question rephrased. You'll see a huge improvement.
Daniel LeBeau is offline   Reply With Quote
Old January 26th, 2009, 12:53 PM   #33
Inner Circle
 
Join Date: Sep 2002
Location: Vancouver, British Columbia (formerly Winnipeg, Manitoba) Canada
Posts: 4,087
Quote:
Originally Posted by Daniel LeBeau View Post
- many people will say 'prepare questions beforehand', and that's true, but you don't want to be reading from a list.
Absolutely. Walk in with a list and then be prepared to completely ignore them once the conversation becomes organic. Look at the list before wrapping up and make sure your subject talked to or around all of the points your questions were supposed to address.
__________________
Shaun C. Roemich Road Dog Media - Vancouver, BC - Videographer - Webcaster
www.roaddogmedia.ca Blog: http://roaddogmedia.wordpress.com/
Shaun Roemich is offline   Reply With Quote
Old February 2nd, 2009, 03:23 PM   #34
Regular Crew
 
Join Date: Jan 2008
Location: Washington DC
Posts: 162
Steve --

If you haven't done so yet, check out the book "The Art of the Interview: Lessons from a Master of the Craft" by Lawrence Grobel. It made my interview technique infinitely better.
Stefan Immler is offline   Reply With Quote
Old February 4th, 2009, 12:16 AM   #35
Major Player
 
Join Date: Jun 2005
Location: San Francisco
Posts: 542
Just curious if anyone else coaches the talent a bit with the "repeat the question" technique? I haven't seen anyone mention that yet? On the one hand, it promotes getting more/better stand alone soundbites, but on the other hand it can be disctracting/intimidating for a newbie interviewee (they start thinking about how they're supposed to answer rather than just being natural about it). Anyone have any experience (pros/cons) to offer on this technique?

Example (and no, I wouldn't ask such a closed-end question, just using as an example):

Question: What's you're favorite color?

Answer (non-coached): Green.

Answer (after coaching): My favorite color is green.
Bill Binder is offline   Reply With Quote
Old February 4th, 2009, 04:17 PM   #36
Major Player
 
Join Date: Aug 2007
Location: El Cerrito, CA
Posts: 266
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bill Binder View Post
Just curious if anyone else coaches the talent a bit with the "repeat the question" technique?
My two cents:
I never do - but I have to clarify that I never do "scripted" documentaries...

It all depends on what you're looking for.
I think it's always a question of "what you gain vs. what you loose",
and you make your choices depending on "what you need".

If you're after true and sincere thoughts & emotions, it's a good idea (IMHO)
to minimize any sort of potential interference in the free flow of words & expressions.
The shooting situation itself is already fairly intimidating
(a camera, a tripod, microphones, lights, cables all over the place):
you don't want to add extra burdens, constraints or limitations.
In a nutshell: you don't want your talent to clam up and/or to become stiff(er).
Personally, I even tend to call them "discussions" or "conversations" (rather
than "interviews") so as to help the talent feel more at ease, more relaxed.
If I sense that the answer I just got will be unusable,
I usually rephrase the question with a different wording, I try to work around it...,
but always trying to preserve some sort of "informal & relaxed" atmosphere
(as much as possible, of course).

You'll end up spending more time in the editing room, but you've probably gained
a substantial degree of freshness and spontaneity.

On the other hand, if you're working an a more "scripted" documentary,
where you already know what the talent is supposed to tell you, well:
that's a whole different ball game...

Just my 2 cents, of course - and sorry for my poor English...

Vasco
__________________
www.donesmedia.net
bricioledamerica.blogspot.com (in Italian)
Vasco Dones is offline   Reply With Quote
Old February 4th, 2009, 04:37 PM   #37
Regular Crew
 
Join Date: Jan 2008
Location: Washington DC
Posts: 162
Good advice above.

The shooting situation is too intimidating to interfere with answers or give guidelines. I did this once after an interviewee gave too many "Yes" and "No" answers, but the poor guy was so intimidated when I asked for a break and explained to him that my questions will not be in the movie, so when he answers with incomplete sentences, the movie audience will not understand what he means ... After this short break, he was so afraid of saying something wrong that he answered questions by simply nodding his head, which made the interview completely useless.

Instead, I now briefly coach the interviewees before the interview but never interrupt when shooting has started, and try to create a very relaxed atmosphere by talking to them for a long period before I start shooting, under the light to make them comfortable with the situation but pointing the camcorder away. During the interview, I also throw in a few questions where he/she has to laugh to loosen them up a bit.

If you didn't get a useful answer, try to re-phrase and ask the question again later during the interview when they are more relaxed.

I also learned to let the mic run for a few minutes after the interview (when I shut down the light and camcorder) which sometimes gives great sound bites. Most people forget that they are still miced up and all of a sudden start to talk when the light is off. Not sure how ethical that is, though ;-)
Stefan Immler is offline   Reply With Quote
Old February 4th, 2009, 06:39 PM   #38
Major Player
 
Join Date: Jun 2005
Location: San Francisco
Posts: 542
Quote:
Originally Posted by Stefan Immler View Post
Instead, I now briefly coach the interviewees before the interview but never interrupt when shooting has started
This is what I meant. Also, I bring this topic up because I've read about it in several good interviewing and documentary-making books/text books.

Great feedback on this, so thanks!
Bill Binder is offline   Reply With Quote
Old February 20th, 2009, 08:42 AM   #39
Regular Crew
 
Join Date: Jan 2007
Location: Orange VA
Posts: 38
This is a really useful thread. I'm glad I stumbled on it. The pointers and suggestions are really valuable. Unfortunately, I've learned most of them the hard way.

I'm currently working on a history of a small radio station. I didn't start out to do a documentary. I was only collecting the history. First on audio tape, then later a friend loaned me an older RCA DV camera. I had collected a few interviews before the lightbulb turned on and I decided to make it a video history. I'm not sure documentary is the proper word for this effort. Unfortunately, I'm stuck with the so-so audio from early interviews. I don't want to change now and have glaring difference in the quality. Live and learn. I can't reshoot. Two of my subjects have died since I started the project.

I do want to add a couple of techniques I've found useful. Although most of my interview subjects are used to the radio environment, only one has any TV experience. He was on camera at CNN. I find it useful to begin the interview by giving the date, interview subject's name and the place of the interview. I then ask the subject to take as much time as they like to give me a biographical sketch. This is easy for them to do, relaxes them and directs their attention to me and away from the camera. I can usually easily flow from their response into the first question and the session is going before they know it.

I will often revisit/rephrase a question if I think I might get a better answer.

Don't be too fast with the next question. Many times nothing from me will keep the person talking. I usually tell the subject that I won't make any audible response to what they say while they are talking.

And finally, the advice to keep it rolling at the end has produced some of the best comments I've gotten.
Ross Hunter is offline   Reply With Quote
Old February 20th, 2009, 09:51 AM   #40
Regular Crew
 
Join Date: Jan 2008
Location: Washington DC
Posts: 162
I also try to hold eye contact at all times while he/she is talking, and try to react with facial expressions to what he/she says, to give them some signals that I understand, or that it is interesting/fascinating, etc. It's nice for them to have some feedback and by looking at them all the time, they forget about the camera and don't look right into the lens.
Stefan Immler is offline   Reply With Quote
Old March 6th, 2009, 03:44 AM   #41
Regular Crew
 
Join Date: Feb 2009
Location: Chesterfield, VA
Posts: 63
This thread has great tips! If I have one person to help crew, they manage audio. I'd rather have good audio and fixed camera positions than a moving camera and lousy audio. If I had a second person, I'd have to decide between a boom operator to replace the fixed boom or a camera operator.

For work, bigger crews make life so much easier; it's amazing what a solo person or a crew of one or two can accomplish, though - and these tips really do help.
Dana Love is offline   Reply
Reply

DV Info Net refers all where-to-buy and where-to-rent questions exclusively to these trusted full line dealers and rental houses...

Professional Video
(800) 833-4801
Portland, OR

B&H Photo Video
(866) 521-7381
New York, NY

Z.G.C.
(973) 335-4460
Mountain Lakes, NJ

Abel Cine Tech
(888) 700-4416
N.Y. NY & L.A. CA

Precision Camera
(800) 677-1023
Austin, TX

DV Info Net also encourages you to support local businesses and buy from an authorized dealer in your neighborhood.
  You are here: DV Info Net > Special Interest Areas > Documentary Techniques

Thread Tools Search this Thread
Search this Thread:

Advanced Search

 



Google
 

All times are GMT -6. The time now is 03:51 AM.


DV Info Net -- Real Names, Real People, Real Info!
1998-2017 The Digital Video Information Network