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Old September 10th, 2008, 10:02 PM   #1
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How To Relax Your Subject for an Interview?

I've done some interviews for love stories, and I'm really trying to figure out how to get people more relaxed and comfortable with the cameras and lights and questions. I already try to ask them simple and easy questions up first, and I try to be relaxed myself so they feel comfortable. But it's hard for people to relax in an interview situation, so I'm wondering if any of you have any good tips to share?

- I did search the forums and found nothing on this
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Old September 11th, 2008, 04:00 AM   #2
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1. Disable the big red "Record" LED indicator at the front of your camera.
2. Chat about other stuff and "drift" into the interview, if possible with them not knowing when recording actually started.
3. Make it as fun as possible. You need to be relaxed/smiling/good NVC and body posture as well.

I'm no expert but these are the things I've learnt the hard way the last 2 weeks!
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Old September 11th, 2008, 06:09 AM   #3
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3 shots of vodka work wonders ;-)

OK maybe not but I agree with Andy. Turn off the big red eye, have the lights ON when they walk in to the set don't even mic them up yet. Have them sit and relax as much as they can offer something to drink (here's where the vodka comes in) then casually start the camera and jusr have a normal conversation. Get them laughing relaxing (more vodka if needed) and then say something about putting the mic on them but keeping it light, it aint brain surgery so no serious face looks, and just keep them talking about anything else. Once they've gotten comfortable THEN start the interview but do it as a casual normal thing. Meaning just ask a question as if it just sort of popped into your head. "hey how did you guys meet?" just real off the cuff.
Also maybe a boom mic instead of a lav so you don't have to mic them up???
Don't forget the vodka!

Don
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Old September 11th, 2008, 06:42 AM   #4
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Good advice. Covering that tally light is important. Otherwise, guests will constantly hunt for the "live" camera.

Seat them in the interview chair and make small talk to help them relax. Then, explain what will be happening and remind them to focus on you and ignore the cameras, light, etc. It may not work completely, but it definately helps.
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Old September 11th, 2008, 06:45 AM   #5
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All that's been said before is good.
Get to know them beforehand.
Make sure they have confidence in you.
Make sure you have plenty of time.
Don't expect to use anything from the first part of the conversation. So ask questions that aren't really important to begin with.
Explain the rules upfront ie that you can't joke and laugh along with them because it will be picked up by the mic.
If you need them to incorporate your questions into their answer (so that the audience can understand the answer out of context) let them know that upfront.
Create a relaxed atmosphere.
Do have a lot of questions. Write them down if you need to. Keep them up your sleeve in case you run out of questions or get an awkward silence.
But don't try to script it and control the conversation.
Absolutely do not tell them what you want them to say and try to get them to say it - unless they are professional actors it won't work.
Listen to what they saying and let them run with it when they want to.
Getting it to flow is more important than getting everything right all the time.
If something isn't working out don't labour it. Park it and come back to it later if necessary.
Maintain eye contact.
Talk to them with your eyes.
Show them you are interested in what they are saying.
Encourage them.
You will often get the best stuff right at the end when everyone figures that it's finished. Remember that and don't waste it.
If you are a one man band you don't have any choice but if you can pay someone to operate the camera too then you can probably do a better job interviewing them.
However there is also something to be said for just you and them. It's more intimate. Just try not to let the kit get in the way too much.
If you haven't done so, learn to use your kit inside out including any new equipment so that you aren't having to worry about technical stuff (I'm talking about an ideal world here!)
Make sure that they are comfortable; not too hot or too cold; don't need to use the bathroom; that they aren't being blinded by lights; that there is drinking water on hand etc etc
Observe their demeanour and take a break if they are flagging.
I usually try to give them some sense about how the film is going to shape up and how this bit will fit into it ie so that they can understand why and what they are doing. But I can't say that's a must-do.
Overall it should be interesting and fun, fun, fun.
Everyone has something interesting to say. If necessary try to work out what that might be beforehand.
If you aren't enjoying it they probably won't be and the audience for the film won't be either.
I think of it as you are a tugboat and they are a huge ship. You want them to keep their forward momentum whilst you pull from one side or another to try to steer them in the right direction. If you pull too hard you lose the momentum.
This should probably be in the documentary techniques forum ;-)
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Old September 11th, 2008, 11:12 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Andy Wilkinson View Post
1. Disable the big red "Record" LED indicator at the front of your camera.
2. Chat about other stuff and "drift" into the interview, if possible with them not knowing when recording actually started.
3. Make it as fun as possible. You need to be relaxed/smiling/good NVC and body posture as well.

I'm no expert but these are the things I've learnt the hard way the last 2 weeks!
#1 - Did it already.

#2 - Tried to do this, but only had an hour to do both interviews. I spent about 5 minutes warming them up, and about 10-15 minutes for the main interview.

#3 - Tried to do this as well.

Thanks for the tips.
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Old September 11th, 2008, 11:16 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Don Bloom View Post
3 shots of vodka work wonders ;-)

OK maybe not but I agree with Andy. Turn off the big red eye, have the lights ON when they walk in to the set don't even mic them up yet. Have them sit and relax as much as they can offer something to drink (here's where the vodka comes in) then casually start the camera and jusr have a normal conversation. Get them laughing relaxing (more vodka if needed) and then say something about putting the mic on them but keeping it light, it aint brain surgery so no serious face looks, and just keep them talking about anything else. Once they've gotten comfortable THEN start the interview but do it as a casual normal thing. Meaning just ask a question as if it just sort of popped into your head. "hey how did you guys meet?" just real off the cuff.
Also maybe a boom mic instead of a lav so you don't have to mic them up???
Don't forget the vodka!

Don

lol .. I wanted to suggest a drink to loosen them up, but we were driving afterwards for the 2nd part of the shoot. Plus, the interviews were at 9am. Probably not the best time to have a drink, heh.

Great tip on the boom mic. That was something I actually did. I didn't even use LAV mics because I wanted to be less intrusive to them. I also had the lights on when they came in and tried to ask questions like you said. I also would just have conversational moments with them during the interview to try and keep them at ease. I couldn't use the audio from those portions, but I think it helps to keep them loose. I mostly did this after they struggled with a question. Thanks, Don!
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Old September 11th, 2008, 11:29 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Richard Gooderick View Post
All that's been said before is good.
Get to know them beforehand.
Make sure they have confidence in you.
Make sure you have plenty of time.
Don't expect to use anything from the first part of the conversation. So ask questions that aren't really important to begin with.
Explain the rules upfront ie that you can't joke and laugh along with them because it will be picked up by the mic.
If you need them to incorporate your questions into their answer (so that the audience can understand the answer out of context) let them know that upfront.
Create a relaxed atmosphere.
Do have a lot of questions. Write them down if you need to. Keep them up your sleeve in case you run out of questions or get an awkward silence.
But don't try to script it and control the conversation.
Absolutely do not tell them what you want them to say and try to get them to say it - unless they are professional actors it won't work.
Listen to what they saying and let them run with it when they want to.
Getting it to flow is more important than getting everything right all the time.
If something isn't working out don't labour it. Park it and come back to it later if necessary.
Maintain eye contact.
Talk to them with your eyes.
Show them you are interested in what they are saying.
Encourage them.
You will often get the best stuff right at the end when everyone figures that it's finished. Remember that and don't waste it.
If you are a one man band you don't have any choice but if you can pay someone to operate the camera too then you can probably do a better job interviewing them.
However there is also something to be said for just you and them. It's more intimate. Just try not to let the kit get in the way too much.
If you haven't done so, learn to use your kit inside out including any new equipment so that you aren't having to worry about technical stuff (I'm talking about an ideal world here!)
Make sure that they are comfortable; not too hot or too cold; don't need to use the bathroom; that they aren't being blinded by lights; that there is drinking water on hand etc etc
Observe their demeanour and take a break if they are flagging.
I usually try to give them some sense about how the film is going to shape up and how this bit will fit into it ie so that they can understand why and what they are doing. But I can't say that's a must-do.
Overall it should be interesting and fun, fun, fun.
Everyone has something interesting to say. If necessary try to work out what that might be beforehand.
If you aren't enjoying it they probably won't be and the audience for the film won't be either.
I think of it as you are a tugboat and they are a huge ship. You want them to keep their forward momentum whilst you pull from one side or another to try to steer them in the right direction. If you pull too hard you lose the momentum.
This should probably be in the documentary techniques forum ;-)
Thanks, Richard.

Interesting that you mentioned "eye contact". I'm very good with eye contact and kept it with my first couple. But I kind of felt that maybe my constant eye contact was contributing to them feeling pressured. With my 2nd couple I spent much more time jotting down notes (or acting like I was) to try and help them feel less "under the gun of my gaze". I haven't had a chance to check out that footage yet, but the interview went better. I think the couple was also just more relaxed to start with, though.

I also thought about bringing someone in to run one of the 2 cameras used, but then decided that having someone else in the run messing with a camera would just draw attention away from me and back to the cameras. It probably depends on the couple, but the less relaxed a couple is the better having the setting more intimate probably is.

I would have posted this elsewhere but I specifically wanted tips from other wedding professionals who had experience interviewing couples for love story videos. I do, however, appreciate all tips.

Here's two tips I learned in the process:


#1 - I had water bottles on hand, but one of the guys had a nervous habit of picking up the bottle, taking a drink, and then keeping it in his hands and "playing" with it. Not a big deal except for the noise that this made. I'm sure the mic was picking that up. Next time I might consider cups instead, or maybe just let them know in advance not to keep the water bottle in their hands.

#2 - The interview room had wood floors. The guy who was playing with the water bottle also had a tendency to tap and shuffle his feet on the floors. This also created noise that the mic was probably picking up. Next time I think I'll throw down some sort of soft rug under the chair.
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Old September 12th, 2008, 10:34 AM   #9
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Travis...something we try to do is to meet with the couple first..apart from the initial consultation. We have a favorite wine bar on the square close to our studio we buy them a glass of wine and just talk about stuff. For us, this is part of the "client experience". This is when we prep them for what the conversation on camera will be like and that no biggie if they say something wrong just back up and we can edit it out. Part of the nervousness, I think, is that they fear they are going to say something wrong. We will also throw out some general questions we might ask and this gets them thinking. We like this approach because it's almost like friends talking during the interview part. If it seems too clinical for the client they are going to respond in a like manner. I know this approach is not possible everytime but give it a shot where approapriate.
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Old September 12th, 2008, 11:17 AM   #10
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Travis...something we try to do is to meet with the couple first..apart from the initial consultation. We have a favorite wine bar on the square close to our studio we buy them a glass of wine and just talk about stuff. For us, this is part of the "client experience". This is when we prep them for what the conversation on camera will be like and that no biggie if they say something wrong just back up and we can edit it out. Part of the nervousness, I think, is that they fear they are going to say something wrong. We will also throw out some general questions we might ask and this gets them thinking. We like this approach because it's almost like friends talking during the interview part. If it seems too clinical for the client they are going to respond in a like manner. I know this approach is not possible everytime but give it a shot where approapriate.
So do you meet with them at the wine bar on the same day as the shoot, or a different day?
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Old September 12th, 2008, 12:33 PM   #11
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So do you meet with them at the wine bar on the same day as the shoot, or a different day?
Usually a different day. We kind of use that time to prep them about what to expect on the wedding day and talk about audio and lighting so they know how important it is and then just talk about the lovestory shoot. Oh! and to make sure we have a food and a place to sit at the wedding but thats another post.

It all really depends on yours and their schedule. We find that it works out about 50% or 60% of the time but its a huge advantage.
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Old September 12th, 2008, 12:36 PM   #12
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Usually a different day. We kind of use that time to prep them about what to expect on the wedding day and talk about audio and lighting so they know how important it is and then just talk about the lovestory shoot. Oh! and to make sure we have a food and a place to sit at the wedding but thats another post.

It all really depends on yours and their schedule. We find that it works out about 50% or 60% of the time but its a huge advantage.
Ah, okay. I kind of like the idea of meeting with them somewhere else before the shoot so they can have a drink if they like to ease their nerves, and then I could drive them over. The trouble is I like to do interviews in the morning so the studio isn't hot, and people aren't going to want to go have a drink at 8:30am, lol. Hmm ... something to think about.
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Old September 12th, 2008, 02:15 PM   #13
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This is what always worked for me, after setting up everything (light, audio, shooting angle, tally off) I start the recording and say to the subject "im not taping right now, lets rehearse the questionaire" and almost always the interview flows perfectly. When finished I just say "thanks you... you have been a wonderful talent" when they ask confused about why im not going on with the interview, I told them that I already did, and everything was beautiful. On rare ocasions I need to re shot something.

My 2 cents
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Old September 12th, 2008, 02:22 PM   #14
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This is what always worked for me, after setting up everything (light, audio, shooting angle, tally off) I start the recording and say to the subject "im not taping right now, lets rehearse the questionaire" and almost always the interview flows perfectly. When finished I just say "thanks you... you have been a wonderful talent" when they ask confused about why im not going on with the interview, I told them that I already did, and everything was beautiful. On rare ocasions I need to re shot something.

My 2 cents
Have you ever had anyone ask you mid-interview if you were going to start recording?

I'm pretty sure if I tried this that my couples would start asking why I'm not recording when I'm asking them to tell the story of how the proposal went. Some of them might forget, but some of them probably wouldn't. I'm just worried about having them feel "tricked", if that makes sense.
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Old September 12th, 2008, 02:36 PM   #15
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Yours truly work(s/ed) as a 'one man band' in tv, so I'm responsible for doing the shooting, lighting and interviewing all by lonesome.

One thing I've always told people is that I want them to LOOK GOOD. If I don't look good, THEY don't look good!

'Relax...'

'Smile at me so I can see if you have lipstick on your teeth.'

'Are we recording? No, not yet. We can start doing that a little later.' (already recording, thanks).

I set up my light first so they get over 'the shock' of a bright light on their face.

And I talk to them about their favorite subject: THEM!

'It will all be on tape, so if you don't feel comfortable saying something, we can start over until you're comfortable with it.'

'Don't feel rushed! We have all day.'

'You'll be fine.'

'I'm parched. Do you have any water?' (focus: ME... not on them)

I also find something for them to talk about first.

'I like that picture.'
'This coffee table sure is dirty.'
'My wife has a dress just like that.'
'So... you root for Junior, huh? I'm partial to Gordon.'

Then we just ease on into the subject!

Haven't had to go the Vodka route. YET...
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