Interviewing seems to be something quite natural, because it’s an extension of what we do every day: conversation. But putting together an interview for television requires a bit of work. Below I’ve included some of the tops tips I’ve learnt from DV Talent and the BBC Academy about filming interviews.
When shooting a two-person interview, you need to get 5 key shots to make the sequence work.
- A wide shot of the two people in context – facing each other
- A close up of the interviewee’s face whilst answering questions
- A close up of the interviewer’s face asking questions
- Cut-aways – the room, images of the subject being talked about; the interviewee’s hands.
- The interviewee paying attention to the interviewer’s questions. Film them whilst you ask the question again.
Imagine there’s a line between the eyes of the interviewer and interviewee. Once you start filming on one side of that line, you cannot cross over it. This way, when you piece together the shots you have, one subject will be looking left to right, and the other right-to left. By crossing onto the other side of the line, you make both subject appear to look in the same direction, which will confuse and disorientate the viewer.
Have a look at this short video for more of an explanation.
Sit close to the camera when interviewing someone. That way, their eyeline is as close as possible to the camera – making the viewer feel engaged with the conversation
Keep the camera at eye height for most interviews. Changing the height alters the eyeline and the way the subject comes across. Having the camera look down on the subject diminishes them and they appear vulnerable to the viewer; having the camera looking up at the subject makes them feel domineering and appear authoritative to the viewer.
Go to the BBC Academy for more on this.
So those are the main tips on actually filming the interview. To finish, I’ve put in a few tips about the interview itself.
COP Show tips
Here are some great tips I picked up from BBC College Of Production’s Podcast the other day, with Simon Smith, Bridget Osbourne, Jeremy Phillips and David Sillito.
- Relax your subject. Have a chat with them whilst setting up your equipment and doing a recce. Try to avoid talking about the topic you want to catch on film!
- Be sure to do your research on the topic you want to talk about, and steer the conversation towards the bits you are most interested in.
- Ask a question 3 times. On the third time they’ll usually respond with something like – “look, it’s really simple. It’s this.” Which is better than a long-winded explanation
- Try and get 3 good clear points from an interview.
- You want someone emotionally engaged with what you are talking about, with real connection with the topic.
- Keep questions very short.
- Don’t talk too much. Leave silences for the interviewee to fill.
- Vox-pops are a great way to get sound-bites – people are always flattered to be asked their opinion, giving short, pithy, interesting responses.
- Don’t drift from your topic of interest – stay in control and keep the conversation focused.
- Let them know areas you will cover, but not specific questions in advance.
- Interviewees often they give the best responses in the middle of the conversation, when they’ve relaxed a bit.
- The greatest interview of all time – Frost vs Nixon – took 17 hours to get the response Frost wanted. It can take time!