Top Tips For Filming Interviews

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.

The Shots

When shooting a two-person interview, you need to get 5 key shots to make the sequence work.

  1. A wide shot of the two people in context – facing each other
  2. A close up of the interviewee’s face whilst answering questions
  3. A close up of the interviewer’s face asking questions
  4. Cut-aways – the room, images of the subject being talked about; the interviewee’s hands.
  5. The interviewee paying attention to the interviewer’s questions.  Film them whilst you ask the question again.
These 5 shots will allow you to cut together an edit that makes sense to the viewer.
The Line

Crossing The Line

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.

Eyelines

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!
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About Ash Bhardwaj

A storyteller, travel writer, journalist and film-maker. I am a regular contributor to Huffington Post, The Telegraph and the Sunday Times Travel Magazine. I spent much of 2013 working on Walking The Nile, Levison Wood's attempt to walk the world's longest river. I founded Digital Dandy, a video storytelling company, in 2012 to produce content for brands and businesses.
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3 Responses to Top Tips For Filming Interviews

  1. David Woods says:

    Reblogged this on HandyCamGuys.

  2. GH says:

    The one thing missing from all the above tips is, ‘hold eye contact’. You’d be amazed at how many people sit, glancing at their notes, or fiddling with the camera, allowing the interviewee’s eyes to drift, and resulting in the IV’ee looking furtive on camera. The other thing often neglected – you see it all the time – is the IV’ee’s presentation. If the IV’ee has his tie half undone, or his collar sticking out on one side, tell him!! You’re not doing the IV’ee any favours by saving his blushes, and he won’t thank you when he sees the interview go out. In my opinion, it also makes you look unprofessional. Another thing I’d take issue with is, asking the question three times. The interviewee isn’t a performing monkey, and whilst you certainly want the optimum sound bite, you’ll quickly irritate an IV’ee if you just ask for take after take. You have to be confident enough to know when you’ve got it. If that’s the first take, great. Managing an IV’ee is a big part of the job. Don’t keep asking them to re-state something just for the sake of it. Anyone with a full diary won’t make room in it for you next time…

    Actually, looking again, there’s one other obvious omission. Unless you’re featuring in your own interview, the IV’ee will need guidance on how to answer. Though you want the natural tempo and flow of conversation, it isn’t a conversation, and you’re questions won’t be heard. The IV’ee needs to know this and understand clearly what you’re seeking.

    Don’t whatever you do, say, ‘put the question in the answer’… No, that’s not what you want them to do! If you tell them that, you’ll likely get the IV’ee saying, “How do I feel about my career? I suppose I feel….” Not only does it reveal that the IV’ee hasn’t been clearly briefed, it makes them sound like a whistful ego maniac. What you want them to do is consider your question a prompt for a statement or a self-contained answer that makes sense to the audience without them hearing the question. Like an English comprehension question. I should think of a new example, but the one I’ve been using for about 15 years seems to do the trick. I explain to the IV’ee, that if I asked, ‘what did you have for breakfast’, and you said, ‘beans’, it’s not an answer I could use in edit without a long VO explaining the context of the statement. But, if you said, “for breakfast this morning, I had beans,” I’d understand without having heard the question. Not great content, I admit, but it’s just an example….

  3. Ash Bhardwaj says:

    Hi GH – thanks for your comments, it’s helped clarify a few points.

    The point about presentation is an excellent one.

    The asking a question three times isn’t just a matter of re-takes, it’s just that I’ve found a lot of interviewees will over-complicate an answer the first one or two times, and if you ask it slightly differently, or say, “could you just clarify that for me please, or explain it again” I’ve often found a clearer answer forthcoming.

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