Join Ben Long for an in-depth discussion in this video Shooting an interview as the foundation, part of Creative DSLR Video Techniques.
The interview is the bedrock of this particular project. I'm going to take it, cut it apart into a story, and then find the supporting visuals to go on top of that. So this is a really critical first step that I engaged in. But shooting an interview with a DSLR is not like shooting an interview with a normal video camera. Obviously, I've got the problem of lack of auto focus and that kind of thing, but I'm shooting a static subject so that's not too bad. What's tricky is the fact that most, if not all, digital SLRs have a file size limitation, and that means that they can only shoot a file up to so big before they shut off.
And that may vary on your camera from twelve minutes to half an hour, but there is a limitation there. I was expecting this interview to go for a while, and I didn't want in the middle of some really exciting moment for the camera to shut off. So my plan for that was to about every 12 minutes or so, every ten minutes or so, stop the cameras and start them right up again. I would wait until there was a lull in the conversation, until a natural moment where I could tell Steven, one second I got to redo the cameras here. And I figured that was a way around the limitation or at least the way around it not interrupting me.
So I told Steve about that, >> Yeah, the Marx brothers said that they didn't mind if people in the audience were looking at their watch, they only got concerned when people went like that, So, if I see you doing that, I'll. >> It's all over, yeah, yeah, and that's a very good distinction. >> I also remind him just basic interviews stuff, Asked him to repeat the question that I asked, or not necessarily repeat, to incorporate the question into his answer, because I want to be able to cut my questions out and still have discrete chunks of him talking that make sense.
So, what was my plan for the interview? I didn't really have one. What I wanted to do was sit down and have a conversation with Steven about this whole process. The great thing is, I didn't actually know that much about what he was doing. He had told me a little bit about the show, but not that much. And I tried to keep it that way. Any time he started talking about it, I walked out of the room. I really wanted the interview to be very fresh and feel very natural. There are different ways of conducting an interview. If you are going into an interview where there's a lot of really technical stuff that maybe you're not so competent in, yes you will want to make some notes.
I didn't in this case because I wanted to stay connected to him. I also didn't want to lead him. If he went in a direction that I wasn't expected I wanted to be able to follow him there and ask meaningful follow-up questions. If I had a predefined path for the interview, that might have been harder to do. Now, the interview, though it will be the bedrock of the piece, doesn't have to follow the structure that you might have in mind for the finished piece. You might have some very clear ideas on beats that you want to hit.
A particular beginning middle or end, you don't have to interview that way. The most critical part in the interview is making the interviewee comfortable and that means having what feels like a normal conversation. If you're trying to stick to a particular agenda, maybe you want to start your piece with their life story. Sitting down and saying tell me your life story is a little intimidating when you're being interviewed, so you might want to break things up and think more in terms of good conversation. I wanted to open him up. I wanted to get him comfortable. I wanted to just get him talking for a while. >> So you say your in here rehearsing, we're like, what is your process? What have you done to develop this show? Or, let's even start, when did you decide, what was the moment that made you go, well I'm going to do it, I'm going to.
>> This sounds like a corny Hollywood story. But when I was onstage at the Groundlings. >> Along the way. You might start having ideas of, you know this thing that he's talking about would make a great ending. I wonder if I can get more out of him in that regard, and you can try and ask leading questions that way. Or just ask questions that way. You might think, oh this is a great beginning, or if I had more of this or less of that or whatever. So you do, as with every other part of this process, want to keep an eye on your finished product while you are doing the interview.
But you don't want that to be so much in your way that you're not listening. That's the really critical bit. You've got to listen to what your subject is saying, and ask the follow up questions that are going to be interesting. Sometimes, you may find that when you're talking to someone you're not, you're not getting there. You're not getting what you want. Interviewing someone, or rather being interviewed by someone is a very can be a very nerve wrecking thing for someone. They may not be comfortable on camera. They may feel like they're getting the third degree. That may cause them to close up. If that's the case, you need to try to figure out on the fly how to help them relax.
You got to smile at them. You got to laugh with them. You got to be more cordial. You got to try to ask questions that you know they can answer. Ask them questions where you know the answer is an an easy answer for them. Get them more comfortable answering questions. Ask them a series of questions for which the answer is all yes. This is basic sales trick. Ask them about your easy questions. Is it true you grew up in California? Is it true that, and lead them along that way to get them feeling confident about their ability to answer. Then you can start pushing a little bit further into the questions that are maybe a little more probing.
If you find that at the end of the interview they never really relaxed and you never really felt that you got the real them or the real meat that you're looking for, that's okay you have another chance. At that point you probably do have enough content to start thinking about the b roll that you need, about the other shots that you need, about the supporting elements that you need. As you spend more time with the person, you can then maybe go back and sneak in another interview and perhaps they'll be more comfortable. Now, depending on your situation, you may have the great luxury of spending time with them before the interview. If you got time to take them to dinner, go out to lunch, anything like that.
Anything where you can get them, used to your presence and comfortable with you, that's at least one variable out of the situation. They will have to deal with lights and cameras and so on and so forth but that perhaps, will give you a leg up in making them comfortable. Interviewing is a great skill. It takes a lot of practice. And a lot of time to really master it to that level that great interviewers have. It's a good thing to think about before you go in. Don't plan too much, remember your goal is to listen, have a good conversation and make your subject as comfortable as possible.
- Why DSLR?
- Planning the shoot
- Deciding on gear
- Setting up the workspace
- Capturing B-roll
- Synchronizing audio
- Adding music
- Color grading footage
Skill Level Intermediate
Q: What jib does the author use in these videos?
A: The jib Ben uses in these videos was purchased at http://www.ebay.com/itm/4-Foot