Five Top Tips for filming your interviewee

Following our recent post on capturing better quality interviews, with this post we’re going to look at how getting your interviewee relaxed, feeling confident and responding with right answer can make all the difference for your video.

Many videos we produce for agencies include interviews of some type, ranging from an end user explaining their experience of using a service, to a CEO discussing why their business is restructuring. The first consideration for an interview should be, is your planned interviewee the right person?

Choose wisely

It probably sounds like the silliest question possible, however, how did you choose the person in the first place, what criteria did they match? Even if they are an expert in their field, you need to consider much more before you get them in front of a camera.

Firstly, you must ensure that they feel happy to be on camera and understand how the footage will be used, plus they fully understand what they will be talking about.

Don’t assume that all of this will be fine, remember that asking people to be filmed when they are not used to it is quite stressful, it can also be very intense, always make sure they know what is going to happen. I know from experience by assuming everything will be fine, it will not be a successful venture.

A few years ago, I arrived at my clients’ office with a list of people our clients had chosen to be in a video discussing what they do in their job. It was a low-key shoot and the video was created for internal use only. It was going swimmingly; most people were natural and relaxed. Each told a joke on camera before we started the main questions allowing them to relax more and smile! At the end of the day we had one last interview to capture, a lady who been hyped up prior to the shoot, everyone had told us how great she was going to be, she had lots of experience speaking to large audiences at conferences and she was going to deliver the ‘perfect’ interview!

We waited for her and waited and she didn’t appear, finally, it emerged that she was very upset, and didn’t want to be filmed. We were told that she didn’t like having her photo taken and the thought of being on video was too much. It then emerged that our clients had not explained to her what the video was for, the type of questions which would be asked and who would see it. She went from being the ‘perfect’ person to not even arriving for the shoot.

The lesson from the day – never assume anything!

Are they an expert?

Are they the best person to be interviewed on the subject matter? For example, are you getting feedback on a service? Was the service experienced by a person on their own, or a group of people? It is often more engaging to watch the dynamics of a group being interviewed rather than a person on their own referencing a group experience.

Try to spend time talking face to face with the person who you are hoping to interview. Do they maintain eye contact? Are they speaking confidently about the subject matter? If possible, try to drop in the sort of question you might be using in the filmed interview to see how they react. You might need to hold conversations with multiple people until you find the right person, often the least likely person will be the one that interviews best.

You’ve now found the perfect interviewee, time to get in the hot seat.

relaxed woman ready to shoot her interview

Are you sitting comfortably?

Being interviewed on camera can be stressful for anyone but if they are physically uncomfortable it is even harder to get a natural and relaxed interview. Most interviews will be shot on location, ranging from office boardrooms to a family home. If possible, depending on the subject matter, the location and the person being interviewed, ask the interviewee where they would be most comfortable.
Having worked on some sensitive interviews where people are discussing personal trauma, we always asked them where they would feel most comfortable and secure. Using this method, you get the best interview out of them and the viewer, in turn, feels more comfortable, and more likely to engage with the interviewee.
It’s at this point you can also decide how the interviewee is going to interact with the camera. For a more documentary style interview, it is best to have the interviewee to look slightly to one side of the camera, towards the interviewer, while still capturing their full face, especially their eyes and mouth. This is a more natural style for most people and allows for easier edits and transitions.
Depending on the content, and the interviewee, they might directly address the camera. This is often harder to maintain and can make editing harder, consider how you want the video to be used in the finished production.

Asking the questions

In many situations, you will be asking the questions and operating the camera at the same time. Completing research and feeling confident in asking the questions can make a big difference in not only your confidence but in keeping you and your interviewee relaxed.
As we’ve discussed, speaking to them before the filmed interview can help greatly, putting them at ease and giving you a better understanding of what the best questions for them will be.

Do the questions need to complete a narrative? Even if it doesn’t seem that they need to, it can often help the end viewer understand and relate more to the content of the interview. You could look at it as a traditional three-act structure, set-up, confrontation and resolution, that might sound a ‘sensational’ way to approach it, but consider these examples;

Act 1 – Set-up
Example question;
When and how did you first find out about ***** service?

Act 2 – Confrontation
Example question;
How did you feel when the problem happened with the ***** service?

Act 3 – Resolution
Example question;
Now you’ve experienced the ***** service, are you satisfied that you got what you needed from it?

Having a narrative also means that the interviewee is less like to repeat themselves, and therefore the interview will flow and develop more, you are also less likely to have ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answers. In the same vein plan your questions so they give you the answers you either need or want; this isn’t manipulation, it is understanding what you need to get the best information conveyed for your video.
Always ask open questions, and one question at a time, for example, don’t ask;
When you moved to your new job, did you find the technical language difficult to follow, and were you uncomfortable, with it?
Instead ask;
When you moved to your new job, how difficult did you find the use of technical language within the role?
Often a new job can be initially uncomfortable, especially learning new technical elements, how did you feel in the new job considering that?

The first way of the asking the question could leave you with a one word answer that would require another question that is almost a repetition. Always think about how you want your interviewee to reply with their answer and how you ask your question to get a response.

man ready to complete interview

Not seen or heard

You need to consider if the voice of the interviewer is to be heard. If it isn’t, which is more common, ensure that that either the question requires it be given in its answer, or that you ask the interviewee to include the question in their response, whichever is more natural.

After you’ve asked each question, let them reply and speak uninterrupted, if you want to encourage them, make it all non-verbal, keep them engaged and on point, by nodding, keeping eye contact and smiling. Try to concentrate on their replies even though you may be distracted by also dealing with the technical parts of the production.

During the flow of answering the questions they may give you a chance to ask something slightly different, so ensure that you pay enough attention to ask and make the most of a more off-the-cuff or spontaneous question.

On the flip-side of this is that you may need at a point to bring them back onto the subject matter. Try to be subtle in this, you may have to reword a question to give them a second chance to answer your question, or ask them to be more detailed. Having the same question asked twice is easier than having to edit out chucks from a long and rambling answer.

In the role of interviewer, you may have to press them on a difficult question. Try to have any difficult or more complicated questions further into the interview so by the time they come to them they feel more relaxed, and are more likely to respond more naturally.

Keeping engaged with your interviewee during the interview process on camera you will help to make it more authentic, plus create a better atmosphere and make them more relaxed, answer honestly and naturally.

The scene should now be set for an excellent interview, good luck!

If you need help with interviewing and creating your video, you can find out more on our video production page, or get in touch today, we’d love to have a chat with you.

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