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How to interview people for videos

An interview being filmed

Part two in our series on filming is about interview technique. The first part focused on the basics of filming on iPhones.

Interviewing for a video is never as simple as just thinking of some questions, turning up and getting answers. People respond to being interviewed on camera in different ways, and different topics require varied approaches. Patience, confidence and sensitivity are crucial to getting good interview footage.

Questions to consider

What questions show someone's character?

How do you get someone to repeat something spontaneously to camera?

How do you create context for the audience?

Tips for good interviews

Don’t jump straight in

A bit of preamble can go a long way to make an interviewee feel at ease, and in turn make their responses more captivating.

Search for qualitative answers

Unless your final edit will have your questions in it, think very carefully about the answers that your questions may generate.

For example, when interviewing a member of the public about their visit to Parliament you might ask, “Have you enjoyed visiting Parliament today?” They might then reply, “Yes, it’s been wonderful.” This piece of speech will be very hard to edit smoothly without including your own question.

Instead try to ask questions which encourage interviewees to give stand alone answers like “Tell me about how you’ve found your visit today.”

Prepare but be flexible

Before any interview you'll know what information you want to get from your interviewee. However being too specific in your preparation can make for an unnatural/stilted conversation.

For example if you were interviewing a chef about why he loves his job. My first question could be “Tell me why you love being a chef.”

Or instead I could let the interviewee convey their feelings through a developed conversation. I might begin with “Tell me how you first got into cooking” or “Tell me about the first time you felt proud of something you had made.”

Both of these questions will not only encourage your interviewee to tell personal stories which have a natural flow, but they'll have anecdotes to share which will have more genuine emotion and feelings. Then, as the conversation naturally progresses you can get closer to the core of their story. You might even reply to answers with “How did that make you feel?” to push their introspection a bit further.

Leave pauses

A common trick in interviewing is to create silences that your contributors will feel compelled to fill.

For example, you’ve asked a woman about her family and she’s replied “I have one sister but we don’t get on very well.” Immediately you can sense there’s a bigger story to uncover. If you reply “Oh, really?” and then stay silent, it's very likely that your interviewee will elaborate.

People want to fill silences, and often want to tell their personal stories. Give them the space to do so and it’s likely that they will. Demand personal stories from them and it’s likely that they won’t.

Don’t rush the interviewee

By being calm, approachable and understanding your interviewee will be more at ease. Your footage will benefit as it'll be much more natural.

Set up your shot carefully

You want to be somewhere light and quiet. Be aware of what's happening in the background of your frame (lights, plants, people and so on) and always leave room for subtitles.

Try not to respond

Try not to respond to people’s answers as they’re talking with ‘hmms’ or ‘yeah’ as this will be picked up by the microphone and be very distracting when editing. Try nodding and smiling to encourage people instead and show that you’re interested in their responses.

Say it again

Don’t be scared to ask people to talk again if you aren’t happy with their answer. Be confident and assertive and ask people to repeat themselves if you feel you haven’t really got the shot or moment you needed. If you seem confident and in control, they'll be happy to spend the time to make their answers just right. You can always make up an excuse for them having to repeat themselves.

If you work in Parliament and you'd like help with filming, get in touch with the Content Team.

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