014 Getting a great interview

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Since many of you will be visiting family, I thought I’d talk about interviewing, so that some of you can practice on your family members. Consider this your winter break homework.

This is an especially great exercise to do with older family members who may have great stories locked away that you never knew. It’s also a fantastic opportunity to preserve memories of loved ones. You can totally just use your phone if you don’t have a camera, and just have fun with this.

So here are things to think about with interviews…

Sound- be aware of your environment. Listen for heaters turning on and off or refrigerators. If you’re near a busy street, try to move to a room furthest away from the street. It’s best to always listen through headphones, because it’s easy to realize what is being picked up by the microphone.

Lighting- have a light to the front, and slightly to the side, that way it lights up their eyes so you can see a little light reflecting from them- that’s called eyeshine and without it eyes can look dull and flat. It’s also nice to have a light above and behind the person to shine on their shoulders and hair. It adds depth to the shot. 

Composition- if you just have 1 camera I would frame the shot from just above the hips to just above the top of the head. Following the rule of thirds, their eyes should be off to one side of the frame, looking toward the other side of the frame. I’ll post an example on the blog and facebook page if you have absolutely no idea what I’m saying here. Also, if you can, make sure the subject is not backed up to a wall. Having depth behind the subject will make for a more interesting shot, especially if it is at an angle to the wall or facing the corner. Ideally the background is interesting, but not cluttered. If all you have is a plain wall, try shining a small light on it to give it a splash of brightness.

Once your shot is ready, and your subject is comfortably seated, it’s good to have a little conversation with them to help them relax. Being in front of the camera is super scary for most people, so I like to let them know that they’re going to be looking at me (not the camera) and we’re just going to be having a conversation. They can pause and think, just like they would normally. 

I also let them know that I will not be responding to them verbally while they talk- do not make noises while your interviewee is talking. We’re used to saying “uh-huh, ok, hmmm” while people are talking, but you don’t want that recorded in your audio. Just nod your head and react with your eyes, ok? Also, DO NOT start talking as soon as they finish a thought. There are 2 reasons this is important. 1) it’s going to be difficult to edit if you start talking right after the person finishes and 2) they may have some great facial expressions or interesting insights that come to them if you just give them time to sit in the moment. 

Now, you may have prepared questions ahead of time, which is a really good idea, especially if there is some specific information you want to get because it is REALLY easy to forget things while your interviewing. So write down the important questions, and make sure you review them throughout the interview. HOWEVER, do not just focus on the questions.