Conducting a Successful Interview (And Keeping it Fun!)

The art of interviewing is often the largest puzzle piece of a lot of the videos that we produce. It’s one of the main ways we build a story. Occasionally, we’ll shoot interviews with people who are very comfortable on camera– people who have been interviewed many times before. More often, though, our subject is a person who has never done anything like this. In this case, it can be a very tricky dance finding balance between getting the sound bytes you need and keeping your subject happy and comfortable. On one hand, you only have a limited amount of time with each person, so you’ll do your best to get the statements you need quickly and efficiently. On the other hand, your sound bytes won’t be useful if they convey frustration and impatience. Finding the golden balance is not easy, but there are a couple of approaches we use frequently which we find to be successful.


The first approach may sound silly, but can be easy to forget. You need to remember that the person sitting in the chair across from you is human! Sometimes they just simply aren’t going to have the patience to sit in the same spot for an hour with cameras pointed at them and bright lights shining in their eyes. Keeping them comfortable is important. Let them stand up, stretch, and have a sip of water. Keep it light hearted. (There’s nothing quite like a well-timed joke to dissolve tension!) Ultimately, you just need to put yourself in their shoes… they probably can’t understand why they just answered the same question four different times and you’re asking them to do it a fifth time! Be patient, and remember to acknowledge how silly and ridiculous the process can be.

The second (seemingly obvious) point is to actually listen to what your interview subject is saying. It’s easy to get caught up in the next scripted question, but if you get in that mindset, the natural flow of the conversation will be interrupted. To the best of your ability, make it seem like it’s just a conversation. It’s easy to tell your subject to “pretend the cameras aren’t there,” but it’s quite another to actually make them forget.

Ultimately, empathy is the key. Do your best to read their body language and act accordingly. If you sense frustration, don’t just plow through a list of questions. The narrative that you acquire from them is vital to your storytelling, so even the best sound byte on paper may not work in your edit if they sound agitated or forced.

Lastly, let yourself enjoy the process! Be grateful that you have the opportunity to meet so many amazing people!