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Corporate interviews
  • I'm about to shoot interviews of local entrepreneurs so I wanted to start this topic in order to get some tips and later on share what I pick up along the road. The idea is to make short portrait films, between 20 seconds and 2 minutes in length which intercuts interview head shots with footage of the work/services of the entreprenuer (I bet you all know what I'm talking about, since it's pretty standard stuff).

    The plan is to go through some of the following steps involved:

    • Preparations
    • Questions
    • Light and sound
    • Shooting
    • Editing
    • Delivery

    Let's start with the Questions: During an interview, what kind of questions would you ask to get the person to talk about his or her business?

    I was planning to ask some of these questions to get the ball rolling:

    • Who are you?
    • What kind of work do you do?
    • What can you provide your customers with?
    • Why did you start doing this?
    • How do you know you're on the right track with your business?
    • What inspires you?

    This is a clip that got me inspired on the psychology of interviews, I especiallt like the tip on sending the questions ahead of the interview and then start off by saying: "You know all those questions I sent you in advance? Let's forget about them and just have a conversation!":

    Feel free to critizise and add your thoughts on the process!

    Happy shooting!

  • 32 Replies sorted by
  • I also had few talks with Jem, and hope that after NAB it's result in something useful.

  • Great Vitaliy! Looking forward to hearing more about it.

  • Just a small, really tiny tip useful in sociological interview : never ask "why" in your question (like "Why did you start doing this?") and always (!) prefer "how". Often when you ask "why" the answer will be too short. You have to push the subject to talk about the context, the story, and not his feeling about it (those will come better when you don't directly ask for them with a "why" :-) )

  • Have them give the question in their answer. eg, Q: what is your favorite color? A: my favorite color is blue.

    Don't interrupt or step on their answers.

    Don't let them look at that camera. Best is off cam.

    give lots of praise to interviewee

    Don't let them fidget

    Don't over do it on the pre interview.

    Don't allow anything memorized.

  • Always try to phrase your questions as open-ended. Keep quiet while the subject talks. Keep quiet a little while after the subject is done talking. Some of the most amazing quotes come after a bit of a pause. Let them think!

    Might disagree with @brianluce a bit about looking at camera vs off camera. At best it's a stylistic choice. Looking at the camera can have a degree of immediacy that off camera can't provide.

  • Much appreciated! This is going to help me a lot.

  • @hunter True, ultimately it's a stylistic choice. Most interviews though aren't straight to cam -- makes it look like evening news. Whatever works. Good idea to stay consistent though.

    Also, give yourself something to cut on, wide shot or cu of hands, shot of interviewer.

  • @astraban I like the "how" question advice - very good. I'll use that myself next time I do one.

    Some other ideas:

    1 - One that's worked well for me is "What's the one..." [followed by whatever you choose, such as "What's the one quality you need to be successful..." etc] as it can get you that killer summary which you can end your piece with. Remember you've got to edit this stuff afterwards, and anything that makes it easier is good. So nice to get short concise answers - which means asking short concise questions usually.

    2 - Think about editing - if you don't get the answer which you know will cut well, ask the question again in a different way, maybe return to it later. If all else fails, and the interviewee is rambling, actually give them the words to say and ask them to repeat them back to you - might be embarassing but easier than not having the words! I've got one I'm editing at the moment (I didn't shoot or do the interview) where I'm really grateful they did this as the interviewee was all over the place.

    3 - You don't always have to ask questions. You can say things like: "Take me through a typical transaction..." or "Explain what you're doing there..."

  • Another thing, the best possible thing, is if you can get the person to convey any kind of EMOTION. That's ultimately the key -- and I've done a crap load of interviews. Emotion sells and communicates better than anything -- and that's what a good interviewer is skilled at: getting to an emotional moment.

  • I find the corporate video to be an awkward genre and I try to make them more doco style if the client feels comfortable with that. If you're showing footage of what the talent is talking about, it works better with the genre if you paraphrase their comments into a piece you read yourself and edit the shots to your own voice-over.

  • A gold mine of knowledge. Keep it coming!

  • By the way, depending on the purpose of doing your interviews / where they are destined to appear, why not include customers / colleagues / suppliers / marketing? You get a bit of a richer and more believable perspective if you include more points of view because (like most things) business is about relationships and not about one person working in isolation, plus you get more of a collective version of the truth.

    Another thing to consider: is there a strong "angle" to your subject? Something that's common to these people in your series, such as "overcoming problems", "changing work practices", "getting into new markets", "growing the business" or whatever? Narrowing the questioning down to a few stong areas can help interviewees respond in a much more engaging way.

    Only other tip is always ask them to say their name and spell it on camera - you can disguise this as an audio level-check, but it's amazing how useful that is. You don't want to get someone's name wrong - it seriously pisses them off.

  • Tomorrow is the first day of shooting putting to use some of your great advices. I'll be shooting solo, interviewing a friend of mine who needs a short clip for her website. This is my questionnaire:

    • What is your name? - (Ask her to spell the name to the camera as a sound check.)

    • First, some warming up questions: try to respond by including my question in your answer. Eg "What is your favorite color?" - "My favorite color is blue"

    • "What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?" - "In my spare time I enjoy playing golf"

    • How would you describe your work?

    • How would your clients describe your work?

    • What kind of benefits does your clients gain from your services / products?

    • Tell us about what happens during a normal working day.

    • How did you start your business?

    • What inspires you in your profession?

    • What is the most important factor that makes clients choose you?

    • What is the most important thing you've learned in your profession?

    • How do you know you are doing a great job?

    • What's the next step for you right now in your career?

    Gear: 2 GH2s on sticks shooting a wide and a close up of the interviewee. I'll be monitoring the close up with a Lilliput 7" via HDMI to check focus and framing. Lighting will be available light, indoors either seated by a window or with a Z96 LED bounced off a white board with fill by another reflector/board on the opposite side. Zoom H1 with lavalier mike for sound, or just pointed at the subject off camera. In both cases I will be monitoring the sound through a headset during the shoot.

    After the interview is done I'll shoot some cut aways of hands, clothing and other details that might come in handy.

    Wish me luck!

  • @oscillian

    Here is simple approach to such interviews.

    • Easy questions first, just chat, filmed, but cutted.
    • Small part showing her at work and introducing her by your voice (including that she is doing).
    • Jump to studio with you asking "You are doing ... . How ... started doing this?" Idea in this part to find her passion towards her business. And ask specific questiuons about this passion (fastest delivery, and you know how good our packing is? we even hired designer for it...) As it is also always show viewers why THEY must choose her.

    So, general idea is finding the reason why they are doing it. How they are doing it. And by more specific questions show viewers how different is it to usual approach to same business. Normally many things about personality will came along without you doing specific stunts to get them.

    But this works for owners and similar people usually. For hired workers it can be tough.

  • Wow vk! This is exactly without any adaption whatsoever what Australian "current affair" Shows stick to religiously!

  • @alcomposer

    Because it works.
    Especially for people in small business.
    Not sure about corporations, never did such things, they are mostly money hungry motherfuckers anyway.

  • Also if the interview is more of a personal interest story there are lots of cut away shots with the subject walking around.

  • I shoot allot of non professionals, many never in front of a camera.. many tense up really bad and just look uncomfortable.. had one today like that, she was a "hand talker".. and wasn't moving her hands, so she was putting that motion into her body (standing interview) had to straight up tell her talk with you hands.. once she did that she stopped swaying back and forth. You have to read them.. before "the interview" just get a feel for there natural habits..with general daily talk .. Nice weather out today. Sure is a nice facility you have here. BS talk.. just not related to the interview.. to get a feel for the natural state of the person.

    One great tip if you have a shy person or really tense person: go through the interview and after going through your questions they are usually warmed up and relaxed.. Go back through some of the first questions so you get nice relaxed statements on those.. Like who they are what they do who they work for etc.. Can't tell you how much better it is.. also place the really important questions/topics near the end of you interview where they should be relaxed and more comfortable.

    On the other end some people just love being on camera and well eat up every last minute they can , you have to reel them in a bit and Just straight up ask for concise answers.

    Before questions, I tell them "if you feel like your rambling , you probably are, short answers are perfectly fine and actually encouraged, if we want to know more we will ask." For us, we are looking for those soundbite type clips, depends on what your looking for from the interview.

    Also as your behind camera or off camera use facial expressions and body actions, that help the talent.. they are not typically just talking, they want a conversation.. converse silently with them using body language. If they make a funny comment, smile, chuckle silently ect.. if they had a good point or remark show them that you agree by nodding you head.. if they said something that wasn't understood well, make a confused look on your face. Use this silent communication to get what you want from them.

  • So far I have conducted two interviews (starting out smallish) and this is what I've picked up:

    First I would like to thank everyone for your input! The questions worked! Small talk, then making them answer and incorporating the question (My favorite color is...) and using open ended questions to get them talking.

    Doing this solo I've found it's pretty hard nailing focus during the interview: The best way of getting them spontaneous and eager to talk is by looking them in the eyes all time, making expressions, guiding them by frowning and smiling instead of talking. This means you have very little time checking your focus, even with an external LCD. Solution: Record a test take while small talking and play it back while putting your external LCD in 1:1 mode. This way you know how your subject moves during true conversation (they move differently if you ask them to fake it) and adjust your DOF accordingly.

    Lighting: just the large windows to the left, no need to do a bounce fill (the place had a great natural light)

    Sound: H1 with lavalier and a long cable to my headphones. Works like a charm! I'm able to listen to the recording during the entire interview and could spot stray sounds (humming, passing trucks, etc) and calmly ask the subject to pause or repeat the answer.

    B-roll: You need more than you think! Hands, walking in corridors, doodling on the iPhone, outdoor settings, anything that helps you mask an edit, trimming out the best soundbites.

    The pictures are from my second shoot: GH2 with Cluster V1, Canon FD 35-100mm 3.5, Smooth -2-2-2-2 Graded in Vegas (WB, Levels, Sat, Sat limit 60) and slightly cropped in post (hence the softer image)

    More to come!

    Rough cut (not final) Password: widefilm

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    1920 x 1080 - 308K
  • Looks good! I couldn't understand it, but it looks good. I've found the side shot is a great way to mask "shifty eyes" as the talent sometimes hunts around in their mind for their next thought.

  • One long record for whole interview or many shorter ones? It helps in editing to have many small takes, but it looks like it doesn't help the subject when he/she sees me pressing the buttons. Any suggestions?

  • I was just offered a contract do film a 30 minute interview/round table discussion

    Shot list below is based on narrative film but still addresses the challenges of group discussion.



    By Daniel Arijon, "Grammar of the Film Language" (for English Version)

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  • Better audio in production