Getting the Most out of Interviews

Interviews are an effective way to tell a story, share messages and add a human element to a video. At 522, we constantly integrate interviews into corporate marketing videos, short documentaries and other projects. Interviews provide great ammunition for the following:

  • Showcasing the personality of an organization
  • Sharing specific experiences
  • Describing past events
  • Communicating emotion
  • Providing a sense of realism
  • Giving variety to the visuals of a project

Despite the perceptions of some, there’s a lot more that goes into an interview than just sitting someone down and asking a few questions. A lot of different things go into preparing and conducting an interview. Here’s a glimpse into the preparation we typically like to go through before conducting interviews for a project.

Learn About Interview Subjects

One of the first things we like to do is to understand the interview subjects. After all, if you’re going to have a good interview, it’s important to know some background information on the individuals. Now, not every interview requires a deep dive into a person’s history; however, it’s important to get relevant information beforehand. In most cases, we lean on our clients to gather information on interview subjects. But, there are other things we do in order to familiarize ourselves with interviewees. Here’s a brief list of steps to take when preparing for an interview:

  • Research LinkedIn profile
  • Get a list of prior jobs/experiences of the interviewee
  • Identify any clubs or organizations the interviewee is involved in
  • Conduct a brief interview with a colleague to understand more about the person
  • Read articles or blog posts written by the interviewee

Develop Interview Questions

Although it may seem easy to just come up with questions the night before the shoot, this is a terrible idea. If interviews are a big part of your story, the questions are the main avenue to getting the information you need. Some considerations with interview questions:

  • Develop interview questions collaboratively and work with a variety of stakeholders to make sure you’re covering all topics related to the video
  • Create open-ended questions to get more comprehensive answers
  • Identify questions to build rapport during the interview process (not every question asked needs to be used in video)
  • Develop a list of secondary or follow-up questions to use if time permits
  • Create questions that are on opposite sides of the spectrum (“what is your favorite?” vs. “what is your least favorite?”)

Identify the Location for the Interview


The location of an interview is very important to the story. The environment used can offer more visual cues for the viewer and add to the commentary provided by the interviewee. In many instances, it’s also important for the interviewee to feel comfortable in their setting. If the interviewee is in a comfortable situation, it’s more suitable for natural responses and leads to a better overall interview.

Before showing up at a location and filming, our crew typically conducts a location scout. We use location scouts (checkout our post on the corporative video production process) to identify the final area for filming, confirm power sources and understand any limitations with audio, etc. We also get an understanding of how much we can manipulate an environment (move chairs, bring in props, etc.). Here is a brief list of just some of the things to consider with interview locations:

  • If there are windows in the office, how different will the set look in the morning vs the afternoon?
  • Will the crew have to stop shooting due to loud noises in the hallway?
  • Can we change angles or setups while still in the same area?
  • Does the location have enough variety when shooting multiple interviews?
  • How does the background correlate with the story?

Prepare the Interviewee


It is always important to set expectations with the interview subject. In some situations, there will be an eight-person production crew involved or in other scenarios a smaller team (two or three). We always feel that it is important to convey what the interviewee can expect during the process. During pre-production, it’s important to discuss the interview setup with each interviewee or at least provide a general idea of what will transpire. The last thing you want on the day of production is to surprise the subject and make them feel uncomfortable.

Other than setting expectations, it is also important to share the purpose of the interview. A lot of our projects involve a large number of interviewees, so we can’t always sit down with each person beforehand. However, we encourage our clients to discuss the project with each interviewee and outline what occurs during the production. In order to facilitate this process, we usually share production schedules or reference our very own blog posts to describe what folks can expect during the day of the shoot.

Believe it or not, we usually discourage sharing specific interview questions with our subjects. We feel that sharing questions beforehand often leads to unnatural responses and reduces the quality of the content. Instead, we like to issue a creative brief or summary of the project to convey the purpose of the interview.

Identify Additional Requirements


Once a plan is established for the interview, it’s important to also address additional requirements. One of the things we usually recommend for interviews is the use of a make-up artist or wardrobe consultant. A large percentage of our projects involve interviews with key executives or government officials. So, it is important to ensure these individuals look great on camera…especially in High Definition (HD). A make-up artist constantly observes monitors to make sure the Talent appears consistent throughout the interview (especially with hair).
In addition to the make-up artist, it’s also important to address any specific requirements with the location. For example, can the location accommodate an interviewee with a disability?

Conclusion


As you can see, there is more to interviews than just coming up with questions and picking a random employee to sit down in front of a camera. Questions, location, and talent preparation are just some of the things you need to think about thoroughly to get the most out of the interviews and tell the best story possible.

Resources

Creating a video doesn't have to be complicated. Here are a few resources to help you along the way.

  • New to Video?

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  • How Much is
    a Video Worth?

    A complete guide to
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