At Oswego Creative, we often tell stories about real people, working real jobs, providing for real families. The stories are authentic and narrated by the characters themselves through the use of interviews. However, these are non-actors who for the most part have no experience being in front of a camera. So, you can imagine how nervous a person can get when sitting for an on-camera interview.
They see three or four production lights shining down on them, a boom microphone directly over their head, and two cameras pointed directly at their face. A production crew surrounds them, and sitting across from them is the producer, who’s ready to grill them with questions.
That’s enough to give anybody the sweats.
But as a producer, the last thing I want my interview subject to be is nervous. When a person is nervous, their answers tend to be stiff, without emotion, or even worse, rehearsed.
I don’t want that.
I want to capture a person’s genuine thoughts and feelings through their answers. That being said, how do I de-escalate the nerves and just have a conversation?
BUILD TRUST & LISTEN BEFORE:
For me, it’s all about building trust and listening more than asking questions. I like to call them beforehand to build familiarity and have somewhat of a pre-interview interview. If I’m able to meet my subjects in person before the shoot, I’ll take them out for dinner to discuss what to expect when we film the interview. I want to get to know them as a person, and I want them to get to know me. I listen as they tell me their story. I build a rapport with my interview subjects so that we can have a back and forth exchange rather than rattling questions off one after another.
BE WILLING TO FLOW WITH THE CONVO:
When I don’t have the opportunity to meet a subject before an interview, I still make a point to gain trust. I come into interviews with a specific direction and prepared questions, but then I let our conversation guide us to the core of their story. I get into a flow, which gets them into a flow. I project confidence so they can project confidence. I do my best to get them to forget about the lights and the camera, and just focus on our friendly exchange of words. And then before they know it, I will have asked everything that I needed without it seeming like an interrogation. The key is treating our conversation as just that; a conversation.
Don’t worry, conducting a successful interview is a skill that can be practiced and perfected. Remember, all you are trying to do is create a comfortable environment in which a subject can naturally give honest, authentic, genuine answers. If you are still unsure of how to create a comfortable environment, brainstorm things you personally would find helpful and implement some of those ideas into your next interview to see how they help. Overall, you want to think of the interview as a genuine conversation where you are trying to get to know and understand your subject and their story.
Again, my biggest tip is: instead of just diving straight into an interview, take the time to get to know your subject a little better. Although building trust requires some extra effort, it will all be worth it in the end.