In this business, corporate videos are a large staple and continuing source of revenue for most video production companies. In most of these corporate/industrial videos there is a reliance on what we call “talking heads.” Interviews are exceedingly common but the problem is that there isn’t always room in the budget for a director and often no time in the schedule for anything but a simple conference room as the backdrop. It’s a question that has plagued producers since the first camera took the first footage in an office. “How do I make this interesting?” And “how do I help these people seem real?”
When you are working with non-actors there tends to be an uneasiness with the process, a self consciousness with the content and a reluctance to reveal much. This holds true for everything from documentaries to corporate videos. People aren’t used to being on camera, but it is our job to make them feel comfortable and hopefully that they forget that they’re doing anything other than just having a chat.
The key to a good interview is to establish a rapport and be conversational. No one wants to feel like they are up on the witness stand about to get badgered into testifying about something. Most people however do like “talking shop” with their friends or revealing their feelings to someone they trust. Getting that trust and keeping that conversational environment is key.
The best question you can ask is with your eyes while listening. Most people like to talk about what they know about and will do so freely if they think they’re talking to someone who cares about what they’re saying – and you should, after all it’s your job to care and in most cases the specific knowledge that the interviewee has is probably new to you anyway.
A few tips:
Ask questions that are easy to reply to with context intact.
Don’t ask multiple questions at a time.
Ask questions that are simple and to the point. You will be amazed at what great responses you’ll get from questions as simple as “do you like your job?” or “is this a good company?”
Do your homework so that you can come off as an expert while having them explain it to you as if you know nothing.
Always try to have one answer flow into another pertinent question. If this means asking questions out of order then that’s fine.
People don’t want to look stupid. Saying something like “making you look smart is the best way to make me look smart” is a good way to allay their fears.
In general, everything you do should be subtle and smooth and inconspicuous. The best interviewers are those who talk with someone for half an hour and at the end the interviewee says “We’re already done? I thought you were gonna ask me some questions.”
That’s when you know you’re doing something right.