HOW TO CONDUCT A DOCUMENTARY STYLE INTERVIEW

In this amazingly innovative and always developing creative media industry, one of the most used techniques to show certain aspects or highlight facts or people is the documentary interview. While many might think an interview is a simple thing to organize and conduct, the truth is that there are specific steps to consider, especially for a documentary-style interview, where a certain degree of planning and preparation is needed. This style of the interview can be used for a variety of purposes, either personal or commercial, presenting or promoting something or someone. The first thing to consider prior to the actual documentary interview is creating an outline of the person or persons to be interviewed, stuff about the background or the history of the subject, its location and characteristics, either statistical or descriptive information that will greatly help with a general overview. The outline is a very important step, as this will be the basis of the future interview, used as inspiration for the questions, the location, and the overall process and direction. The more in-depth the interview will be, the more research has to be done beforehand, learning more details about the interviewee, his business and/or life, facts, and figures that could help create a more professional interview.

From this outline, the next step is to draw a series of questions that will be asked during the interview, questions that will develop on the aspects you wish to highlight. Ideally, the first questions should be about simpler facts, the name, and background of the person being interviewed, while each subsequent question should be somewhat connected to the previous ones, creating a sense of continuity, giving a sense of flow to the entire documentary-style interview. The next thing to consider is choosing a location and this is not such a difficult step, as there are plenty of places. Nevertheless, the location should help tell the story, being connected to the person or subject discussed. A good location will help with the feel of the interview, creating a background that ties together the story. It could be the business where the person works if this is the subject of the interview, his or her home if it will be more of a personal style documentary, and so on. If anything connected to the story is unavailable for whatever reason, the interview can be performed anywhere, and the focus will be on the interviewee while the background can be out of focus.

The best results of a documentary-style interview, while still shooting on a certain budget, is a two-camera setup, where one of the cameras is equipped with a close-up lens that will only frame the subject and where the subject will look, while the other camera with a wide to medium lens will also include some of the backgrounds. The close-up camera will be positioned slightly to the left or the right of the wide camera. One aspect that will influence and hopefully improve the end result is lighting and there are many things to consider. The quality and direction of light is one of the most important factors in videography and knowing how to use natural light or set up artificial lighting is an important skill. Depending on the location, natural light might even be enough to shoot the entire interview, but more often, one needs to improve the existing light conditions. Depending on the situation, you could use reflectors, softboxes, strobes, light modifiers, video LED light and other stuff. Sound is also important and depending on resources, two sources of good quality should be used to create quality results.

Perhaps just as important as the technical aspects, conducting a documentary-style interview is about talking to people and you have to know what to say and when to say it. The interviewee should know how to respond to the questions in order to achieve the results, as short answers should be avoided. Explaining to the subject to repeat the question in his answer and develop on the answer as much as possible, with details and facts. Do not be afraid to repeat a question until the answer has the information you need and also do not be afraid to follow up with questions that are not in the script if certain aspects arise in the middle of the interview. A good idea would be to try and make the subjects show emotions and involvement in the story. The last step to keep in mind is to shooting a b-roll after the interview, filming details on everything the subject talks about. This helps greatly with composing the overall story, showing a degree of understanding and immersion into the process, making the viewers more involved. Never stop shooting after the last answer of the subject, try to get shots that highlight the main points of the interview. These are just the main aspects to keep in mind if you plan to shoot a documentary-style interview, the things that should give a good start in the process.

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