Being well prepared for an interview is half of the success already. If you think that writing your questions, setting up date and place is enough, I’ll prove you wrong in this article.
I’m a freelance videographer and have interviewed presidents, musicians, Miss World and I have learnt some very interesting things about how to approach and interview very successful people.
Do the Research
Watch as many interviews of an interviewee as you can before you even start writing the questions. You will learn from someone else’s mistakes as well as see what works for these people and when they get annoyed. Pay close attetion to their behaviour during the interviews. You will see right away what kind of questions they like and don’t like.
Notice what kind of questions they are interested in and watch for questions that repeat countless times in previous interviews. Also pay attention to surroundings and shooting angles. Your interviewee might have done a lot of interviews already, try to make it more interesting for them by creating something new — with questions/surrounding/shooting angles.
The part where you tell your interviewee where this interview takes place, when and also you should include what you want to use it for. That is actually the most important thing because they need to know with what kind of business or brand they get involved with. There is a difference, for example, whether the interview will be used for schools, students to learn or corporate promotion. This will determine whether the subject will say yes to it or not.
And at this stage, I wouldn’t recommend lying to your subject because once they find out you lied to them, you will never get your trust back.
However, if you really want to get in touch with someone like Madonna, for example, and you are willing to do anything for it, then it might work to say that this interview will feed the world or something.
It’s fair to say why you want to do it and what you want to achieve by it. Saying that you only want more popularity on Youtube thanks to them is not a good start.
Before the actual start of the interview, you should do some directing. Meaning, you have to explain your interviewee what is going to happen now. You might have sent them a sheet with information regarding basic questions, purpose of the video, length… but have in mind — these people are very busy, these people talk to many other people on a daily basis and these people don’t have time to read/remember your sheet with information.
I’m not saying this is a bad thing, don’t forget the third tip — put yourself in their shoes — they expect that you will tell them everything right before you start shooting. So do that.
Put yourself in their shoes
You might have it all figured out in your head but the person you’re interviewing doesn’t know what is or what will be going on. You have to explain every single step, everything you do and more importantly why you’re doing it — adding a sort of sense into technical terms which not everybody might understand.
For instance, instead of just saying:
‘I’m setting up the camera now, give me a minute.’
followed by a minute of silence where your subject is already thinking about what they’ll have for dinner, you could say this instead:
‘The light in this room is really great and it will look much better in the video, so let me just make this happen by setting it up this way… yeah this is great… looks perfect.’
This way you add up time, so before you finish the sentence, you’re already setting up the camera. And then you tell your subject they look great which is very important.
Most of us think we don’t look good on camera and especially when we cannot see ourselves during filming.
So your interviewee can get pretty nervous before the camera and it’s a good idea to show them exactly how they look. You can take a screenshot of them and show them, adding your comment about how they look — in your opinion [they might say they look horrible]. They also want to know what exactly will you film — full body or just face etc.
If you’re setting up more things than just a video camera, you can simply use some ice breakers. Try to make them smile/laugh. Tell them some funny facts about the city you’re in or tell them you’ve seen them in this and that interview and you really liked it because… — this will also show that you came prepared and you probably won’t ask them same old questions.
You can also mention a certain show you’ve seen where they did something funny — make them remember it and laugh at it again.
Try to avoid explaining the technical stuff or commenting on different kinds of lights that you’re using. They probably have no idea what you’re talking about and this won’t make them feel more relaxed.
If they are interested in technical terms and they will ask you what kind of camera is that, how you work with lights, then engage in conversation of course. Show that you are very passionate about what you do and you love it. They also do what they love and make a living out of it so you both are on the same ship which again makes them feel more comfortable.
We always feel better if we talk to a person that completely understands us.
I love everything digital but in this case, I stand the opinion that you should print the questions you want to ask and have them in front of you on paper. It will also show, you have put time and effort into it. Think about how you print it, how you design the whole thing (font, colours) text and everything about it. If you just create A4 with some text, it’s useless.
Have 1 copy also for them so you can give it to them at the end of interview. In this copy, write also your full name, contact details and social media profiles somewhere visible so they can contact you easily if needed. And of course there’s more chance they’ll remember your name.
Avoid questions with ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answers!! You might have seen your interviewee in other interviews and they talked and talked but it might be the questions that made them talk.
You never know what day they’re having, maybe they’re tired or just don’t talk much and they need a reason. The question of this type:
‘Do you like this city?’
‘Yes, it’s cool.’
That’s it! That’s one question. As long as you don’t plan to have 100 questions, your interview will end in 5 minutes!
I don’t wanna tell you what you should ask instead because I want you to think about it. Write your questions and read them 20 times before you decide you really wanna ask that. What does this question holds, is it important? Will the answer be valuable for viewers?
Let’s say this is slightly better version of the question:
‘I don’t know how much you’ve seen from this city yet, but was there anything interesting for you?’
But again, have in mind these things:
Who will watch this interview?
What is your target audience?
Make these questions in a way that your target audience will be interested. Ice-breaker questions are ok but then get to the point as soon as you can. The interview should not last more than 30 minutes.
Confidence in your decisions
On the other hand, some people/especially artists might also have ideas about how to do this interview. For instance, they could tell you that in the other corner there’s a better light, so maybe you should go there instead. If you interview a musician, of course they might also give point about quality of sound.
Try to prepare yourself for this by coming up with good answers and good attitude. You have to be confident about your decisions and you have to show that you already gave thought to every possibility and you chose the best one. Replying by technical one liners comes with experience so if you’re not sure that you can explain your choice technically, then just be confident and don’t even start thinking about the other corner.
The interviewee has to feel that they are in the hands of a professional. This way they will also be confident that this interview won’t end as a disaster. But again, all this has to be the result of preparation. Before the interview, try to think about light and different angles in every room you enter. This way it will be easy for you to decide on it in few seconds during the actual interview. And you will stand by your decision. Even if you don’t have experience, you can prepare yourself by thinking about every possible scenario.
If you want to know more about videography before you interview your favourite celebrity, idol, you can buy my e-book How to become a professional videographer for £5 on Gumroad.
Or you can go ahead and listen to my FREE podcast about my fails, funny stories, mistakes and success in my career.
Feel free to get in touch with me if you need advice on anything related to this article or videography in general.
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