Tips for interviewing

Today I met with our friend Elad, who is a professional journalist working on Israel’s most popular current affairs program. Each show Elad organises for the hosts to interview up to 10 people – now that’s a lot of interviewing experience!

Elad gave me tonnes of tips and food for thought about the mini-interviews I want to create.

Jo & Elad talking about interviewing

Elad explaining how to interview to Jo (photo by Fly on the Wall)

In each interview it will be one nugget, one gem that makes the interview amazing. There will be one thing that the interviewee says that will make the biggest difference between a boring interview and an amazing one, and it is the interviewer’s job to lead the interviewee to tell the story they have to tell in an interesting way.

Before I start my interviews (or perhaps during the initial phase) I need to decide on my visual language for my interview series. What will the title sequence look like? What will be feature camera angles and shots I will have? Extreme closeups, wide angle, side shots, front on. Will there be theme music? How else will your interview series look like a series?

I also need to decide on what my role in the interview will be. Will I be on camera, introducing the interview and participating, or be unseen in the finished product?

Jo listening

Jo listening (photo by Fly on the Wall)

It will be very important to create a build up to the interview before people watch it. I could do that on camera, or in the blog post before they watch it, or even in the title.

The worst thing I could do is post analysis – coming on camera after the interview, or analysing it in a bog post. I need to let people digest the interview however they want. My role is purely in how I present the interview to them – how it is edited, how I asked the questions. I can’t tell them what to think afterwards.

It is important to include all three time frames in every interview – the past, present and future – which will help to tell a story, and make it a full story to the viewer.

When ending the interview (or the edited version that is), you want to leave the viewer thinking something, like what will happen next? Or how will this person accomplish their challenges? What will change? It is not a good thing to sum everything up – loose ends are important to keep the viewer thinking about the interview and that person. It will create an impact.

Elad said that you always should know what the interviewee is going to say before you do the interview. No professional interviews are done without prior research and discussion with the interviewee. This was surprising for me, I always thought those amazing interviews I saw on TV were totally spontaneous! The interviewee’s job is to write the plot for the interview, so they will be the story teller guiding the interviewee through their story to tell it in the most interesting way.

At the start of the video I should make sure that there is a mapping of the subject, so the viewer has basic information on who the person is. This can be done via some video shots of where they live, or what they look like as a person, or by the interviewee speaking to the camera saying their age and where they live. I need to provide enough information about the person so the viewer can make an initial opinion about what they see, and judge their character. It is like creating a character in a story.

One question that we both like is asking “Why are you here?” – there could be lots of answers – philosophical, practical, family history, all sorts of things.

Thanks go to Elad for helping me with my project, and Amit Turkenitz for taking these beautiful photos!

writing away in my notebook

writing away in my notebook (photo by Fly on the Wall)

Elad and Jo

Elad continues telling Jo what he knows (photo by Fly on the Wall)

Elad

All about interviewing (photo by Fly on the Wall)

 

Jo Savill is a writer, science communicator and entrepreneur. Stay up to date with Jo’s writing by signing up to her newsletter

 

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