We talk to Bold Content’s Director of Photography Matt Camlin about how to get the most from your interviews. Find out how to get the best results when creating your next corporate interview video.
- Know your key messages – Know what key messages you need the interview subject to deliver so that you can tailor the right questions to produce those answers.
- Avoid closed questions – Closed questions that can be answered in only a couple of words won’t lead to good video content.
- Make sure to include nouns – Including noun’s is very important for maintaining context later on when the interviewers questions are removed.
- Don’t be afraid to load the question – If there is a key message that you want to get across you shouldn’t be afraid to load the question so that your subject will hit the right points.
- On-the-spot translation is very useful – If you are conducting an interview in a foreign language having on the spot translations can be very useful. This allows you to tailor your follow-up questions to unlock more interesting information.
Why are interviews important for corporate videos?
Most videos are composed of an interview which forms the bones of the corporate video. The flesh of the video is then built around that with cinematic cutaways. So in order to get the foundations of a good corporate video you need to have good questions to ask your interviewee.
How do you determine what questions to ask the interview subject?
A good way to approach this is to think the other way around. For example, for my video I may want the subject to come and talk about new computers they are making and I need to show off the five key points. So that he can deliver those five key points you need to ask him a question that will allow him to talk about them. So you need think about the ideal answer you are looking for and then find a question that will produce that.
How do you make sure that the answers will be clear for your audience?
Most often in videos the person asking the question wont be recorded on audio, you will hear them in the background but they wont be specifically recorded for audio quality, so they need to ask questions that are open ended. Try to not include closed questions like ‘How do you think things are going?’ where the answer might be ‘Yeah, they are going alright’.
Or another example would be asking “How did you get here this morning?” and they answer “on the bus” you need to get them to say “I got here on the bus this morning.” It’s a really basic tip, but also very useful. Try and get your interviewee to answer in longer answers, but not too long. Around two to three sentences is ideal.
Also you need to make sure that the interviewee includes the question within their answer. So a question like “how do you think the computers are going?” needs an answer such as “The computers are going great.”
These two points are very important because without the persons question you don’t have any context to place the answer in, and if your video is formed of one word answers then it’s going to go downhill very quickly.
How do you decide how much information that subject should provide?
You need to make sure that you are covering all the information and some subjects require a lot of extensive answering. We do a lot of work with the University of London, LSHTM, and when you are talking about the development of a specific bug that infects people in Nigeria and their blood etc., it takes a lot of information to sell the message. But you still need to try to keep it concise, because when you produce the video we don’t want to bore the audience and lose potential viewers.
Another thing, some times people will give a half answer, make sure that firstly, you get a full answer from them because we cant really use half answers, they are useless. And if someone alludes to something you need to pry into it. Basically it’s about taking it more a journalistic approach.
What types of questions should you ask?
How does it make you feel? That is a great question. Or how would you compare it to something? Is it better than something else? Because when you get it into post we are going to be looking for these great phrases. In Malta we came up with this idea that we could use the phrase ‘water is the new gold’.
It’s those phrases in your videos that will make your viewers come back. They will grab onto these little pinches of information and so they are super valuable.
There is also nothing wrong with loading a question. This year we were filming in Valencia, Italy, covering a number of water sustainability initiatives. Often times people will ask why is water sustainability so important in Valencia, and within your answer I would like you to include the phrase
99% of the time people will be giving you the exact same answer without that prelude but they just don’t have the skills to get that message across, and without that message getting across, they will have that message in their head but they will just be struggling to express it and that’s where we have to help them with the answers and the questions, there is nothing wrong with loading a question like that. You’re just helping them getting that message across and if they are not comfortable with that, they will just let you know.
We shot the Big Bang Fair which is a big UK wide thing for young people getting into science. And we were interviewing a lot of young people who haven’t been interviewed for TV or video before. And to help them along the way we made sure that we asked “how would you say this compared to your lessons at school?” and “why do you think it is super important for girls to get into engineering?” and to help load the question to give them a starting block is super helpful.
How much do you need to know about the topic of the interview?
I approach interviewing in a style from a man on the street perspective. It’s really dependent on the audience you trying to get to, with LSHTM you are selling courses to an academic market. These are people who want to take masters or doctorates in specific medical courses, so they are going to come with a certain amount of academic knowledge, and they are want to build upon that, and they are going to be expecting a certain amount of jargon to show that this institution has the necessary medical foundation to help them learn. If you are approaching a more man on the street audience, that’s a lot more helpful because I can be that person easily. It just depends on your audience.
If someone is taking a long time to tell their answer and then you ask them to give the answer again, chances are that you get more uhms, and less of the actual answer. However there is a lot you can do when you get it back into post production to eliminate the uhms.
We always shoot with a two camera setup so if a say something like “I went to get the bus this morning. “Oh no I didn’t get the bus this morning I got the train this morning and it was over packed” you can cut out a section where they change their mind, and you cut from one camera to the other. This lets you ensure that the interview still holds enough weight and carries the message.
Will you ask the interviewee the same question multiple times and then rephrase the question for a slightly different answer?
Absolutely, I always think about the guys in post-production. There is nothing worse than getting an interview back and its wrongly phrased or something hasn’t been explained and you have trouble in post because it won’t end up as smooth as possible.
Should something be expressed badly then there is nothing wrong with asking someone to say it again. Generally my way is just to point it out, say okay that was a great answer, would you mind this time telling me a bit more about this particular thing or a little less about this and a little more about that, or tell me in three sentences instead of in five sentences.
What are the three key points of this particular thing, and just help people along the way and give them little key points.
Is it important to refer to people and products using their actual name?
Yes, again this is very important for giving the viewer context. When you are doing an hour long interview with the CEO of a computer company you will find a lot that he will reference the new computer as the xf305 for the first five times by name. But as the interview progresses he will say “the computer” or “our new computer.”
It’s important to remember that from a corporate video production standpoint we will take that hour long interview and then condense it to a couple of minutes and it becomes more difficult to establish context over time.
Before editing it’s difficult for us to make the connection, because we don’t know the way in which we will play it back, we may decide to do the second half of the interview first or cut half and tailor the second quarter of the remaining half. Maintaining context is super important.
That is something I will keep my eye on during shoots and someone who is a well trained operator will just watch it and it’s just something you need to be really aware of. There is a certain amount that we can correct in post production, but if we can do it better on the day it will lead to a better production value.
How do you overcome language barriers?
Language barriers are really challenging and this is something we are facing as a company at the moment. We spent a lot of time this summer shooting in Spain and Poland and Italy. Poland as an example was really challenging because non of the crew spoke Polish. Luckily we had a Polish translator who was amazing. So what happened is, Tamara the director would ask questions, with her eye line to the interview subject and then the interview subject would be looking at the translator.
She will pose the interview question. The translator will translate it into the current language and the answer will come back to the translator and the translator will then give a brief breakdown of the answer that she gave.
So it’s a real challenge. The interviews in another language will always be translated straight after the interview but to have that information while you are filming the interview is so much more beneficial because you can really lead to unlocking stories that someone is eluding to but hasn’t yet completely revealed.
Will you typically conduct a pre-interview?
Yes, usually we do pre-interviews, to get a sense of the person. Often it is the case that we will know that John is the CEO of the company and he has a marketing standpoint on how this or that works. But pre-interviews are super important and super helpful because they allow us to get friendly with the subject and to really get to the bottom of what the message is about and see how they work as a person and how they talk and figure out the best ways to derive content from people. We have experience unlocking that information from people and to see what kind of people we are working with.