Being a one-man band, I don’t have the luxury of having a reporter to do the interview for me. That means I need to get the narrative I will need to construct my story later. Long, rambling interviews, will slow you down when you start to edit. Ask the right questions that elicit tight answers full of information and passion. It’s important to keep eye contact with your subjects. If they stare at the lens, they will have that deer in headlights look. I like to give exaggerated facial cues to my subjects to let them know what they are saying is right on. Getting a subject to open up quickly will only help you later when you do your edit.Trust me, a reporter within hairspray range ain’t always a luxury. Sure, there are some gifted storytellers with their own 8 by 10 glossies, but thrice a month I visibly cringe when someone in a suit gives The Speech.
“Okay sir, we’re about to begin recording. Whatever you do not look into the camera. I repeat, do not look into the camera! Now - if any time during the interview process you want to step away collect your thoughts on congratulate me on my spiffy new hair-flip feel free to do so as we are not currently transmitting live. If we were transmitting live you’d see a whole bunch of cables feeding off the rear area of my photog’s camera here and no doubt the whole place would reek of exhaust fumes as there would be a heavily logo’d live truck parked somewhere within a one block radius. So - in review - don’t look at the camera, collect your thoughts at will, compliment me freely, recognize my equipment specs and please - no speeches. Get it? Got it? Good. Now, remember - RELAX!”
By the time the well-meaning reporter fully mirandizes the interview subject, the tension is so thick you could bounce your fill-light off of it. Suddenly unsure whether he should have even let you jokers in, the person wearing the microphone either clams-up, speaks in fragments or simply denies all knowledge of those third graders in his deep freezer. So, do what I do. Nuthin’. After dragging my gear into the room , I seat my subject, rig a light or two, aim and frame - all while making polite Southern small talk about the weather and such. At some point I hit the Record button and transition from techie to inquisitor, but at no time do I break out circuit board schematics, cite worse-case conversation scenarios or flash a badge I ain’t got. Instead I just talk -- and listen! That way the interviewee is halfway done before they ever realize I’m rolling tape and I come away with a quality exchange that more closely resembles the truth. More times than not, the person in my scope will remark with glee how easy that was and ask again if I was really rolling. And just think: I do it all with only a high school diploma and an oversized camera draped in day-glo slogans. Think what you can do with that Masters degree and that Sears Wish-Book lens!
By the way, is that thing on?