Filming interviews: tips for company profiles
Updated: Apr 11, 2018
Getting the best on-camera performance out of someone who runs a company isn't easy. It isn't their day job to perform in front of a camera, and very often however good they are at presenting during corporate seminars, a camera is a totally different beast.
Preparation, creating a relaxed interview set-up, giving the subject as much time and as many chances as possible to get it right, and filming in a way that can help in the edit, all add up to getting what is needed for a successful video.
This is a description of how to set up an interview that will be used as a 'storyline' for a film about a company, individual, or anything at all really. The idea is not to include the interviewee on camera, and their questions won't be heard either. The interviewee's job is to ask the prompt questions, and to be the person that the subject look at while responding.
What one will end up with is a 'documentary' style profile that is 'interview-led', either using one interviewee, or multiple interviewees all cut together to tell the story.
The starting point is to prepare beforehand those 'prompt' questions designed to draw out the responses required to tell the story. The interview is then set up with the aim of facilitating a conversation between the interviewer and the interviewee using the prompt questions to steer the narrative.
SET UP - ONE OF MANY!
What does work well is to shoot using two cameras set-up side by side, both pointing at the person being interviewed. One camera will be on a wide shot, the other tighter. The tight shot (head and shoulders or closer) has to be set up nearer to the interviewer in order to get the subject's eye-line as close to the camera as possible. The wider shot (wide enough to frame the elbows) will then be on the outside, always wide enough not to notice the discrepancy of eye-line.
The interviewee's will therefore be looking to the left or right of camera depending on what is preferred. One can't use two cameras in this way if the subjects wants to look at the camera since he or she will be looking at one camera only, and however wide you set the other camera, it won't look right.
The advantages of having the two shot sizes are firstly, during the edit one can cut between the two shots to edit the content, get rid of those 'ums' and help the subject to tell the story. The shot size can also be changed to dramatic effect depending on what the person is talking about - a wider shot is more relaxed, bigger picture, the tighter implies something series, more dramatic, delivering the core messages.
(Note too though that if one is shooting using a camera with 4K resolution, the high image quality can allow one to zoom into a wider shot in order to create the two shot sizes, so no need for two cameras.)
RULES OF ENGAGEMENT
Digital recording is cheap and so one can have as many 'go's' as necessary. These rules of engagement can be suggested to the interviewee:
Try to answer in full sentences, meaning if prompted to talk about how many employees there are, don't say 'Two hundred and fifty', rather say 'In our UK head office we have over two hundred and fifty staff members..." etc.
Try to keep your eyes on the interviewer at all times in 'conversational style'. Don't look at the camera or elsewhere, it can look a little 'shifty'!
It's fine to use your hands to emphasise what you are saying, but not to extreme.
When you have finished talking, keep looking at the interviewer for a moment. Don't look at the camera or at other's in the room for affirmation. The editor needs a breath at the end of a sentence in order to cut.
It's ok to smile sometimes at the right moments.
If you loose your way, just pick-up and carry on - the two cameras allow for an edit to be performed to join things together again.
It very often feels as though the content is disjointed; well prepared prompts will assure that everything that needs to be said has been recorded. Also take notes along the way if you can. The editing process will then do the job of joining together what at the time feels like a scattered jigsaw puzzle!
Ultimately, the final edited 'puzzle' will primarily include lots of lovely shots of the companies' activities that the interviewee will be talking about, so their face will be on screen only when necessary, or when it feels appropriate. But the best result is to get as much of the on-camera performance perfect so that you always have the option to use it.