The essential guide to interviewing for video production: Part 2
In our last article, we looked at how to plan and structure your video production for an interview and what we need to do before we even begin to record. We talked about body language, building trust and selecting the right type and tone of question for the right context. This week we’ll be looking at the different formats to an interview; from formal to informal, vox pop to ‘walk and talk’, and the benefits and disadvantages of each. To begin with, we’ll start with the interview approach you probably see (or hear) more than any other.
The Sit-down Interview
The sit-down interview usually tends to be a more personal discussion with your interviewee. It’s a format that normally allows for a longer duration than any other interview type so it’s excellent for getting context and background about a topic, or building a foundation for your film or podcast. However, you will need to be switched-on and actively listening throughout, so eye contact and noddies are essential! Obviously, any person can be interviewed in this format, but in general (although not always) these approaches tend to be more formal.
The Walk-and-Talk Interview
Although you’d assume it just means an interview conducted whilst walking, it’s actually referring to any interview where there’s an activity or action. For example; an archaeological dig, a building site, sporting event, or yes, even just walking. This approach always feels more relaxed then a sit-down, so it tends to lean towards more informal responses (although not always). The general duration of these interview types is normally dependent on the activity, but it’s worth mentioning that they do not lend themselves well to sustained questioning.
These are great for getting the lay person’s view on a subject, but you will need to check that they know what they’re talking about in advance. Vox pops can be highly engaging pieces of video content, however, you will definitely need to collect a broad range of them on the day of filming, as answers will quite often be fairly succinct. It’s also worth flagging that you may not get a fair range of representative answers, as your responses are potentially limited by your own timescales or geographic location. For example, if we asked a Northern town who their favourite sports person is, we may get a selection of very different responses if we asked the same question, in a Southern town. It’s safe to say that within video production, vox-pops are very subjective!
Whilst we’re on the subject of format, it’s worth considering whether a formal or informal approach is the right choice for your content. A research film would in general, probably lean more towards a formal approach, which tends to give an air of gravitas, with facts, figures and statistics (think BBC’s election coverage etc) and hopefully, a highly professional veneer, which tends to appeal more towards a traditional or slightly older audience. Again, like the sit-down interview style, this approach is great for background and context setting, and can sustain a longer duration, meaning you can collect or share more information.
An informal or casual interview style will offer a drastically different feel, being much more conversational, with the interviewer themselves quite often being a participant in the conversation. This approach will feel less planned and may have improvised questions, and can be quite engaging, however, the lack of structure may mean that it’s a little tricker to sustain.
So, to wrap up the series of ‘’The essential guide to interviewing for video production’, I thought it would be worth reiterating the single most important take home message from the above… pick the right approach/format for the context.
Think very carefully about what you want your subject to communicate and how you want them to be presented. If you are looking for something more academic or you need them to give out a lot of information, then go for something that sustains a longer interview, likewise, if you are only looking for short snippets, then you have a wider range of formats and approaches open to you.
If you get this right, then you’ll get fantastic results, however, if you select something that isn’t quite appropriate for your interviewee, then you may not get the results you were looking for (although it could be highly watchable for all the wrong reasons!).
I’ll leave you with a few classic car-crash interviews where subjects and interview format didn’t quite align. Please be aware this has some very strong language!
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