Five Steps to A Successful Interview
As one might think, the documentary process revolves and often hinges around the interviews. As I see it there are five many steps to a good interview.
STEP ONE: Preparing for the interview.
This step involves writing down the topics or questions you will want to cover with your subject. I personally never ask any questions but instead just ask my subjects to expand on keywords. I will cover this aspect in greater detail in a future blog.
STEP TWO: Scheduling the interview.
This often is the most challenging. The challenge comes from managing your expectations. What I mean is, I usually come up with an elaborate setting for my interviews to take place only to be thwarted by my subjects availability and schedule. An example attempted to conduct an interview in the early morning as the sun started peeking through the tall buildings of the city. Then my interview subject was two hours late. As you know, light changes fast.
STEP THREE: Filming the interview.
This is my favorite part of the process. I feel a sense of magic happen when the subject is on a role verbally and you are able to capture the magical little moments. For example, I think one time I was interviewing a messenger in a noisy downtown setting and right as they were discussing the dangers of the job an ambulance siren could be heard screaming through the streets in the background noise.
STEP FOUR: Importing the footage.
This is pretty straight forward and less artistic and more house keeping. This is the phase you organize the interview in sections as you import the video into your computer. But it is also very exciting and depressing to see what you shot. Depending on the interview. There are many times you are filming an interview and think, “This is going to be great!” and when you look at the footage it somehow lacks the magic you felt at the time of the interview. But more often than not it is the exact opposite. You are kind of excited while filming the interview and when you get home and watch what you shot you think your head is going to explode with excitement at the possibilities of editing from the awesome material you capture. It is an awesome feeling.
STEP FIVE: The Transcription
And the last step in the interview process prior to editing is the most tedious but I find the most rewarding. It is the transcription process. Maybe documentary films with bigger budgets hire someone to transcribe their interviews. I have no way of knowing. But I think that would be a crime. To go over the interview again and see and hear exactly what someone is saying while you write it down is invaluable. Many times I have read a transcription and thought what they said would be great for a certain section of the film. But when you hear and see HOW it was said you quickly realize whether it will work or not. And the reverse is true. Someone might say something the appears simple and boring buried 14 pages deep in a transcription. But when you SEE them say it, well once again to overuse the word, it’s magic!
So here are an extra clip from one of James’ interviews that I did not use in the film. (But I did transcribe it!)
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