Video content tips

How to interview people on camera

Interviewing people for your content can be a daunting prospect, especially if you’re capturing the footage as well as trying to direct what your interviewee is saying or contributing simultaneously. As somebody who gets anxious about interviewing in general, I sometimes struggle with the thought of coming up with questions and getting the best out of people on camera. Even after doing this as a job for over a decade, It’s still not something that comes naturally to me. Fortunately, I’ve developed techniques that help me get the best out of interviews.

Try and create a relaxed environment

This may sound obvious, but if you’re juggling a few jobs at once, it’s easy for the shoot to get away from you and for you to give off panicky energy and this is the worst situation for you to be in with an interviewee, especially if you don’t know them very well as they’ll probably be nervous. So if they pick up that you’re also nervous or panicked, that can have a detrimental effect on what you’re trying to capture. A good way to avoid this is to try and get as much set-up done as possible before your subject arrives. This may mean arriving at your interview location half an hour or an hour before your subject to get all of the technical setups out of the way. This should allow you time to properly go over interview questions and it’ll mean you can fully focus on your subject when they arrive.

Be friendly

In my experience, no matter the content you’re making, you want your interviewee to be open and honest with you but this is only achievable if the person you’re interviewing feels comfortable around you and is comfortable in the space you’re in. This is just about being genuine and friendly. Try and be yourself and make sure you’ve researched and prepped properly for the interview you conduct. If it’s a sensitive subject you’re asking questions about, make sure your tone is right for that. Alternatively, if the answers you’re after are more fun, then try and be a bit more upbeat in your approach. It’s about properly reading the person that your speaking to and making sure you don’t come across as insensitive and properly listening and engaging.

Ask the right questions

You can do this by making sure the questions you’re asking serve your film/content. Does the film require emotion? If so, make sure your questions are designed to bring emotion out of the interviewee. ‘How did X make you feel?’ This usually comes down to good planning so try and have a good idea of what kind of answers you need or want and cater your questions to this. If you have the opportunity to speak to or research your subject before you shoot, this will help as well. If you’ve spoken to the interviewee beforehand you’ll be able to predict how they’ll answer more accurately.

The main thing you can do is try not to panic and remember that even if you’ve considered all of the above, you still can’t fully predict or plan how somebody will act in front of the camera. Each individual is different and if you do this for long enough, you’ll conduct interviews where you get exactly what you’re after with relative ease. You’ll also conduct interviews where you don’t get anything useful at all, but as long as you plan appropriately, you shouldn’t let this get you down. Interviewing, for the most part, is about rapport and connection with the person you’re sitting opposite from. As long as you remember this, you’re going to conduct some really great interviews.

By Jamie Swaby

I'm an experienced video producer/director with credits across some of the biggest BBC, ITV, and Channel 4 shows/brands. With over 10 years of industry experience across multiple departments, I've been able to gain a well-rounded set of skills that help me communicate clearly with and help our clients take their digital content to the next level. In my spare time, you'll usually find me either working out, at the cinema, or mapping out the best coffee spots in Manchester... but I'm probably at my happiest whilst playing video games on the sofa with my little girl.