Monday, 2 February 2015

The 3 Worst Things You Can Do During an Interview Shoot

A lot of what we do in the corporate video world involves the production of "talking head" interviews. Because these are often conducted with non-actors who are not used to being on camera, it is imperative that we do everything we can to accommodate our on-screen talent and make them feel comfortable. As a director, I've found that basically the only sure-fire way to get a bad interview is to have an interview subject that is not comfortable, thus a good majority of my energy on set goes into making this so.

That's why it makes me cringe when I see crew members committing one of the following three sins during an interview session. Please, if you are a camera operator, gaffer, audio engineer, production assistant, teleprompter operator, grip, or the guy in charge of making sure all those other guys (and gals) have enough kolaches throughout the shoot, you should be vigilant of the following:

1. Yawning

When people are on camera, they become extremely self-conscious about how interesting and well-spoken they are. Surprise surprise. Even though we, as experienced video ninjas, know that we can cut all their "ums" and "uhs" and make them sound eloquent, and even though we may not give a crap about the subject matter (which is probably their livelihood and thus something very important to them), and even though you may have had to be on set at 5 am whereas they just strolled in at 10, you should NEVER catch yourself yawning in the middle of an interview take. Interviewees look to crew members for signs they are doing well or not, and the second you give them a reason to feel more self-conscious, like by signaling that they are boring the crap out of you, they will take it. And they will clam up. And the take will suck. And it's not their fault, they aren't the professional; you are. Or at least you're supposed to be.

2. Making a nasty face to signify that something is wrong.

Say you're the audio engineer on set and right in the middle of an interviewee's best sound bite and airplane flies overhead and ruins the take. Yes, this is disappointing and maybe a little frustrating and you should let the director know that a fresh take will be necessary. Do this by gesturing for their attention and then explaining the issue in a straightforward manner. Do NOT do this by scrunching your face up in anger and nodding "no" to the director while the interviewee is mid-sentence. All the interviewee sees is "I said something and they responded really negatively, I must have done something wrong" causing the aforementioned clam-up. Often, they will apologize, without even know what the issue is. I find that even when you explain to an interviewee that the issue was something external and not their fault, the damage is already done and they are less comfortable than they were before.

This is an especially important note for anyone who is operating a camera, or looking into a monitor. Put yourself in the place of the interview subject. You're sitting there, behind all these unfamiliar lights and equipment, not sure what you're supposed to say or how you look, when you see a camera operator gesture into the monitor with a displeased face. WHAT DID I DO? DID I SAY SOMETHING WRONG? IS MY HAIR WEIRD? IT'S A NEW THING I'M TRYING! I THOUGHT IT WAS NICE BUT IF IT'S NOT TELL ME NOW!!! Nerve-wracking. 

3. Playing on your cellphone. 

Just like with yawning, playing on your cellphone during a take signals to the interviewee that what they are saying isn't important and isn't interesting. Well, if you find your paycheck at all interesting, then you need to find a way to avoid this one. I also recommend that if you work on set, you should think about buying a watch, because even if you're only checking the time on your phone, it looks like you're checking your Candy Crush scores or making sure you haven't made any more Tinder matches. It's rude. 

But even more important than the rude factor - if you're checking your phone, you aren't doing your job. There are SO many details that go into a video production (the lighting, the sound, the wardrobe, the set, what they say, how they look when they say it, what's going on around us, what time do we need to move to the next location, where's the sun, what time is lunch getting here, are they looking into camera when they shouldn't be, did the boom pop into frame, did the camera lose focus, AHHHHHHHHH). Everyone is responsible for a different task and so every eye on set is extremely important. It requires a great amount of energy to maintain the focus required for this kind of vigilance, but at least on a Swagger set, it is absolutely mandatory!   

What other sins do you see being committed by crew members on set? How do you stay vigilant during long (and potentially tedious) interview shoots?

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