Interviewing people is no piece of cake. You need to be able to plan questions ahead of time and improvise to respond to what the interviewee actually says. You need to keep the interview on track but also let it sound natural. You need to come across as genuine but also personable. But that’s only talking about the interview itself, while the videography aspect is arguably much more difficult.
I am no videographer. But, this summer, I’ve been doing a bit of videography on the side to help a charity near me. When I look through the footage I’ve shot, I can’t help but think — what common interview filming mistakes have I stumbled into, and how could I do better? With some reflection and consideration, I’ve made a list of the four basic interview-filming mistakes for new videographers.
The first mistake is also the easiest to fall into — don’t fly by the seat of your pants! When you are arranging an interview, arrange it! Talk to the interviewee ahead of time, write out the questions, choose the place, take time to scope out the location, and make sure you have all of your supplies. If you just assume your interviewee will be free and willing to talk when you are, then you are setting yourself up for eventual disappointment. If you assume the house you are shooting at will have good lighting, you might need to have people wait around while you look for a good place to film, or even switch locations! And, if you assume that you have all your equipment with you and you don’t… well, the interview won’t even get off the ground.
The second mistake is to count on your own hands to keep the camera steady. If you are filming and you don’t need to move, then always use a tripod or an equivalent device. As the interview goes on, your hands will shake and your footage will suffer. If you have to film someone without a tripod, attempt to hold the camera as comfortably as possible and either keep the interview short or film it in snippets.
The third mistake is to shoot long interviews at dawn or dusk, particularly outside. The golden hour is great for photography, but less good for a long interview where you want consistent lighting. Early or late in the day, lighting will change very quickly in both intensity and color. If possible, when holding an interview near dawn or dusk, keep things short. Aim for an environment with a consistent light source, or preferably, bring your own! Good lighting equipment can be expensive, but even a well-diffused lamp can add a lot to a scene. Also, make sure the lighting doesn’t detract from the point of the interview — most interviews are meant to focus more on the client’s words than their surroundings, so a brilliant sunset is not great to show while the client is talking. You might be able to use it as B-roll, though.
The fourth mistake is to spend so much time researching that you never actually commit to practicing. Videography is an art, and, like all arts, requires time and dedication to master. But most of that time and dedication will be put into messing up over and over again while trying to improve. You have to accept that mistakes are a part of the process, a challenge for you to overcome. It won’t be easy, but as you fix those mistakes in your technique and work hard, you will become better.
Videography is both very difficult and rewarding. Keep an eye on NBTA’s Instagram, Facebook, and blog for more videography tips, and please send us samples of your work! We’d love to hear from you and see what you’ve created.