I've just spent a day with crew and rig at a client's office interviewing company representatives on camera for inclusion in their corporate video. The one thing I realized doing this is that each person is different, each person needs a slightly different approach to get the best interview out of them.
Here are my top 7 tips.
Never ever say something like "you don't need to be nervous" or "some people get stressed doing this..." Always ensure the only things you say are affirming and positive like, "this will be a walk in the park", "you've got a great voice" or "you look great on camera".
Take the pressure off the the interviewee by taking the fall for bad takes. Often I've been interviewing someone and after a few re-takes they begin to feel pressure and want to wrap up the interview. A trick I've learn't is to take the fall for the interviewee. Simply blame it on a technical fault, blame your camera work or blame the sound guy, rather have the interviewee think you're a putz than feel like a putz.
Do your research. If you can really engage with your subject then you've won half the battle. Ask them if they have kids, like art, go snow boarding, anything that allows you to converse with them and that also puts them at ease.
Be patient. There will be times where you're approaching 50 takes (it's happened to me) and if you lose your cool then your interviewee will lose theirs. The harder it gets the more chilled out you've got to be, laugh it off and make sure you get your interviewee to laugh it off.
Don't crowd the room. Frequently when doing an interview other people want to hang about in the room, this is a big no, no! Get everyone out of the room that doesn't need to be there, this includes your client's representatives. Keep it intimate and you'll get a better interview.
Once you've finished with an interview get your interviewee to look through it. Almost every time I've done this it results with the interviewee either realizing they've missed something out or that they can do the interview better.
It's all about the interview. You know, prepare for a slow day, don't get wound up and don't get impatient. There's nothing worse than realizing you've missed your moment while you're sitting in post and you wish you'd asked the question again or had another take.
Charles Meadows is a Director, DoP and owner of Incubate Productions in Johannesburg, South Africa. He has produced, filmed and director more commercials and corporate films than he can remember.