When sound began to be part of cinema, the interviews began to be one of the main narrative resources of the first documentaries in the early 1930s. Here Guidedoc sums up five tips that you should keep in mind when filming a documentary interview.
1 - Make a plan
Documentary feature films need a lot of planning and research before you begin to film. So, sit down and focus: What is the story that I'd like to tell? How do I want to tell it? Which people do I need to approach to do so? and what information do I need to get from each interviewee with that purpose? Do not lose sight by taking too many things into consideration; otherwise you will end up telling mankind's story. Besides interviews, what else do you need? Establishing shots, animations, archive footage?
2 - Find the right characters
Who are your story's most important characters? Will there be a reporter who leads me through the entire experience before the camera or will your interviewers appear without a visible filmmaker or anchor? What do we, as filmmakers, want to learn from each of them? Set time aside to write questions in advance and always be prepared to react to the interviewees’ answers.
3 - Prepare your gear / care for the sound
How would you like to shoot? You want to use what camera? Nowadays you can make short videos and even feature film documentaries on a low budget using your own cellphone. However, keep in mind that you may have long shooting days and a lot of footage, so be prepared with extra batteries and enough storage.
But the main aspect of a documentary interview is sound! Remember verbal information is what you are looking for in this kind of films. So be prepared with decent microphones and headphones to monitor volume and quality.
4 - Shoot enough footage
This interview is the only chance you’ll have to get sincere answers and genuine reactions from your interviewees. Try to be patient and let them be comfortable so that they can speak freely. A good option is to interview them in their house or in a space that is familiar to them. Between questions try to let silent moments so they can fill them with what comes through their minds. You never know when revealing information is coming.
5 - Edit wisely
It is time to transcribe all the interviews and write the time codes once the shooting is finished. I know, it's a long, boring task! However, it saves you a great deal of work when you’ll try to find the narrative thread of the documentary.