Conducting Interviews

Before you arrive on set:

  • Do your homework. Research your interview subject — read his/her writing, watch previous interviews s/he has done, ask your colleagues about him/her, use the power of Google! Nothing engages an interviewee more than a genuinely interested and prepared interviewer.
  • Get comfortable. It may sound obvious, but wear comfortable clothes, go to the bathroom, organize your notes. If coffee makes your nervous, don’t drink it; if coffee makes you alert and engaged, have a cup. If you’re not at ease, your interview subject probably won’t be either.
  • Identify your visuals. Know what photographs, b-roll, charts, etc. you will have available during editing and prepare interview questions that relate directly to those visuals. Here is an example: “You created a graph that shows cell growth over time. Could you talk us through what the different lines on the chart represent?”

Before you roll tape, tell the interviewee:

  • The cameras and the crew don’t exist. Please don’t look at them during our interview. This is a conversation between me (the interviewer) and you (the interviewee).
  • I (the interviewer) will be edited out, so you (the interviewee) have to be sure to answer in complete thoughts. Include the context of my question in your answer. For example:
    • Q: Why did you come to Duke?
    • Incorrect A: I wanted to experience hands-on learning.
    • Correct A: I came to Duke to experience hands-on learning.
  • If you (the interviewee) lose track of your thought, run on, stumble significantly or otherwise feel as if your answer isn’t working, feel free to stop, gather your thoughts and start over. Also, feel free to discuss your answer with me (the interviewer) to help flesh it out before going “on the record” with your official answer.
  • We want to present you in the best light. To that end, I (the interviewer) might double back to ask you to condense multiple answers into one, or to help you (the interviewee) distill your story. This is completely normal and a common procedure. When editing we will use only the best answers you (the interviewee) give us.

As you are conducting the interview:

  • Maintain eye contact with the interviewee. Don’t stare, but let him or her know you are listening. Nod for encouragement when you hear something that is on the right track.
  • Smile at them. Be positive. Your attitude will be contagious.
  • Be an advocate for your audience. Ask the questions they would want answered.
  • Always open the floor up at the end to ask them is there anything you left out or is there anything else they want to make sure they cover.