Jump to content


Photo

warming up non-camera friendly people?


  • Please log in to reply
13 replies to this topic

#1 David Calson

David Calson
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 269 posts
  • Other
  • Georgia

Posted 23 June 2009 - 02:06 PM

I keep doing camera interview stuff, there's always a tension from the people. What techniques do you use to loosen things up?
  • 0

#2 David Rakoczy

David Rakoczy
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 1579 posts
  • Cinematographer
  • USA

Posted 23 June 2009 - 02:28 PM

Give them some Champagne ;) ... REALLY loosen them up.. be FUN and FRIENDLY during the conversation you are recording... but bear in mind.. for some folks... once you turn the switch 'on'... the camera sucks their brain out and they are rendered useless :o
  • 0

#3 Jim Keller

Jim Keller
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 290 posts
  • Producer
  • Fresno, CA

Posted 23 June 2009 - 02:44 PM

The goal with any interview is to make the subject relax. When they relax and stop being aware of the camera, you'll get much better interview footage. Here are a few suggestions:
  • Talk about something they're interested in, unrelated to the interview. Do a little research into your subjects hobbies and interests, and do just enough research to be able to chat. Remember, most people are most engaged in a conversation when they get to do 60-80% of the talking, and you're engaged enough to ask intelligent questions, agree organically with their statements, and make connections to other things. Once they're comfortable having a conversation with you that isn't anything related to the subject at hand, they're more likely to keep going in that mode for the actual interview. I know some producers who casually turn the camera on during the "chat" beforehand, and segue into the actual topic. About 10 minutes into the actual interview, the subject suddenly realizes the camera is rolling, and either gets really mad (why I don't do it) or realizes this isn't so hard after all. Asking about kids/family, photos they have on display, their jewelry, etc. is a great conversation starter when you don't have the ability to do the research first.
  • Ask the same question a few times. This, of course, works best if you've warned them you're going to do so, but the second answer is usually both better considered, more concise, and more relaxed. I also find it's best to ask the first question again at the end of the interview, after they've had all the other questions go through their heads.
  • Explain what you're doing. Remember that most interview subjects don't have a lot of experience. By talking them through what you're doing and why as you set up the camera and lights, wire them in for sound, etc., they'll both trust in your abilities more and be more inclined to relax into a "learning something new" mode.
  • Tell them you will be editing the interview, and reassure them you won't let them look like a fool. Subjects who know they can say, "You know what? Don't use that. Let me answer that again," are far more likely to speak off the top of their heads, naturally, than subjects who are terrified of everything they say being taken out of context. Having a reputation for good ethics helps a lot here.
  • Dress similarly to them. Now, I don't mean to do the "Single, White Female" thing, but if you're interviewing a blue-collar farm worker and you show up wearing a $3,000 suit, the interview subject will have a harder time feeling comfortable with you, because you've immediately created a class difference, and put him/her in a position of perceived inferiority. Similarly, if you're interviewing a hotel heiress and you show up looking like you just crawled out from under the car, she'll have a natural tendency to treat you like the hired help. People are most comfortable talking to people they perceive as their equals, so you want to encourage that with how you dress, how you speak, and how you carry yourself. Yes, there's some acting involved in interviewing. Somewhere there's a great shot of me crawling around the floor of a Washington, D.C. bureaucrat's office running cable in my best suit...
Those are the ones I can think of off the top of my head. There are many, many more.
  • 0

#4 Phil Rhodes

Phil Rhodes
  • Sustaining Members
  • 11936 posts
  • Other

Posted 23 June 2009 - 03:12 PM

I usually aim to have the interview over and done with before they even realise we've started.

Most people will expect to have a little introductory chat before you begin shooting, after which we will start. If you do this, you will get an interesting, articulate human being during the chat, who will instantaneously turn into a corporate robot lump of oak when you officially start.

Therefore, don't start. People may ask "ooh, have we started yet?" which is white collar code for "shall I start being a lump of oak now?". What you do is get set up while the victi...subject is distracted, possibly using Mr. Keller's very useful "talk about something they're interested in", then turn over and have the "introductory chat", turning the subject of your preexisting conversation to the one at hand. With care, you can ensure that this conversation comprises mainly them talking, and you'll find that very quickly you have most of what you need, and you'll have it in a normal, conversational style.

Smarter interviewees will realise what's going on, and say "ooh, have we started?". You can either lie or say something offhand, along the lines of "well, I'm recording, but we'll go back over all this".

A very few interviewees may feel slightly deceived by this approach, but I've never had a serious problem with it. The important thing to realise is that a lot of white collar types seem to believe that there's some sort of mode they have to go into when speaking in public, a sort of fashionable awfulness, which is why corporate speeches are so godawfully interminable and a lot of industrial videos have People. Who. Assume. A rather. Stil-ted. And, oddly, punctuated - manner.

A phrase I've found useful, though it's to be used with care since it could be construed by the touchy as a criticism of the interviewee, is "being a TV presenter is a full time professional job, and nobody's expecting you to do it."

Never interview people, just sit down and have a little chat while the camera happens to be there.

P
  • 0

#5 David Calson

David Calson
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 269 posts
  • Other
  • Georgia

Posted 23 June 2009 - 03:37 PM

wow the knowledge I'm gaining right now is off the chart, please keep it coming guys.
  • 0

#6 David Calson

David Calson
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 269 posts
  • Other
  • Georgia

Posted 23 June 2009 - 03:40 PM

wow the knowledge I'm gaining right now is off the chart, please keep it coming guys.
  • 0

#7 Chris Millar

Chris Millar
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 1642 posts
  • Other

Posted 23 June 2009 - 05:18 PM

Recently in Liberia I was interviewing some a group of people over a two week period. The best footage came from day one when I looked simply like a tourist with a camera and we just chatted naturally, I was shooting establishing footage and kept the camera rolling when they started talking. Picture looked like crap but we could use the audio, turned out pretty well.

The actual interviews turned into exactly the lump of wood situation - that being said, some of that turned out to be usable also.

But yes, keep it casual - and listen - so much I missed that could have been followed up on that I only notcied once I got a chance to watch the footage back home, reckon I was perhaps forcing my expectations of dialog upon them and they were following suit.

It really is a fascinating process
  • 0

#8 Adrian Sierkowski

Adrian Sierkowski
  • Sustaining Members
  • 7116 posts
  • Cinematographer
  • Los Angeles, Ca

Posted 23 June 2009 - 05:27 PM

Sodium Pentothal....

Ok, seriously, yes listen and follow up with what they say. And I highly recommend having someone else run the camera/audio, focus just on your subject and try your best not to interrupt yourself. You want to keep everything flowing. That being said, eventually you may have to change tape. When this happens, keep talking with them keep them engaged with you while other things are happening around and hopefully you'll keep their attention. (also running audio while this is happening can help with some sound bits).
Also be attenuated to their physical comfort. The lights get hot, so if you notice them getting a bit uncomfortable, ask them if they'd need a short break, let them have it, but keep them conversing.
  • 0

#9 Daniel Sheehy

Daniel Sheehy
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 407 posts
  • Other
  • Brisbane

Posted 23 June 2009 - 07:08 PM

Anything you can do to blur the move from friendly chat, to chatting about the interview topics to actually covering your interview topics, is a great help.

In addition to the good tips from Jim & Phil, you can never stress enough that it's ok for them to stop and start. If the subject feels that they have some control over how they are presented, they often start to relax. We'd often get the subject (if they had time) to sit in through the whole set-up process.. so they saw everything going up and heard the crew banter and started to feel like they were part of a team production, rather than the focus of it.
  • 0

#10 Phil Rhodes

Phil Rhodes
  • Sustaining Members
  • 11936 posts
  • Other

Posted 23 June 2009 - 08:08 PM

Well put - blur the transition.

As to being part of the team, this is of course the ideal situation. Frequently in these circumstances you're trying to get a specific result which is to everyone's benefit. It's not usually too difficult to make people understand that if they're in control of the footage, you're not going to make them look bad, and if the interviewee can be made aware of how these things work, they often become a lot easier to direct. If you have a particularly nervous person, it may be worth engineering things so that they get to sit in on an edit, or at least look at footage of someone else and the results it created.

It's not always possible to socially engineer this situation. Some experienced people will be there by default, some will never quite make it, but using "we" rather than "you" or "I" (we'll just cut that and that together, and it'll all make sense, what if we say it like this...) can help. Once you've got someone to a point where they'll stop halfway through a sentence, pause for three seconds, then start the sentence again without a glitch, you've won.

It's social engineering.

P
  • 0

#11 Chris Millar

Chris Millar
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 1642 posts
  • Other

Posted 23 June 2009 - 09:21 PM

Forgot to mention a 101 that you probably know about but in case you dont - ask leading questions ...

"tell me about ..."
"what are your feelings about ..."

I'm sure there are more sophisticated versions of that, but not:

"Are you happy with ..."
"Did that hurt ..." etc...

They inevitably lead to one word YES/NO responses.
;)

I find it helps multitudes to have a genuine interest in what they have to say, I guess it takes a real pro to extract stuff from people that would otherwise bore them (without projecting a false interest and potential false response from the interviewee)
  • 0

#12 Phil Rhodes

Phil Rhodes
  • Sustaining Members
  • 11936 posts
  • Other

Posted 23 June 2009 - 10:00 PM

Maybe that could be refined to "seem confused". Act like you've no idea what they're talking about, and they'll explain it as if you're a moron, which is 1) exactly what you want, and 2) appropriate for the average audience.

Of course they may end up thinking you are a moron, but ideally, with practice and the right interviewee, this can move gradually into them knowing you're doing it and responding usefully.

P
  • 0

#13 Keith Walters

Keith Walters
  • Sustaining Members
  • 2219 posts
  • Other
  • Sydney Australia

Posted 23 June 2009 - 10:31 PM

which is why corporate speeches are so godawfully interminable and a lot of industrial videos have People. Who. Assume. A rather. Stil-ted. And, oddly, punctuated - manner.

How timely. Slightly off-topic but I've just gotten back to my desk after a meeting that included a "presentation" from one of the bigwigs in our parent company.

Well, he wasn't actually there. The "presentation" consisted of a 15 minute DVD played on a laptop through a video projector, consisting entirely of a text-only powerpoint presentation. Converted to DVD. Format. With ... said Bigwig off-screen, reading - the-err text. as a errr... Soundtrack.
With a musical accompaniment that sounded like a $40 Casio keyboard in "demo" mode.

Corporate video. Arrrghhh!!!!!

I could do better job with my eyes shut and wearing industrial grade ear protectors.
But I don't have a Master's in Corporate Communications or any similar tertiary waste of vegetation.
I can frame, shoot, write scripts, light and edit, and make real DVDs on my home computer, but what, does that have to do with anything?
  • 0

#14 K Borowski

K Borowski
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 3905 posts
  • Camera Operator
  • I.A.T.S.E. Local # 600 Eastern Region

Posted 24 June 2009 - 07:15 AM

Sodium Pentothal....


Adrian, would people be any fun if they told the truth on camera?

Come on, imagine what a Bill Clinton interview would be like. . . instead of 15 minutes of denials and dodging questions, there'd be one concise answer and that'd be it (watch "Primary Colors" when he is confronted about the [at that time alleged] Jennifer Flowers affair)! :P
  • 0


Opal

Visual Products

Technodolly

Broadcast Solutions Inc

Tai Audio

Ritter Battery

CineLab

Media Blackout - Custom Cables and AKS

Abel Cine

Glidecam

Willys Widgets

Wooden Camera

Gamma Ray Digital Inc

rebotnix Technologies

Rig Wheels Passport

FJS International, LLC

Paralinx LLC

Aerial Filmworks

Metropolis Post

CineTape

The Slider

Technodolly

Rig Wheels Passport

Paralinx LLC

Glidecam

Media Blackout - Custom Cables and AKS

Tai Audio

Opal

rebotnix Technologies

Ritter Battery

Willys Widgets

CineTape

Aerial Filmworks

The Slider

CineLab

Wooden Camera

FJS International, LLC

Metropolis Post

Broadcast Solutions Inc

Gamma Ray Digital Inc

Abel Cine

Visual Products