WRITE INTERVIEW QUESTIONS
Before I interview our actors, take a look at this list of things to think about when writing the questions to ask in those interviews. Asking open‐ended questions can help I avoid one‐word answers. I may also want to ask two questions together to get the most out of the answer.
Who? Whom will interview? My interviews can play an important part in my film, so choose my characters carefully. Choose people who are confident enough to talk on camera and have the knowledge to answer the questions clearly. I may wish to include information about the characters in my documentary, so think about the questions I could ask to get this information.
What? Think about what I’ll ask the characters to get more information about the topic. I may wish to ask questions about their experiences and how they are involved in the topic to show their knowledge.
When? If I am creating a documentary film about an event or a party, then the date and time are quite important. I may want to ask my characters questions about when they do something or how often they do it.
Where? I may wish to include questions about the location or venue of the topic, if it’s needed. I could film my interview in a place that’s connected with the topic.
Why? Using why in my questions is a great way to get more information out of a character or subject during the interview. Questions beginning with why are simple, but they’re more likely to give me longer and more emotional answers.
Before I interview our actors, I also learned after lots of research.
- Learn to ask open ended questions. “Tell me about . . .” “How do you . . . “
- Listen, listen, listen. Don’t even think about what I am going to ask next until my subject has stopped talking. Ask follow up questions: “I’m interested in what you said about ________..Tell me more about that.”
- Make a checklist of questions (things I want to cover), but don’t be a slave to it. Follow-up is more interesting than going on to the next question on the list. Check the list before I wrap, to make sure I haven’t left anything out.
- NEVER, EVER ask the subject to repeat the question before answering it. The reason is that, first, they forget to repeat it, then I asked them again, then they say, “What should I say?” Then I asked the question again, they repeat it, and by this time they’ve forgotten what they were going to answer.
- My purpose in interviewing is to gain information, not just sound bites. As much as possible, I want my subject to forget he or she is being interviewed and simply carry on a conversation with you. I can’t do that if I am asking the subject to repeat the question. In my experience, most sound bites from interviews run very well without needing the wording of the question.
Just like painting, the prep work often takes much longer than the actual paint job. And in fact, it’s a mistake to rush into shooting without thinking everything through.
Here’s our pre-production check list for directing the documentary:
- Thoroughly think through everything I’ll need for my film from start to finish
- Think about music, interesting scenes, styles and other unique visuals that can help tell the story.
- Create a production schedule
- Write a clear synopsis and visual style description
- Put together a budget and proposal
- Create an equipment list (camera, mics, lighting, etc)
- Gather existing footage & other production elements (photos, documents, etc) Read my review of Pond5 for stock footage
- Create an interview and shot list
- Write a script outline
- Produce a video trailer
- Set up a Website/Blog/Facebook page to start building buzz.