When setting up an interview for the film people often request, “Can you send me the questions you’ll ask?”
I’m not trying to be rude. Honestly I have no idea what I’ll ask in any interview.
Yes, I’ll do my homework about you. I’ll know who you are and what you do.
I’ll likely start by asking some deep background. Where are you from? What was your neighborhood like growing up? Tell me about your parents? Your family?
I ask these mainly to get a bit of context and help the interviewee relax around the camera.
Beyond that, God knows.
And there is a reason for this.
I find that canned questions get canned answers. And worse yet, lead to sloppy follow-up.
Early on in my journalism career I used to diligently write out my questions. I’d research the heck out of my subject, and frankly try to impress them with my knowledge of what they do.
But more often than not I was so focused on my bad-ass questions that I wasn’t paying proper attention to the answer, and didn’t ask the follow-up questions that needed to be answered.
Interviewing someone for a film is very different from a newspaper or magazine interview. The camera knows nothing of the subject’s background, and one must assume the viewer doesn’t either.
A film for experts on a given subject isn’t much of a film.
My interviews are conversations. Casual, impromptu, spontaneous, relaxed. There are no right and wrong answers. I’m interested in hearing the stories and perspectives of the people I’m interviewing. The interviews are as relaxed as a dinner party conversation, if typically a bit longer and more focused.
There is one standard question at the close of each interview: “What have we forgotten to talk about that we should?”
I have no intention of making anyone look like a fool. I’m here to help you share what you know on a series of topics.
So relax. This is going to be easy.