FINDING THE EMOTION

March 22, 2017

It can’t be denied that ‘talking head’ interviews are a very effective way of delivering information in online video. They not only provide a human element which people can engage with, but also give us expert knowledge or testimonials which we can believe in or trust. They help the editor to build a narrative for a film.

But at the same time, we all know that if you don’t get the interviews right, films led by talking heads can be a little bit boring, and when interviewing people who aren’t necessarily used to being filmed, it’s rare to find someone who is a complete natural and immediately engaging on camera. So how do you get the most out of your interviewee on the day? Our director of photography Andy Parsons has filmed talking heads in their thousands. He shares what he’s learnt over the years.

THE RIGHT APPROACH

We usually have a good idea of the information or messaging we want from any given talking head, but we avoid any kind of scripting at all costs. An over-prepared interviewee is awkward and unnatural! Instead, use your questions to coax the right answers out of them. Andy says ‘Sometimes I know what I want them to say, and I know exactly how I want them to say it to fit within the edit, and you sort of push them and ask them this way, and if I don’t quite get the response then I’ll ask the question slightly differently until you get this killer line, and you just know it’s going to be in the film.’

We don’t approach an interview with the idea that a talking head is all you will see either. Once you’ve introduced them, they can talk for quite a while without needing to see them, so we always dedicate time to collecting scene setting and illustrative cutaway shots. We film all talking heads with a two camera setup to allow for more flexibility in the edit.

 

MAKING THEM FEEL COMFORTABLE

Knowing that double camera is there can help your interviewee relax as well; they know you can easily put edits in where necessary. For Andy, putting people at ease is absolutely crucial when they’re ‘faced with a room full of potentially strangers who’ve got all this kit’. What he likes to do is ‘start with the easy stuff, that they can really talk about and get them loose, and get them feeling that they can talk freely and candidly.’ If you can make it an interesting or even fun experience for them then you’re that much closer to getting a great interview.

 

FINDING THE EMOTION

‘What I really like doing, is to get people talking about what they know about. You get someone talking about what they know really well, and you can just see their face light up.’ The key to this is digging around until you find what’s really relevant or interesting or personal to them about the subject; it’s asking how your interviewee feels about the subject matter. Andy gives the example of a film Bruizer produced for a large investment bank: ‘it was a very dry subject, there wasn’t a lot there. But the stuff that made the film was so uplifting – it was more about how the team worked together, and their take on it. It was all about their personal journey, and I think that’s what brings a film to life.’

What it really comes down to in Andy’s opinion is that ‘it’s about how you approach it as a filmmaker, rather than the subject itself’. That spark of passion he’s looking for is where we find the film’s narrative in the edit suite.

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