Written By:

Quick Tips for Creating Effective Documentary Interview Videos 

Producing documentary interview videos is a process that any documentary creator will face at some point and it’s incredibly important that they get this part of the production just right. The interview, after all, is the driving force behind the documentary. It’s the key factor that builds the story which captures your audience’s interest and keeps them engaged. In order to create the most effective documentary interview videos, you’ve got to plan carefully so that your questions drive your storyline, your subject draws in the interest and anticipation of your audience, and your camera, lighting, and audio skills seal the deal!

When it comes to documentary interviews, you might have heard the saying, “an interview is just a conversation,” but there’s so much more going on with documentary interview videos than “Just a conversation.” In fact, if you’re creating documentary interview videos where the interviewer is doing more than say 10% of the talking, you’re doing it all wrong! The thing is, documentary interview videos are about the subject, NOT the interviewer. This isn’t a 50/50 conversation. It’s more like a 90/10 conversation, and the subject is the start of the show!

If you’re interested in working with a professional film crew to produce your documentary interview videos, give Beverly Boy Productions a call! We’ll help you master the art of the documentary by creating professional quality documentary interview videos that amaze your audience. 

For more quick tips on creating effective documentary interview videos, keep reading.

Use Your Questioning Wisely so that it Guides the Story

Asking questions is a key element of a documentary interview, but there’s more to it than just asking a few open ended questions. You need to be wise with the questioning so that you can get a story out of your subject. The questions you ask should guide the story in the direction that you’re aiming for.

Don’t be afraid to start off with very basic questions, the kind that may seem of little value, so that you can build the confidence and comfort of your subject as they speak. Consider even mentioning something that’s incorrect in your questioning. By playing “dumb” or adding in false or incorrect details, you’ll draw out more information from your audience. Just like the old adage says, “the quickest way to get an answer is to post the incorrect answers first.” It’s true, as soon as you do, you’ll have people coming out of the woodwork to prove why you’re wrong.

Know How to Conduct an Interview

BBP camera crew 1-10

When it comes to producing documentary interview videos, it’s very important for you to understand how to conduct an interview on camera. When you ask a question, make sure that you allow plenty of time for your subject to respond and that you give time post-response for them to say anything else that may be on their mind, or for the camera to keep rolling just in case. 

It’s also very important for you to stay quiet when the subject is talking. While you might be thinking of the interview as a two way conversation, it is very important for you to avoid the urge to chime in while the subject is speaking. Avoid the, “oh, right I get it,” or “hmmm” or any other question or comment that you might generally add during a typical conversation. You don’t want all of that on your recorded interview.  

It’s also important to use your interview skills to draw the story out of your subject. If you’re not getting what you want, ask them to tell you the story to provide background information. Don’t be afraid to ask, “could you paint the picture for me, how did you feel at that exact moment,” or to otherwise engage in a way that will draw out the key details of the story that you’re interested in.

Know How to Position Your Subject, Camera & Lighting

Lighting Setup

When creating effective documentary interview videos, it’s also important to know how a professional would go about positioning the subject in regards to the placement of the camera and any lighting that they will use to create the desired scene. Typically, a documentary interview can be filmed using a 2 camera setup and 3-point lighting which includes the key, fill, and back lighting. 

Most documentary interview videos will have the subject either looking directly into the camera, which creates a very personal feeling as if the subject is talking directly to the audience, or they’ll have the subject just to the side of the camera such that they are looking a bit off camera for a slightly less focused but equally dramatic experience. 

Lighting is really what will set the stage mood for the interview. Bright lighting will make the interview feel professional and bold whereas if the lighting is dimmer, with backlighting off to the side of the subject, you’ll create a more dramatic interview experience. Just make sure that you’re focused on creating the most effective documentary interview videos and that your lighting doesn’t wash the subject out or leave them in a blackened zone that makes their face difficult to see.

You can probably tell that there’s a lot that goes into creating effective documentary interview videos. Working closely with a professional, like Beverly Boy Productions, can help you guarantee that you get your interview video just right for the most professional documentary production. Just give us a call and we’ll work out all of the important details!