It’s happened more times than I can recall, let alone want to remember…

Here are my top on-camera interviewing techniques.

It’s happened more times than I can recall, let alone want to remember. And it’s usually always the men.
They’ve been sent the script or list of questions, they’ve been prepped, make up is done with them, they’re on their mark. Roll camera. All of a sudden, an arctic wind blows onto the set and then, he’s frozen. Stuttering, mumbling, sweating and can’t finish a sentence. What do you do? President, VP, Director, Manager- no one is immune.

It’s a bit frustrating, can be embarassing, but hey it’s human nature. You take a person out of their element, put them in front of a bunch of lights, strip them of their masculinity with the jokes about having to have makeup up applied.  You take away their PowerPoint and expect them to talk to one person with undivided attention and boom, the next ice age happens. What did you expect?

During the last few years I have moved from cameraman/director to concentrating on directing more specifically, directing non professional talent. These are guys who are usually experts in their field, bright, intelligent individuals with lots to say. They just need to be finessed to overcome freezing up on camera.

My top on-camera interviewing techniques

Here are a few techniques I have learned from interviewing/ getting sound bites from over 50 top execs from Dell Computers, Best Buy, Gas Powered Games, to Fortive and Fluke, Intel and Molecular Devices.

As a director, you have to be confident, calm and relaxed. In other words, hire a professional crew that you know and trust or at least know the cameraman/DP. This helps you relax because you know that things are going to be ok. You gotta have faith.

Give your undivided attention to your talent- eat some humble pie. This is one of my top on-camera interviewing techniques. If you are interviewing a top executive, dress the part. You might be helping to load in/out, but you’ve got to build trust in your talent. You are in their court, but you are in charge. If they blocked out an hour of time, use it wisely. Be prompt and set up when talent arrives. Allow plenty of time if possible. But not too much because it will bite you in the ass.

Take the allotted time and spend a 10-15 min. letting the talent get used to you and take the time to get to know them. Know the material and get to know the answers. Instruct them to just be conversational with you. Like you just met them on a plane and they’re sharing with you a bit of information. Remind them not to get too technical, not a lot of blather just talk.

Concentration and staying focused is paramount

Let them talk and get comfortable in front of the camera. They’ve got to know that you have certain things you need to capture in an allotted amount of time. And if the interview is not going the way you want, you’ll have to be able to stop them and get back on track. If they say a great sound bite, don’t be afraid to ask them to repeat it. It will be a bit different and maybe better. It’s always easier to get them to redo it than splice something together from disjointed pieces. They really want to do good and hopefully, by now they trust you will do just that.