Explorer Mikael Strandberg

Documentary: Interview Tips

“I really like your way of letting people talk and not interrupting all the time. Tell me how you do it.”

This is one email I have received lately from somebody who have viewed my stuff from the England Documentary I have on You Tube. Mainly people who are acquainted to the British arena of how to do documentaries. It is quite different from the Scandinavian way, since we are not the most outgoing and talkative lot of people, so we tend to listen more. I for me, that is important.

Doing interviews is what I enjoy more than anything else when it comes to doing documentaries. Well, listening is what I do most of my time in normal life as well. I like hearing people talk about themselves and their lives. It is always a learning process and makes life a lot more interesting. Basically, as I see it, to be able to do a good interview which might make a difference to how people perceive things, is these three interview tips:

1. Always be well prepared  if possible. Even if interviews are not planned but just appear from nowhere. But one can still be prepared! In England, for example, know your Churchill, Thatcher, Blair and the current political set-up and social issues.

2. The idea is to make people feel comfortable, so, obviously, the best case scenario is getting to know them for some time, before doing the interview and if this is not possible, which is often the case when you for example go from a to b most of the time, be as open you can about yourself. And tell them the truth, what a big difference their thoughts and opinions will make for the documentary you are doing.

3. Give the person interviewed a chance to talk until he or she feel they are finished. I know news media has less time and need to brake off when it gets to long to give the editor a chance to get things together and I understand that some documentaries have the interviewer as the main character (like most of mine) and he needs to interact to enhance the drama, but many interviews I have done lately, my editor has found things at the end of the conversations making a difference. Having said that, she also says they´re way too long!

And after seeing the UK Election interviews yesterday on BBC with Cameron, Milliband and Clegg, there´s no doubt they talk too much and don´t listen to the voters. The main issue and questions all had to do, almost, with the voters worries whether the three politician would keep their words or not. And, as quick as I got into the subject of politicians on my trip, people felt very little trust for them.

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