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The Documentary Interview

02:05
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Interviews are one of the most powerful tools in any film maker's kit. But asking questions doesn't always come naturally, and asking probing or personal questions can seem incredibly awkward. This course will prepare you to conduct interviews smoothly and professionally in order to tell a documentary story. You will learn about the ethics of the documentary interview, the best techniques to use (both soft skills and technical), and how to ensure that your interviewees give their very best.

1. Introduction

1.1 The Documentary Interview

Hi. I'm Mark Fulborn and welcome to Tuts+. In this course, we're going to look at how to conduct and film an interview for a documentary. The premise sounds pretty straightforward and on the surface it may seem so. You get your interviewee, you point a camera at them and you fire off a load of questions, right? If only it were that simple. To get the very best from you interview subject and get the very best on screen, there are a whole host of techniques and skills that need to be learned. During this course, we'll discuss those techniques and offer practical advice on the best way forward. We'll talk about the psychology of the interview, about your ethical responsibilities as a documentary producer. And all about the different ways that you can film the interview to convey the direction and feel of your documentary as a whole. As with most things, practice really does make things better. As each situation and interview will be unique, I wouldn't go so far as to say practice will make you perfect. But the more you interview, the more you will gain confidence. And then the better equipped you'll be to handle the fluid situation of interviewing someone. During this course, we'll set out some exercises to help hone your skills. And hopefully, make the daunting prospect of the documentary interview. Less of a thing to be feared and more of something to be welcomed as a creative and intellectual challenge. The interviews you'll be conducting will of course, depend on the type of documentary that you're producing. The spectrum is wide to say the least, but the skills required are transferable. Whether you are talking to your local sports team members, police officers, politicians, academics or even your own grandmother. Next time, we'll talk through the responsibilities that you have as a documentary film maker when it comes to interviewing people. And how you have to ensure that you do things right. Thanks for watching.

2. Before You Start Filming

2.1 Responsibility

Hi. I'm Mark Thorburn and welcome back to Tuts+. Making a documentary is a challenging and rewarding part of filmmaking. The documentary in its literal sense is a filmic document of something. It is non-fiction and can be presented in a whole variety of styles. There are social documentaries, historical documentaries, nature documentaries and so on. The list is truly endless, and you can, of course, document anything. The documentary interview normally serves one of two purposes. To offer expert input on the subject matter, or to share personal experiences. There are, of course, other reasons to interview someone, but broadly speaking most interviews will fall into these two categories. The reasons for adding interviews into your documentary are the same. You need an expert to better explain the situation or a concept, or you need someone to share their personal recollections, opinions and so on. The responsibility on you as the filmmaker is to ensure that there is accuracy and balance. As a documentary, by its very nature, is nonfiction, you have to ensure that everything that ends up in your finished production, unless it's say a recreation, is also non-fiction. One thing that you have to remember is that the onus for accuracy and balance will always be on you, not your interviewee. If they state things as fact, you need to check that it is true. If they're speculating on a subject, then you need to make sure that it's clear that they're speculating and not stating things as fact. When it comes to editing the interview, you have to insure that your interviewee isn't edited in such a way that the thrust of their arguments or statements are altered. This can be tricky as you will, of course, need to edit your interviews and your footage. But you have to make the judgement call about what to take out and what to leave, so that the overall tone is not changed. Take a listen to this audio example that we've mock-up. >> I always use brand A toothpaste when I'm on holiday. It's small, and compact, and easy to fit in my bag. At home, brand B is my favorite. >> Simple enough if toothpaste is your thing. So say we needed to edit this riveting information down to make it shorter, but ensure that the core messages remain. We could take it right down to this. >> I always use brand A toothpaste when I'm on holiday. At home, brand B is my favorite. >> The core messages are the same. It's just shorter. What we shouldn't do is this. >> I always use brand A toothpaste, my favorite. >> Or. >> When I'm on holiday, brand B is my favorite. >> Or any other edit that changes the core information your interviewee has relayed. It is your responsibility to ensure that you're always fair to your interviewee, fair to your subject, and balanced. Balance is key and something that you should run through the whole documentary. If there are two or more sides to a story, then you have to ensure that all sides are represented. This is something that can be ensured by using interviews that offer testimony for all sides. Staying in the bathroom, let's hear from our toothpaste fanatic again. >> I don't understand why anyone would ever wash. It's unnatural and downright weird. People really shouldn't wash. >> An extreme point of view, but one that they're entitled to. However, if our documentary was about personal hygiene, on its own it's rather unbalanced. If it was a genuine point of view, it would be wise to ask an expert on the subject. Say, a dermatologist. >> Human personal hygiene is essential to our well-being. There are numerous skin complaints that can be caused by not washing. >> You get the idea. If one of your subjects makes a bold statement, it's your responsibility to see if there is a counter or alternative point of view. Not only is it your responsibility, but it's also crucial in documenting the facts and producing a well-rounded documentary. Fairness, accurate representation and balance are the key elements you need to keep in mind when sourcing, conducting and editing documentary interviews. Next time on Tuts+ the documentary interview, we'll be looking at researching and sourcing your subjects. Thanks for watching.