How to Set up and Shoot an Interview

So I’m compelled to write this post because I normally have a DP for my interviews, but for this particular shoot, I was rolling solo. I read a lot of blogs and haven’t read very specific information on shooting interviews lately, so here we go. This isn’t the only way to shoot an interview, it’s the way that works best for me when I’m rolling solo.

A Good Setup

One of the ways I’ve shot all of my interviews is not head up but ‘crossing the camera.’ I don’t know what the technical term for this is but it is set up like so:


Camera Setups


Shooting across the camera allows me to maintain a proper eyeline. If you sit head up to your subject, on the same side of the camera, I sometimes risk the framing or the eyeline being off. I find it’s better to engage my subject and create an atmosphere of ‘discussion’ than stare into the viewfinder. Not making eye contact might be fine with an actor who’s practiced at ‘staying focused,’ but the normal people get distracted if they don’t have a person to talk to. This setup works for me, and when I use it, the shot tends to come out fine.

Here is a picture of a subject looking into the frame.


Here is a picture of a subject looking out of the frame.


Rule of Thirds

As a producer and beginning director, I don’t feel qualified to go into a discussion of ‘the rule of thirds’ that is as true in filmography as it is in photography. In short, it is, depending on the focal length, keeping your subject or your subject’s eyes on a ‘third’ line.


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Many cameras have ‘grid lines’ and they are just for this purpose. Don’t be ashamed of using these tools. Tools are for getting work done. The use of tools separates us from (most) animals. A properly framed shot shows tells your story effectively. A poorly framed shot that is not purposeful in telling your story distracts the viewer. My DP friends are constantly talking to me about visual grammar, and western people, and most of the world is very fluent with the conventions of cinematic storytelling. Unwittingly breaking these rules will prove you a rookie and will encourage people to not take you seriously. Most don’t have a blog to ‘mea culpa.’ =)

Sound, Sound, Sound.

And work hard to get good sound. Wear headphones. Get the mic as close as possible to hear your speaker clearly, but keep the noise floor at a minimum. The noise floor is that inevitable hiss you hear when you crank the gain really high on a microphone and recorder. One way try and avoid this is to eyeball the sound floor is to make sure there isn’t a ‘persistent bar’ on sound monitors. But the best way and only way to get good sound from your equipment is to test it, use it and become comfortable with its capabilities and limitations.

I’m a ‘generalist’ at best, so I’ll try to get more experts to talk about the rule of thirds, the sound floor and alternative interview setups.

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