By Tyler Wessel
The majority of our entertainment is now some form of video. Just think about the rise of Netflix, Hulu, YouTube TV, Prime, and my current favorite…Disney+. Who doesn’t love Baby Yoda?
But it’s also not just for entertainment. Scroll through your social media feeds and you will be swamped with all kinds of video. So how do you craft a good story? For this particular post, I’m going to focus on interview-style videos. Whether you are filming yourself or hire someone to do it for you, here are five areas to get you started.
1. Create a narrative. Tell your story.
This. [End of article.]
But seriously, you MUST tell a compelling story. Know WHY you are telling this story. Is it to promote? Honor? Entertain? Inform? Is it a call to action? Knowing WHY you are telling your story will affect HOW you tell the story and WHAT you show.
Do not shy away from emotion. It is absolutely essential, and the best videos convey multiple emotions at once. Ask your subject to be vulnerable. If you don’t put in emotion, you won’t receive it back.
Let’s use some real life examples. Over the past three years, I have unfortunately had to make THREE in memoriam videos to honor those who have passed. The story is to honor the person, tell of their impact, and how they’ve touched lives. That means I want to interview those closest to them. I want to show photos or video of them in their element. What I am not doing is trying to brag about the organization. It’s about the person.
Here is a video I did of Betty, a former coworker who was posthumously named an honorary alumna. As you watch, try to pick out the different storytelling elements. When this video was shown at the awards ceremony, those who knew Betty were both in tears and laughing. It captured her life. Mission accomplished.
2. Do your homework
In order to tell your story, you need to be prepared before hitting record. Often this means going out of your way to get the needed information. Is it reading through a nomination packet? Googling the person/subject? Talking to people who know them? Finding prior video of them?
Have a shot list and/or a list a questions ready to go. Read them over multiple times. Think about the story you want to tell and how you’re going to get there. What other shots do I need? What questions do I need to ask to fully tell the story?
Sometimes I work with interview footage shot by someone else across the country (or even outside of it) and sent to me to edit. One of things I’ve taken the most pride in is when clients tell me I nail the person’s story when I’ve never met them in person. This is all just preparation.
Don’t be lazy. Your videos will be better because you made the effort.
3. Ask good questions
Part of being prepared is having good questions. But HOW you ask the questions is just as important.
First, ask open ended questions. You don’t want the person to give a quick answer with no substance. Ask things like, “Tell me about the time…” or “How did that impact you?” or “What made you go into that area of work/mission?” Yes, you need the facts, but you also want the why and the how. Sense a pattern here?
Second, always coach the interviewee to rephrase the question in their answer. Ideally, your final video will not have you or a slide asking questions. If the question is, “What made you go into (insert field)?” the answer should start with something like, “I went into (insert field) because…”
Now, it doesn’t always have to be this literal. Some people are great on camera or are good conversationalists and will answer naturally without your prompt. Others you will need to coach. What you absolutely do not want is for any answer to start with, “Because…” It provides no context for the person watching the video.
And a quick aside, send your list of questions to your interviewee a few days before the shoot. Some people are terrified of being on camera. Allowing them to be prepared can help ease them during filming.
4. Be ready to pivot
Let’s be honest, sometimes things change. You need to be able to pivot when something new or unexpected arises. Did your interviewee tell you a story that no amount of homework could have prepared? Did some sort of raw emotion come out that defines the story you want to tell?
Use it. Ask follow up questions. Go deeper. When I’ve done interviews, nearly every time something comes up during filming that I wasn’t expecting. And honestly, this is often your golden material that makes the video in the end.
“I have too much footage,” said no video editor ever. You can always cut later; you can’t make new video appear out of thin air.
Get as much B-roll (the supplemental video that supports the primary video, such as action shots) as possible. If you don’t have this capability, collecting quality photos can also work.
If the occasion or opportunity calls for it, film others who know the video subject. This provides different perspectives and stories.
I like to shoot multiple takes of the same questions. I typically go through the questions once, take a break to upload the footage to my computer, then return to go through the questions again. This accomplishes multiple things:
Safety first. I’ve had interviews where the chip corrupts and I don’t have footage. Taking multiple shoots makes sure you protect yourself.
It gives the interviewee a break. Especially if they’re nervous, a break is needed. It also lets them gather their thoughts for the second round. They nearly always have better, more detailed, and more succinct answers the second time through.
It allows me to process what I heard and come back with better follow up questions. How can I better tell this person’s story?
The important thing is that you have options when it comes time to editing.
Do these five things when filming your next interview and you will be well on your way to crafting a compelling story for your audience.
Tyler Wessel is a multi-award winning creative specialist who helps transform creative projects for donor relations, nonprofits, education, and small businesses. You can reach him at wesselcreative.com.