There is an age-old dichotomy in film production that is as old as the medium itself. Clients and production companies both want to capture the best stories, but disagree on how to get them.
And that is where the talking-head interview inevitably rears its…well…head. But does blame for dry content really fall at the door of this tried and tested technique? Hardly.
Here are some helpful tips to ensure that you get the most out of the humble talking-head interview:
1: Exhaust other avenues first.
Imparting medical information? A simple 2D animation can work better. Discussing a cool new product? A casual chat between members of the public in a studio setting will give it more credibility. Discussing the exciting new changes at your business? A short scripted film using professional actors, set at your workplace, may engage audiences more. Talking-head interviews are the sausage and mash of video production. Check what else is in the fridge before having it for tea.
2: Screen your interviewees.
They may be the charismatic head of your multinational organisation, but it doesn’t mean that charisma will make its way past the lens. Spend time thinking about who the right person is, and then spend even more time with them beforehand. Lumping a bewildered CEO into a random branch of the business when they have been briefed 10 minutes beforehand is a recipe for a muted performance.
3: Get cut-away shots.
Of course, shoot the interview. But then take your contributors around, filming them in their natural lives doing the things that relate to what they have been discussing. Then you are free to simply use the interview as audio, laying it as a track over shots with more movement and dynamism. Bonus points if you can get two cameras on set. They add opportunities to cut stutters out, and lend the edit a sense of pace.
4: Get full answers.
If you find yourself playing the role of an interviewee (we all often wear multiple hats on shoots), get them to put the question in the answers. Instead of “Managing Director” as an answer to “What is your role at Superduper Industries?”, they should be saying “I fulfil the role of Managing Director at Superduper Industries”
5: Open strong, close stronger.
When you are in the middle of an interview, people can tend to waffle on a bit while discussing content. That’s fine. It’s part of an editor’s job to cut around that. But one thing the editor will always love you for is getting a really strong general statement about what they are passionate about at the beginning, and an equally general closing statement to finish with. Crashing straight into specifics means we can miss those crucial opening and closing moments. So make sure you get them.
And that’s it. Talking-head interviews are a strong bread-and-butter staple of any agency’s production work, but they too have room for creativity. Put the planning, time and attention to detail in. No matter who your contributors are, they are sharing their story, their words and their experiences with you: and that deserves nothing less.