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Phil Cooke Podcast

Jan 1, 2019

Filming interviews or short videos well is a skill every producer or filmmaker should gain. Phil Cooke offers 10 keys to shooting a good interview which can become a powerful tool to market your ministry or nonprofit organization.


How good are you at interviewing people on camera? No matter how great the camera shot or well-lit your set is, if the interview is not skillfully conducted, your overall video will not be good, and you’ll miss out on gaining an emotional connection with your audience. Here are Phil’s keys on how to shoot a better interview:


  1. Be lean and mean with equipment.Don’t intimidate your subject with an excess of equipment. Learn to shoot with as little equipment as possible so that your subject is comfortable enough to share their story with you.


  1. If possible, do a pre-interview.Make sure the interviewee can express their story well before you shoot the video. Don’t just show up and expect them to be a pro.


  1. Keep the subject occupied or out of the room during set up.Do everything you can to keep them from getting nervous.


  1. Don’t cover the topic before the cameras roll.You don’t want your subject to be talked out before the interview starts. This is particularly important for a dramatic interview.


  1. As the interviewer, sit as close to the camera as you can.Make sure the camera is capturing both of the subject’s eyes instead of just a profile shot.


  1. Set the camera at eye level for the best shot.If it’s set too high, it will diminish the subject; if it’s set too low, it will make it look like they are looking down on the audience. Keep it eye-level for best engagement.


  1. Roll the camera without the interviewee noticing.When the crew is ready, have your camera operator tap you and you can roll discretely before the subject has a chance to get distracted and nervous. Have a system with your team for this; it can lead to a great interview.


  1. If a problem happens, don’t let crew – or just anyone - stop the shoot. No one should stop the interview except you as the producer, director or interviewer. Let the interviewee finish a thought before stopping.If something goes wrong, have someone signal you, so you can allow the subject to finish a thought or a story so you don’t interrupt them abruptly.


  1. If there is a problem, don’t tell the interviewee you need to “redo.”Find another way to recapture what you need by asking additional questions and redirecting the interview.


  1. Shoot in an interesting place.Find a location that is a visual expression of their story. Go to their environment – work, home, a public place – as long as it’s safe and quiet.


Bonus: Be ready for anything.Expect the unexpected. Have a margin for “imperfections” such as noise in the background in a noisy location – if it’s part of the real world that is helping tell the story. Think in terms of making it natural.


The perfect producer is the one who never lets the situation get in the way of telling a great story. Make sure you’re capturing the story at its absolute best with the interviewee sharing from the heart. – Phil Cooke


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