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Headroom
Similarly, you will want to position your characters and contributors to give them enough
headroom. You want to avoid cutting off too much of their head or make it look as if
their chin is resting on the bottom of the frame. Generally speaking, if you have to choose
between one of the two it’s better to cut off a bit of the top of the head than to have the
chin resting on the bottom of the frame, but it should be possible to frame so that neither
happens.

Rule of thirds
If you have studied photography you will be familiar with the term ‘Rule of thirds’. It’s an
easy way of helping you frame your shots. It applies both to stills photography and video
filming.
Imagine your frame, then draw three imaginary horizontal lines dividing the frame into
three, and then imagine and draw three vertical lines also dividing the frame into three. The
four spots where the lines intersect are the best spots where you want the viewer to focus on.
The reason for this is that it’s thought that when you look at a picture the intersection of those
four lines is the place your eye most naturally looks at. If you put the things of most interest
in these spots your brain will feel comfortable with that position.
Nobody is arguing that you have to frame every shot in this way; your programme would
start to look very odd and boring if you did. But it’s a tip well worth knowing.

Depth of field
Depending on what camera you are using you may or may not want to think about depth of
field. In order to play with the depth of field you will have to be able to perform two things
with the camera. You will need to be able to control the amount of light coming into the
camera, so you will need to control the aperture. You will need to change the focal length;
that is to say, you will need to be able to zoom in and out. If you can do either or both of these
things on the camera you will be able to play with the depth of field.

What is depth of field? When you take a shot with any camera you focus on a particular
subject within the frame. Depth of field is the distance behind and in front of the main subject
which is also in focus. If there is a shallow depth of field it means that the area in the
foreground and behind the object on which you have focused will be blurry or soft. If you
have a long depth of field it means that much more of the foreground and background will
be in sharp focus.
Look at Figures 10.29 and 10.30 on the previous page. In the first image everyone in the
shot is in focus and it has a long depth of field, but in the second image the person in front is
in focus but the peoples behind have gone soft, even though the image is a similar size: it has
a shorter depth of field.
There are two ways to alter the depth of field. The first way is to alter the aperture or iris.
If you want to get a shallow depth of field and have more of the picture looking blurry, then
you need to open the aperture. The more you open it, the shorter the depth of field and more
of the picture will look blurry. If you want everything to stay in sharp focus then you need to
close the aperture. The smaller the aperture, the more of the picture will stay in sharp focus.
However, opening and closing the aperture to this extent may not always be possible. If
you are outside on a very sunny day and you open the aperture right up, there will be too
much light coming into the camera and it will burn out; that is to say, it will just look all white.
If there isn’t very much light naturally and you have no artificial lights then you won’t have
enough light coming into the camera and it will look too dark.
The second way to alter the appearance of the depth of field is to move the camera and
use the zoom lens. If you physically move the camera further away from the object on which
you want to focus and use the zoom to create the same size of shot, then you will get a short
depth of field. You will need to use a tripod if you are going to zoom in a long way.
Any camera movement is exaggerated when you are on a long lens and a handheld shot will
look very shaky. If you want more of the picture to stay sharp (longer depth of field) then
you need to physically move the camera closer to the object you want to focus on and zoom
out.
With a combination of changing the focal length (the amount you zoom in or out) and
altering the aperture you will be able to change the depth of field on most video cameras.
Why alter the depth of field? There are no set rules; it is down to your own creative sense.
However, the effect of having a shallow depth of field is to give more contrasts in the shot; it
also makes the viewer concentrate on the object you want them to focus on. It makes the
subject of the frame stand out more. It creates a softer, slightly more dreamy image. However,
this may not be appropriate to what you want. A journalist reporting on a situation going on
around them might want everything to stay in focus. That kind of dreamy look may not be
something you feel is right for the piece.

Factual: You are asking the person to give you information or to demonstrate some-
thing.
• Explanation: You and the audience already know the facts but you would like to have
them explained or elaborated.
• Opinion and controversy: You may be covering an issue over which there is some
kind of debate and you are asking the interviewee to comment on one side or the other.
• Witness/experiential: Your interviewee may be a witness to or participant in an
event. They may have some kind of personal experience which is relevant to your piece.
In this case you might be looking to them to provide you with some kind of colourful
description; this may also involve some sort of emotion, particularly if you are dealing
with a sensitive subject.
• Celebrity interviews: You may be lucky enough to find a willing celebrity to inter-
view. Some of these may be a vehicle for the celebrity to promote their latest work, or
they may be involved in some kind of issue.

Preparation
• Preparing yourself: You should have a list of things you want to talk about and you
should brief the interviewee on what the interview will be about. Above all you will need
to know why you are doing this interview, the main points you want the interviewee to
cover and how it fits into your piece. You should write these points down so that you can
refer to them and make sure they are covered.
• Know about the subject: The more you know about the subject itself the better your
interview is likely to be, so you should be well prepared. If the interview is part of a
discussion or debate or where there is some sort of controversy, you should know both
sides of the argument before you start the interview, and not find out all about it from
the interviewee. You should also know any relevant facts about the subject. You can
prepare briefing notes for yourself, making a list of the relevant points. Finally, you will
need to know the name and position of the person you are interviewing. Sounds odd but
it’s not unknown for the name of an interviewee to go flying out of your head the moment
you meet them, so make sure you have their name and position written down. When you
first meet, you should check with the interviewee that you have the right name and
pronunciation and that any title is correct.
• Prepare the interviewee: You should have given the interviewee a briefing during
the research and preparation stage, but it won’t do any harm to remind them what the
interview is for, what kinds of areas you want to cover and how long you think the
interview will take. It may also be useful for the interviewee to know who else you are
interviewing.
• Prepare areas for discussion: You may want to make a list of questions for yourself.
However, you will need to use this list carefully and selectively. You shouldn’t feel that
you have to slavishly stick to the questions you have written, in the order you have written
them. The interview will become rather wooden if you do this. If you can, it is much
better to make a note of the areas that you want to cover, rather than a list of specific
questions; it will sound much more natural if you can do this rather than read a scripted
question, and it well put your interviewee more at ease. You should always be prepared
for a follow-up question which should come out of the last answer you heard.
Questions
Listen to the answer
Oddly, the most important piece of advice when you are interviewing someone is to listen to
what they are saying. This sounds fairly obvious; however, when you have got microphones,
cameras to worry about and fretting about the sun or background noises you start to get
distracted. Added to this you may start to get worried about what you are going to ask next
and whether the next question is still relevant or whether it will sound stupid now. Perhaps
the interviewee has answered the second question at the same time as the first, and now you
can’t remember the third question; again you will start to get distracted and stop listening to
the interview. If you stop listening to the interview you won’t be able to ask follow-up
questions. You will simply have to read off your list. The interviewee will pick up on the fact
that you are distracted and start to feel a little uncomfortable; they may feel that they aren’t
doing a very good job. Your aim is to get a relaxed feel to the interview. Look at the treatment
from Chapter 8 and think about the opening interview.

Opening question
Some interviewees may feel a bit nervous or take a little time to get into their stride. You may
find it useful to ask some sort of general question to start with; it should be on the subject but
should be a bit of a warm-up question. Sometimes it’s useful to repeat the opening question
at the end of the interview; once the interviewee has warmed up a bit they will probably give
you a better answer.
Follow-up questions
A follow-up question is one which arises out of the answer the interviewee has just given. You
may want them to elaborate a little or there may a supplementary question you need to ask.
It helps put the interviewee at their ease if you pick up on something they said in the interview
as a starting point for the next question. For example:
I was interested in the point you just made about litter – can you tell me . . .
You just touched on something there which I’d like to ask you a bit more about.
The interviewee will automatically feel a little more relaxed as he or she realises you have
been listening, and encouraged that you have picked up on something and want to know
more.
Open and closed questions
A critical key to a successful interview is to avoid what are known as closed questions. A closed
question is one to which the interviewee can answer with a simple yes or no. This is
particularly important if the interviewer is not going to appear in vision. Thus, for example:
Question: Mr Smith, you are the environmental officer with responsibility for festival litter?
Answer: Yes.
If the interviewer is not going to appear in vision then the only bit of this interview you can
use is the word Yes which isn’t going to be very helpful. Better to use open questions to which
you cannot answer with one word. For example:
Question: Mr Smith, can you describe the role of the environmental officer at this festival?
Answer: The environmental officer is responsible for making sure the festival organisers have made
adequate provision for the removal of tents. . . .
There are a number of different techniques for asking open questions. One easy one is to
make sure your questions start in such a way that it’s impossible for the interviewee to answer
yes or no. For example, questions which start:

However, you will need to be careful with these types of questions as they can sometimes be
answered too quickly. For example:
Question: Who is responsible for collecting the tents?
Answer: The litter pickers.
Again this is not particularly helpful. A better framing might be:
Question: Can you tell me how you organise the workforce to collect the tents?
Very open questions
It is possible to ask a question which is too open. These questions tend to leave the interviewee
a little confused as to what you really want them to answer. For example:
Question: Tell me about waste at festivals . . .
The interviewee could be forgiven for feeling a little at sea with this question; it’s so wide they
probably won’t know where to start and are more than likely to stumble and ask you for some
clarification.
Controversy
Sometimes, particularly in news and current affairs, the interviewee is giving you one side of
an argument. You may have sympathy with his or her view or you may take the opposite
view; either way you shouldn’t let your own views be obvious and you shouldn’t, as an
interviewer, become involved in the discussion. This does not mean to say that you shouldn’t
put the opposing view. You should do this but you need to make it clear that this is not your
view. For example:
Question: Mr Smith, the pressure group Tidy Britain has argued that festivals like this should be banned
as they cause environmental damage – how would you answer their criticisms?
Even if you can’t attribute the counter-argument to a specific person you should always keep
a distance from it. For example:
Question: Mr Smith, some people have suggested that it would be better to ban festivals like this because
of the environmental damage. How would you respond to them?
How do you feel . . . questions
Sometimes it’s tempting to ask the question How do you feel . . . about something. This can be
a tricky question to answer. It can put the interviewee on the spot and they might just answer
with a few rather banal adjectives. For example:
Question: How to you feel about so much waste at these festivals?

When you come to the edit, the only usable bits are Well it’s terrible really, I think it should stop.
Again that’s not going to be very helpful. It might help to be a little more specific:
Question: What are the consequences for you personally, having to deal with so much waste?
Answer: Well for me personally it means a great deal of time is spent and it’s awful to watch so much
stuff being destroyed when I know there are people out there with very little; I find it quite hard to deal
with.
Anecdotes
In either television or radio you want your interviews to be engaging and colourful. Your
viewer or listener will be much more engaged with your interviewee if they can give examples
and anecdotes rather than just rather bland comments. They may not tell you any anecdotes
to begin with but this is something you need to winkle out of them with your follow-up
questions. For example:
Question: Mr Smith, what are the consequences for you personally having to deal with so much waste?
Answer: Well for me personally it means a great deal of time is spent, and it’s awful to watch so much
stuff being destroyed when I know there are people out there with very little, I find it quite hard to deal
with.
Question: Can you tell me the worst instances of waste you have come across?
Answer: Well yes, I remember there was one family, they had a six-berth tent and when we found it, it
was still set up for supper – all the plates and cups were laid out – there was a pot of tea on the table
and salad and condiments all laid out – it was a bit spooky, it looked as if they had just suddenly
disappeared – but what had happened is that they had been called away to deal with their vehicle which
was sinking in the mud and they had got so fed up by the time they got the car out of the quagmire, they
just wanted to get home, so they just left everything and drove off – clothes, sleeping bags, everything was
just lying there waiting for this family who were never going to come back.
One question at a time
Make sure that you ask just one question at a time. Long, wordy questions which are really
about three questions rolled into one will become confusing to all but the most experienced
interviewee. They won’t know which question you really want them to answer and the answer
is likely to be a bit rambling, or they will probably just answer the last question and forget
about the others. So, for example:
Question: Mr Smith, we’ve heard about the problem you have with the number of tents you’ve got left
over at the end of a festival; can you tell us a bit about how you deal with the tents, who picks them up
and what happens to them after you have collected them all?

Vox Pops
This stands for the Latin Vox Populi (voice of the people). It tends to be used when you want
to achieve a range of popular opinion on a subject. It is also used in some contexts to give eye
witness reports on an event. In this case your interviewees won’t necessarily be experts and
they won’t have been briefed. The questions therefore need to be fairly simple; you are really
asking for a quick reaction to something. If the subject is controversial you should make an
effort to get a range of opinions to reflect both sides of the argument. You shouldn’t be using
Vox Pops selectively to support an argument you want to make, particularly if it is a news and
current affairs type of programme; you should fairly reflect what you are hearing.
Start the answer with the question
It can be useful to brief your interviewee to include a little bit of the question in the answer.
Again, when you come to edit the piece together it will make much more sense and will avoid
you having to use clunky commentary. For example:
Question: Mr Smith, can you tell me about the methods you have for getting rid of the 5000 tents you
have left here?
Answer: Well, first we go through and check that the tents are empty and there are no stray festival-goers.
This is not a particularly bad question but it may be easier in your edit if you brief the
interviewee to add in a little of the question at the top of the answer. For example:
Answer: Well we have strict procedures for getting rid of tents at this festival, first we go through and
check that the tents are empty.
When you get to the edit you will find that the second answer gives you more flexibility. You
will have less work to do in your commentary to set up what the contributor is talking about.
Things to avoid before the interview
• Avoid scripts: Don’t let your contributor read from a prepared speech. It will always
come across sounding staged and unnatural. Contributors do sometimes feel very
nervous and want to prepare in advance. You should almost always prepare your
interviewee: they should know what type of programme it is and the main points of the
piece. It will help them if you let them know the areas you are going to want to cover.
• Don’t let contributors wear dark glasses: (television only) If your contributor is
wearing dark glasses it’s a good idea to ask them to remove them. It is very disconcerting
for a viewer. If they can’t see the person’s eyes, then they are likely to disconnect with
them emotionally and stop watching. As a viewer, you don’t have the same visual cues
as you do when you are talking to someone in real life. If the shot is a CU or MCU then
you won’t see much of the body language. The eyes are a very important part of
communication.

Avoid bright sunlight: Again for television viewers someone squinting in the sunshine
can be very off-putting. Sunlight can also cast quite a dark shadow across the eyes which
makes it look as though the interviewee is wearing sunglasses. If you are interviewing
someone outside, try to avoid having them face directly into the sunlight so that they
squint.
• Don’t let your interviewee eat or drink when talking: There is nothing more
off-putting, particularly on radio, than the sound of someone chewing or swallowing
while they are talking. Your interviewees shouldn’t eat or drink while they are talking to
you. If it’s a long interview then it’s likely that the interviewee will need some water, but
its best that you stop recording in between questions and let them have a drink, and then
resume the interview.
• Don’t use swivel chairs or rocking-chairs: For either radio or television, try to
avoid putting your interviewee in a chair that moves. They are likely to be rather nervous
and when this happens they are likely to rock or swivel more than usual. This will look
very odd on screen and will mean that their voice is constantly getting nearer or further
way from the microphone. If they are sitting, make it a firm, fixed chair.
• Pieces of paper: Try not to let the interviewee have pieces of paper with notes on in
their hands during the interview. On radio they will start to rustle the papers and it will
be distracting; on television it looks odd. Often interviewees will have made notes they
want to refer to and that’s fine, but tell them to put the notes to one side during the
answer and refer to them between questions.
Things to avoid during the interview
• Don’t interrupt the interviewee: You should not interrupt the interviewee while
they are talking. Apart from being a bit rude it will make the piece difficult to edit. You
should wait until they have finished the answer and then ask the next question.
• Don’t talk during the interview: Sometimes when we are holding a conversation
we tend to interject with small comments – mmm yes . . ., oh really . . ., goodness. . . . You
should avoid this during an interview. It will prove very irritating to the viewer or listener.
You can smile and nod as encouragement but don’t speak. It’s sometimes a good idea to
warn the interviewee about this in advance; it can look a little odd if they are not
expecting it.
• Don’t use camera moves: (television only) You may want a number of different shot
sizes; however, you should always change shot size between questions and not during
them. It is very difficult to make an edit on a move, so generally you should avoid any
zooms or pans. If you use them you are likely to be stuck with having to use the whole of
an answer, however long and boring, and you won’t be able to cut anything out.
• Noddies (if possible): (television only) Noddies are cutaways of the interviewer,
usually nodding or smiling. They tend to be used in the edit if you want to cut out a bit
of what the interviewer says. They look very clunky and these days rather old-fashioned.
It’s also surprisingly difficult to pull off a convincing nod. It is better to think of other
ways to cover an edit.

people are happy to wait but quite like to know what they are waiting for. If you have to
change something, like move position, tell them why the change is happening: too much
noise, sunlight, etc.
• Check phones: Check that everyone has turned off their mobile phones and that there
are no phones around that are likely to go off during the interview.
• Offer reassurance: Since you are unlikely to be transmitting live you can have as
many goes as you have time for at getting the interview you want. Sometimes an
interviewee needs some reassurance. You can tell them that if they are unhappy with an
answer then it is fine to stop and start the answer again. Under pressure people can quite
easily become tongue-tied and flustered, things come out wrong and they quite often
want a second go at an answer. Unless there is a very good reason against it, you should
let them do this.
• Check recording levels: You will need to check that the sound level is OK for
recording. Settle the interviewee into a comfortable position and then ask them a few
questions unrelated to the interview. You should use their answers to check that
everything is recording at an acceptable level. The interviewee and the microphone
should be in the position they will be during the recording. If necessary you can move
the microphone and then check the levels again before starting to record.
Things to remember after the interview
• Get some wild track: Whether you are recording for television or radio you should
get some wild track, sometimes referred to as atmos (atmosphere), usually about 30
seconds to one minute. Earlier chapters have discussed the importance of wild track and
you should get some for each interviewee. In television the convention is to point the
camera at the microphone which you are recording so that the editor will know what it
is. In radio you should just say, thirty-seconds wild track, and then record the silence.
• Thanks: Do remember to thank your interviewee for taking part and thank them again
at the end of the interview. It’s also nice after the interview to tell them that you liked the
interview, or found it interesting, useful, etc. Even the most confident people like to know
that they have done a good job. If you don’t say anything they will leave wondering
whether everything was OK. If you didn’t rate the interview that highly perhaps a little
white lie wouldn’t hurt.


النص الأصلي

Headroom
Similarly, you will want to position your characters and contributors to give them enough
headroom. You want to avoid cutting off too much of their head or make it look as if
their chin is resting on the bottom of the frame. Generally speaking, if you have to choose
between one of the two it’s better to cut off a bit of the top of the head than to have the
chin resting on the bottom of the frame, but it should be possible to frame so that neither
happens.


Rule of thirds
If you have studied photography you will be familiar with the term ‘Rule of thirds’. It’s an
easy way of helping you frame your shots. It applies both to stills photography and video
filming.
Imagine your frame, then draw three imaginary horizontal lines dividing the frame into
three, and then imagine and draw three vertical lines also dividing the frame into three. The
four spots where the lines intersect are the best spots where you want the viewer to focus on.
The reason for this is that it’s thought that when you look at a picture the intersection of those
four lines is the place your eye most naturally looks at. If you put the things of most interest
in these spots your brain will feel comfortable with that position.
Nobody is arguing that you have to frame every shot in this way; your programme would
start to look very odd and boring if you did. But it’s a tip well worth knowing.


Depth of field
Depending on what camera you are using you may or may not want to think about depth of
field. In order to play with the depth of field you will have to be able to perform two things
with the camera. You will need to be able to control the amount of light coming into the
camera, so you will need to control the aperture. You will need to change the focal length;
that is to say, you will need to be able to zoom in and out. If you can do either or both of these
things on the camera you will be able to play with the depth of field.


What is depth of field? When you take a shot with any camera you focus on a particular
subject within the frame. Depth of field is the distance behind and in front of the main subject
which is also in focus. If there is a shallow depth of field it means that the area in the
foreground and behind the object on which you have focused will be blurry or soft. If you
have a long depth of field it means that much more of the foreground and background will
be in sharp focus.
Look at Figures 10.29 and 10.30 on the previous page. In the first image everyone in the
shot is in focus and it has a long depth of field, but in the second image the person in front is
in focus but the peoples behind have gone soft, even though the image is a similar size: it has
a shorter depth of field.
There are two ways to alter the depth of field. The first way is to alter the aperture or iris.
If you want to get a shallow depth of field and have more of the picture looking blurry, then
you need to open the aperture. The more you open it, the shorter the depth of field and more
of the picture will look blurry. If you want everything to stay in sharp focus then you need to
close the aperture. The smaller the aperture, the more of the picture will stay in sharp focus.
However, opening and closing the aperture to this extent may not always be possible. If
you are outside on a very sunny day and you open the aperture right up, there will be too
much light coming into the camera and it will burn out; that is to say, it will just look all white.
If there isn’t very much light naturally and you have no artificial lights then you won’t have
enough light coming into the camera and it will look too dark.
The second way to alter the appearance of the depth of field is to move the camera and
use the zoom lens. If you physically move the camera further away from the object on which
you want to focus and use the zoom to create the same size of shot, then you will get a short
depth of field. You will need to use a tripod if you are going to zoom in a long way.
Any camera movement is exaggerated when you are on a long lens and a handheld shot will
look very shaky. If you want more of the picture to stay sharp (longer depth of field) then
you need to physically move the camera closer to the object you want to focus on and zoom
out.
With a combination of changing the focal length (the amount you zoom in or out) and
altering the aperture you will be able to change the depth of field on most video cameras.
Why alter the depth of field? There are no set rules; it is down to your own creative sense.
However, the effect of having a shallow depth of field is to give more contrasts in the shot; it
also makes the viewer concentrate on the object you want them to focus on. It makes the
subject of the frame stand out more. It creates a softer, slightly more dreamy image. However,
this may not be appropriate to what you want. A journalist reporting on a situation going on
around them might want everything to stay in focus. That kind of dreamy look may not be
something you feel is right for the piece.


Factual: You are asking the person to give you information or to demonstrate some-
thing.
• Explanation: You and the audience already know the facts but you would like to have
them explained or elaborated.
• Opinion and controversy: You may be covering an issue over which there is some
kind of debate and you are asking the interviewee to comment on one side or the other.
• Witness/experiential: Your interviewee may be a witness to or participant in an
event. They may have some kind of personal experience which is relevant to your piece.
In this case you might be looking to them to provide you with some kind of colourful
description; this may also involve some sort of emotion, particularly if you are dealing
with a sensitive subject.
• Celebrity interviews: You may be lucky enough to find a willing celebrity to inter-
view. Some of these may be a vehicle for the celebrity to promote their latest work, or
they may be involved in some kind of issue.


Preparation
• Preparing yourself: You should have a list of things you want to talk about and you
should brief the interviewee on what the interview will be about. Above all you will need
to know why you are doing this interview, the main points you want the interviewee to
cover and how it fits into your piece. You should write these points down so that you can
refer to them and make sure they are covered.
• Know about the subject: The more you know about the subject itself the better your
interview is likely to be, so you should be well prepared. If the interview is part of a
discussion or debate or where there is some sort of controversy, you should know both
sides of the argument before you start the interview, and not find out all about it from
the interviewee. You should also know any relevant facts about the subject. You can
prepare briefing notes for yourself, making a list of the relevant points. Finally, you will
need to know the name and position of the person you are interviewing. Sounds odd but
it’s not unknown for the name of an interviewee to go flying out of your head the moment
you meet them, so make sure you have their name and position written down. When you
first meet, you should check with the interviewee that you have the right name and
pronunciation and that any title is correct.
• Prepare the interviewee: You should have given the interviewee a briefing during
the research and preparation stage, but it won’t do any harm to remind them what the
interview is for, what kinds of areas you want to cover and how long you think the
interview will take. It may also be useful for the interviewee to know who else you are
interviewing.
• Prepare areas for discussion: You may want to make a list of questions for yourself.
However, you will need to use this list carefully and selectively. You shouldn’t feel that
you have to slavishly stick to the questions you have written, in the order you have written
them. The interview will become rather wooden if you do this. If you can, it is much
better to make a note of the areas that you want to cover, rather than a list of specific
questions; it will sound much more natural if you can do this rather than read a scripted
question, and it well put your interviewee more at ease. You should always be prepared
for a follow-up question which should come out of the last answer you heard.
Questions
Listen to the answer
Oddly, the most important piece of advice when you are interviewing someone is to listen to
what they are saying. This sounds fairly obvious; however, when you have got microphones,
cameras to worry about and fretting about the sun or background noises you start to get
distracted. Added to this you may start to get worried about what you are going to ask next
and whether the next question is still relevant or whether it will sound stupid now. Perhaps
the interviewee has answered the second question at the same time as the first, and now you
can’t remember the third question; again you will start to get distracted and stop listening to
the interview. If you stop listening to the interview you won’t be able to ask follow-up
questions. You will simply have to read off your list. The interviewee will pick up on the fact
that you are distracted and start to feel a little uncomfortable; they may feel that they aren’t
doing a very good job. Your aim is to get a relaxed feel to the interview. Look at the treatment
from Chapter 8 and think about the opening interview.


Opening question
Some interviewees may feel a bit nervous or take a little time to get into their stride. You may
find it useful to ask some sort of general question to start with; it should be on the subject but
should be a bit of a warm-up question. Sometimes it’s useful to repeat the opening question
at the end of the interview; once the interviewee has warmed up a bit they will probably give
you a better answer.
Follow-up questions
A follow-up question is one which arises out of the answer the interviewee has just given. You
may want them to elaborate a little or there may a supplementary question you need to ask.
It helps put the interviewee at their ease if you pick up on something they said in the interview
as a starting point for the next question. For example:
I was interested in the point you just made about litter – can you tell me . . .
You just touched on something there which I’d like to ask you a bit more about.
The interviewee will automatically feel a little more relaxed as he or she realises you have
been listening, and encouraged that you have picked up on something and want to know
more.
Open and closed questions
A critical key to a successful interview is to avoid what are known as closed questions. A closed
question is one to which the interviewee can answer with a simple yes or no. This is
particularly important if the interviewer is not going to appear in vision. Thus, for example:
Question: Mr Smith, you are the environmental officer with responsibility for festival litter?
Answer: Yes.
If the interviewer is not going to appear in vision then the only bit of this interview you can
use is the word Yes which isn’t going to be very helpful. Better to use open questions to which
you cannot answer with one word. For example:
Question: Mr Smith, can you describe the role of the environmental officer at this festival?
Answer: The environmental officer is responsible for making sure the festival organisers have made
adequate provision for the removal of tents. . . .
There are a number of different techniques for asking open questions. One easy one is to
make sure your questions start in such a way that it’s impossible for the interviewee to answer
yes or no. For example, questions which start:


However, you will need to be careful with these types of questions as they can sometimes be
answered too quickly. For example:
Question: Who is responsible for collecting the tents?
Answer: The litter pickers.
Again this is not particularly helpful. A better framing might be:
Question: Can you tell me how you organise the workforce to collect the tents?
Very open questions
It is possible to ask a question which is too open. These questions tend to leave the interviewee
a little confused as to what you really want them to answer. For example:
Question: Tell me about waste at festivals . . .
The interviewee could be forgiven for feeling a little at sea with this question; it’s so wide they
probably won’t know where to start and are more than likely to stumble and ask you for some
clarification.
Controversy
Sometimes, particularly in news and current affairs, the interviewee is giving you one side of
an argument. You may have sympathy with his or her view or you may take the opposite
view; either way you shouldn’t let your own views be obvious and you shouldn’t, as an
interviewer, become involved in the discussion. This does not mean to say that you shouldn’t
put the opposing view. You should do this but you need to make it clear that this is not your
view. For example:
Question: Mr Smith, the pressure group Tidy Britain has argued that festivals like this should be banned
as they cause environmental damage – how would you answer their criticisms?
Even if you can’t attribute the counter-argument to a specific person you should always keep
a distance from it. For example:
Question: Mr Smith, some people have suggested that it would be better to ban festivals like this because
of the environmental damage. How would you respond to them?
How do you feel . . . questions
Sometimes it’s tempting to ask the question How do you feel . . . about something. This can be
a tricky question to answer. It can put the interviewee on the spot and they might just answer
with a few rather banal adjectives. For example:
Question: How to you feel about so much waste at these festivals?


When you come to the edit, the only usable bits are Well it’s terrible really, I think it should stop.
Again that’s not going to be very helpful. It might help to be a little more specific:
Question: What are the consequences for you personally, having to deal with so much waste?
Answer: Well for me personally it means a great deal of time is spent and it’s awful to watch so much
stuff being destroyed when I know there are people out there with very little; I find it quite hard to deal
with.
Anecdotes
In either television or radio you want your interviews to be engaging and colourful. Your
viewer or listener will be much more engaged with your interviewee if they can give examples
and anecdotes rather than just rather bland comments. They may not tell you any anecdotes
to begin with but this is something you need to winkle out of them with your follow-up
questions. For example:
Question: Mr Smith, what are the consequences for you personally having to deal with so much waste?
Answer: Well for me personally it means a great deal of time is spent, and it’s awful to watch so much
stuff being destroyed when I know there are people out there with very little, I find it quite hard to deal
with.
Question: Can you tell me the worst instances of waste you have come across?
Answer: Well yes, I remember there was one family, they had a six-berth tent and when we found it, it
was still set up for supper – all the plates and cups were laid out – there was a pot of tea on the table
and salad and condiments all laid out – it was a bit spooky, it looked as if they had just suddenly
disappeared – but what had happened is that they had been called away to deal with their vehicle which
was sinking in the mud and they had got so fed up by the time they got the car out of the quagmire, they
just wanted to get home, so they just left everything and drove off – clothes, sleeping bags, everything was
just lying there waiting for this family who were never going to come back.
One question at a time
Make sure that you ask just one question at a time. Long, wordy questions which are really
about three questions rolled into one will become confusing to all but the most experienced
interviewee. They won’t know which question you really want them to answer and the answer
is likely to be a bit rambling, or they will probably just answer the last question and forget
about the others. So, for example:
Question: Mr Smith, we’ve heard about the problem you have with the number of tents you’ve got left
over at the end of a festival; can you tell us a bit about how you deal with the tents, who picks them up
and what happens to them after you have collected them all?


Vox Pops
This stands for the Latin Vox Populi (voice of the people). It tends to be used when you want
to achieve a range of popular opinion on a subject. It is also used in some contexts to give eye
witness reports on an event. In this case your interviewees won’t necessarily be experts and
they won’t have been briefed. The questions therefore need to be fairly simple; you are really
asking for a quick reaction to something. If the subject is controversial you should make an
effort to get a range of opinions to reflect both sides of the argument. You shouldn’t be using
Vox Pops selectively to support an argument you want to make, particularly if it is a news and
current affairs type of programme; you should fairly reflect what you are hearing.
Start the answer with the question
It can be useful to brief your interviewee to include a little bit of the question in the answer.
Again, when you come to edit the piece together it will make much more sense and will avoid
you having to use clunky commentary. For example:
Question: Mr Smith, can you tell me about the methods you have for getting rid of the 5000 tents you
have left here?
Answer: Well, first we go through and check that the tents are empty and there are no stray festival-goers.
This is not a particularly bad question but it may be easier in your edit if you brief the
interviewee to add in a little of the question at the top of the answer. For example:
Answer: Well we have strict procedures for getting rid of tents at this festival, first we go through and
check that the tents are empty.
When you get to the edit you will find that the second answer gives you more flexibility. You
will have less work to do in your commentary to set up what the contributor is talking about.
Things to avoid before the interview
• Avoid scripts: Don’t let your contributor read from a prepared speech. It will always
come across sounding staged and unnatural. Contributors do sometimes feel very
nervous and want to prepare in advance. You should almost always prepare your
interviewee: they should know what type of programme it is and the main points of the
piece. It will help them if you let them know the areas you are going to want to cover.
• Don’t let contributors wear dark glasses: (television only) If your contributor is
wearing dark glasses it’s a good idea to ask them to remove them. It is very disconcerting
for a viewer. If they can’t see the person’s eyes, then they are likely to disconnect with
them emotionally and stop watching. As a viewer, you don’t have the same visual cues
as you do when you are talking to someone in real life. If the shot is a CU or MCU then
you won’t see much of the body language. The eyes are a very important part of
communication.


Avoid bright sunlight: Again for television viewers someone squinting in the sunshine
can be very off-putting. Sunlight can also cast quite a dark shadow across the eyes which
makes it look as though the interviewee is wearing sunglasses. If you are interviewing
someone outside, try to avoid having them face directly into the sunlight so that they
squint.
• Don’t let your interviewee eat or drink when talking: There is nothing more
off-putting, particularly on radio, than the sound of someone chewing or swallowing
while they are talking. Your interviewees shouldn’t eat or drink while they are talking to
you. If it’s a long interview then it’s likely that the interviewee will need some water, but
its best that you stop recording in between questions and let them have a drink, and then
resume the interview.
• Don’t use swivel chairs or rocking-chairs: For either radio or television, try to
avoid putting your interviewee in a chair that moves. They are likely to be rather nervous
and when this happens they are likely to rock or swivel more than usual. This will look
very odd on screen and will mean that their voice is constantly getting nearer or further
way from the microphone. If they are sitting, make it a firm, fixed chair.
• Pieces of paper: Try not to let the interviewee have pieces of paper with notes on in
their hands during the interview. On radio they will start to rustle the papers and it will
be distracting; on television it looks odd. Often interviewees will have made notes they
want to refer to and that’s fine, but tell them to put the notes to one side during the
answer and refer to them between questions.
Things to avoid during the interview
• Don’t interrupt the interviewee: You should not interrupt the interviewee while
they are talking. Apart from being a bit rude it will make the piece difficult to edit. You
should wait until they have finished the answer and then ask the next question.
• Don’t talk during the interview: Sometimes when we are holding a conversation
we tend to interject with small comments – mmm yes . . ., oh really . . ., goodness. . . . You
should avoid this during an interview. It will prove very irritating to the viewer or listener.
You can smile and nod as encouragement but don’t speak. It’s sometimes a good idea to
warn the interviewee about this in advance; it can look a little odd if they are not
expecting it.
• Don’t use camera moves: (television only) You may want a number of different shot
sizes; however, you should always change shot size between questions and not during
them. It is very difficult to make an edit on a move, so generally you should avoid any
zooms or pans. If you use them you are likely to be stuck with having to use the whole of
an answer, however long and boring, and you won’t be able to cut anything out.
• Noddies (if possible): (television only) Noddies are cutaways of the interviewer,
usually nodding or smiling. They tend to be used in the edit if you want to cut out a bit
of what the interviewer says. They look very clunky and these days rather old-fashioned.
It’s also surprisingly difficult to pull off a convincing nod. It is better to think of other
ways to cover an edit.


people are happy to wait but quite like to know what they are waiting for. If you have to
change something, like move position, tell them why the change is happening: too much
noise, sunlight, etc.
• Check phones: Check that everyone has turned off their mobile phones and that there
are no phones around that are likely to go off during the interview.
• Offer reassurance: Since you are unlikely to be transmitting live you can have as
many goes as you have time for at getting the interview you want. Sometimes an
interviewee needs some reassurance. You can tell them that if they are unhappy with an
answer then it is fine to stop and start the answer again. Under pressure people can quite
easily become tongue-tied and flustered, things come out wrong and they quite often
want a second go at an answer. Unless there is a very good reason against it, you should
let them do this.
• Check recording levels: You will need to check that the sound level is OK for
recording. Settle the interviewee into a comfortable position and then ask them a few
questions unrelated to the interview. You should use their answers to check that
everything is recording at an acceptable level. The interviewee and the microphone
should be in the position they will be during the recording. If necessary you can move
the microphone and then check the levels again before starting to record.
Things to remember after the interview
• Get some wild track: Whether you are recording for television or radio you should
get some wild track, sometimes referred to as atmos (atmosphere), usually about 30
seconds to one minute. Earlier chapters have discussed the importance of wild track and
you should get some for each interviewee. In television the convention is to point the
camera at the microphone which you are recording so that the editor will know what it
is. In radio you should just say, thirty-seconds wild track, and then record the silence.
• Thanks: Do remember to thank your interviewee for taking part and thank them again
at the end of the interview. It’s also nice after the interview to tell them that you liked the
interview, or found it interesting, useful, etc. Even the most confident people like to know
that they have done a good job. If you don’t say anything they will leave wondering
whether everything was OK. If you didn’t rate the interview that highly perhaps a little
white lie wouldn’t hurt.

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