Most people aren't pros trained to appear on camera, so you need to learn successful tricks to getting your "talent" to say and do what you want - even without talent.
Subjects in documentaries often aren't professionals trained to appear on camera, so you need to learn successful tricks to getting your "talent" to say and do what you want, even without talent. People you interview will have their perception of how you want them to look and act or what you want them to say. A calm voice, but firm approach will help keep everyone pleasantly on the same page.
But how far do you push or challenge them? What happens if they totally freeze up, botching take after take until everyone has run out of time and patience? What can you do to avoid having to go to extremes? What are those extremes? There's a lot to worry about, but fretting isn't going to make the job easier. If you remain cool, calm and unperplexed, so will your talent - most of the time.
In my ongoing program with Video StoryTellers! the primary focus is on short-form documentary production. These are based on getting people to tell me their stories, share intimate, poignant, meaningful, sometimes hilarious memories. The primary talent I seek from them is natural - I want them to come across sincere and comfortable, and speak from the heart. I need to warm them up and make them feel comfortable.
They've spent the last few minutes or hours, perhaps days, worrying about how they're going to look, how well they will speak. They are tense. It's my job to get them into conversation mode and do it as quickly as possible. This will be your primary challenge as well.
There are six elements in the process - from arrival and setup to breaking down your equipment and leaving the building. They are communication, explanation, preparation, direction, affirmation and confirmation. Learn to utilize them and you will find a much smoother path to great documentary interviews.
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