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Documentary Interviewing Techniques

I recently completed work on Exit 18, my second attempt at a documentary. In the process of preparing a retrospective blog post for it, I was reflecting back on what I would do differently, and one of the areas I would approach differently are the interviews. Not that the interviews were bad, they went well and provided me enough material to work with, but it’s hard to deny time constraints led me to rush through the process and shortchange how deep I was able to get with interviewees.

Specifically, the 2 things I know not to do, but did anyway, were sticking too religiously to my list of questions, and not repeating the interviewee’s answers back in the form of a question, so as to elicit a deeper response (“I was treated fairly” / “Fairly?”). In pondering that, I found it timely to come across a well-written summary of these (and other) dos and don’ts on the Live the Dream Films blog. There’s plenty of these lists out there, but I found this recent post – Interview Techniques for Social Filmmakers – to be a good selection of things to remember. There’s also a link to The Art of the Interview by David Tamés (pdf) offering a nice visual breakdown of different documentary styles.

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