Documentary interviews are an excellent way to provide audiences with inside information about certain topics or people. You can use them to help inform your audiences about subjects that are relevant to your industry or to give them a deeper look at your company’s interests, goals or direction, for example, by filming an interview with a key member of your leadership team.
To ensure that you capture valuable interview footage, proper preparation is key. While at times great interview footage is captured easily from a subject that is naturally talkative and charismatic, this is not always the case.
Therefore preparation is very important. To prepare for an interview, you should have a list of questions to ask the interviewee; Questions that offer a guideline that can help shape your subject’s answers, and allow them to elaborate further.
If you’ve never conducted a professional interview before, it can be a bit challenging to form the right questions, especially those that coax responses beyond a basic “yes” or “no” answer. This is one of the reasons why many businesses will choose to work with documentary production companies.
The following are five types of questions that documentary production companies will recommend for getting some great content out of an interview.
1. Avoid asking “yes” or “no” questions
“Yes” or “no” questions are bad for a number of reasons. First of all, it usually results in the interviewer saying more on camera than the subject.
This will end up being extremely boring to watch for audiences. Secondly, you’re baiting the subject to answer a certain way. For example, “Is this new product good?” would probably receive a “yes” answer.
This can sometimes come across as dishonest since you’re basically guiding them to the answers you want to hear when you use a “yes” or “no” question. Last but not least, “yes” and “no” answers provide very little value. To get the subject to answer in more detail, questions need to be restructured.
For example, when interviewing the head of a software company about the newest software being released, instead of asking, “Is this year’s software better than last year’s?” you’ll want to ask “What makes this year’s software better than last year’s?”
2. Ask about the subject’s feelings in regards to the subject
An great way to get more in depth dialogue on a certain subject is to ask an interviewee what their personal opinion or feelings are on the topic. This can help garner some very relate-able responses and video content.
Rather than having an interviewee elaborate on technical details or aspects of the topic that may be over a viewer’s head (so to speak) almost anyone can relate to the emotional feelings involved. Consider the previous software example again.
If you ask a software developer what’s new about the latest software update, your subject may go into all the technical features using technical jargon that the average person doesn’t understand.
By asking “How do you feel about the new features of the software?” they’re more likely to go into the things that audiences can relate to. It will result in answers like “These new changes will keep our software easier and faster to use.”
3. Ask the subject to “tell you a story” about a specific subject
Storytelling is what really captures audiences and helps them to engage. If your interview is filled with straightforward questions and answers, you might as well transcribe it into an FAQ page.
If you ask the subject to actually tell a story about something, it will make your interview more personal and unique. For example, if you’re interviewing the owner of your business, ask them what the story behind founding the company is.
This will work much better than separate questions, such as “When did you found the company?” and “Why did you found the company?” While these questions are fine, the subject will most likely cover those questions themselves when telling their story.
4. Ask “why” questions
“Why” questions are a great way to explain to audiences the benefits of certain decisions, actions, products and services. It’s an easy way to get valuable information. For example:
- Why was this product made?
- Why should audiences purchase this product?
- Why should audiences do this?
- Why should audiences care about this decision?
- Why did you decide to do this?
“Why” questions rarely result in short answers since the subject will have to explain the process that resulted in the actions or decisions that were made. “Why” questions are a great way to follow up your questions about the subject’s feelings or stories.
5. Ask “how” questions
“How” questions are very similar to “why” questions. They help you go into more detail about the topic at hand. In fact, they can help to guide the subject to go into more detail following a “why” question. The following are a few examples of “how” questions:
- How is your product different from the competition?
- How will your product benefit consumers?
- How is your product made?
These are the five types of questions you should try to focus on when brainstorming interview questions. Documentary production companies can help you with this process.
Experienced documentary production companies have likely performed hundreds or thousands of interviews, and will be able to craft the perfect questions. Likewise, an experienced producer will be able to work with the interviewee on-camera to make them comfortable and to help coax high-quality dialogue from them.