What makes a good interview?

Interview planning

Over the last few weeks I’ve spent some time to research documentary filmmaking practices. I was interested in how an interviewer prepares before interviewing a subject, to inform how we structure our questions. We sifted through a range of advice, and decided to act upon a few of the opinions which were the most popular amongst credible sources. Below explains how some of this research has affected our preparation:


Let the subject know a little about the interview in advance, but many have suggested to not give the interviewee the questions before the day (CITE).

In response to this, I emailed Colin at the beginning of the week to explain a little more about the project, and gave him an idea of the themes we are going to be taking about. We chose not to give him our questions because many have reported that providing too much information in advance, causes the subjects to prepare too much, and often appear unnatural in the interview. We did not want to loose this spontaneity with Colin.


Ease the subject into the interview with easy questions.

We choose some commonly asked questions in our opening, to allow Colin time to feel comfortable in front of the camera. Colin has a slight speech impediment so we have been very mindful in creating a relaxed environment, which encourages a colloquial tone. As the interview progresses, the questions become deeper and more meaningful.


Ask questions that are open, rather than what can be answered with a yes or a no.

We were intentional about creating opportunities for Colin to speak naturally about his work and practice. As this is an indirect interview (our edit will not feature any of the interviewer’s questions), we hope to be able to collect a range of answers which stand on their own without the support of questions or prompts.

4. Prepare and research. Lots.

In every single article I read, preparation was of core importance. A well researched subject equips the interviewer with the most appropriate material to discuss, bringing out the best answers from the subject. We had spent a number of weeks researching Colin’s work and his life, and this week we decided to focus on this even more. We all spent time to read and share about his work, the themes of his work, and the inspiration for his work. Not only will this give us the chance to bring up these findings in our questions, but it also shows a level of professionalism and respect for Colin, which I believe is important to communicate.


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