Every filmmaker has gone through it. You prepare for an interview and the location you selected is no longer available, or the location you have to film at is so boring you have to get creative. Being able to elevate a location by creating compositional depth is a skill every cinematographer should have. Here are some ways you can make your interview leave an impression on your audience.
Having more than one camera capturing your subject is a luxury but will make your interview footage more dynamic. If you are editing your own videos then you know how important it is to be able to have extra footage to choose from. Filming from two separate angles will save time while editing - ( also, allowing you to avoid things like jump-cuts) and give your shot that extra edge audiences crave. Just remember to not break the 180º rule and always have both cameras on either side of the interviewer. You don't want the interviewer in the middle of the cameras.
Your initial thoughts when you enter a location are usually worth a second thought. Think like a cinematographer and ask yourself, “How can I add depth to this scene?” If you are filming in a boardroom you may think to just have them sit in front of a white wall. However, by taking a second look around, and find the right angle, you could add depth to your scene by having the long table be visible behind the person. Depth is the easiest way to spice up a boring location. If possible have two cameras set up from different angles and include them both in post-production.
Sometimes though, all you have to work with is a single wall. In this case, find ways to make the boring wall come to life. Add-in elements like textures, plants, practical lights, etc. will help enhance the shot. These additions will bring production value up and give life to your boring background. Audiences may not remember what the background was, but they will remember the impression it gave them.
This one's the BIG one! The presence of lighting and the absence of it changes an entire scene to fit the mood you are trying to portray in any production. By mixing hard and soft light sources you can create an entire different space where you’re filming. Lighting can help and how light falls off and moves through a space can help you elevate the composition of an interview. By using the right techniques you can completely change that one wall you’re working with into an entirely different color, while still perfectly exposing your interviewee. Lastly, never underestimate a good backlight. This can help create separate and make the illusion of a 3D world, helping the production get that cinematic look everyone is used to.
You’ve heard the saying, “show don’t tell”. Well, this can be true of interviews too. Although the gist of an interview is to hear what the interviewee is saying, it won’t hurt if the people could see something other than their face. Think about it. There are other ways that we convey an emotion and in most documentary interviews i’ve watched I’m listening to what their saying, but I’m also paying attention to if what they are saying is genuine. How can you portray that as a filmmaker? A close up on them nervously fiddling their fingers, the conformable stance of uncrossing their legs or the drop of their stare from the camera to an outside window - play on that emotion! It’s going to add value to your production and often times it happens naturally. So do your job and capture it!