Video Essentials

How to Get Interview Subjects to Open Up

“We believe in the power of the human voice,” says Jake Kahn, co-founder of Talk to Me Studios.

Based in Rhode Island, Talk to Me is a video production agency with a clear niche: brief videos highlighting unscripted testimonials. While the interviewees could be satisfied customers or happy employees, they all offer a personal look at the subject matter.

Talk to Me was formed about a year ago, but has only now officially launched. The company wanted to have enough work behind it to show its strengths. Visit the Portfolio section of the company’s site to see the kind of brief videos it specializes in.

The central idea behind Talk to Me’s style is that nothing has the power of real people telling real stories. It has a profound influence on the viewer.

“We think that resonates,” says Kahn.

A session with Talk to Me involves a small crew conducting an interview with a subject for 45 minutes to an hour, and perhaps collecting some b-roll. Back in the studio, that, the footage is edited down to between one and two minutes of online video. After a round of client-directed changes, it’s ready for posting. Talk to Me even suggests ways to promote the video online.

Since the key to Talk to Me’s work is getting non-professionals to talk personally and candidly on camera, we thought Kahn would be the ideal person to ask for tips on getting great video interviews.

1. Skip the Studio
It’s hard for people to open up in a cold and unfamiliar setting. Rather than bringing your subject to your studio, bring your camera to a place where the subject feels comfortable.

2. Find the Story

People are happy to talk about subjects where they’re knowledgeable. Let your subject tell you a story, and worry about shaping it into something usable later when you’re at your computer.

3. Use Different Angles
Get different angles on your subject and your subject’s story: Set up a few cameras so you get more than one angle on the subject’s face. This lets you avoid the “talking head” pitfall. Then, ask questions that get them to tell their story in multiple ways. This will give you varied material to cut to when editing.

4. Get Natural Reactions

Don’t just film your subject speaking, but smiling, laughing, and reacting to other things in the room, as well. Use this as b-roll to offer alternate views.

5. Shorter Is Better
People want to go into depth when telling stories; your job is to shape that. Give your viewer’s a taste of the material and leave them wanting more.


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