DOs and DON’Ts for a successful interview

If you’re making a film of any sort or a photo essay that includes a person, you would no doubt be faced with interviews. Interviews are not always sit-down and it doesn’t always mean studio settings. Interview is really any conversation you are having with your source to get information about a certain topic.

While this sounds simple (it would just be like any conversations, right?), I know a lot of people who has their tongue tied during these moments or, if they don’t, their source(s) do.

Below are some things I found crucial to ensure a good interview:

1. Do your research
Find out as much as you can about your source(s) or the topic before you go out. Having background information beforehand helps in getting the most out of your interviews and make your source(s) feel important

2. Prepare a list of question
Even if it’s just pointers of what information you need from each person. List out your questions. Write them down. You may think you can remember it all but there is no harm in writing it down and be sure.

3. Listen
This might sound counterintuitive but you are there to get answers. So listen. Pay attention to both what your source(s) is saying and their body language. You may find that you may need to rephrase your question or have new exciting leads that has nothing to do with your original question list.

4. Make eye contact and reassuring gestures
Everyone likes being listened to. Make eye contact with your source(s) while they’re talking. Nod your head, smile, again, show them you’re interested in what they have to say.

5. Thank them
Thank them for their time and for their willingness to talk to you.

6. Introduce yourself clearly and take the time to explain what the interview is for.

7. Take the time to explain what you need during the interview and why that is
— I am talking 
about asking them to turn their phone off, trying not to hit the lavalier mic you have inserted inside their blouse, etc.

8. If you’re doing the interview on camera, try to put your source(s) in context. i.e. If you’re interviewing a doctor about some health issue, it would be best to interview them in their uniform at the hospital/clinic rather than in their shorts by the beach.

9. Ask for your source(s) card or have them write their own names and titles on your note. There is nothing more irritating than having your name spelled wrong after spending time giving an interview.


1. Fiddle with your notes while they’re talking

2. Ask closed questions

3. Judge.
If you are to assume something, make sure you express that and show that you’re ready to 
be shown wrong.

4. Look bored.
This is for similar obvious reasons like the previous point: If you look bored or 
uninterested, you are discouraging the person from saying more.

5. Make oohh and aahh sounds.
Especially if you’re going to use the interview recording in your film 
later on. While these sounds are meaning to encourage the person and show your understanding or interest, these ooh and aaahh sounds will make your editing process impossible. Nod your head instead. Smile. These simple gestures can often work wonders both during and after the interview.