How to deal with camera-shy interviewees

For a recent university project, a teammate and I had to create a video that included at least two interviews. A recurring issue we encountered in making that video was finding a potential interviewee with a great message that suddenly lost all composure as soon as the camera was rolling. This can be especially difficult when the filming takes place in public, where the interviewee feels exposed and on the spot in front of strangers.

Along the way, we figured out a few tricks for getting interviewees to relax — even when the camera is rolling and pointed at them.

Before we started filming and getting to work with the project, we always made sure to create a relaxed atmosphere. Simply reassuring our subjects that there are no right or wrong answers, and that in the end we could cut everything they didn’t like, helped to make them more spontaneous and natural.

The advantage of working on this project together enabled us to assign one person specifically to interviewing and conversing, and one person strictly to camera work. We noticed that if the “speaker” started casual conversation and approached the topic more broadly, and then slowly eased the subject into the topic, the “cameraman” could wait until the subject was comfortable and flowing well in order to start filming. The conversation would then happen more naturally, and ideally the subject wouldn’t even notice that the camera was already rolling.

Moreover, our subjects felt more confident if we briefed them before the interview started. We would show them a list of topics we planned to discuss, and if necessary, they could share their thoughts and possible answers with us. Simply reassuring them went a long way toward putting the interviewee at ease and in a more relaxed state of mind.

By the end of our project we had developed a routine involving the steps listed above. This helped to gain more useful content out of our interviews, and to use our time more efficiently.

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