I am about to start interviewing dollar baby filmmakers for my upcoming book, “Dollar Deal.” With that in mind, I thought it would be a good time to go over some important topics to consider when interviewing anyone.
My first interview I ever conducted was with former Oklahoma Sooners’ star Brian Bosworth. It was a case of throwing myself right into the fire but it was the best thing that could have happened. Bosworth was a great interview and really made things easy on a first timer. However, it was a telephone interview and that meant I needed to find something to record the interview with.
At that time, you could just hook up a recorder to your phone and you were good to go. However, most people use cell phones now and fewer people own land lines. That means you need to find something good, and reliable, to record on.
1. Use Digital Recorders – I was interviewing a pair of Oklahoma Sooners’ basketball players and had my tape recorder in the middle of the table for the entire interview. When I finished the interview, I thanked them for their time, grabbed the recorder and headed out. When I took the tape out, something had happened and the tape was jammed, pretty much destroyed in the recorder. I never used a tape recorder again after that.
Also, never underestimate the importance of extra batteries. When I went to Comicpalooza this year for interviews, I was ready to start and realized by recorder’s battery was completely dead. Luckily, I had three spares in my bag
I use the Olympus WS-400 S Digital Recorder. It is a little pricey but when you do this for a living it is worth it.
2. Get something to record via cell phones – I searched a long time to find something that would help me record interviews while on a cell phone. What I found is great. I use the Olympus TP-7 Telephone pick up. Basically, it is a reverse headphone. You connect the plug into the recorders MIC jack and then put the earphone in your ear. The earphone has a built in recorder and picks up whatever you can hear coming through the phone. It was a lifesaver.
That gives you technically everything you need to record the interviews. However, one thing an interviewer wants to do is talk about things that people want to read about. What is interesting about the person you are interviewing? If it is someone famous, that should be easy but it is not.
I interviewed Tony Todd (“Candyman”) in 2011 and overheard him telling someone that he was tired of doing interviews where people asked about “Candyman.” The reason is simple. If you interview Tony Todd and your interview is all about “Candyman,” your interview is the exact same as hundreds of other interviews Todd has granted. That means your interview and story is not unique and just like every other interview online.
3. Research your subject and find new topics – Before I interviewed Michael Biehn (“Terminator”), his wife Jennifer Blanc asked me what the interview was going to be about. I told her I wanted to talk about their new production company and the exploitation movies they were starting to make. She approved and said they wanted to make sure all interviews were not about the past, but about the future.
This makes sense. You may want to interview someone because they are interesting. They want to conduct interviews because they want to promote their new projects, not really because they want to relive the past for the thousandth time. When I interviewed Todd, I asked about “Sushi Girl” and other new projects and movies coming down the line. After the interview, he thanked me for the interview and told me I had some good questions.
Before the Michael Biehn interview, I did extensive research by finding recent interviews he did with other sites about his new projects. I found questions that had not been answered (as far as I could tell) and came up with questions that I was still curious about after watching his other interviews. I wanted to make sure that my questions were new and unique. That makes your interviews stand out.
4. Take Notes Even When Using a Recorder – I have seen a lot of people just hold up a recorder and interview someone. I prefer to have my questions wrote down in a reporter’s notebook and then I take notes as they are answering questions. I don’t transcribe what they are saying but when they say something that strikes a point, I make a short notation about it. This makes it easier when asking follow up questions and also helps set up your point of reference if you are turning your interview into a narrative article. Also, use this to ask for spellings when people’s names are used (such as Shawn or Sean).
After your interview, it is time to transcribe it and write your interview or article.
5. Buy something to transcribe your interview with – If you use your recorder (or even transfer it to your computer) and then just play and pause the interview to transcribe it, you will hate this part of the job. Buy a pedal and get a transcription program and you will fly through the interviews.
I use the Infinity USB Foot Pedal for PC Transcription IN-USB-2.
6. Fact Check – If you are just doing a straight Q&A styled article, this is not always as important but it is still something a responsible journalist should do. In a narrative article, you really have to pay attention to it. If someone says they were the first person to ever use a zoom lens to shoot a movie, check to make sure they are telling the truth. This is even more important when they are talking about someone else. If you write an article and use what they tell you as fact, but it is actually a lie that could hurt someone else, you are liable. You could use quotes and attribute it to the person you interviewed but you better cover yourself because it is your name on the article.
7. Follow Up After the Interview is Live – Let your subjects know when the interview goes live. Send them a link and thank them for their time. You should do this via email but you can also let them know by linking the interview to them via Twitter or Facebook as well. Be reliable, make sure to quote them properly and then let them know you are grateful for their time. It will help you get more interviews down the line.