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View of Georgetown campus from the Virginia side of the Potomac

View of Georgetown campus from the Virginia side of the Potomac

Documentary Video Production: Preparing for your shoot

Preparing for Interviews

  1. Contact everyone you want to interview in advance. Don't wait until the last minute to contact potential interviewees. Give people as much notice as possible about your project and your desire to interview them. You are less likely to be turned down if you work to accomodate their schedule.
  2. Research your interviewees. Know their background and their area of expertise. If you are going to interview a professor, read a few of his or her publications. If you are going to interview an artist, look at examples of his or her work.
  3. Conduct a short "pre-interview" on the phone or in person. During the pre-interview, you can test out some of the questions you are planning to ask and learn more about your interviewee. 
  4. After the pre-interview, you should have a good sense about what questions will elicit the best responses. Refine these questions and write them down. It's okay to have moments of spontaneity, but never attempt to improvise an entire interview!


(photo from flickr by Mr T in DC    some rights reserved)

Release Forms

Although it can feel like a nuisance, collecting release forms can save you a future of headache. Make sure you get release forms for any person whose voice or image you feature and any location that is privately owned.

Sample Forms and Information

Information about Locations and Permit

Useful Links

The Art of the Documentary Interview - Very useful tips about working with interviewees and writing effective questions.

Interview Techniques for Documentary Filmmakers - Suggestions for eliciting strong interviews from your subjects. 

Interview Filming Techniques - A great course that covers the entire process of shooting an interview. It includes actual on-location examples.

Location Scouting

Scout locations for your interviews and b-roll before you start shooting. Examine the lighting situation. Listen for environmental and ambient sounds. Look for electrical outlets.

11 Tips for Location Scouting

3 Location Scouting Tips for Shooting Better Interviews

Location Scouting Form

Reserve Equipment & Schedule Consultations

In order to guarantee that you will get the equipment that you want, make sure to visit the Gelardin New Media Center several weeks before your shoot to reserve your equipment.

For equipment and software that require training, submit a consultation request at least a week before you need to use it.

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