You’re probably thinking “but we’ve already met!” So what is this all about? Well it’s a long story so I hope you are sitting comfortably.
At a recent committee meeting when we were brainstorming ideas for our club meetings to get everyone interested and involved I suggested a practical evening based on the Radio 4 show “Chain Reaction” . For those of you who have not heard it before, the concept is simple: one week a celeb will interview another celeb then the following week the one being interviewed will now interview a new celeb who will then go on be the interviewer the next week and so on.
The idea I had was similar in that we set up the club equipment (camera, lights, boom, etc.) and have a two person interview set-up then we swap the roles around so everyone gets a go at at least one role on the production side or in front of the camera.
Then – inspired by the recent archive film from 1963 in which the OCS (Orpington Cine Society) club members were being interviewed – our chairman Simon” Snapper” Earwicker thought it would be a great idea if we used this project to make an updated version of this film – hence this week’s special one night club project “Meet the Members”! Simon also thought that we could possibly incorporate this into our official North vs South entry with questions concerning the topic “If”.
Got all that? Good. So please do all show up on Tuesday and be preserved on camera in the OVFM archives for generations to come when they look back to see who was keeping the OVFM name alive in 2014!
It started with a call from Animal Planet TV on a Friday, saying that they’d seen my cat behaviour channel on YouTube, and they’d like to film and interview me and the cats for a series called “My Pets Gone Viral”. WOW! I hadn’t spoken to a TV company before, but I quickly answered “of course, when?”
“Oh, Wednesday” they replied, “We’re flying a crew over from Canada.” Blimey! A CREW… FROM CANADA! You can imagine my excitement! The only catch was the lounge would need a tidy before they arrived, so the next three days was spent sorting through the stuff in the lounge and ferrying it upstairs to the spare bedroom!
Wednesday arrived, and the 5 of them arrived in a large people carrier car. I was expecting 4 of them – Director, Cameraman, Soundman, and Camera Assistant. The Camera Assistant sort of did the job of Runner, but to call him a runner isn’t fair – he had a pretty good knowledge of everyone’s job, and was always running around fixing stuff. And the 5th person – he was the driver, and just sat in his car all day, on his iPad and listening to the radio until lunchtime! But save your pity, he was on a very good day rate, plus taxi mileage!
The day started with the director interviewing myself and Anna, asking a variety of questions, to do with the cats, the YouTube Channel and its success. One of the questions was “What are your favourite comments on the films?” It was like they were feeding me a line – I replied “I like the comments that say that they love my documentary style and English accent so much, I should be on Animal Planet!” I wonder if they’ll use that line or not? It seemed a little funny to do the interview before we’d really settled in and got to know them but in fact it was a good idea, as the days filming was based on the answers we’d given in the interview.
Finally, at around 4PM, they wanted to do the intro and outro sequences – The intro was a shot of me walking out of the front door, saying “This is Freya, my spoilt Princess” or something like that.
They had a sort of dolly track on tripods so they could track into me while I said it. It took about 30 minutes to setup and would have produced about 5 seconds of finished footage!
Then came the outro! It required a sort of fake studio setup, with a bright yellow backdrop, a fake TV camera and a big light with reflective umbrella, and a director’s chair – The idea was that the cat would sit in the chair, and look right down the lens, as the camera moved toward it. Good luck with that! I thought.. Many times we tried to make Freya sit in the chair, and as soon as she settled, the cameraman would yell, “CLEAR!” – We’d dive out the way, and he’d start his track in, and Freya would jump down. Having taken an hour to setup this shot, failure was not an option.
Fortunately, the treats that we’d been using to persuade Freya to sit still hadn’t gone unnoticed by the other two cats, Teego and Chatzi, and not wishing to miss out, they jumped on the chair too. “CLEAR!” The cameraman suddenly yelled again, and we dived out – The camera tracked in, with all three cats looking right down the lens. We held our breath and the three cats sat still for the whole four seconds. The camera reached the end, and stopped, and almost on cue, Freya bit Chatzi’s neck, and he pushed her off, and in the squabble, Teego got pushed off the chair too! So then the shot was left with Chatzi sitting on his own, still looking down the lens, as if to say “THIS IS MY CHAIR!”
We held our breath waiting for the director to call “Cut!”, and we all gasped and looked at each other, waiting for the cameraman to rewind the shot and look if he’d got it all or not. HE HAD! The crew were all pretty amazed, and declared that was the best outro they’d got for the whole series, due to air in March/April!
If the excitement of Wednesday wasn’t enough, I had an unrelated phone call two days later, from a production company in London, asking to license my Tyre Spotter video! (Made for our ‘My Other Hobby’ theme evening) They wanted to use it in a clip show with a comedian making fun of the films, so of course he won’t be mentioning it’s a spoof, but I don’t mind – if they pay, they can say what they like!
Haven’t got the footage? – If a ship sinks at sea, you can interview the survivors Could be Interesting filler if used sparingly.
If it’s a significant person, it can add credibility
Do your research – have a good idea of questions and background about the subject.
Consider the finished product.
Talk to the interviewee beforehand – Ask if they can, to answer in full questions, to aid editing later if you’re going to remove the interviewer.
Mention that they should avoid fidgeting – it makes them look shifty and untrustworthy – if they can’t stop, film a closer shot of their face, so that it’s not so noticeable
Black is bad – no texture
Fine repeating patterns or stripes will move and distract on camera – Strobing
A high camera looks down on the subject, belittling them
A low camera makes them appear more significant
Usually – put the camera at eye height
Get Permission before you start
Before you start, with the camera running, explain what the interview is for, and get their permission on film – legally acceptable.
This also allows a chatty period to get the subject used to the camera
If they start to waffle, interrupt with another question, or be prepared to edit lots –
you’ll need plenty of cutaways.
Don’t let them use technical words – maybe ask them “what did that word mean” or
frown and they might notice and explain better
Assume the audience is an intelligent 15 year old – intelligent, but may not have the
same life experience as you.
Listen to what they’re saying – and look for keywords that can be illustrated by
filming cutaways later – if they’re talking about Motorway noise, afterwards, get
some shots of a motorway to illustrate the interview, to make it less boring.
Open Questions and Closed Questions – Start with the six journalistic W’s – Who
When, Where, What, Why, and hoW ☺.
If you have to cut – or the subject fluffs a line, wait for the subject to finish, stop
filming, move the camera to a different position, and ask the question again. It’ll look
fine when you edit it together.
interviewee rubbing nose – possibly lying
touching face – Hiding truth
Avoiding eye contact – about to fib – eyes are the gateway to the soul
Ask a questions and then shut-up!
Its easy and natural to say mmmhm and “yes, I see” to try to encourage the
interviewee to continue but disembodied sounds will seem weird when you edit…
Use silence – just look serious and maintain eye contact – they’ll feel pressure and feel
obliged to answer – not a nice technique, so be careful when you use it
If the interviewer is visible and you’re going to use their voice, put them to the left of
the camera, out of shot, and place the subject at the right 3rd or the screen looking into
the empty space on the left, otherwise it’ll look like they’re looking off the screen.
If someone is presenting to the camera, they should be centre screen, unless they’re
illustrating something in the background and it’s important to maintain eye contact
with the camera – the subject will look very shifty if they don’t maintain eye contact.
80% of what a viewer takes from an interview is visual information.