I finally got my interview with Shane and Jacqui Creepingbear done. I kind of did this in a reverse order. I decided that this was the story I was going to do about a month and a half ago. Before I left for spring break I sat down and just talked with them for a bit to get some background information, no recording involved… just a lot of notes. Then after I got back to YSO I met with them at their brewing space. Not only was this the first time that they were brewing in this space, but it was also the first time they were using a lot of new equipment. I spent a good five hours there with them trying to get the whole process on tape. I came to realize that the warehouse wouldn’t necessarily be a good location for a real interview though because of the echoing sound. But this was a great opportunity to gather “active tape” for scenes. Not only is this going to add to the story, but being there throughout the whole process helped me really understand how much work goes into brewing. The next week consisted of me listening to hours of tape and sorting through all of it. I joked with Shane and Jacqui about how I’d probably edit the whole five hour process down to twenty seconds. It’ll probably be longer than that, but still… ah the beauty of radio. The thought can feel frustrating at times but then I wonder, is it really all that different with other forms of story telling? How long do journalists spend researching a piece and then only use that information for a sentence or a paragraph in a long piece? Perspective helps.
Before the interview, I kept going over handouts and my notes about interviewing from the previous training. I had a list of questions and I had done my homework. And even though I know Shane and Jacqui, I was still nervous about the interview. Sarah told me not to worry and to just treat like a regular conversation. She said that interviewees usually pick up on how you’re feeling and that may transfer over. So if you’re calm and confident, there’s nothing to worry about.
- Be prepared- do your homework. Know what you need to get on tape before you start the interview. Make a list of questions but don’t rely on it.
-This part was easy since I had already spoken with them about everything. I just had to choose which questions I was going to ask again to get good answers on tape. Luckily, these two are good storytellers. I didn’t have to do that much work.
- Find a comfortable, quiet place. Make good eye contact.
-I got to do the interview with a handheld recorder in one of the new, empty studios here. It was pretty amazing how quiet it was when I closed the door.
- Start simple. Have your subject introduce themselves on tape. Ask an easy question for starters.
-This can be very helpful for the you when editing and doing your narration. Pay attention to how they pronounce their name.
- Ask direct questions. Ask for details, examples, anecdotes. Ask the question the listener would ask.
-Small details like what they were wearing or what was the weather like can really help you paint a picture for the listener while writing your script.
- Ask questions that begin with why, how, what. Avoid yes or no answers.
- Listen closely and ask follow-up questions. Sometimes you only need the simplest of questions: Oh? And then what? Can you tell me more about that?
- Use silent cues that you are engaged and listening- nod your head, make eye contact.
- As you’re wrapping up, ask, “What else should I know?” or “Is there anything else you want to tell me?” or “Who else should I talk to”
- Don’t ask questions that begin with was, did, would, had.
- Don’t ask double barreled questions. One at a time!
- Don’t use the jargon of your interviewee.
-You want the tape to be as accessible as possible, get them to explain it.
- Don’t interrupt.
- Don’t listen out loud (“OK…uh-huh…”)
-This one can be tricky at first. You really have to train yourself not to do this. It’s so frustrating when you go back to edit your tape later, someone says something really golden, and your responses make it unusable. This is why eye contact is so important. Eye contact will also make it easier for the interviewee to trust you . Respond with your eyes so your voice doesn’t have to. Really listen to them instead of looking at your notes.
- Don’t rush to fill in long periods of silence.
-“Discomfort can be the story.” Neenah Ellis
- Don’t be too quick to turn off the recorder!
- Don’t forget to record room tone!
- Don’t be afraid to ask a question three or four times.
-If you don’t understand, the listener won’t be confident in your own incoherence.
The most important part about an interview is really to just listen. You’re having a conversation with someone and you have to build that up. It’s good to go in with questions already in mind, but don’t let it distract you. When someone reveals something that they didn’t even know they were going to say, don’t miss it! The magic is when it goes deeper or in a different direction. It’s okay to allow room for silence. You can get them to keep talking about something by saying things like “what happened next” or even just “really”. Then be quiet. Let people realize that they just said something interesting and go with it. When all else fails you can always just say “tell me a story about that.” People crave stories. One of the greatest gifts you could offer someone is to listen to their story.
For my interview, I know I made a lot of mistakes but I think it still went really well. I’m still getting over the awkwardness of managing the recording equipment, mostly the headphones. I also made a mistake by not choosing a comfortable resting position for my arm. I just sat across from Shane and Jacqui and moved my arm back and forth. This is surprisingly very tiring over the course of an hour. I should have rested my arm on the corner of a table. It’s important to not have the table directly under the mic so the sound doesn’t just bounce off of it. Also, hand cramps! My hand kept cramping or I felt like I needed to readjusted my grip. Be careful about when you choose to fix that because the mic will pick up on the sound. Lastly, turn off the cell phones! Or at least make sure your interviewee doesn’t have it on them. Even if it’s on silent the recorder can still pick up on the signal. I forgot about this and Shane’s phone buzzed while Jacqui was saying something good. Oops.
Now on to editing and script writing, let the learning process continue!