Whether we’re interviewing employees, insiders, top management, or third parties – everyone initially balks at the idea of unscripted on-camera interviews. What should I say? What should I talk about? Can’t you just give me a script so I can get it right? Wrong. It’s natural to feel camera-shy and to reach for a script as though it were a life raft. But experience has taught us that this supposed life raft is the fastest way to sink your project’s authenticity, originality, and pizzazz.
As directors and producers, we strongly – fiercely – resist the request to provide scripts and we do so because we know we can never write it as well as they can say it.
We know that accepting improvised interviews (that means letting go of the script) may be a tough pill to swallow. Here are some reminders that may help it go down a little more smoothly:
Prepare for a 30,000-foot overview.
Rather than providing a script or publishing the questions beforehand, we give only a general idea of where we’ll be going with the on-camera conversation. Most people want to prepare in advance, but we remind them that their real-world role is all the preparation they need. The content we’ll discuss on-camera won’t dive into the details, it’s a general flyover, a 30,000-foot overview of the topic. Therefore, the best preparation is to come in and be yourself – ready to have a simple, casual conversation (on camera).
Embrace your non-actors.
Chances are, not a single person on your company’s payroll is an on-screen actor. Thank goodness. That means that they are professionals, experts in their subject matter, experts at having a one-on-one conversation with another human being. That’s exactly the skill set we want to tap into – rather than trying to cover it up with a fully-scripted, memorized monolog that turns them into a something they’re not.
Nobody talks like a brochure – so let’s stop trying to make them.
Let them speak from what they know.
Time and time again, we’ve seen that when we allow people to speak from their own experience and expertise, they deliver insights and sound bites that far exceed what we would have scripted. After all, why would you bother interviewing a real person if you could just use an actor anyway? Don’t give up your greatest asset so easily.
Our video for Nuance had people praising us for exceptional scriptwriting,
to which we could only reply: what script?
That video came 100% from improvised interviews and that made all the difference.
Check it out here.
Strive for perfectly imperfect.
At the end of the day, video interviews are nothing more than a conversation on camera (the real movie magic happens in the editing studio). Therefore, rather than wasting resources on scripting, or wasting time on memorization, just embrace being human – and all the endearing imperfections that come along with that. If you pay attention to the marketing messages that truly move you, chances are they’ve tapped into something that’s authentic and imperfect, which is exactly what we’re aiming to do as well.
On the surface, scripted interviews initially put people at ease and also ease up on the editing workload – but the result inevitably falls flat. So, while our post-production requires more editing, it also makes all the difference to our projects and to our clients.