Karen’s Story – Part 2: A Different Interview Perspective

I know typically we don’t push on the interview look as much as we should or as much as the B-roll (I’m guilty as well!) but recently we did a project that challenged my thought process behind this idea. I went from just making sure the interview looked nice in its environment to asking this question: How can we move the story forward by pushing on the look of the interview?

Typically our interview shots look a little like this.

We usually go with the subject looking off screen at the interviewer and having a conversation. This gives the audience a sense of witnessing a conversation, kind of like being in a party where someone is telling a story. With Karen’s Story however, it’s all about her feeling trapped in her own head and thoughts. I wanted the audience to feel like they were right there with her in her head and understanding where she was coming from. With this in mind we started brainstorming concepts for this story and as I heard more and more from one of the storytellers about the story, I just couldn’t get the idea out of my head of her looking straight into the camera and talking directly to the audience. Inviting the audience to not just witness the conversation but play a role in it.

Let’s look at Karen’s Story again, but this time, pay close attention to what you feel and how the perspective of the interview plays into the emotion and connection.

First off, Karen has an incredible gift for communicating and that’s the main reason why we were able to stay on single interview shots for so long without cutting. Pair that with the direct eye contact and it’s a powerful combo that sucks you right into the story. However, that idea brought along some issues. The first being that we wanted it to still be an interview where we could guide her along the story, and secondly, it is very hard to stare into a camera lens and be vulnerable. One of my favorite directors, Werner Herzog, says, “It’s like death staring at you when you’re staring at a camera.” This is so true because it’s just a black emotionless abyss staring right back at you. When a normal everyday person is looking at a camera lens, you lose the conversational feel, rhythm, and vulnerability you get with a traditional interview.

So how did we solve this? Well, we used our teleprompter, but instead of putting a script on the screen we used a feed from another camera pointing at the interviewer. This allowed the subject to look straight at another person, reacting to questions, body language, and even emotional cues from the interviewer without sacrificing an incredible connection between the subject and the audience. Below you can see an overhead view of exactly how everything was set up.

Here is an example of the interviewee shot and the interviewer shot.

Now let’s talk gear and how we practically pulled this off. The interviewer setup was a C100 MKII with a Canon Cine 24mm (wide enough to allow the subject to see the interviewer’s body language) and a monitor with the interviewee shot so the interviewer could react just like they were having a regular conversation. Think of it like FaceTime, only with a lot more resolution.

We went out of the interviewer’s camera to the teleprompter mounted on the A camera which was a RED Raven with a Canon Cine 50mm. We use a flex teleprompter from Prompter People (they actually make the teleprompters the President of the United States uses, so you know they’ll do fine).

So what did this actually look like for the subject?

I tried to not have anyone or anything directly behind the teleprompter that could be a distraction. I wanted her to stay locked in and focused on the interviewer, so we moved the B camera (a Canon C100 MKII with a Canon Cine 85mm) out to the side so it was out of the area she was focusing on.

To Recap

The Big Idea: If you spend some time thinking about it, the interview shot can push your story down the field and help your audience relate and connect to your story better. Try new things and experiment, because you never know when you’ll find that special moment where the technical aspect and the story come together to create something truly special.

As always, if you have any questions, please feel free to comment below. We absolutely love connecting with other people doing the same thing we do in the church.

Speaking of connecting, Seeds Conference is right around the corner and is a great way to not only connect with us but also other people doing the same thing you’re doing in the church. Go to seedsconference.com to register—there are still some tickets left, but hurry!

The Story and Film teams have four workshops diving deep into how we find stories, story structure, and visual storytelling as well as a workshop focused on our new philosophy behind announcement videos! Trust me, you won’t want to miss these—hope to see you there!

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Tory Cooper
cotmfilm Director
Tory came to Church on the Move in 2013 to join the NEXT Internship Program. He now serves on the creative team as the cotmfilm Director where his passion for the visual story and sharing the gospel in new and relevant ways brings every story we tell to life. He loves getting to help equip other filmmakers to use their gifts for the church. You can find him on instagram @tcooper and cotmfilm @cotm.film