Filming Interviews for a Documentary

By Marcus Shaw, posted 15 March 2010

Documentaries are one of the best ways for an unknown filmmaker to get their name recognized and gain some initial success in the industry. What's great about documentaries is that you don't need to hire big stars, and you can tell compelling stories in this format without an A+ script. Of course, it is the movie's subjects themselves who tell the story so you'll need to make sure everything is right on your end. And this means setting things up correctly in terms of filming.

For instance, if you were going to do a documentary on how to play texas holdem, you would first need to find an appropriate location where you could interview the players. Since many people play inside of casinos, this would be a good location to use. Be sure to contact the casino ahead of time though so you can ensure that you've got permission to shoot in their establishment. Getting this permission can be as easy as emailing the desired casino or as complicated as making several phone calls to get a hold of the person in charge. Once you've got permission, you can concentrate on adapting your filming techniques to the environment where you'll be shooting. Since most casinos tend to offer a dim setting, you will need to film differently than you would in a well-lit area. Using a camera with a wide angle lens is a good place to start since this will allow you (or the cameraman) to keep the interviewee and foreground in focus while allowing more light into the lens. Also, make sure to avoid zooming in since this will reduce the amount of light allowed into the lens. If you do need to get closer, stop the interview and physically move the camera closer. You shouldn't need to worry about this too much though since most documentary interviews are done with the subject sitting down. If you're considering the usage of an on-camera light while filming in a casino, make sure to avoid getting one that only offers fixed light. Fixed lighting can overexpose the interviewee and project too much light onto their face. You might also want to consider a diffusion lens to tone down the amount of light that's beamed onto the subject's face. If too much light is in the interviewee's face, it can be very difficult to see their facial expressions. Of course, documentaries can be filmed anywhere so it's important that you use the filming techniques and camera tools that will give you the best quality picture during interviews. Once you've found an appropriate location for the interviews, you will be able to focus on the actual interview questions.

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