Tips: interviewing contributors

Louise Lockwood, an experienced and multi-award winning producer/ director, shares her advice on interviewing contributors in a way that will have maximum impact for your films.

Sense the mood
Sensitivity to the mood of your contributor is crucial. When working on South Africa in Pictures with photographer Rankin, Louise was aware that he was very moved by the stories he’d heard about two photographers who had been killed. Louise chose to interview him about this before they left the location in order to get his immediate reaction. She could have waited until later when she might have had a better location and lighting to do it, but her advice is to always go with the moment to capture the authenticity.

Location, location, location
Think carefully about where you interview your contributor. Location can have a huge effect and it’s important that contributors feel relaxed if you’re looking to secure a personal, intimate interview from them. In Artworks: Macintosh Masterpieces, Louise deliberately placed Muriel Gray in a busy stairwell at the Glasgow School of Art. Students were continually walking past, and as Louise remarks, her sound recordist found it very frustrating but part of the point she wanted to make was that the building was full of life, so it fitted with the overall tone.

"Where you do an interview has a big impact on what you get out of your contributor." – Louise Lockwood

Don’t give up
A difficult interview situation most people have encountered is where somebody doesn’t give you what you need. Louise interviewed Jack Curtis for Hollywood Greats on Jack Lemmon. He talked about himself but wouldn’t give her the soundbite she wanted about Jack Lemmon. It took two tapes and countless rephrasings of the question to get what she hoped for. Patience and determination can be key attributes of a good interviewer.

Don’t stop
If an interview is going well, don’t stop. Louise shares a vivid example of this from Parallel Worlds Parallel Lives, a road trip movie featuring Mark Everett, the front man of rock band The Eels. On one of the last days of the shoot, she decided to film him having a cigar at the end of the day. Just as he began to open up, a thunderstorm began. Louise gave Mark her umbrella and continued filming, hoping that her camera wouldn’t break. She feels that she captured material in this interview that she couldn’t have got in other circumstances.