Video Activist Handbook - Chapter 10

Get some answers #

How to interview #

The 3 Questions Rule

When doing interviews for both the Walk the Talk and the Edit This! templates, we recommend you ask just three questions. Any more is becoming part of a documentary. It will be too long to watch for the one-shot interview template, and take too long to edit for the video report.

Who to interview

People who don't volunteer to talk are often more interesting than the people who do. Experts can be quite boring, so make sure they don't talk "geek". "Spokespeople" can be very cautious in what they say. Reassure the less experienced people you find that they really can do this, and everything will be fine. If you are talking to spokespeople, if you're on their side, make that clear to them to get them to be less guarded.


Chat strategically to your interviewee while the camera gets ready. As quickly as you can, find out what your interviewee has to say and base your questions on that. You should be looking for one interesting, illustrative story.

This seems like an informal chat to the interviewee, so allows you to probe a bit about the really interesting stuff they can reveal. It's really just like a normal, highly engaged and curious conversation, but you are doing it with a journalistic nose for what would be the most interesting for your viewers. DON'T make it a full rehearsal for the interview, because interviewees are often flatter the second time round. It's a quiet, focussed chat. Note their full name and how they like to be described.

Then come up with 3 questions which will get the most out of them. Memorize your intro.

The right questions

1. Don't ask questions that have a one-word reply.

Don't ask "Did you enjoy the event today?"

Ask "How was the event for you today?"

2. Don't be shy to interrupt if the interviewee is going on too long. Butting in is not rude. You owe it to the interviewee to help them to make the best impression.

3. At the end, ask them how people can get involved or get more information.

4. Keep your eye on the clock and wind things up after 3 minutes or so.


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