How to ask great documentary interview questions
When constructing a documentary narrative, the backbone of your story will likely come from your interviews. Make sure you ask the right questions so you can tell your story effectively.
How do you string all that unscripted material together, actuality, interviews and visuals, to craft a story that brings insight and understanding — a story that takes the audience on a journey? My mentor’s advice was to start with the interviews.
He would print out the interview transcripts and highlight the best clips then cut out the highlighted sections and tape them together into a logical order, an organization of extracts from the interviews that told a story. This paper edit was his blueprint for editing which he always started by first laying down the interview or voice tracks, “the backbone of the story” as he called them.
Instead of relying on bridging narration to connect segments or to give context, directors are shaping stories from the accounts of participants, the interviews and the voice-overs themselves.
Except for directors of sweeping essay-style documentaries made for television, most independent doc makers are abandoning scripted commentary to explain what’s going on in their films. Instead of relying on bridging narration to connect segments or to give context, directors are shaping stories from the accounts of participants, the interviews and the voice-overs themselves.
Interview Ideas: Ask the Right Questions
We want to emphasize that the questions below are not universal, and you should combine them or make changes according to the situation. On the other hand, general topics for interviews will serve a good basis for your own question list. We have divided our questions into categories according to types of interviewees.
- What was your first step on a path to success?
- Did you want to become a singer/artist/dancer when you were a child?
- Did your parents approve of your intentions?
- Did you have an idol, and who was it?
- What was your first role/concert/performance?
- Who or what inspires you?
- What is your perfect day off?
- Do you make friends with your fans?
- What album/song/role are you working on right now?
- How do you overcome stage fright?
- Has the popularity influenced your character or personal life?
- Do you have somebody to thank for support?
- What is the main purpose/idea of your art?
- How do you feel about your last concert/film?
- Do you often dedicate your songs to someone special?
- Do you plan any tour or footage in the near future?
- Are you philanthropists? What projects or foundations do you sponsor?
- Are your social media profiles important for you?
- What do you consider to be your greatest achievement?
- Do you have some advice to share with our readers?