Tips to stop interviewees looking at the camera

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Our production process sees us use a talking heads style. We produce factual documentaries centring on an industry and interview several industry leading companies. We broadcast these on Sky Channel 212, Information TV.

The talking heads style works well for our programmes as it focusses the viewers’ attention on the interviewee and what they are saying. We have our interviewer sat off screen, just to the side of the camera. This technique can be problematic if an interviewee looks at the camera. We’ve found it only works for an interviewee to look directly into the camera if they’re directly talking to the audience, or demonstrating a product.

If the camera is straight in front of the subject you can lower the camera, but it leaves the temptation for them to look down the camera. A trained actor may look slightly above and to the left or right of the camera but most interviewees aren’t trained in this.

It’s good to place the interviewee on the left or right side of the frame and have them look at the interviewer. If the interviewee is on the left side of the frame, then the interviewer should be to the right of the camera.

Ask non-crew to stand on the side of the interviewer. An interviewee may want to look off. If they’re on the left and need to look away out of habit, they should look to the top right of the interviewer. If they were sitting on the left and staring left, the cameras perspective will look like their staring at the camera even if they’re not. The reason they should look up to the right rather than down is because the cameras perspective might make it look like they’ve closed their eyes. Even if it doesn’t look like their eyes are closed it looks like their looking at the floor, which is never a good look.

Please share this piece and comment with any questions you have for our film-makers.

Here’s a funny article from Short List about the worst (job) interviews ever.

Written by Anthony Crossland.

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