Be prepared, Boy Scout!
· Have your camera fully charged. Take an extension cord and a recharger with you.
· Have your questions ready. Use them as a guide but be prepared to capture a story or emotion that you may not have expected. Return to your questions list when needed.
· Carve out the appropriate amount of time for your subject. Get as much done as you can but don’t overtax them. You may have to meet several times. Instead of two 4-hour sessions, you may have to meet in four 2-hour sessions.
· Take your scanner for any pictures or letters or recipes or whatever that you haven’t digitized.
When you arrive, scope out a comfortable arrangement for your subject. Their favorite chair or the sofa for them and you pull out a kitchen chair and sit opposite them. You should try to be just a few inches taller in your seat than they are (don’t overdo it.) You’ll want to be at least 8-10 feet away, if possible. Situate your camera just above your shoulder. That way, when the interviewee’s eyes look slightly up to meet yours it will not only open their face, it will look very natural on camera.
Once you are all set up, do a sound and frame test.
· Check the sound level to be sure you can hear your subject.
· Check for intruding sounds (air conditioners, dogs barking, TV on in the background, etc)
· Check the background. Move anything that may be distracting to a viewer. Add the warm touch if need be by putting something on a table nearby – photo, books, knick-knack, house plant.
· Check the lighting. Is the overhead light glaring off your subject’s glasses? Are they squinting at the sun through the open drapes? Is it so dark you can hardly see them? A little glare off glasses is natural but if you can’t ever see their eyes, you may have to use a table lamp instead of the overhead. You may have to close the drapes and put that table lamp on the floor between you without the shade – especially if your subject insists on wearing a hat.
Try different things so your viewers will be listening to the stories and not distracted by poor lighting or poor sound.
B-Roll. Take some footage of your subject, looking through photo albums, or the family Bible, or old letters, or playing an instrument, or simply looking out the window. Anything except looking at the camera. Take at least 5 minutes of each “activity.” This is called B-roll and it’s used when you want something besides them looking at the camera and telling a story.
DON’T FORGET to scan any letters or photos that may be introduced while doing your interview.