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10 Tips for Video Interviews that Don’t Suck, Part I

Video interviews are a staple of business video, but there’s nothing duller than stilted answers to predictable questions from someone very unhappy to be on camera.

Since boring videos get turned off with a click of the mouse in about 10 seconds, you need exciting, interesting, intriguing video.  Here are 10 must do tips- 5 in this post, and 5 in the next.

This video I directed for InHealth and Perfect Sense Digital was shot with real people, and absolutely no fed lines.

1) Cast for the Stars: Here’s what professional directors know that you don’t (until now!):  85% of the director’s job is casting.  If you have someone great in front of the camera, the movie will be great.  If you don’t, shoot yourself now.  You can’t, as they say, shine shit.

Before you set an interview for that sales video, casually shoot potential interviewees in open-ended conversation,  When you look at the video later you’ll be able to tell the stars from the extras almost immediately.

It may be that the president of your company has such a huge ego it will be tough to tell him he’s out of the video, but if you’re lucky, he’ll care more about results.

2) Use your Talent Wisely: Even when you look for stars you may get stuck with something less.  Some people are incredibly knowledgeable and sound great—but are not that interesting to watch.  No problem—Your interview with the head of R&D could serve as a voice-over for a more complex piece that includes shots of the department at work, the product in use in the field, and interviews with others.  Or maybe you have five interviewees and NONE of them are fascinating in large doses—cut the prime snippets out of what they say and edit those into the video.  One of them may still be boring, but she’ll be boring shorter.

3)  Prepare: Your job is to pull information out of your interviewees, in their own words. Do your homework before your interview and you’ll ask better questions– the more ideas you come in with, the better. You may already know most of what you’re going to hear, but your video won’t be very good if you’re the one doing the talking.

4.  Make the talent comfortable: Physically:  Are they sitting or standing in a relaxed position? Do they know it’s okay to use their hands? And mentally:  for commercials, I tell people that I’m going to be talking to them for 10 minutes but will only use three seconds of what they say—and I don’t know which three seconds until I edit. So I’m not going to worry about what they say, and they don’t have to either.

5) Ease Into it: Another great way to relax people is to start the interview slowly.  There’s a camera pointing at them—pretty scary!  Bytes are cheap. Waste some card space while you make small talk to help them relax into the conversation.

Continued in Part II

This post is adapted from a guest post I did recently for ReelSEO.com.

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About The Author

Steve Stockman

Steve Stockman, president of LA-based Custom Productions, Inc., is a prolific producer, writer, and director, known for over 200 diverse media projects. He is also the author of the best-selling book "How to Shoot Video that Doesn’t Suck," taught globally from middle school to graduate level, and available in 9 languages.


  • Hi Steve,

    Great book. Just breaking in to doing some video. Your book was the first of many books I have to read. It will be hard to top your book.

    Thanks for writing it.

    Linda Houston

  • Holly Jean Greene says:

    HI Steve,
    Love your book! What did your script look like for InHealth video?

    • steve says:

      After doing extensive research on Type 2 Diabetes, we selected several areas to highlight that appeared to be common experiences– surprise at having the disease, learning to take it seriously, the difficulty with injecting insulin, and success stories for non-drug treatments. We cast subjects whose experiences touched on one or more of these areas, and interviewed them about those experiences. The scripts for the video were created from the interviews in the edit room. The “scripts” for the interviews were just a series of thought-starter questions to remind me of things I was interested in asking, or to refer back to if the conversation got too far off track.

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