3 TOW: Video Interviews

TOW Assignment: Video Interviews

  1. Same assignment, new medium: Use a video camera to record three interviews with strangers, asking the question, “What are you afraid of?”
  2. Edit the best interview to less than three minutes in length.
  3. Post the produced video in our TOW Group.
  4. As always, discuss the work; ask and answer questions.
  5. Think hard about the comments on your work. Some of the responses will be valuable (some may not — learn to build and trust your instincts about how to make your work better).

Examples: Work at Vimeo by TOW 0.1 & 0.2 learners:

“J. Wilson” by Emile B. Klien (TOW 0.1): The varied and inspiring life J. Wilson. Story and production details at at Transom. All music found via WFMU's awesome Free Music Archive.

“Fret” by Ben Lloyd (TOW 0.2): Roy Dube grows wheat, barley and peas on his farm in the Palouse region of Eastern Washington. (Roy also plays the guitar in the piece.)

YouTube playlist of work by TOW 0.2 learners:


Playlist of short video tutorials by Reuters, Koci Studios, and 12 Stars Media (on iPhone video):

Playlist of short interview clips from some great non-fiction filmmakers/films, Ross McElwee’s “Sherman’s March”, Errol Morris: Vernon, Florida, and David Lynch and family’s Interview Project:


Add the element of visuals and continue developing story structure.

Mentor Notes

I think video is about ten times more difficult than audio, mainly because you have to record audio with the video. Solving the sound problem is a tough one. How do you get the microphone close enough to the mouth of the interviewee? You can buy a lavalier microphone that goes on a shirt lapel, but they are expensive and rather tricky to make them work well with your camera. Or you can use the built-in microphone on the camera, but then you have to stand very close to the person, or record in a very quiet environment. Or you can work with another person who runs the tape recorder and then sync the audio with the video in production. It’s kind of a nightmare unless you’re set up with the best equipment and have a lot of experience. So why are we asking you guys to go through a nightmare?

We’d like you to go through this difficult process so you can see all the problems involved. Baptism under fire, sort of thing.

My suggestion, if you’ve never done an interview with a video camera, is just use the built-in microphone on your cell phone or video/still camera. Stand close and record in a fairly quiet environment.

You’re going to see that it’s very difficult to get people to relax when they are on camera, much more difficult than holding a microphone up to their mouths. And the sad part is that people who are uncomfortable on camera are not very easy to watch. The best thing you can get is completely natural behavior, as if the person doesn’t care about the camera or forgets about the camera. But how do you do this?

The best advice I think is to practice with the camera so much that you don’t think about it. If you don’t think about the camera, then they might not either.

Each time you do something you learn something new and get better at it, but then it’s never as good as you’d like it to be. So you try again, and again. At least that’s how it is for me.

— Scott Carrier, Mentor, TOW Basics: Multimedia Storytelling