We recently ran a one-to-one training course for a charity which was highly likely to be featured in documentaries and longer TV and radio items, rather than just in news stories.
Of course interviews for documentaries are somewhat different to news interviews, so the head of PR wanted us to give our trainee some pointers and rehearse him doing a longer more penetrating interview.
The interviews done in a documentary will tend to be longer, more probing and more discursive than a news interview, and longer sections of the answers are likely to be used, so the interviewee generally has more time to expand their arguments.
Firstly. remember, the interviewee may well be ‘auditioned’ before a decision is taken by producers to use them. They’ll want to call to talk through what you have to say, and your appearance may depend on your performance (upbeat/interesting/controversial).
They may not even say you might be interviewed in the programme. I always used to say I was doing background research into a topic, so I didn’t commit to featuring a particular person then find they were too useless or boring to use.
Here are some key things you need to know before agreeing to take part:
1. whether the programme has been commissioned
2. who is making it – is it an independent production company or main broadcaster
3. what strand/series it is for
4. when and where it’s broadcasting
5. the chain of command (producer, series producer, exec producers)
6. the scope/aims of the programme
7. how and why they want you to contribute – are you the main interviewee throughout the programme, providing a short supporting interview, responding to an argument or allegations, is it an ob-doc where they want to follow you or your organisation
8. who else is taking part
9. the title (and also working title – I once worked on ‘working title’ UKs Worst House Location. No-one would agree to be included until we changed the name to UKs Worst Homes Under Seige)
- If they’re filming at your offices or on location, the producers may well come on a visit to recce and to discuss when, where and how to film
- Depending on the programme, the setting may be far more relaxed – on your territory, with just a director/camera operator and perhaps a researcher. But not always: for a business programme, or a current affairs programme such as Panorama, it may well be a very formal sit down interview with two cameras, a whole battery of lights and producers by the dozen.
- Whatever the style and setting, you should still remain on your guard.
- You may be expected to walk & talk or be interviewed while working or doing some kind of activity
- The crew may film the interview several times from different angles
- You’ll probably need to be filmed extensively at work to provide set up shots
As with any interview, careful preparation is needed to make sure you have anticipated the difficult topic areas that are going to be covered and likely questions, and are clear about what you do and do not want to say – because as always, the main aim is to promote your organisation and deliver your key messages, whatever they may be.
We can help to prepare you, so if you’d like some media training aimed at appearing in documentaries, contact us on 020 8332 6200 or firstname.lastname@example.org.