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teacher avatar Hein Ungerer, Filmmaker, Mentor, Trainer

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

6 Lessons (17m)
    • 1. Interviewing Skills For Factual Filmmaking - Introduction

    • 2. Lesson 1 - Interviewing - Getting Under The Masks

    • 3. Lesson 2 - Interviewing - Three Types Of People

    • 4. Lesson 3 - Interviewing - Finding The Real Person of Interviewing - Building Your Cocoon

    • 5. Lesson 4 - Interviewing - Four Key Aspects

    • 6. Lesson 5 - Interviewing - Some More Skills

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About This Class


Have you ever wondered how documentary filmmakers manage to get their subjects to open up their personal lives on camera? There is nothing more absorbing than seeing people talk about their deepest felt passions and convictions.

There is a great degree of skill and dedication involved on the part of the interviewer in getting interviewees to comfortably talk with a camera facing them and recording everything they say.

In this course you will learn some of the techniques you can use to unlock your interviewee and give you, the filmmaker, those gems that will allow you to develop a strong documentary narrative.

Meet Your Teacher

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Hein Ungerer

Filmmaker, Mentor, Trainer


I have spent 35 years of my working life as a radio announcer, a television reporter, an investigative journalist and an executive producer for a national news and current affairs show. For the past 10 years I have been teaching at a documentary film school in Cape Town, South Africa. 

I am excited about my new journey into online skills courses and the overall positive response these have had. I really appreciate the time students have taken to review my courses. Feedback is essential for me and I invite students to tell me about their experiences.

To be clear – the courses I have uploaded are all aimed at beginner and intermediate documentary filmmakers. My focus is also more on content development than refining or improving your technical filmmaking s... See full profile

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1. Interviewing Skills For Factual Filmmaking - Introduction: hello and welcome to this course that will cover interviewing skills for factual, full making. My name is high Nanga. I've been in the factual, full making business now for over three decades. With the advent of the Internet, there's never been a more exciting time for factual filmmakers. Today. Full making is within everyone's reach, and that is why I decided to share my experience and skills with you. One of the key skills areas in factual full making is interviewing participants for your film. As you will see, there's a great deal that goes into successful interviewing techniques. What we're aiming for with this course is for you to learn how to gauge the best approach to take with your interviewees, put them at ease, build a strong report between you and your interviewees, obtained good human and emotional responses from them, and to recognize the different stages that your interview we might be in and finally, and this is something I learned from some of the best tutors who taught me filmmaking to make good films, films that people will want to watch. You need to feature interesting people who say interesting things in interesting places. And to do that, of course, you need good interviewing skills 2. Lesson 1 - Interviewing - Getting Under The Masks: one of the toughest parts of factual full making is getting human and emotional responses from the people you interview really getting in the under all the mosques that people tend to where and this is not easy. This just pause here for a moment and let's talk about what I mean when I say emotional responses, and I don't mean we should look for extreme emotions. What we're after is not so much tears and drama, but rather getting the interviewee to speak straight from their hearts, in other words, to open up to us. So a good interviewer gets the interviewee to trust them and to allow them into the private world. And this takes some effort on our part. Interviewing professionals is easy. They can speak at the drop of a hat, but really people need help to unlock the gems that they hold those gyms that will help you tell their stories. Most professional people are used to talking with the camera rolling, but really, people, those interesting people we spoke about need considerable help to talk openly and in the process, unlock their unique qualities that we, as filmmakers, are looking for. So to sum up our first lesson. Developing your interviewing skills is the basis for getting the characters in your documentary film to open up and give you the kind of responses that will allow you to build your narrative. Next lesson. We're going to take a look at the different personas you are likely to encounter when doing interviews. 3. Lesson 2 - Interviewing - Three Types Of People: in listen one of this course, we looked at the importance of being able to unlock the person you are planning to interview in order for them to speak more easily and from the heart. This is important for you to access their emotional responses that will form the basis of your films narrative. So how do we do this for our purposes? We can say that our three kinds of people there is the public person, private person. And then there is the real person. Let's take a look now at the public person. This is who most of us like to be seen as on the record and speaking carefully and keeping things under control and saying all the right things. People like this rule. It's safe and they don't give much away. Next is the private personal. Here we find someone who's a little bit more human and genuine. The private person will also talk about likes, dislikes, hobbies, what their favorite sport is and some of the things they get up to in their private time. But we're still careful about what we say about our riel Selves in interview situations. Finally, we have the real person. This is where we is. Interviewers want to go behind the mosques. This is the deep part of our psyches, where people have their fears, desires, needs and beliefs. Here we can zoom in on people's strengths, weaknesses and all the other things that make them unique. And here's that word again interesting. The real person is where we find passion and truth, the very things that we as interviewers are after. But a word of caution. We should handle this with great care. Don't overstep your search for passion and truth. Make sure you get permission before you start delving deeper with your interviews. A good interviewer will probably start all filming with the private person and then slowly moved to the real person space. The deeper the interviewer delves, the better the interview will be. But of course, getting that permission is not always easy, and it requires effort on your part. To sum up this, listen for the purposes of interviewing individuals for our films, we can identify three kinds of people the public person, the private person and then the one. We are really after the real person, but with a real person, we need to be careful how we interview and we should not overstep any boundaries. Sit by the interviewee. We should always gain permission before we delve deeper in the following lesson. We will take a look at how you go about gaining that permission and thereby ensuring that your interviews will deliver the kind of stories you are looking for. 4. Lesson 3 - Interviewing - Finding The Real Person of Interviewing - Building Your Cocoon: in the previous lesson. We introduced you to three kinds of people you are likely to encounter when you do your interviews, the public person, the private person and then the real person. When we make documentary films, we aim for the real person because that is where the gems of our stories will come from. However, we need to obtain permission from that person before we start delving. The best way to develop your interviewing skills is to do interviews and to learn from the experience. Some interviews will work, others will not. You need to feel your own way and build your own set of personal skills off what works for you and what not. Remember good interviewing is the basis of your factual filmmaking. Before you delve into deep interviewing, you need to get the interviewees permission. Let's take a look now at how you do this. To get that permission, you need to create the cocoon. There are several stages to building your cocoon. Let's start off with your crew, and it doesn't really matter how small or how large your crew is. The first thing you do is discuss the interview with them. This will ensure that they are on board with what you are aiming at with the interview. The next point is to make a contract with your crew that once the introductions are over, you get to the place where the interview will take place. The interview. We belongs to you and you alone. They no longer have any contact. So when you meet the interviewee introduced the crew. Decide where the interview will take place, attach your and the interviewees microphones and then agree a time with the crew for when they will be ready to form. Then take the interview me completely away from where the crew is sitting up, and now you have time to build your cocoon. The idea is for you and the interviewee to talk about anything, really probably best if it's unrelated to the interview. The weather in sport usually work. Avoid contentious things like politics, religion and six can keep it light. Slowly. Bring the conversation around to the purpose of your story, and the interview is rolling it. Start testing, probing and searching now, and move methodically towards the main subject matter. Be generous and patient with your time now as you allow the interviewee to start talking and don't rush things. Cocoon building takes time When you're ready to return to the crew. Both of you should be ready to start the filming part of your interview. Stay in conversation while returning to the crew. Keep talking while the microphones are switched on, and both of you can now take up your positions for filming the interview. This is the part where there is no communicating with the crew. Keep eye contact with your interviewee and continue talking. Keep the cocoon intact. The crew can now do voice level checks without interrupting. And then this is the point where the camera man gives you a subtle, prearranged signal that they're rolling, then have patients again when the interviewee finishes. The sentence mentioned simply that you are forming now and continue in the same voice and manners before with your first question, then continue the interview with no interruptions from the crew. This is essential because eventually the interviewee will be aware of nothing else except you and the conversation that you are happy and there you have it. Your cocoon. Let's sum up this list. Great. Interviewers already start their interviews when they shake hands with the interviewees even before any cameras rolling. Then they leave a cocoon around them and the interviewee. And inside this cocoon, the interviewee sees years recognizes response to only one person, the interviewer nobody else exists in the next lesson will be taking a look at the four principles off, successful interviewing and our these underpinned the building of your cocoon. 5. Lesson 4 - Interviewing - Four Key Aspects: In our previous lesson, we looked at how best to build a cocoon and through this strategy, gained permission from an interviewee to be allowed to delve deep into that person psyche. This will allow us to develop a strong narrative for forms. Let's take a look now at how building this cocoon rests on four principles or elements if you prefer. Without these, you will struggle to gain the kind of acceptance and permission you need for successful in depth interviewing. The first principle is that you have to show that you have empathy for the interviewee. The second is that you need to show respect. Food is trying to find common ground, and lastly, let your own god down and just relax. Don't be afraid. If you feel out of your depth, you're only human. Let's take these principles one by one. Now let's start with showing empathy. You have to understand and show you understand the other person's point of view. This doesn't mean you take sides or make model judgments. This is usually done before you start filming the interview and and it's part of cocooning . Make sure the interviewee understands that there is no judgment from your site. The next principle is to show respect for the person, regardless of what they may have done. There is a difference between the person and the person's actions. Make clear that you appreciate and value the person in front of you as a fellow human being . Next, you must try and find similarities with you and the interviewee. Even if you shocked or disgusted by what this person has done, show it in the most civil way. Never lie. Instead, try and find some common ground. And remember again, both of you, after all, a human. So there is an inevitable likeness. And then the last principle is Don't be afraid off feeling or appearing to be ill informed , even a but stupid is okay. You can't know everything. In fact, you can't know as much about a particular subject as any off your interviewees. That's why you are interviewing them in the first place. Make the interviewee teach you. This interview technique is likely to catch the interviewee off God and make them use simple and everyday language. This might just be what you're after. Human and emotional answers to your questions in this. Listen, we looked at the four principles that underpin successful cocooning, showing empathy, showing respect, finding similarities and common ground. And finally, just chill and relax. You can't know everything used the interviewee as your source of information. In our final listen, we will be looking at several ways to build on a successful cocoon and using it to make sure you get the best interview material for your phone. 6. Lesson 5 - Interviewing - Some More Skills: this brings us to the final listen. In our course on interviewing skills for factual, full making, we've looked at how to delve into your interviewees, thoughts, beliefs, hopes and dreams. And we've successfully created a cocoon through showing empathy, showing respect, finding similarities and not being scared of showing our own weaknesses. Being able to create your cocoon may be the single most important part of getting a first class interview. But this moon, a great interview, also depends on doing thorough research. Nothing helps the narrative line of your foam along as much as detailed research does. All your interview questions are fueled by research. Keeping the interview chronological helps because stories always go once upon a time and then and then and then keep the interview sequential. In other words, no, your destination, but not necessarily the exact route. Ask simple probing questions in simple, probing spoken language. Ask one question and only one question at a time. Double and triple questions Simply confuse your interviewee. Ask open ended questions open into questions require a riel answer. Why did you come to Cape Down? Is better than did you come to Cape down because of the great weather and don't talk too much. Sometimes just sitting waiting will start the interviewee off talking again. Lots of interviewers keep talking and asking questions, trying to keep people feeling comfortable. But sometimes, especially when you're dealing with sensitive subjects, this backfires and its bitter to just shut up and wait. Try this sometime at the start of your interview. Ask your question. Let them give you the rehearsed on generic answer. Then just sit there quietly and see what comes next. You'll be amazed. Are often this technique used powerful results, and location is everything for the interview. Remember, interesting people doing interesting things in interesting places get people out from behind their desks onto factory floors into the outdoors. Have appropriate things happening in the background. Composition is everything. Also, if the interview, he usually does something while talking something they would be doing. In any case, do the interview with them being busy and do your research and know your subject. It's not a good idea to take notes during the interview. Keep that I contact. Otherwise you'll disrupt and even break your cocoon with the interviewee. In conclusion, off course, Good storytelling depends on you asking the tough questions but never trying, intimidate or interrogator interviewing. They will simply put up their defenses and slipped into their public person role. And you will not get a good interview, stay in touch with a person sitting opposite you, show empathy and show respect. Also avoid personal judgements in the interview, saying things like, Well, you were clearly overreacting to this. That's the kind of comment that's just going to grind everything to a halt. Empathy and respect are the key Woods yet. Thank you for joining me on this course, and I hope you will enjoy building your interviewing skill set. Remember how you conduct your interview has more to do with the outcome than anything else , and practice makes perfect. So get out there and sharpen those cocooning and interviewing skills. Good luck.