The Way of the Word

10. December 2009

About Interviews – Part 3 of 3

Filed under: workblog,writing — jensaltmann @ 11:56
Tags: , ,

What makes a good interview? There is one single answer to that: an interesting conversation.

That requires a certain involvement from the interviewee. It also requires a certain chemistry between the interviewees and the interviewer. I suppose that circumstances matter too. As I mentioned in a previous post, the worst interview I ever did was when the interviewee had forgotten about our appointment, and I had a high fever.

Another bad interview, in my memory, was a roundtable with a very bored (and not bothering to hide it) actor.  It didn’t help that the interview (from the interviewers’ side) drifted from the movie we were to talk about into heavy political stuff.

What really made the point to me was an interview with two people who usually collaborate on projects. The interviews were done by phone, and separately. I had worked out one set of questions that I planned to ask both, and then write into a single Q&A as if we had all been together. The first interviewee seemed distracted throughout. He was polite, answered every question, but it seemed as if he was doing something else.

A few minutes later, I interviewed his partner. Who started out with a joke, and who was very talkative thoughout. He was completely focused on the interview. When I wrote them up (honstly, not before then), I realized that the second interviewee was the much deeper thinker. It was difficult to keep the interview transcription balanced, not just because of that but also because the second interviewee had simply had more to say.

Two people made a particular impression on me. One was a director who managed to make everyone in the room feel relevant and important. (I learned a lot just watching him work the room.) The other was a producer, who asked the names of all the interviewers at the roundtable. It created a friendly, personal atmosphere.


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