Welcome to the PIT List!

I'm a network field producer who also worked in local tv as a line producer and field producer. Over the years, I have had the great fortune to work with super people. Now I'd like to pass along what I know and rant a tad.

"Dear Maggie..." pitlist@gmail.com
I check it sporadically, but I love answering emails, so if you have an issue or difficult person you need help with, don't hesitate to shoot it my way.

Maggie L

Maggie L
One of the rare times I'm in the office

Friday, July 27, 2007

Queen of the 3 Question Interview

One thing I've noticed about people just starting out is that they ask a lot of questions in their interviews. Too many questions. When they go back to log, they have an hour and a half of tape to look through. Too much! Especially when you are on deadline! Most of us are not producing documentaries. If you do a 15 minute interview, or even a ten minute one, how much of that are you actually going to use in a minute and a half piece? Maybe 15-30 seconds, tops. So go easy on yourself and only ask a handful of questions. The best ones are the ones where your question is actually shorter than your interviewer's answer. Obviously make them opened ended. I like really broad generic questions to start. Here are my favorites:

What happened?
Tell me about...
What where you thinking? (This is the more polite version of "What were you feeling?") Or, what do you think about all this?
What happens next?

There are some notable exceptions to the short interview rule. One is if you have an emotional or exceptionally nervous interview and you need to ask a lot of questions just to get them comfortable and forgetting the camera. You may need to reask questions toward the end to get what you need.

The second is somebody important. It feels sort of wham-bam-thank-you ma'am if you are interviewing a heavy hitter and you only ask a couple questions-- especially if that person has blocked away a chunk of time for your interview.

The third exception is if your photographer has set up a lot of lights. There again, it feels sort of weird to have an interview last shorter than the time it took him or her to set up the lights. But for your average local politician, cop or mos, a couple questions will be just fine.

There is a time when you want to ask a ton of questions. Off camera. Before you get to the interview-- when you're setting it up, ask a million and take some notes. Also, before and after your interview, ask questions to make sure you have a full sense of the story. But you don't need to use the camera as an electronic notebook.

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