Welcome to the July issue!
It’s summer again, and that means it’s time for a Family Legacy Video® Summer Rerun! This month we revisit an article from 2010 dealing with screen directions for interviews.
By the way, I’m excited to announce that, later in July, Family Legacy Video® goes International! Our crew will be traveling to Europe to help a client and his family revisit their roots in Italy. Because of this trip, there will be no August e-Newsletter. In September, I’ll share some details about our first international legacy video shoot.
I hope you enjoy this issue of the Family Legacy Video® Producer’s e-Newsletter. Please e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone toll-free (888.662.1294) with any questions or comments you have.
Cheers! – – Steve Pender
July 2010: The pros & cons of two interview techniques.
If you’ve watched your fair share of documentaries, you’ve seen interview subjects presented in a variety of ways. Sometimes the storytellers speak directly to the camera. Other times they look left or right towards an unseen interviewer. Is one technique better than the other? And how do you choose?
The answer to the first question is no. Each technique is valid. Your decision on how to have your storyteller relate (or not relate) to the camera will be based on both stylistic and practical considerations.
The facing off-camera look is a classic. It puts the viewer in the role of a third-party observer, kind of like watching someone through the one-way mirrors used in focus groups and police interrogation rooms. It’s comfortable – the storyteller is responding and relating to an unseen interviewer and you get to enjoy the conversation as well. By contrast, the direct address technique, where the storyteller faces the camera, breaks that one-way mirror. This style gives the impression that the storyteller is speaking directly to you, the viewer. This is a more forceful, “baring of the soul” style of interview.
Aside from these differences in style, there are some practical points to consider. The off-camera technique is generally easier to stage and shoot (more on that later). It’s also a technique that allows you as the interviewer to directly relate to, and engage, your storyteller. This one-to-one rapport is a vital component of a successful interview. By contrast, if you choose the direct address technique, your storyteller will need to speak to the camera. This is something that many folks, probably most of the people interviewed for video biographies, are not comfortable doing. It can also be confusing for the storytellers – where do they focus their attention? They’ll need to listen to you as you ask the question, and then remember to deliver their answer to the cold, glass eye of the camera.
There are devices designed to make a direct address interview easier on the storyteller. One takes the form of a modified teleprompter. A monitor mounted in front of the camera lens shows an image of the interviewer, but doesn’t block the image of the storyteller from being recorded. Google “Interrotron” for information on one such device. As mentioned earlier, however, this could add a level of complexity (and expense) to your shoot that makes it a little more difficult than the off-camera technique – because you’ll need to buy or rent and set up extra gear.
Which style should you adopt? For most of your video biographies, the off-camera technique will probably work best. If you’re creating an ethical will, where the client wants to deliver personal messages “one-on-one” to relatives and friends, and is comfortable speaking to the camera, the direct address technique may be the ticket.
– Steve Pender
Great reviews for Family Legacy Video’s “website on a drive”.
If you read the April 2018 issue, you learned about a new and exciting family history project that was nearing completion. It took the form of a “website on a drive” – a fully functional website living within a custom flash drive.
Well, the project is finished and the result is pretty spectacular. So much so that Family Legacy Video® will be adding the service to our roster in the near future. Stay tuned!
In the meantime, here’s one of the testimonials we received from a very satisfied family member:
In what ways am I pleased with the family history website you produced for us? Let me count the ways:
Your responsiveness – when I sent you an item, you promptly acknowledged receiving it. When I asked a question, you promptly answered. You were amenable to suggestions / corrections.
Your carefulness – when family members gave you pictures or memorabilia, you carefully kept and returned them intact. You would double check the correctness of labels and spellings.
Your efficiency – somehow you managed to keep straight and collate a whole pile of photos and remembrances sent by multiple family members. You managed the duplications and the overlaps to produce a coherent story.
Your engagement – I had the feeling that you were truly interested in our family and its history, and wanted to capture it for future generations.
Your thoroughness – I could see that you had done some independent research to fill in some of the historical context, e.g. finding a photo of a sod house, inserting explanations of terms. You engaged professional videographers to produce polished-looking interviews.
Your formatting – you assembled the host of photos and remembrances in an accessible way, so that with a “click” we could explore various parts of the family history—a specific person, a place, an event. You combined video interviews with printed information (photos and written memories) into a seamless narrative.
Your professional product – I was blown away by the classy box and flash drive that contained the finished story.
I hope other families will avail themselves of your skill and services!