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May 22 Film Group Meeting (Oliver's Notes)

May 24, 2015

Thanks so much for being involved in such an intriguing process!

Here are my notes for the May 22, 2015 meeting. 

As those who were there know we did not follow them too closely — but there are some points below that are of value in terms of setting up and conducting interviews.


Let's relook at the premise, the idea that brought all of us together — the title is a good place to start isn’t it? 

Building Intergenerational Connections Through Creativity and Culture is to bring together young and senior together to discover and share meaning through life stories. 

Maybe we can say that one of the things to discover is that the beginning of community are the stories shared between us.  The telling of stories and the listening to the others stories — and as every story is a retelling, an imaginative engagement, a basic inventiveness and creativity is inherent within the act and art of story telling and the act and art of listening.

Our focus is about film and community. For our purposes we can limit our talk to the art of listening as the principal art of the documentary, the art of the interview, and the art of the creative reconstruction through the framing and editing process.





Everything Will Be — 2 minutes


Marie’s Dictionary — 10 minutes


On Design — 2 minutes


Mom’s Motorcycle — 5 minutes (


Bob Geldof: The Moment | Peace Films by Errol Morris | The New York Times


Leymah Gbowee: The Dream | Peace Films by Errol Morris | The New York Times


I’d like you to analyse the films rather than absorb them.  We know we are looking for the story in the documentation yes — but equally important is how that story is told.

Pay attention to where the camera is, the location of the camera, the movement of the camera, the framing of the camera, the focus of the details in the shot and the sorts of shots that the story is composed of. 


So as Keiko has explained we do have some well defined goals for our team and I’d like to take this opportunity to give you some exercises in terms of interview and listening skills.  I’d like to have you practice “active listening”.

Active listening is demonstrating that you care about the other person…that you’re interested in what they have to say, that you’re listening to them…as an example if one is sitting one leans forward in the conversation,  one nods and makes and continues to make eye contact, you show empathy in your responses, you paraphrase what the other person has said and you ask questions, you are also silent and attentive to responses. 



Regarding sit down film interviews and documentary in general: It is your job to research the issues and your subject as thoroughly as you possible can with the time limitations you have.  That will prove to the interviewee that you take their work seriously…you prove to them that the questions that you have for them come from a position of some knowledge.  At the same time you want to allow for a sense of discover to come out of the interview…you want new ideas to come to the fore.  
You want the interviewee to discover things too…you need to make them feel you are on the same team…which in fact you are because we are in fact all in this together.

Everyone wants to look good. Everyone is somewhat vain. So! it is important to make sure that the interviewee doesn't have — as an example! food on their teeth or hair really out of place...or something else that would make an audience distracted from the center of focus. 
We obviously don't have a makeup and hairstylist...and we don't need one...but at the same time it is going to be the film interview crew's responsibility to consider these things and to gently inform or adjust the interviewee to take these issues into account. 


The technology of film can make people uncomfortable…so you have to actively engage at making the person relaxed. In a film interview situation the filmmaker works at making the other person at ease, attempt to make them comfortable Film in a location that the person is most at ease in — if you can — (lighting is a huge issue but not as much as it use to be…with the technological advances…but it is still a concern…and you need to think about it.)  But because of the nature of what we are doing we are not going to deal with lighting setups…but you need to position your subject in a way that takes advantage of what available lightening you do have!)…the other option is to have on hand some practical bulbs…100 watt bulbs that can fit into household lamps. Another concern is sound…A quiet place — the need to some times turn off the appliances in the house for the duration of the interview, the sometime need to ask the interviewee to stop while a plane flies over head.



You ask them if they need anything before the interview.  You bring them water to drink.  You let them know that you’re on their side.  You generally break the ice by small talk of some sort…you assure them in whatever way possible that you will work at making them look good…that you respect them and take them seriously.  




Ask open  ended questions…you’re not looking for yes or no answers…you generally want to trigger the emotional intelligence of your interviewee by getting them to be excited about responding to you…




Sometimes there will be a pause, that the interviewee will be searching for a means to respond…give them the time…be patient! Don’t try and fill the void.



Ask some questions that the interviewee has to reflect on. 



Questions that make the interviewee think — such as what were the problems that they had to overcome…or what were the benefits of the approach that they have chosen to take.



Other points: Let them know you will follow up with them and let them know that you’ll keep in touch about the progressive of the film.



Sometimes — depending on who you’re interviewing — say it is a scientist or academic…you may have sent them your prepared questions…but in all cases you demonstrate a positive and supportive tone.  You ask simpler questions at first. You avoid long and confusing questions…you attempt to make the situation more of a conversation rather than an interview.



At the same time ask about feeling! How do you feel about xyz? If there is one essential issue —Ask about MOTIVATION! Why do they do what they do.



Repeat questions — if you don’t think you got the answer the first time…or you want more details or simply you have the time to do so: ask the same question but with a different spin on it. Often times the interviewee will welcome the chance to be clearer or more engaged the second time around…



At the end of the interview always ask: Is there anything else you would like to add?



By Oliver H at 9:41am


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