I have done some research into the different kinds of interviews for documentary/television, and have broken them down into categories.
Entertainment, Conversational Interviews
Chat shows e.g. ‘The Jonathan Ross show’, ‘Loose Women’, ‘This Morning’ etc
These types of interviews are often informal, and seem to heavily rely on the interviewer’s responses to answers. The interviewer tends to have a strong, entertaining personality, their answers often have to control the pace and the tone of the interview to keep it on the right track being fun/engaging/entertaining. It seems as if they have an idea of where they want to conversation to go, and so their answers often try to encourage a particular side of the subject to be conveyed.
For example, I watched The Jonathan Ross Show, and noted that he cleverly manages to dictate the tone of the interview . When situations become too serious, controversial or awkward he seems to make a joke, and then his next question encourages a sillier answer. Conversely, when the celebrity makes a joke of an question which may have produced an interesting answer, or skims over an issue, Jonathan replies in a serious way and tries to encourage them to be truthful. It is a method that is very successful, as it consistently produces a mostly light hearted, relatively interesting programme, which is on the whole very controlled: the chat is not controversial or offensive, but remains entertaining and fun.
Below is a link to video of Jonathan interviewing Naomi Campbell (from a recent programme). She appears to produce a challenge in terms of controlling the tone and flow of conversation, as she doesn’t want to answer a lot of questions, and she seems to give quite awkward responses. Usually the way Ross strategically interviews people is hard to notice as it is quite effortless, however here it is much more obvious:
E.g. National news broadcast programmes, with news readers/hosts speaking to journalists, witnesses, public etc…
These are conducted in an often very serious manner, and unlike the conversational interview, the interviewer mostly does not display their personality, or their opinions. They don’t respond to the answers on a personal level, and they don’t react to information given to them. This maintains an objective view of an issue, subject or event, as the news aims to be unbiased. For example the BBC news interview below:
or this BBC new interview, where the interviewer tries to maintain objectivity whilst interviewing a very opinionated subject:
The interviewer’s aim is to communicate facts about real events or situations, and so the questions they ask are clear in order to produce simple, understandable questions that eliminate unnecessary information. Often these interviews are broadcasting live, and so in these cases it is very important for the answers to be concise, as they cannot be edited.
Occasionally during particularly light hearted news, the interviewers may show a bit of personal reaction, but only when the issue in question could not be deemed serious. The other time when they may show a response is when there is not really two ways of looking at a situation, e.g. an innocent person’s death.
Political debate interview:
Programmes like these are often about serious issues, but the interviewer exhibits his or her own opinion, to produce a response from the person. The interviewer’s reaction to the answers is important, and their response then influences what the subject will say next. This could perhaps be seen as a sort of leading interview, where the interviewer knows what they want to person to say, and so they say things to provoke that response. They sort of grill the person they are interviewing to expose his or her thoughts, opinions and ideas.
For example, Jeremy Paxman’s interview of Russell Brand for Newsnight has been in the media lately, where Paxman can be seen trying to grill Brand in order to expose his radical ideas. It is clear that Paxman’s intention is to belittle Russell’s stance on politics, however Brand resists this grilling, and takes over the interview for himself. You can really see how Jeremy Paxman struggles in this instance, to maintain control of the conversation, however most agree that in this circumstance he fails, as Brand defends his ideas well and manages to belittle Paxman.
Here is the full interview:
Sensitive, emotional interview:
E.g. parts of ‘Piers Morgan’s life stories’
Whilst I personally disagree with the way that Pier’s Morgan sometimes deals with sensitive issues (I feel like he at times exploits the sadness of others to make television ratings), I think that he provides a good example of how to collect emotional responses from people, that may be difficult for them to say.
He often lingers after the person has given an initial answer, waiting for them to think about it further and be more honest. He also seems to tap into the emotion that they are feeling, but not saying, and then asks them more directly about it, he seems to be good at sensing their emotions and pushing them to verbalise them. In this sense, you can tell that Morgan is really listening to their answers and not just ready to fire up the next question. He must be thinking quite quickly about how to explore their response further, as there do not seem to be any pauses where he wonders what to say – some may be edited out, however often you can see him listen to the response and ask the next question in the same shot. This is something I find challenging, partly because I am also trying to focus on filming, but also in general I have found it is not easy to listen to the answer given, and think of a way of furthering their response on the spot. If you pause to think of what to say, often the moment is lost – the answers are less natural and less emotional as the person has more time to compose themselves.
I think that there is a difference between this pause mentioned above, and the kind of pause that allows the person to develop their point, and explore their emotion. It probably has something to do with eye contact; if you look like you’re waiting for them to say something else, and listening carefully they are probably more likely to further their point, whereas if you look like you are trying to think of something, scanning your papers they will probably wait for you to say something, leaving an awkward silence.
Here is a clip from ‘Piers Morgan’s life stories’, of him interviewing Simon Cowell about a sad time in his life…