Production: How To Do a Semi-Scripted Interview

If you're shooting a production that is a talk show or a news program, then you may have moments when you have to do a semi-scripted interview. How do you prepare for this and plan a smooth shoot? Here's how:

Step 1: Have a Great Interviewer

The most crucial part to any great television interview is a great interviewer. You need someone who has a great personality and can improvise whenever the moment calls for it; someone who can switch from reading off a script to thinking on their feet without the audience even realizing it. This is the person who can either make or break your interview. Make sure you hire someone that is good.

Step 2: Using the Teleprompter

Having a great interviewer is only part of the equation. No matter how good they are, they can't memorize a lengthy script on the spot. To compensate for that, you should use a teleprompter to help your interviewer go from improvising to scripting without missing a beat.

A teleprompter works by placing a see through mirror over the camera. A computer screen is then placed below camera, and with some fancy optical tricks, the image on the computer screen is projected onto the mirror for the host to see. All they need to do is look at the camera and read as the text scrolls down.

Step 3: Multi Camera Cues

Most interviews are conducted with multi cameras. The cameras then have a light on top of them that is controlled by the director. When the director wants the person to look at the camera, the interviewer is cued by a blinking light. These cues can also be used to alert the interviewer when to go back to the script.

Step 4: Cue Cards

If a teleprompter is not available, then there is the old fashion equivalent of having someone stand next to the camera with cue cards. The interviewer then reads off the cue cards and subtly responds to off camera cues about when to go from the script to improvisation.

Step 5: Alerting the Interviewer and Interviewee

The teleprompter and cue cards can also be used to communicate with the interviewer and interviewee off camera. The subjects will see the cue and then react to what it says without the audience even having a clue. This only works though when you have savvy people in front of the camera. It is very easy for a somewhat clueless person to instantly destroy the illusion created by a semi-scripted interview.

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