Bill Gentile’s Essential Rules for Conducting a Formal Interview

Learn how to set up and conduct a formal sit down interview in Video #8 of the Video Journalism Workshop.

Rules for Conducting Formal & Informal Interviews

Rules for Conducting Formal & Informal Interviews

In the previous post we looked at informal interviews. In this email we highlight the rules for conducting a formal interview.

The formal or sit-down interview is the classic situation if which you set the camera on a tripod, have some control over the lighting and ask a series of (mostly) prepared questions.

Conducting a formal interview is covered extensively in Video 8 of the ONLINE Video Journalism Workshop course on making compelling documentaries.

The FORMAL interview is much more focused and planned. Following the rules below should give you some great material for your documentary and real insights into your subject.

  • Where’s the light? This is the first thing you establish upon beginning a formal, sit-down interview. How you shoot the interview is almost totally contingent on the source of light.
  • Make your subject look into the light, and into compositional space.
  • Make eye contact.
  • Get subject to introduce him/herself.
  • One-on-One interviews.
  • Two-on-One interviews. (you and a correspondent or producer).
  • Get subject to speak in whole sentences. The audience (normally) will hear only the answers, not the questions.
Shot from the Video Class on how to set up a formal interview

Shot from the Video Class on how to set up a formal interview. Walks your through the set up, lighting, questions to ask and how to set up your camera.


  • Composition and focus.
  • Careful with background. (depth of field).
  • Get clean sound.
  • Save the hard questions for LAST.
  • Get written releases FIRST.
  • Get on-camera releases if you can’t get written releases.
  • Your last questions:
  • “Is there anything I missed that I should be asking you?”
  • “What are your greatest hopes and concerns in relation to the subject matter?”
  • In either informal or formal interviews, know what you want from the subject BEFORE you engage.

Download our PDF book on Conducting Formal_and_Informal_Interviews.pdf

To read our post about the rules for informal interviews Click Here

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