Group Interviews and Vox Pop

There may be times when you may want to conduct a group interview. Or a situation may arise when you see that there may be specific advantages in interviewing four or five people at the same time. For example, you may be shooting in a school, or at an army base, or in a factory and have realized that the presence of two or three people discussing the same question may stimulate a variety of interesting and possibly contrasting answers. Your function here is fairly loose, and you have to roll with the discussion. Sometimes you may want to keep throwing in questions. Is the Senate corrupt? How can we bring people back to the land? But more often than not, once the discussion is flowing, you may want to stay well clear.

As you will probably keep going without pause, your problems in such a situation tend to be technical. Is everyone reasonably well lit? Does the mike pick up everyone who may speak? Is the cameraperson well situated so that he or she can reframe and refocus very fast? The human problem is then to stop everyone from talking at once. Sometimes I ask the members of the group to just take a beat before responding to someone else's answer or offering a different opinion. Sometimes, when I see someone dying to say something, I'll just nod to the cameraperson where to direct the camera. As a general rule, I find it better to let things flow rather than interrupt and lose spontaneity. Although your framing may suffer, you maintain liveliness and spontaneity. You may lose a gem of dialogue here and there, but if it was a real diamond, you can always ask for a repeat.

Vox-pop (or vox populi—voice of the people) is a method whereby you ask different people in the street the same question, hoping to get a very broad variety of responses. In theory, it broadens your responses to certain issues and shows where your film or central character stands in relation to burning or interesting public questions. However, personally, I am very distrustful of the technique. I think it is really just a flashy news technique with little depth and of little value to a serious documentary filmmaker. My advice is to stay clear.

Film Making

Film Making

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