Op-Ed: To Interview, or Not to Interview?
Posted Apr 14, 2005

To interview or not to interview—that is the question many videographers ask themselves when they videotape a wedding, an anniversary, a bar/bat mitzvah, a birthday party, or other family event. In the age of "less is more" regarding the final length of a wedding video, you may ask yourself, why should I take up an additional 20-30 minutes of tape interviewing the bridal party, parents, and grandparents? Or, why should I interrupt the seam-less flow of my production with a bunch of unrehearsed interviews? In a sense, it comes down to whether you consider yourself a "video artist" or a "family historian." But can't we be a bit of both?

I agree that you don't want 60 guests on your wedding video, from the boss's wife to the mother-in-law's best friend, all saying the same thing: "It's a beautiful wed-ding, I'm having a great time!" Instead, focus on the "key people" of the day. For weddings, it's the bridal party, parents, and grandparents, and sometimes a close relative or friend who has made a special trip from far away.

I cringe inside every time I hear a videographer say "I don't do guest inter-views. My clients don't want them." I have found that most clients take their cues from the videographer, and if you convey your distaste for interviews from the outset, chances are your clients won't want them. It's all in the presentation.

Let's focus on the word "interview." It sounds like an interrogation, conjuring up images of a videographers walking up to a guest, shoving a microphone in her face, and demanding "a few words" for the bridal couple. The guest is totally unprepared, and will probably stumble through something and then apologize on tape for how awful it was. Who wants to put their guests through that?

What if you used the word "special messages" or "special memories," and went about it in a way to draw out such messages? I always ask the bride and groom during the planning meeting if they want me to get the bridal party/parents/grandparents on tape sharing a special story or memory of them. I explain that I do this after the toasts while everyone is still seated and waiting for dinner to be served. It typically involves videotaping only three tables (the bride and groom's parents' and the bridal party's). I go up to the people ahead and time and prep them. I will also ask the couple to remind these key people ahead of time, too. Then I go up to the parents' table with a big smile and say, "Hello everyone, Jack and Jill have asked me to get each of you on tape sharing a special story or memory of one or both of them. I'll give you a few minutes to think of a one and then I'll be back."

As I'm walking away, I hear people start sharing their favorite stories with everyone at the table. The parents usually share precious memories of the bride or groom as children. The bridal party tells stories from high school or college, and they can be quite entertaining! On the wedding DVD, you can set off these special messages as a special chapter stop so the couple can watch their wedding video all the way through without interruption.

More often than not, sharing special stories will bring a tear or two from mom or dad on this emotional day. Having video footage of grandma and grandpa talking on video will be priceless one day. Any video we capture of them will be shared with generations to come. What bride wouldn't love showing her son or daughter what grandma or grandpa sounded like—especially if the kids never had a chance to meet them?

Getting key people sharing a special memory on video-tape is more important than any after-effect, dutch angle, or cool opening you could ever produce. What makes video so different from photos? The audio, of course! A picture of dad holding a microphone can't hold a candle to watching the video of dad choking up as he toasts his daughter and her new husband. Videographers need to emphasize the audio if they ever hope to gain the upper hand with photographers.

Another option is to get the bridal party giving "words of advice" to the bride and groom before the ceremony— even if it's just for the audio. I also ask the bride and groom (separately) to give a special message to each other. More often than not, this results in tears—in my experience, more often from the groom than from the bride.

What child wouldn't want to see their parents in this loving moment? There isn't always time, and the couple might be too nervous to do it, but you have to ask. When I'm doing the bridal preparations at the bride's home I will also ask the father of the bride to tell me how he feels about walking his daughter down the aisle. I will then drop in the audio sound bite as they're just about to walk. Brides love this!

We can still be family historians without compromising our artistic talents. Just take some time during the dinner hour (when we usually aren't videotaping anyway) to get these key people sharing their special memories. Even if the couple decides "no special messages," you still owe it to them to present this option in a positive light. If they say no, at least you have tried to give them a chance at some family history they'll treasure forever—in addition to the wonderful artistry of your video.

Kris Malandruccolo (kris@elegantvideosbykris.com), a Chicago-area videographer, is president of the Illinois Videographers Association.