Blog, Ethnography, Qualitative Research

Documenting Interviews

Working with a Film Crew

In a traditional ethnography, there should be little interference between ethnographer and respondent. Observation and non-disruption is the motto. Outside of this context, research can be documented for many other reasons:

  • New business pitch
  • Video which accompanies research already completed
  • Gathering artifacts in a category

In these cases, the project is less about the research and more about the documentation in which you are following a script or otherwise have an intention for the documentation.

Tips When Documenting Interviews

  • Have a brief conversation with interviewees a week or so ahead of the fieldwork to not only ensure articulateness, but whether the respondent is thoughtful about his or her life and has something of value to offer. There are many articulate people that don’t often reflect on their lives or decisions and these are folks that will be less powerful on film.
  • During the rescreening call, inquire about leisure activities to generate potential ideas the film crew can use for B-roll.
  • It’s okay to move furniture or things around if at home (if respondent agrees) to get better lighting or a more interesting background when the intention is not observation. If the location is outside of a home, check in with the film crew on lighting and or sound requirements.
  • While we may normally prompt respondents regularly or interject probes, it is not a good idea to do that when they are being filmed as it will be the editor’s nightmare. Allow the respondent to fully express him/herself, providing nods and smiles to encourage him or her to go on or wrap up, and then ask your additional probes or questions in between commentary. It’s also a good idea to let the respondent know ahead of time that you’ll be doing that.