And so, you’ve found yourself in a medieval house in the Southern France.
Not only that, but you are also a part of La Muse artists and writers retreat, the most inspiring community of people you’ve come across in your life.
As if that wouldn’t be enough to make your head spin, you are also apparently going to record a video interview of one of those endlessly talented people, aka ‘musers’.
How to make it all work? I’m far from being the ultimate specialist on the subject, but let me try and help you a little.
Who Am I?
My name is Artem. I’ve studied Russian philology and journalism in that far far East where the foot of Homo Westernus has never left a print in the snow.
I’ve worked as a newspaper columnist, TV-correspondent, glossy magazine’s literary editor and creative director before finally dropping it all and leaving Siberia for the West.
This was the time when my path brought me to Labastide-Esparbairenque, where I had the great fortune to meet Kerry and John, Gloria, Seamus and Fionn, Homer, two bunnies, five chickens, one guinea pig, and Monsieur Garcia.
And yes, also a few dozen of the most brilliant writers and artists from across the world.
Thinking with John and Kerry about how to promote La Muse effectively, we decided to make a series of videos.
On rolled the film recording of the rooms, the paths, the events, and the conversations with the hosts, as well as with their artists and writers.
So let’s take one of the videos I made during that summer: watch it again and try to analyze it together.
In order to do this job right, you must love people.
You must learn how to forget about yourself and your important life, and focus solely on people around you.
Listen, ask questions, enjoy their company. Go for walks together, cook together, have meals together. And most importantly, share that bottle of red wine when you start to feel the heaviness of the evening weighing upon your shoulders.
SELECT THE RIGHT PERSON
Why, out of many extraordinary people I’ve met at La Muse, did I chose to interview John Clanchy?
- A) You need a person who either has a long history with La Muse, or, someone whose short experience was unique. Mr. Clanchy came to the retreat on four occasions, each colored by deep impressions.
- B) Who’s the talker at the dinner table? Who’s making the others laugh? Who’s got the charisma that inevitably attracts attention? Right, Mr. Clanchy.
- C) Before proposing the interview, make sure that a person is comfortable in front of the camera. Try to take a few pictures of him or her. Casually turn your lens on the potential super-star. Mr. Clanchy couldn’t care less if I was photographing him or not – that’s a good sign.
GIVE THEM TIME TO THINK WHAT THEY WANT TO TALK ABOUT
Propose to have a recorded conversation a couple of days in advance.
Ask your interviewee to think of what stories they would like to share, what funny moments they could recall, how they would like the conversation to unfold.
For example, I knew that I needed to record a conversation with John Clanchy, after he shared his story about the fire brigade at the dinner table one evening.
PREPARE A LIST OF QUESTIONS
Whether you ask those exact questions or not, do your best to prepare a small list of topics to discuss.
If you’ve selected the right person, then after the first or second question you may forget about the list and just listen (= record).
PREPARE THE SETTING
In my opinion, this is essential.
Cut fresh flowers, move the chairs around, ask the interviewee to bring their favorite objects (photographs, art set, books, etc.)
For that hour of the interview, the place where you shoot must feel like home to the interviewee, as well as to yourself.
LIGHT LIGHT LIGHT
Photo or video, analog or digital – it’s all about light.
When you open your photo-app or when you zoom with your Kodak, all you are doing in fact is drawing with light. Yes, drawing by using light, instead of pencils and brushes. That’s the reason why good lighting is essential.
Look at how I positioned the chair for the video with John Clanchy.
Usually, the light source should be behind your back, regardless of whether you are filming in one of the rooms or outside. In that case, the colors will look juicy and the objects will be sharp.
If you chose the right position, even the simplest smartphone camera can be sufficient for a beautiful video.
STABILIZE THE CAMERA
Even the smallest, most high-tech professional cameras are usually very heavy. That’s what can create a shaky video.
If you are going to shoot with your phone or other light-weight device, here are your options:
- A) use a tripod
- B) if you lack the tripod, position your apparatus on a stable surface, tuck it between the books/stones/anything, and shoot from that singular position
- C) if you are skilled enough, you might simply hold your camera stable by placing your elbows on a desk, floor or other surface
LET THEM TALK
Finally, your interviewee sat down, your camera is well positioned, and REC is pressed. Now it’s time to ask your first question. And then… forget about the interview being recorded.
Keep eye contact. Nod. Smile. Listen!
If you manage to make yourself believe that you are just having an ordinary conversation, then after a few minutes your interviewee starts believing it too.
ALL ABOUT THE DETAILS
When your interview is over, before you go back to your room for editing, take some time at the spot where you’ve been shooting.
Make short videos of the details. Look at those books in the living library! Focus on your friend’s hands, or elements of clothing.
Try to capture not just the talk itself, but the atmosphere of your conversation.
Remember, you’re making a video, not an audio recording.
USE THE LA MUSE SIGNATURE
You really don’t need to be a professional in order to edit the video you’ve made. Your smartphone or your computer surely have applications and programs like iMovie. If you don’t know how to use them, learn!
Or ask for help from one of the other musers. You’ve got some very talented people around you on retreat.
Finally, nowadays, even Instagram and Facebook have their own editing tools.
Just remember to use those little signatures associated with La Muse: the melody, the font, La Muse’s web-address in the end of the video, its hashtags, and most importantly, its dedication to do everything with love and care in the happy, clear-minded state.
If you get lost, you can always reach out to me.
I already envy how much fun you are going to have! Enjoy.