Question by Martin: How to approach potential documentary interview subjects?
What’s the best way to approach someone you’d like to interview for a documentary film? Would it be more appropriate or amateur to explain that you’re a student doing a project, or to just say you’re a documentarian? Would you write a letter or call by phone? How does it work if you’d like to interview a public figure in state government? Would you contact them directly, or would you write to their staff?
Answer by Tiptop22
It sort of depends on the topic of the documentary. If it’s a touchy subject, you’re obviously going to have a tougher time getting people to agree to an interview. Just make sure you’re honest about everything, so it doesn’t come back and bite you. I would say you’re a student doing a project and thoroughly explain what it will be about and maybe also give them the questions (or sample questions) you’re going to ask in advance, so they can prepare. I would definitely call people on the phone. You’re more likely to get a response that way. But, I would also try to catch people in person (set up appointments on the phone to meet in person to talk about the interview, then meet again for the actual interview). They are more likely to trust you if they can match a voice and name with a face and body language. As for public figures, just call their department and the operator will usually direct your call. You’ll most likely talk to their secretary first anyway. Set up an appointment to talk with the public figure in person about doing the interview. If they agree, you can make another appointment to do the actual interview.
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