How is the lighting?
Without getting deep into technical talk, the two things we are looking at with lighting are consistency and control. We take a look at the number and direction of the lights, especially if it’s where we will be filming an interview. Multiple light sources can also pose an issue. Is lighting from a nearby window at a similar intensity as the lights inside the room? Are the lights inside the room fluorescent, LED, etc.? More control over environmental lighting means we can build more consistent lighting with our equipment.
How does it sound?
Have you ever stood in a room and closed your eyes? What do you hear? A saying in film is “sound is half of what you see” and it’s very true. Audio is one of those things that doesn’t stick out unless it’s bad, and bad sound can make an otherwise great video completely unwatchable. When we listen, we are listening to the space and determining what we can control. Sometimes we can turn off the air conditioning, but sometimes the air handlers are controlled by the building and have to stay on. We also consider electrical noise, neighboring locations, traffic noise, train schedules, flight patterns, and so much more.
The most common thing we need client’s help with during the shoot is controlling an interview location’s sound. It’s important to have maintenance schedules checked, like window washers, landscapers and power washing, and to alert staff or neighbors about the filming timeframe. When filming at a downtown hotel 30+ stories up, we had to postpone an interview while the venue tracked down the worker who was banging on pipes with a wrench in the basement. Always know who on set has the most leverage for quickly controlling location sound. If it can’t be controlled, it might not be the best space.
What does the space say about the story?
A big factor in picking an interview space is what it says about the story being told. Just because a room passes the technical tests doesn’t mean it will be a universal fit. For a film we produced for Lake Forest Hospital, we wanted to convey a sense of community and family. While we had the possibility to film the surgeon we talked to in a cutting-edge operating room that was well lit and quiet, we opted to interview him at his home instead. He could have said the same things inside an operating room, but location wouldn’t have matched the tone of the film and it wouldn’t have been as successful. The same thing can be said for wanting to have an interview from behind an office desk. Would putting a desk between the subject and the camera make the interview feel inviting and personal or cold and closed off?
How will the space make the interviewee feel?
Having lights and cameras pointed at you while opening up potentially about some pretty personal topics is tough. We work extremely hard to make sure that the interview process is an enjoyable experience. We also want to make sure people feel safe and secure enough to share their thoughts and feelings in a real way. There is a lot of psychology work on our end leading up to and during the interview. One of the things we think about is how the interviewee will feel in the space where we are having our conversation.
Sometimes we can’t be at the location in person before filming day, either because of budget or travel logistics. If that’s the case, we might ask for photos of potential interview spaces and any information about them. We can virtually scout exterior locations using Google Maps Street View.
Spending a little bit of time looking and listening to locations before it’s time to press record might save a lot of time in post-production and definitely makes the film visually stronger. We want to take the viewers to the time and setting being discussed. Picking the right place will do just that and connect the audience with the story being told.