Cocooning, no easy task
Go in with something to say and say it — irrespective of the question. You can always say ‘that’s not the real question’ and then ask the one you want to ask.
Sir Humphrey Appleby KCB
- The Yes, Prime Minister satire by Jonathan Lynn & Anthony Jay
Anima n. (Jung’s psychol.) A figure symbolizing the feminine aspect of the human psyche [Mod. L. fr. L. — soul]
Animus n. animosity, hostility, (Jung’s psychol.) a figure symbolizing the masculine aspect of the human psyche [L. — passion.]
In the first part of Tim Knight’s master-class on interviewing he wrote about the problem of Animus-interviewing — how it seldom gets to any real truths and is chiefly about reporting facts.
Then he explained how to interview the Anima way instead — how to cocoon so only the interviewer and interviewee exist and both seek to find and explore the deeper truth.
In this second part he writes about Anima-interviewing in the studio and on a remote. No easy task.
Studio Anima-interviews are tougher. But you can — you must — still try to cocoon.
A lot of the guidelines for studio interviews are just variations of the guidelines for field interviews.
Then there’s the remote interview.
You, the interviewer, are in one place, the interviewee is in another. Usually, you can hear each other speak over telephone lines. But you can’t see each other.
Video is shot at the time and matched later. It’s what’s called a double-ender.
It’s a lousy way to interview. For both of you. No real human contact. Often it’s just a way of showing off the magic of television. But sometimes it’s the only possible way.
The Anima-interviewer tries to cocoon in the remote interview, too. It’s not easy. But a version of it can be done.
The Anima-remote works like this:
Live studio or field interviews add their own two rules.
Cocooning may be the most important part of getting a first-class Anima-interview. But cocooning, by itself, isn’t enough.
Commandment # 1 — Thou Shalt Cocoon.
Commandment # 2 — Thou Shalt Provide Edge.
Edge is the other side of the same coin. It’s the sweet with the sour. The yin with the yang.
Once the cocoon has been crafted, the edge comes in.
The Essential Edge
Edge, much like cocooning, gives the interviewee permission to go inside, to talk in depth of things that really matter. Edge is there to help the interviewee just as much as the interviewer and the viewer.
Without edge from the interviewer, it’s hard for the interviewee to give anything more than pablum. Interviewees need edge. Interviewees need to be pushed, challenged. So they can give great interview. Which is what they’re there to do. Which is what they want to do.
As the interviewer, you need to give edge particularly when you’re interviewing someone with whose views you agree. In fact, most particularly when you’re interviewing someone who you regard as more like a god than a human being!
Cocoon and edge are the two most important elements in Anima-interviewing. They complement each other.
Interviewers do interviewees a grave disservice when they don’t give them edge.
An Anima-interviewer also:
Anima-interviewing isn’t soft. It isn’t weak. It’s just that Anima-interviewing, unlike the traditional Animus-interviewing, isn’t into aggression and confrontation and interrogation and testosterone-waving.
Anima-interviewing tries to set up a genuine, human relationship between the interviewer and the interviewee. A relationship within which two people can trust each other enough to talk from the heart of things that matter.
Just like the interview itself, it’s a relationship which starts when the two of you meet. When you — the interviewer — sets the tone, defines the situation, sets guidelines of mutual respect, mutual interest.
It’s a relationship which grows as the interview progresses. It’s a relationship which doesn’t change when the taped part of the interview starts. Or when the taped part of the interview ends.
Anima-interviewing asks tough questions. But asks them in an appropriately human, generous, respectful, searching, interested tone.
It’s a tone which, in return, prompts the interviewee to answer from the heart — not the head — in an appropriately human, generous, respectful, searching, interested tone. To search inside. To find and tell the truth.
Interviews are journeys. Ideally, they’re journeys of discovery. Only a fool starts a journey without knowing the purpose or the destination.
So always know:
It’s also vital for the interviewee to know the purpose of the journey and (usually) its intended destination. In fact, the interviewee needs to know as much as possible.
An interviewee who doesn’t know where you want to go — or why — is wary and protective, waits until things become clear.
Often, they never do. And nothing, absolutely nothing, happens in the interview.
Good interviews have a shape, a form, a structure. Just like good stories. In fact, good interviews use the same shape, form and structure as good stories.
Finally, never forget that your job is not to win arguments or score points with the interviewee. Your job is not to show how clever you are or how much you know.
Your job is to help the interviewee give the best interview possible. Your job is to bring understanding to the viewer through the eyes, humanity and emotions of a participant in the story.
In the end, your job as an Anima-interviewer is to serve the most important person in the interview. The third — the silent — person.
I think the best question I ever heard in TV journalism came from a 10-year-old boy on a CBC children’s program. He looked up at Wayne Gretzky — probably the greatest hockey player who ever skated — and asked:
“How come you score all those goals, Mr. Gretzky?”
This column is adapted from Tim Knight’s book Everything you’ve always wanted to know about how to be a TV Journalist in the 21st Century but didn’t know who to ask or STORYTELLING AND THE ANIMA FACTOR, now in its second edition. It’s available on Lulu and Amazon.
Knight recently moved his broadcast training company, Tim Knight + Associates, from Toronto, Canada, to Cape Town (“fairest cape in all the world”). His website is www.TimKnight.org and there’s more detail about his storytelling coaching on LinkedIn
Tim Knight executive produced, co-directed, wrote and narrated the 3-hour wildlife documentary trilogy Inside Noah’s Ark, shot in South Africa and broadcast on Discovery Channel, Animal Planet, PBS and 15 European networks.BACK TO TOP