Tired of the bog-standard sit-down interview? There are more creative ways to interview experts or famous guests and discuss a subject close to them, their career or a general topic of interest.
The typical back and forth exchange does not always help people to go off-script. It also does not help audiences understand complex topics. Some media companies now employ themes, games, props and other devices to get their guests talking and audiences hooked. These work best in video series that viewers can subscribe to on platforms like YouTube or follow on Instagram.
Here, we compile some of the best examples of creative interviewing ploys. These videos get thousands - even millions - of views and are a good place to start if you are having a creative block.
What I Wore
Any sports fan will tell you that the jersey or shirt holds a lot of significance. For the players, a shirt can remind them of highs and lows, breakthroughs and setbacks, the special moments - and the days to forget.
That is the approach that BT Sport takes with its series 'What I Wore'. The series is hosted by Andrew Mensah who takes football stars through an impressive collection of shirts that tell their career story. That might be the shirt they wore for their first club, one for a stand-out match, even the shirts of their biggest rivals. It prompts the guest to reminisce and open up on their deepest feelings.
Mensah also always asks one question at the end of the interview: if you were in a burning building and you can save two shirts - one for the sentimental value and one for the aesthetic value - which two would you pick?
Fact or Fiction
There is a good reason why universities do not accept citations in your essays from Wikipedia - it is notoriously unreliable.
One series by music news publisher Loudwire allows famous guests to correct the record once and for all, and many are happy to be given the platform to do so. In 'Fact or Fiction', interviewees are presented with a bunch of information pulled from their Wikipedia entries, and they either debunk the claim or add insightful personal anecdotes. Both scenarios do happen regularly.
Journalists are taught from day one not to assume knowledge. We are told, "imagine you are explaining this to your grandma". But if you are covering something complicated, like blockchain, how long does that analogy work? At some point, you veer into a very technical territory.
This is what makes Wired's series '5 Levels' so compelling. It explains a tricky topic in five stages of increasing complexity. How? An expert is brought in to explain the topic to five people each with a very different knowledge base: a child, a teen, a college student, a grad student, and an expert.
The viewer receives a natural and linear exploration of topics like music theory, gravity, hacking and so on.
Other honourable mentions by Wired go to its auto-complete interviews, where famous guests answer questions from 'the web's most searched queries' about them. Other experts, like morticians, are pulled in to respond to common queries about topics of interest. But Wired is not the only publisher to do this style of interview.
There are other ways to draw the audience into an interview. One is with personal questions, the other is through camera techniques. Vanity Fair uses both in its series 'Slow Zoom'.
It does what it says on the tin. It very slowly zooms in on a celebrity guest (using a camera on a sliding track), all the while asking increasingly deep and personal questions. The effect is twofold: the viewer is pulled into the interview visually and emotionally. It also uses greyscale outtakes to reset the camera and move on to the next set of questions.
Chicken Shop Date
If you want to capture people's attention, sometimes a bold choice is required. That was the inspiration for Amelia Dimoldenberg's hit series 'Chicken Shop Date' where she interviews well-known rappers (pretending they are on a date) in a fried chicken shop.
By placing these music artists in a completely unorthodox situation, their guards are lowered and they can talk more casually. Nothing is off the table either, and she often comes up with questions these guests have never been asked before. Dimoldenberg also puts on an awkward persona deliberately to try and get unusual responses out of guests. Besides rappers, she has also managed to lure football players and other influencers onto the show.
Talking about LADbible, it knows how to drum up an engaging conversation. In its series 'The Gap', the idea is to bring two people together with shared experiences and a generational gap between them.
This can foster some eye-opening conversations about homelessness, mental health of athletes, crime and life as a soldier. It covers how much has changed over time - for better or worse - and what challenges still remain.
A more polarising option can be seen in its series 'Agree to disagree', a head-to-head style interview that pits two people with opposing views together. Sometimes they find common ground, sometimes they reach an impasse. That can be something as light as views on superheroes or as divisive as animal rights.
The first time you try something will usually leave a powerful memory in your mind.
'First' is a series by Soccer AM, a sports show by Sky Sports, where the theme is to ask the guest only about their first experiences. That could be the first match in management, the first trophy, or even their first mistake. That sets the groundwork for follow up questions and revealing insights.
Note how the video thumbnail is also thematic, with the guest posing with one finger in the air. All their guests do this.
Another one of its series 'Teammates', uses a classic sports interview format but the guest is answering questions about other club players, like 'who is always late to training?' It always makes for a fun interview for fans.
Many of us have tweeted our celebrity idols hoping for a reply which never came. One series by GQ, a men's lifestyle publisher, gets celebrities to respond directly to fans' burning questions on social media.
In 'Actually Me', famous guests take to Twitter, Instagram, Quora, Reddit and TikTok to send their replies personally. They even log into Wikipedia to change the record directly. Fan Q&As are not exactly an original idea but this is an interesting way to show the celebrity posting the reply themselves and give it a more personal spin.
For a more left of field idea from GQ, its 'Tattoo Tour' is an interesting way for well-known guests with a lot of inkwork to talk about the experiences of having it done.
It is common for films and video games these days to be based on history, mythology and religion. Naturally, there is no better way to know how faithful it is than to ask an expert.
Video game news publisher IGN invites experts to unpick all the details which games do - and do not - get right in its series 'Expert reacts'. Reaction videos have become a standard format on platforms like YouTube, and this series definitely takes inspiration from this.
Insider does something very similar with its series 'How Real Is It?' which uses experts to assess how accurate movie scenes are.
I Accidentally Became A Meme
If you are known for something, lean into it.
BuzzFeed is known and loved for its meme culture. Its series 'I Accidentally Became A Meme' explores the human stories behind the memes that its audiences know so well.
It is really nothing complicated here besides the guest talking to the camera. That can sometimes be ordinary people or celebrities. But allowing these people to share their own accounts shapes a powerful story on how their newly acquired status has affected their lives.
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