In health care marketing, nothing beats a good story with a happy ending. And video is often the most effective way to capture these stories.


But how do you get patients and caregivers to talk to you on camera in a way that doesn’t feel stilted or forced or awkward for them …  or you? How do you make people feel comfortable on camera? How do you get them to sound natural?

The answer is deceptively simple: Treat everyone (including yourself) like a kid.



When I first began as a documentary filmmaker, I was terrified of interviewing children. They can be shy. They can be unpredictable. And all too often, they can be frustratingly nonverbal. But after working with a lot of kids (and a lot of adults), I realized three things that made me a better interviewer:

1) Treat every interview subject like a kid.

Most people aren’t used to being interviewed. As a result, they can be scared. And they can be intimidated. It’s your job to reassure them that everything is going to be okay. You have to let them know that you’re on their side. You have to explain how editing works. Remind them that you’re going to take out the parts that make them look silly.

That’s what adults do for kids. They take care of them. And that’s what a documentary filmmaker has to do for any person kind enough to be an interview subject. So …  treat people with kids’ gloves. That was my first revelation. But I didn’t actually get good at this job until I realized something even more important: All of us are children. And that includes me.


2) Interview people like a kid.

The great thing about kids is they have no pride. If they don’t understand why the sky is blue, they just ask you. It doesn’t occur to them that a question might be dumb.

That’s how you have to ask questions of people when you’re interviewing them. Even if you know how a particular medical procedure or disease process works, most of your audience won’t. So don’t be afraid to sound stupid to your interview subject. Ask them how kidneys work. Ask them where cancer comes from. Ask them if they were afraid to be operated on by a robot.

Ask them why the sky is blue. It’ll make your edit go a lot smoother if you have too much information to choose from.


3) Remember when I said kids were unpredictable? So are adults. Roll with it.

Here’s an interview I did for a program called Summer Food Corps at the Damiano Center in Duluth. It gives kids attending an after-school program the opportunity to grow and eat their own fresh vegetables.



So that interview did not go as I expected. But no interview EVER goes the way I expect. Nobody ever gives you exactly what you want from them. You can certainly try to lead them down the path you want them to travel. But you’re mostly going to fail. And when that happens, don’t forget that videos operate on two of our senses simultaneously. If you can’t get a good sound bite, get a good visual bite to tell your story. In this, case, I caught young George eating a carrot not long after he assured me he hated vegetables. So I filmed him! Busted!

Stay open to possibilities, like a kid, and you’ll do fine.