Passive Watching or Engaging the Viewer

In 2010, I watched for the first time, Errol Morris’ documentary “The Fog of War”. This insightful film introduced me to an engaging alternative to the traditional interview style of the subject looking off camera.

Somehow I’ve never really felt comfortable with the subject looking off camera – as though I had become a passive observer of a discussion taking place with someone else. 

I wanted to feel as though I was being spoken to – engaged in the dialog directly.

To illustrate my point, below are two frame grabs from the film of interviews done with former Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara.

The first image below shows the established looking off camera interview style:

Next is the technique of direct engagement of the person being interviewed by looking into the camera:

To me, there’s a major difference in how I respond to each image – and when watching the film.  The first image: I feel as though I’m a passive observer, almost intruding on a discussion between the people involved in the interview.  The second image: gives me a sense of direct engagement – as though I’m being spoken to directly about the topic being discussed.

As a multimedia journalist and short form advocacy filmmaker, it’s my job to tell my clients story to the viewer.  I have found moving to the looking into the camera lens style for interviewing my subjects in clients projects has raised the bar of quality in my work  – and my clients have commented on how unique and engaging the final project appears to them.

Since meeting the clients needs is my job, I’m content with that.

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