Celebrity interviews are a great way to get up close and personal with some of your lifelong idols, but can also be daunting if you screw it up (I will never forget the time the director I idolized for my entire childhood walked into the room and instantly started telling me my lights were all backwards). I mainly have shot celebrity interviews for awards shows, promotional material, behind the scenes, and documentaries. For an award show or promotional material the top priority should always be to make the interviewee look their best. For behind the scenes, there is usually not enough time for proper lighting and it's mostly just exciting to get an interview at all. For documentaries it can be nice to discuss a consistent "look" across all of your interviews with the director so the entire project has a feel of cohesiveness and a set mood based on the subject matter. In this article I am going to discuss shooting individual interviews with celebrities for promotional material and having to light for a series of different celebrities in one set-up.
When shooting a single interview of a specific person it helps to think about how to light them in advance. Quickly taking a look at a recent picture of the celebrity and even previously conducted interviews is a helpful way to see what lighting works and doesn't work for them. Some celebrities, particularly those who are aging, balding, etc. need special care when it comes to lighting. The biggest things to watch out for are celebrities with deep set eyes (don't want to put the key light so high that they have dark circles instead of eyeballs), celebrities with wrinkles (best to keep the lighting more frontal), and celebrities without hair (be careful with the backlight! No one likes a head that looks like the sun is emitting from it!). Some celebrities even have a particular side of their face they would prefer to put towards the camera, which might be something to ask about in advance if there is the opportunity. For all celebrities, it is often best to put their needs over your cinematic intentions.
- LIGHTING: When lighting a series of interviews where celebrities will be sitting in the same lighting, it is best to err on the side of caution and light it in a way that will be most flattering for everyone. The best general approach is to use the softest lighting possible on the actors. I usually use a Kino through light grid diffusion as the key light. This usually wraps around 3/4 of their face. I usually place the light close to directly where their eye-line is off screen and up a few feet, this way they are looking into the light and catching the eye-light instead of looking away from the light into the darkness. For example, if the interviewer is interviewing from the right side of the camera the key light will also be on that side. If there are any light sources in the room I try to put them in the background on the same side as the key light to help the key light feel motivated. A soft, high backlight also adds a nice glow to the actors hair. If someone bald sits in the frame it is good to have a double net on standby to knock out the backlight or simply turn it off if that is the best option.
- CAMERA: I usually place the camera sightly above the interviewees eye line. Especially many women prefer not to be filmed from below as the angle is not very flattering. Having the interviewer sit (or stand) as close to the lens as possible helps so their eye line is as accessible as possible to the audience without having them look into the lens (unless this is desired).
Shooting interviews is a fun simple job that can help you hone in your beauty-lighting skills, while also getting the chance to meet some cool people and learn new things from your interviewees. Below are a few lighting setups from various interviews.