Capture usable interviews using your iPhone

You carry a fantastic storytelling tool on your person every single day. So let’s arm you with a few technical and practical interviewing tips to capture amazing impromptu interviews.

Camera Settings

  1. No digital zoom – shoot in the widest zoom setting that your phone has. When you zoom in you lose out on all that pixel goodness that Apple has given you.
  2. Exposure/focus lock – Use exposure and focus lock to keep your phone from searching and focusing on other details within the frame during the interview.
  3. Airplane mode – Engage airplane mode before you hit the record button. Sucks to get calls or texts during an interview.


  1. Horizontal – Only shoot horizontal or “landscape.” Vertical video is not useable. When we have verticle televisions, I will redo this post.
  2. Steady Eddie – Hold the camera steady and at your subjects eye level or slightly above.
  3. Rule of thirds – Here is a good video on overall composition
  4. Handles – Let each of your shots have a little extra time at the start and end. It will give the editor more possibilities in the edit. Handles.


  1. Indoors – If you’re shooting indoors, position your subject facing a window and use the sun.
  2. Outdoors – Look for a light-colored wall that you can use as a giant bounce card for your subject.
  3. Shade – Harsh overhead lighting is not flattering. Look for a shaded area to place your subject.


  1. Close – Pull your subject as close to the camera as possible (without looking like your up their nose). Your audio will sound so much better.
  2. “Show me the money” – Do not try to hide distracting background sounds. Position your subject so your audience can see the noise in the background. It becomes a part of your story.
  3. Rest assured, as soon as you begin shooting all leaf blowers will start along with you.

Performing the interview

  1. Three minutes max – Do not shoot for over 3 minutes per question. Your arms will get tired holding that iPhone up. In between questions, let your arms rest.
  2. Asking for help – If possible, enlist someone to ask your questions just off of your shoulder as you hold the iPhone. Your subject will be more comfortable talking to a person rather than a phone.

In the end, a compelling interview happens because we are interested in a person and their story. Plus, a little homework before hitting the record button can undoubtedly help. That’s for another post.

Factual Romance

I love being romanced. The J. Peterman Co. knows how to sweep me off my feet. I always look through their catalog when it arrives in my mailbox.

IMG_0369.jpgEvery item in the catalog has a story. As it should be. I opened to the first page and I saw their Philosophy. Oh my, good stuff.


“People want things that are hard to find. Things that have romance, but a factual romance, about them.

I had this proven to me all over again when people actually stopped me in the street (in New York, in Tokyo, in London) to ask me where I got the coat I was wearing.

So many people tried to buy my coat off my back that I started a small company to make them available.

I ran a little ad in The New Yorker and The Wall Street Journal and in a few months sold this wonderful coat in cities all over the country and to celebrities and to a mysterious gentleman in Japan who ordered two thousand of them.

I think the giant corporations should start asking themselves if the things they make are really, I mean really, better than ordinary.

Clearly, people want things that make their lives the way they wish they were.”

J. Peterman

Factual romance

How Sean McVay changed the Rams’ culture

He took control, but he empowered others. He pushed his players, but not harder than he pushed himself. He communicated his message, but he also listened. He built a following, but he never demanded it. He set the standard, but he put the onus on others to uphold it.

Culture in an organization is not “ethereal.” A “something” that just feels good. “We’ve got such a great culture at company blah blah…I love working here!” Next year, out of business.

The Rams have built a winning culture in LA. Sean McVay brought it. Unwavering in his approach. Bill Walsh and John Wooden taught him well. The ESPN article is worth reading.

I’m preaching these highlights to myself:

  • 1. Be On Time; 2. Respect Our Players; 3. Live Our Standards
  • More accountability, higher expectations, greater energy.
  • Process over results
  • Zero tolerance with the rules. You gotta do the rules.
  • If it’s not right, re-run it to get it right, make it perfect.
  • Uphold the standards that are agreed upon.
  • Get guys who are open and willing to be coached
  • He wasn’t afraid to admit what he did not know.
  • Teaching fundamentals is a priority.

Andrew Stanton: The clues to a great story

This is a good 19:16 worth a storytellers time:

Andrew Stanton: The clues to a great story

These are the notes I took:

  • Make me care
  • It fundamentally makes a promise. It makes a promise that this story will lead somewhere that is worth your time.
  • The audience wants to work for their meal. They just don’t want to know that they’re doing that.
  • Your job as a storyteller is that you’re making them work for their meal
  • Story is the well-organized absence of information that draws us in
  • The unifying theory of 2+2. Don’t give them 4.
  • Stories are inevitable but not predictable
  • If things stay static, stories die. Because life is never static
  • “Drama is anticipation mingled with uncertainty”
  • Have you made me want to know what will happen next?
  • Have you made me want to know how it will conclude in the long term?
  • Have you created honest conflicts?
  • Storytelling has guidelines, not hard fast rules
  • A strong theme is running through a well-told story
  • “Wonder” is the secret sauce. The best stories infuse wonder
  • “And that’s the first story lesson I ever learned. Use what you know, draw from it. Doesn’t always mean plot or fact. It means capturing a truth from what you’re experiencing. Expressing values you personally feel deep down in your core.”

Thank you, Andrew!

Business Wisdom Told Here

I’m a sucker for a well-told story. Add in how a successful business navigates the treacherous waters to survive and actually, ok, tell the story. That’s stuff worth passing along to others. The folks at Basecamp created them:

Basecamp spent three years telling the stories of people who run businesses that endured 25 years or more. Have a listen — they’re an inspiration for anyone looking to build a business that goes the distance.

Wailin Wong is the reporter that guides you through these stories. She is well researched, thoughtful, and a colorful storyteller. She brings the goods.Image result for waylan wong the distance

Here are a few of my personal favorites:

Rainbow Connection

Going to the Mattresses

Grateful Heads

Always Glad You Came

Make It Rain

Auto Transmission

World’s Largest Laundromat


Reagan on Creativity

My wife and I are reading Peggy Noonan’s “When Character Was King”, for the second time. It’s as cozy as hot chocolate in a thunderstorm. The world literally washes away when we open it up at night. On page 246 this excerpt of Ronald Reagan on creativity is certainly worth sharing:

Reagan thought people were smart. He thought they were creative. He thought this in part because in Hollywood he had seen the greatest creativity everyday, and not only from actors and directors but from cinematographers, editors, stuntmen, writers and the producers who made artistic advances possible.

Reagan thought the genius of America was that it was the place where genius was allowed. You could be your weirdly uniquely creative self and be celebrated for it and make a lot of money at it and go on to do creative things with your money or responsible things or silly things, waste it at the track, it’s up to you, that’s what freedom is in part, the freedom to be silly and irresponsible.

And to be creative.
And to imagine.

And so he never saw history as static, as sitting there like a dry and dusty plain. He saw it as something you could change.

Did you hear the thunder crack?