Documentary Interview Questions: A Comprehensive Guide for Filmmakers

Documentary filmmaking is a powerful medium for telling compelling stories and shedding light on important issues. One of the key elements in creating a successful documentary is conducting effective interviews. The right questions can elicit insightful and emotional responses from your subjects, making your film more engaging and impactful. In this article, we will explore the art of documentary interview questions, providing you with a comprehensive guide to help you prepare for your next documentary project.

The Importance of Preparation

Before diving into the specific interview questions, it is crucial to highlight the importance of preparation. As a filmmaker, you need to thoroughly research your subject matter and the individuals you will be interviewing. Understanding their background, experiences, and perspectives will enable you to ask thoughtful and relevant questions that will elicit meaningful responses.

Moreover, being prepared allows you to create a comfortable and trusting environment for your interviewees. When they see that you have taken the time to familiarize yourself with their work or personal history, they will feel more at ease and open up during the interview.

18 Common Interview Questions for Documentary Filmmakers

1. What inspired you to pursue this topic?

Understanding the motivations behind your interviewee’s involvement in the subject matter can provide valuable insights into their personal connection and passion for the topic.

2. Can you share a specific moment or experience that deeply impacted you?

This question encourages your interviewee to share personal anecdotes or stories that can evoke emotion and create a deeper connection between the audience and the subject.

3. What challenges did you encounter while working on this project?

Exploring the obstacles and difficulties faced by your interviewee during the process of creating their documentary sheds light on the dedication and perseverance required to bring important stories to life.

4. Who or what inspired you to become a documentary filmmaker?

By asking this question, you can gain insights into the influences and inspirations that shaped your interviewee’s career and filmmaking style.

5. What do you hope to achieve with your documentary?

Understanding the goals and intentions behind the creation of the documentary allows the audience to connect with the filmmaker’s vision and purpose.

6. How did you approach the storytelling aspect of your documentary?

This question delves into the creative choices made by the filmmaker, providing insights into their narrative structure, visual style, and overall approach to storytelling.

7. Can you describe a particularly challenging interview or moment during the filming process?

By asking about challenging moments, you give your interviewee the opportunity to reflect on the difficulties they faced and share any lessons learned from those experiences.

8. What impact do you hope your documentary will have on its audience?

Understanding the desired impact of the documentary helps you gauge the filmmaker’s intentions and the message they are trying to convey.

9. How did you gain the trust and cooperation of your subjects?

This question allows your interviewee to share their strategies for building relationships and establishing trust with their subjects, which can be valuable insights for other filmmakers.

10. Can you highlight any ethical considerations that arose during the filmmaking process?

Exploring the ethical dilemmas faced by the filmmaker provides a deeper understanding of the challenges associated with documenting real-life stories.

11. What role does research play in your documentary filmmaking process?

Understanding the importance of research in the documentary filmmaking process allows the audience to appreciate the thoroughness and accuracy of the filmmaker’s work.

12. How did you approach the editing process to shape the narrative of your documentary?

This question allows the interviewee to share insights into the decision-making process involved in shaping the narrative and structure of the film.

13. What advice do you have for aspiring documentary filmmakers?

By asking for advice, you give your interviewee the opportunity to share their wisdom and insights, providing valuable guidance for those looking to enter the field.

14. Can you share any memorable or unexpected moments that occurred during the filming?

This question allows your interviewee to share interesting behind-the-scenes anecdotes that can add depth and entertainment value to the documentary.

15. How did you approach the distribution and promotion of your documentary?

Understanding the strategies employed by the filmmaker to reach their audience provides insights into the business side of documentary filmmaking.

16. What impact do you hope your documentary will have on society?

This question delves into the larger societal implications of the documentary, allowing the filmmaker to share their aspirations for creating change or raising awareness.

17. How did you balance objectivity and subjectivity in your documentary?

Exploring the filmmaker’s approach to balancing different perspectives and maintaining objectivity adds depth to their storytelling process.

18. Can you share any future projects or ideas you are currently working on?

By asking about future projects, you give your interviewee the opportunity to share their upcoming work and provide a glimpse into their creative journey.

Keys to a Successful Documentary Interview

While the specific questions you ask during a documentary interview are crucial, there are also some key factors to keep in mind to ensure a successful and impactful interview:

  • Establish a comfortable environment: Make sure your interviewee feels at ease and comfortable throughout the interview process. This will encourage open and honest responses.
  • Active listening: Pay close attention to your interviewee’s responses and body language. This will allow you to ask follow-up questions and delve deeper into their thoughts and emotions.
  • Be flexible: While it is important to have a set of questions prepared, be open to organic and unexpected moments that may arise during the interview. This flexibility can lead to powerful and authentic storytelling.
  • Respect boundaries: Understand and respect any boundaries set by your interviewee. Some topics may be sensitive, and it is important to approach them with empathy and respect.
  • Capture visual elements: In addition to the interview itself, consider capturing visual elements that can enhance the storytelling process. This can include b-roll footage, photographs, or archival material.
  • Follow up: After the interview, consider following up with your interviewee to express your gratitude and provide updates on the progress of your project. Building a relationship with your subjects can lead to future collaborations and a deeper understanding of their story.


Documentary interviews are a vital component of creating impactful and engaging films. By asking thoughtful and relevant questions, filmmakers can elicit powerful responses and create a deeper connection between the audience and the subject. Remember to prepare thoroughly, establish a comfortable environment, and be an active listener. By following these guidelines and incorporating the suggested interview questions, you will be well on your way to creating a compelling and memorable documentary.

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