Tricks of the trade: How to interview the stars on TV - Julia Bradbury

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The Independent Culture
THERE ISN'T a bible of interviewing skills, but if anyone were to write that bible, it would definitely be Michael Parkinson.

I interview the big stars under very controlled circumstances. Depending on the artist, I might be told to veer away from certain topics. Some won't talk about their personal life, though I find the bigger the star, the more relaxed they are.

During the interview their PR is generally loitering in the background, but I often take what they say with a pinch of salt and just feel my way through the interview. If everything is going well I just slip the question in. If the PR objects to what you're doing, they'll often walk across the back of the shot so you can't hear the answer. They're a little overprotective sometimes and you just think "come on, lighten up".

You get a very short time to do the interview. Ten minutes is a luxury. Every second counts. So you would ask most people about 10 questions. You also have to be a bit of a mind-reader and work out whether they are going to answer the questions in a lengthy, explanatory way, or whether they are going to give you a short, sharp soundbite. With someone like Robin Williams, in 10 minutes you'll get about three questions in. You curb people who talk too much by maintaining eye-contact and, when they take a breath, jumping in. Then you get people who are monosyllabic, like Harrison Ford: the slick, straightforward answer and nothing more.

I break the ice with a joke to get them relaxed and I try to maintain eye-contact. I try not to use a notebook because I don't want to be looking into my lap all the time. It sounds corny, but a smile works wonders in extracting information.

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