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Tips for Recording Someone Else’s Story

Here are a few basic tips for recording someone else’s story. It may also be helpful to read Tips for Recording Your Story. Feel free to contact us with questions or for technical advice!

Picture Perfect: About Quality

We want you to make your recording in the most convenient way, but we also hope that you’ll send us the best quality video you can. Be sure your interviewee is well-lighted and visible, and that they can be heard. It’s worth doing a few test runs just to be sure, whether you’re using your phone camera or something more elaborate. We may not be able to use videos if they are extremely poor quality, so do your best to make yours fabulous!

A familiar face.

If you’ve never done this before, choose someone you know or are acquainted with, not a stranger.

Comfortable Location.

Conduct the interview in a location where they are comfortable – in their home, or someplace they frequent regularly.

Prepare a List.

Come up with a list of general topic areas. (It’s okay to share with them ahead of time if they ask.)


Generally shared stories for this site should be anywhere from 8-10 minutes to one hour in length, with as little editing as possible (no editing is fine).

Arranging the interview.

Set the time and date, and have them arrive 15 minutes early (or you arrive early if you are coming to them) to allow for setup time. Ask them to consider their story – what would they want people to know about their queer life? Tell them you are going to be asking only very general questions to guide the interview. The interviewee has the reins.

At the interview.

Make sure you have everything you need before you start. Have water, cough drops, and Kleenex nearby. Plan things so there will be no interruptions.

Focus on them.

The camera should be focused on them; you should be behind the scenes rather than visible. A stable camera is usually best, so a tripod may be helpful.

Start simple.

Start by getting facts: name, age, how they identify, residence, where from, how long at current location, occupation, passion, etc. Then ask a casual question or two. The point is to get them used to the format so they can relax and express themselves naturally. Save the more challenging questions for the middle of the interview, once you’ve gotten them talking. Then at the end, wind down with some more casual questions.

Be unobtrusive but encouraging.

Be as unobtrusive as possible, while also encouraging the interviewee with smiles, nods, and positive body language.

Silence is golden.

Ask questions one at a time, try not to talk over the person, and allow silence to work for you: avoid the temptation of jumping in immediately at every pause.

Let them say it.

Say “Tell me in detail how you felt about that,” rather than “You felt that this was wrong, didn’t you?” Don’t suggest an answer in a question.

Get down to specifics.

Get them to be as specific as possible. When they say “those were the days,” ask them directly “What year was that?” as opposed to saying “you mean the 70’s, right?” That way the microphone will pick up what they say, not what you say. The same thing goes for other general terms like “them,” “the community,” “people,” and so forth.

Remember the viewer.

It’s not a joint reminiscence, gossip session or a conversation between you and your interviewee. Keep yourself out of it. If the interviewee indicates experiences that you have shared, remember that those who weren’t part of this will be viewing, and ask the subject to clarify things for the viewer. “You remember that wonderful group we were part of?” “Yes, I do, but can you describe the group for the viewer? Tell us their name and their mission and who they were.”

On language.

Use the language and terms used by your interviewee. Try not to use slang, unless the subject has already used the word or phrase.

I digress.

If they seem to wander off-topic, that’s okay. If the interview really loses focus or turns into a rant, it’s okay to say “I’m really curious about xx, can we go back to that topic?” But don’t push it.

If at first you don’t succeed…

If the subject is unhappy with one of their responses, it’s okay to go back and review the question again.