Interviews are exercises in role-playing; but what of interviews that look down upon their readers, listeners, or viewers?
I have been interviewing people at international film festivals for over five years. Interviewing is not only journalism; it’s downright roleplaying. The moment I press that record button on my device, we slip into the predefined roles of interviewer/interviewee.
This observation is not new and has been noted by many people. It has also been used to discredit interview dynamics for their lack of integrity. I say, however, that all of us, in our everyday interactions with one another, constantly play roles and alter or adjust our personalities and characters according to whoever is near us or who we are interacting with.
The interview is an illusion, but the tools of the illusions are made perfectly clear in many ways. The presence of the recording device, the structure of the interview itself, the way it is promoted and packaged, the information contained within them, and the set-up itself. Listeners, viewers, and readers play a role that entails them suspending their disbelief and widely taking interviews as legitimate conversations, despite the fact that we all know better.
There are ways, to be sure, of being creative. Many, for instance, have played with the format. However, the pre-set parameters of the interview remain the same; an unwritten contract sustained by a common need to keep up appearances.
The pre-set parameters, importantly, are not what makes an interview bad. Nor are the unexpected moments that spoil the facade of the legitimacy of interviews, those moments of excess that, after all, are the aim of an exclusive interview, because that’s where new information can potentially be revealed. What makes an interview intolerable is when both the interviewer or interviewee pose as keepers of an unknown secret that they are reluctant to reveal to their readers, listeners, or viewers, therefore giving them the semblance of some type of authority.
Again, there are, to be sure exceptions. But in film, for the most part, to take these stances is to lock cinema and people’s perceptions of the art form as elitist. It would be totally naive to think that cinema is a free-spirited form that doesn’t depend on a series of structures that shape it, especially through the promotion of and repression of information, like everything else that is of this world. However, one should not be so easily tempted to endorse the illusion that any one person is a greater authority on film than any other when ultimately, the truth, in cinema, lies in the eye of the beholder.