Note: Unfortunately the Master was lost on these Rudy videos, so this is an import from a DVD.
In February of 2002 Nextel came to me and asked me to make a series of interview videos with Mayor Rudy Giuliani on his then new book “Leadership”, to be used at a national conference focusing on leadership. I had been doing lots of interview type projects with people like Peter Drucker, Mayor Daley and more since 1992. I was really excited because they were also considering having Bernard Shaw from CNN do the interview, but eventually they picked me. This was not long after 9/11 and I was thrilled to do it. I read Rudy’s book, Leadership and I really tried to learn what makes him tick so I could capture his interest and make the interview engaging. We setup the cameras in his conference room the night before and tested everything. I always like to do the setup the day before, do complete sound and picture tests so we are not scrambling the day of the shoot.
It was the first shoot I had ever done with an HD camera, it was shot with two Panasonic Varicam’s and unfortunately edited in SD (nobody had HD monitors at the time). In 2002, there were less than 100 Varicam’s worldwide, and we had two on this shoot. The morning of the interview there where 30 people from Nextel and 10 people from Rudy’s staff checking everything out. It was a bit chaotic. They asked for the questions I would be asking Rudy, to which I said NO. I’ve learned that if you give the questions before an interview all you get is rehearsed answers and premade statements that don’t answer any of your questions. I knew at the time, I was tired of having my creative altered and that this would be my last job as a commercial director. I was kind of fed up with the industry and wanted out. This time I was going to do what I wanted and I had nothing to lose, so I did not relent on one single point of this production and edit. People were all freaked out and worried that I would say the wrong thing or that they wouldn’t get the material they were looking for from Rudy (and paid small fortune to get). Also, I didn’t let any of them in the room while we were interviewing. We setup a video village in another room where they could monitor the interview.
The interview was supposed to last an hour, and when Rudy and his crew walked in, I told Rudy where to sit. He looked at me and told me I had 15 minutes to do the interview, to which I told him, “it would only take 10 minutes.” I think this was his way of letting me know if he didn’t like where this was going he would bolt. My clients in the other room monitoring the interview probably had a cow.
My first question was, “What do you love about what you do?”
to which Rudy responded, “I don’t know what you mean.”
I said, “Don’t you love what you do?”
Rudy immediately spoke, “Sure I do.”
“So tell me what you love”, I pushed.
Rudy thought, then replied, Well…….. and lots of amazing stuff came out.
My second question was, “What does baseball mean to you”? (I read his book and knew he loved baseball)
My third question was If Churchill was alive, (Rudy’s hero) what would you most like him to say about you?
My fourth question was “What was your greatest responsibility to NY after 9/11?”
Then I went on to change, accountability, leadership and things he is passionate about (and what the client wanted most).
The key to a great interview is to get the interviewee to talk about what they are most passionate about. Never ask questions that don’t evoke an emotional response or that can be answered with a yes or no answer. Get them to talk about what they love and warm up to you before you go after the meat of the interview. Most importantly, you need to know more about them then they do, so they don’t steam roller you. Always be confident and take control of the interview. Keep those questions coming fast and furious and never give them a second to breathe and never look at your notes. Keep it like a free flowing conversation.
The questions really made him think and he had no pat answers. Needless to say, Rudy stayed engaged for the whole hour. After the interview I remember leaving his office with my DP Jens Bogehegn, walking down Broadway high fiving each other, and feeling we had really nailed it!
From that hour of raw footage, my wife and editor Lucyna Wojtas created six very moving videos and I thought they were just perfect. When the client came to view them they loved it. After watching them a few times, they started with the usual, What if we did this, or what if we did that. I not so politely told them NO. To which they all started saying What does he mean? We want to make changes! I said NO, and that I like them the way they were.
This was towards the end of my career in commercial production and I was so fed up with clients, that my stock line was this is my last day, go ahead and fire me. They shut up pretty quickly knowing if I walked from the set that one of them would probably lose their job blowing an interview with someone notable like this. The funny thing is, the more nasty and belligerent I got; the more they seem to want me for jobs. Too bad I didn’t realize this earlier in my career. This job closed my 20 year career in video production and really launched me into my new business, Zacuto USA.
Producer: Alison Gerlach
Director: Steve Weiss
DP & Cam 1 Operator: Jens Bogehegn
Editor: Lucyna Wojtas