I had no idea what to expect when I first learned that I would be interviewing someone for an oral history project. I had never even heard of oral history videos before we talked about them in class. I knew the phrase “oral history,” but associated it with my grandparents telling boring stories that my parents tried to convince me were important. If someone had mentioned the phrase “oral history project” to me, I would have pictured some guy with a notebook nodding patiently while a senior citizen lectured him about how back in the day they walked to school uphill both ways barefoot in a blizzard. Watching oral history videos and talking about interview techniques in class changed my opinion a lot. Just getting to hear people’s honest opinions about things that matter to them made me excited to be a part of a project like this. I wanted someone in the future to see my interview and feel like they were meeting a person in real life, the way I felt when I watched the videos.
Since I myself am fairly shy and reserved around people I don’t know very well, I was nervous about having to talk on camera. Although I knew that I shouldn’t be doing the majority of the talking, I was worried that my awkwardness would affect my interviewee and that we wouldn’t have enough to talk about. The fact that I would be interviewing a friend and recent Westminster graduate, Josh Wilson (’14), didn’t make me any less nervous. The topics that I was going to be asking him about were not ones that we had talked about in our casual conversations, and the interview would be in a very different context. We would both be in different roles. I tried to pick larger subject areas, and to start with leading questions that would hopefully lead to more questions within that area. Despite my nerves, I was excited for the interview. I was curious as to how Josh would respond to my questions, and prepared to adapt to anything that he could possibly spring on me.
Once the camera started rolling I was still nervous, but less so. I was genuinely interested in what Josh had to say, and I felt like my questions to him flowed organically out of his responses. I’m glad that I didn’t write out each individual question and follow a script. Having more open ended topics and questions allowed Josh to talk freely without feeling boxed into a specific response. There were multiple occasions when I forgot that I was following a list of topics and questions, and had to remind myself where I was in the interview. There were questions that seemed to surprise Josh, and there were questions where I was surprised by the answers. Overall, I felt that the interview went well. There were a few things I wish I could change in hindsight, but I think I did a good job of capturing a personality on camera. For me, that was the primary goal of the project, and I hope that I succeeded.