The first big name I ever got the chance to interview was Nobuo Uematsu. The resulting article, Final Fantasy Composer’s Chocobo Cosplay Wishes, Avatar Scoring Dreams, is probably the reason I got the opportunity to intern at Kotaku. Make no mistake: landing interviews with celebrities can hugely boost your journalism career.
However, the very attributes that make celebrity interviews appealing to editors are the same things that make them hard to pull off. You have to avoid getting starstruck in front of somebody you might find intimidating. You can’t get an interesting article by gushing either; you have to ask the tough questions like you would with anyone else.
As the former press liaison for Anime USA, I’ve supervised a lot of press conferences with big names in anime, games, and fandom. Based on my experiences both as an interviewer and a supervisor, here are some tips to make your first celebrity interview run smoothly:
Be ready to go off script. While it’s important to prepare questions in advance, you don’t want to be married to those questions if the conversation goes off in another direction entirely. There’s a joke I heard in journalism school about a flustered cub reporter carefully sticking to a prepared script of questions:
Reporter: When did you become president of the company?
Interviewee: A few months before I murdered my wife.
Reporter: [sticking to script] And can you tell me about your newest product?
Don’t miss the forest for the trees. If your subject is telling you a lot of interesting things about a topic you didn’t even prepare for, let her go on about that instead of cutting her off to ask your next question.
Who is the most famous person you’ve ever interviewed? What was it like? Is there anything you wish you had done differently?
(photo via excalipoor on Flickr.)