First, make sure that the subject is agreeable to the idea of being interviewed. The most common response, especially for older people, is often "But I don't know what to say" or "There's nothing interesting about me." They don't need to worry. As Mark Twain said, "There was never yet an uninteresting life." I come equipped with over 200 questions that we can address, and the time usually flies by. Before long, I'm hearing about something that happened in second grade, or that trip with girlfriends to the top of the Empire State Building in the 30s. If there's a particular story or topic you'd like to include, let me know. And if there are areas to avoid, let me know ahead of time and I am always respectful of that.
I'll come to a place where the subject is comfortable (ideally his or her home, or yours, or somewhere else) and set up a simple video camera. I may set up a backdrop if the background will be distracting. I'll sit facing the subject, next to the camera, and attach a wireless microphone to the subject's shirt or jacket. Generally they become so involved in the interview that the camera is completely forgotten. A pause to take medicine or oxygen or a bathroom break is not a problem and will not affect the final product. Most people I've interviewed say that it was a pleasant, even fun, experience.
I ask that no other family members be present when I'm doing the interview because there is sometimes a tendency to correct the subject's recollections. Comments about small details like "No, mom, that was when we lived on First Street," or "Mike was born two years after Karen, not three" serve only to make the subject insecure and embarrassed about how to answer subsequent questions. So be prepared to get yourself in the other room while I'm talking with Mom or Dad! These are their memories, with details as they remember them, minor mistakes and all.
On the other hand, the interview process can be traumatic and embarrassing for someone who is experiencing a significant struggle with memory. If you are hoping to get your loved one on the record now because memory loss is becoming an issue, it probably is too late. I have had interviews with people who couldn't recall how many siblings they had, or even who their children were. In those cases, I ended the interview gently and did not provide the video to the family, and I will do it again. It's not good for anybody. So please be realistic and respectful about the condition of your loved one.
I'll edit the finished product, using text rather than my voice to introduce the subject or question, and eliminating stutters or pauses. The finished video is usually 45-50 minutes long. I will provide 5 copies on CDs, as well as a link to a site where you can download as many digital copies as you like. The final edit is at my discretion.
The turnaround time from interview to finished product is usually about a month; please don't expect a rush job unless you're willing to pay a premium!
"You've made a memory we'll all cherish." Bill O.