Big Think Interview With Jason Fried

Was filmed using Errol Morris’ Interrotron (or a similar device). That’s how you get the direct eye contact. Jason’s take: “Was weird for 5 seconds then it was totally natural.”

The story of the Interrotron is also a neat example of scratching your own itch. Morris explains:

Q: Is it true that you interview people using a machine?

A: Yes, the (patent pending) Interrotron. It’s a machine that uses existing technology in a new and novel way. When I made my first film, Gates of Heaven, I interviewed people by putting my head right up against the lens of the camera. It seemed as though they were looking directly into the lens of the camera, but not really. Almost, but not quite. Of course, they were looking a little bit off to the side.

Q: What’s wrong with that? What were you trying to achieve?

A: The first person. When someone watches my films, it is as though the characters are talking to directly to them… There is no third party. On television we’re used to seeing people interviewed sixty-minutes-style. There is Mike Wallace or Larry King, and the camera is off to the side. Hence, we, the audience, are also off to the side. We’re the fly-on-the-wall, so to speak, watching two people talking. But we’ve lost something.

Q: What?

A: Direct eye contact.

Q: Eye contact?

A: Yup. We all know when someone makes eye contact with us. It is a moment of drama. Perhaps it’s a serial killer telling us that he’s about to kill us; or a loved one acknowledging a moment of affection. Regardless, it’s a moment with dramatic value. We know when people make eye contact with us, look away and then make eye contact again. It’s an essential part of communication. And yet, it is lost in standard interviews on film. That is, until the Interrotron.

Here’s a diagram of how it works and a photo of the device.