So... you’re spending more time at home these days, and you’re looking for something to do that will be more rewarding than binging yet another episode of a random show. Here's an idea:

Get in touch with your sage: an older family member or mentor that you love and respect.  Invite them to record a video interview with you.  Ask them some meaningful questions and really listen to their answers. 

I guarantee that it will be a valuable experience, and the end result might just be something you cherish forever.  

If you aren’t able to do it yourself, please do get in touch with me, and if I can do the interview myself, I will be happy to help.

Later, I plan to make a video sharing highlights from both your interviews and the ones I do myself, so I’d love to hear from you. 

Don’t hesitate to leave comments if you need any help, and I’d be thrilled to hear any suggestions you have for more interview questions or the project itself, and especially any great answers that you got from your subjects.  

You can write me directly by clicking on the contact button on this site, or through social media:



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Tips for doing your own interview:

1. Respect your subject’s time.  Remember that they are doing you a favor, and it’s good practice to always start and end the interview by thanking them for their time.  Try to keep it to an hour or less unless you’re absolutely sure they don’t mind going longer.  

2. Ease into it.  Remember, it’s a conversation.  The more natural and relaxed you both feel, the better the results are likely to be.

3. Be prepared, but don’t feel like you only have to ask the questions on your list.  Spend some time beforehand thinking of good questions to ask them.  If you’d like to ask them about their work or something else they’ve done, consider getting familiar enough with it to get beyond surface-level questions. 

I’ve got some ideas for questions to get you started listed below, but the best questions come from really listening to your subject’s answers and probing further.  

4. Do what you can to make your subject look and sound great. Chances are your subject doesn’t have a fancy setup with a pro camera on a tripod and elaborate lighting, but there are still things you can do to make your subject look their best. 

If possible, have them sit with a big window on the side (not the back: it will create too much contrast). Have them use a stable camera, and try to arrange it so that it faces them at about eye level.  Interviews using laptop cameras are generally going to be far more flattering than a phone held in the hand or propped up against something that points up your subject’s nose and captures every detail of what’s under their chin

5. Check the settings of your video chat app to make sure you’ve optimized everything.  Choose the highest resolution you can, consider which view you want recorded (i.e. a gallery view that shows both of you all the time, a speaker view that only shows the speaker, or pinning the video so you only see your subject), do a test recording to make sure that you can see and hear everything okay.  And don’t forget to record.  

6. Aging is a delicate subject.  As I mentioned in the video, our society is pretty obsessed with youth, so there’s definitely a stigma against being older.  Unfortunately, it’s unlikely you’ll find anyone who just loves thinking of themselves as old, so be careful in how you approach this. 

For example, unless you have a very special relationship with the person you want to interview and they are not easily offended, I would avoid approaching them with anything that resembles: “Hey, you’re super old.  How about I squeeze any useful info out of you before you die, which will probably be soon?” 

This is better: “Hey there, I’ve got a favor to ask of you.  This fantastic photographer I know is doing an amazing project where he’s encouraging everyone to interview someone they love and respect who has the kind of life experience we could all learn from, and I’d love for my person to be you." 

And anyway, the important part is to have a meaningful conversation with your sage (no matter how old they are) and preserve it.  Age is, really, just a number.

Ideas for Questions:

1. How are you?  How are you coping with the pandemic?

2. Where is your happy place?  If you could be anywhere doing anything, what would it be? 

3. When you were younger, what did you want to be when you grew up?  

4. Tell me about your childhood.  When and where were you born?  What is your very first memory?  Were you a well-behaved kid or a troublemaker? 

5. How did you meet your significant other?  What was your first date like?  Was there a magic moment when you knew you were in love?  How was your wedding?

6. Tell me about your children. 

7. What do/did you do for a living?  Tell me something most people don’t know about your work.

8. Describe the process behind __________.

9. Where do you get your best ideas?

10. What was your favorite gift that you ever received?  

11. What do you think your friends or family say when asked to describe you?  Are they right?

12. On a scale of 1 to 10, how weird are you?  What is the weirdest thing about you?

13. What’s your favorite meal?   Is that what you’d eat for your last meal, if you were on death row?

14. What’s the best advice you ever got?  Did you listen?

15. If you could get stuck in a lift/elevator with anyone, past or present, living or dead, apart from family and friends, whom would you choose?

16. Which people, living or dead, would you invite to a fantasy dinner?  What would you serve?

17. Describe your perfect day.

18. If you had to relive one particular day of your life over and over again, which day would it be, and why?

19. What is your favorite sound?  What sound do you hate?

20. What is your favorite word?  What word do you hate?

21. Is there a story about something that happened in your life that still makes you laugh, no matter how many times you hear it?

22. Do you have any real regrets?  How did the expectations of your youth compare with the reality of a life lived?

23. What job, or career, apart from your own, would you like to have tried?  What job, or career, apart from your own, would you hate to have been stuck with?

24. Were things better in the past, or are they better in the present?

25. Do kids these days have it easy?

26. I’ve read that some people don’t like the words old, senior citizens, elderly, etc.  What do you think?

27. In the past you said _________: do you still believe that to be true today?

28. This other person seems to have an opposite view from you. How would you respond to that?

29. Why do people succeed or fail?

30. What do you think about the Trolley Dilemma?

31. Is there such a thing as a truly selfless act?

32. Would you rather be the cause of an innocent person’s death but then instantly forget about it, and never suffer any repercussions, or not cause the death of an innocent person, but believe that you had? 

33. What was the single, most important moment of your life?

34. Tell me about a decision you made that seemed small at the time but ended up having a significant effect on your life.

35. If you had a time machine, and you could travel back in time and give yourself some advice, which date would you travel back to and what would you tell yourself?

36. Is there any possession that you’ve held on to for sentimental reasons that has a story behind it that you’d like to share?  

37. When it’s your time to leave this world, what memories do you think will pass through your mind in your last moments? (Warning: this is kind of a morbid question, so use with caution.)

38. If you could take an earthly possession with you into the afterlife, what would it be?

39. If there is a heaven, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive?

40. What advice would you give for the next generation?  What would you like to share with other people?  

41. Do you like movies about gladiators?

42. What is the answer to life, the universe, and everything?  (Hint: the only correct answer to this question is 42.)

43. Before we finish, what question do you wish I had asked, but didn’t?

Thanks for your time, good luck, and I hope to hear from you soon! -Rob

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