Usually, depending on the person, I tell them that I want to start with their childhood and their youth. That surprises people.
But there are a number of reasons for that. The long-term reason is that I’m looking for tie-ins in their adult life. But the psychological thing about that, is that it’s a good way to start talking comfortably: usually about a childhood which has been stimulating or happy. It wouldn’t be a good idea if the childhood was traumatic. But it’s a good way of establishing their life with parents and school and so forth.
And time and time again, late in the interview we’ve found a situation where the interviewee has said “my goodness”. and I’ve been able to say “does that remind you of anything?”
And they’ve said “it reminds me of how when I was nine years of age, I used to sit with my father in the radio shack at the bottom of the garden while he, as a ham radio fellow, twiddled the dials. And for the first time in my life I heard the voices from another world – in another language.”
And then he was able to go back and say “that’s probably got something to do with the fact that one of the first things I did in this job was to create a series of foreign language movies.”
And so it’s not entirely fanciful – the idea of talking about youth.