Stuff’s celebrity Zoom interviews entertain audiences during pandemic lockdown

By Dawn McMullan


Dallas, Texas, United States

Stuff’s “Inside My Bubble” video series uses Zoom to go inside the home/makeshift offices of some well-known New Zealanders during the pandemic. From concept to the first completed episode took three days. 

Carol Hirschfeld is head of video/audio and content partnerships at Stuff. She shares how the series came about and how it’s going a few weeks in. 

Carol Hirschfeld, head of video/audio and content partnerships at Stuff, conducts interviews for "Inside My Bubble" via Zoom.
Carol Hirschfeld, head of video/audio and content partnerships at Stuff, conducts interviews for "Inside My Bubble" via Zoom.

INMA: How did the “Inside My Bubble” idea come about? And how long did it take from idea to the first episode?  

Hirschfeld: New Zealand’s lockdown started on Wednesday, March 25. After the first two days of reporting reactively to the unprecedented conditions the country was experiencing, Stuff’s editorial director, Mark Stevens, started asking for ideas on how to use video to interact with our audience who were now captive at home. Video Editor Alex Liu suggested Zoom could be a good way for us to make a quick and effective connection so I started experimenting. 

We came up with a format to turn our daily quiz into a Zoom recorded video starring Stuff readers who wanted to take the quiz on camera. A video interview format seemed like another way we could interact well with the home crowd. So our video team (of four) had a short brainstorm session, agreed upon a name, and then set about trying to get interview subjects. 

The concept was basically a feel-good video Web series talking to well-known New Zealanders here and overseas on how they were coping with life in lockdown. I commissioned some graphics and had the first episode done within three days.

INMA: What are the goals with “Inside My Bubble?” What response have you gotten from the audience? 

Hirschfeld: My aim with the series was to keep people connected and show how deeply yet uniquely everybody has been affected by the lockdown. What quickly emerged through the conversations I was having with a whole range of people — actors, musicians, top athletes, scientists, politicians — was the extraordinary resilience humans show in the face of adverse circumstances. The traffic tells us the audience are really enjoying hearing these interviews because I think because they allow an intimate glimpse into someone’s life during these very strange times. 

New Zealand actor actor Robyn Malcolm was featured in episode three of "Inside My Bubble."
New Zealand actor actor Robyn Malcolm was featured in episode three of "Inside My Bubble."

INMA: How many episodes have you done? Who are some of the New Zealanders you’ve featured or plan to feature?  

Hirschfeld: I plan to have 14 episodes complete by the scheduled end of New Zealand’s four-week lockdown (Wednesday, April 22). We’ll essentially keep producing until the country moves out of Alert Level 4. The people we’ve spoken to so far include: actor Robyn Malcolm, heavyweight boxer Joseph Parker, nanotechnologist Dr. Michelle Dickinson, Hollywood stuntwoman Zoe Bell, music producer (to Lorde & Taylor Swift) Joel Little. 

INMA: How long does it take to create these 10-minute segments and how many people are on the team producing them? What are the challenges in doing the segments? 

Hirschfeld: Two colleagues help me secure our talent. They also help with scheduling and uploading to the platform. Otherwise I write the intros, question lines, and record the interview. I then use an Artificial Intelligence transcription service to get the bulk of the interview documented. I then correct the copy and do a paper edit for my editor, who is working remotely elsewhere in the country. Once a cut is ready, I check it and then write a synopsis and caption. We are then ready for publication. There have been some technology challenges, but I’ve decided perfectionism is the enemy of innovation. You just have keeping producing and work on make it better and better!

INMA: Have participants been eager to participate?  

Hirschfeld: Yes! That’s been very gratifying.

INMA: How have your and your team’s jobs changed during the pandemic?  

Hirschfeld: Yes. It’s been great to see everyone work in such an agile way. 

INMA: It seems these might be bright spots in your day, too. Are you enjoying the interviews? 

Hirschfeld: I love talking to the people I have. They’re so generous in sharing their experiences particularly as for some things have been pretty tough. I really hope the interviews can also help people remind people to support our creative/sporting communities. The future is very unpredictable for many in these sectors.

About Dawn McMullan

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