A few weeks ago we were asked to talk with a group of high school students here in Denver about the process and experience of interviewing people. The presentation was related to the final assignment for the unit the students were working on. They were to pick a topic related to some pretty heavy stuff they were studying: US History through ethnic conflict with a focus on four major conflicts: political ideology, the Middle East, immigration and institutionalized racism. They were then to find someone related to that topic and interview them. No small task given only a few weeks to conceptualize and complete! During the presentation we talked about what makes a successful interview based on our experiences while making a documentary and Polly’s background in print/web journalism. We started with the need to do research on both the topic and the interview subject. We emphasized that the interviewer needs to have enough command of the topic to ask intelligent questions during the interview and know enough about the interviewee to ask questions they would know the answers to. We also stressed that every interaction leading up to, including the interview, and afterwards are opportunities to develop rapport and trust with the subject. And finally, we talked about strategies for helping the students and the interview subjects feel at ease during the interview. Things like being prepared, breathing exercises, smiling, asking simple questions first before moving into harder questions. One student wanted to use the topic of the reaction to police brutality by professional athletes. He had thought of reaching out to some big name athletes but he said he didn’t think it was worth it because “they will never want to talk to me.” We advised him that you never know what someone will say unless you ask. Someone very unexpected might be happy to speak with you. Days later we experienced this ourselves. During the process of making our documentary Seeking Solutions: Immigration, we have needed to reach out to experts we do not know personally. So basically we are cold calling and asking for up to an hour of people’s time. So far we have found that about 40% of the people we reach out to never reply to our requests. The next 15% reply with either a “no” or saying that the next time they are available is so far in the future that it wasn’t feasible for us given our travel plans. The last 35% of potential subjects say “yes”. So the lesson learned is that you need to ask at least twice as many people to appear on camera as you need. But also we had no idea who would say “yes.” Following the advice we gave to the students, we reached out to four subjects recently, at least two of whom we considered long shots that would not agree to interviews. True to the statistics above, two have not replied, one we are still conversing with, and the fourth, who we figured was the longest shot, wrote back within 10 minutes of our initial email and within 30 minutes we had a date, time and location set for the following week. The date was yesterday when we had a fantastic interview with the former Governor of Colorado, Richard Lamm. He has written several books and articles, and been interviewed countless time by local and national journalists on a wide range of subjects including immigration. We were grateful that he took time out of his life to speak with us.
We felt the interview helped us live up to our goal to find people with a range of viewpoints. The interview touched on many subjects we had spoken to others about but he offered a fresh twist and perspective, and brought several new angles to the discussion. Overall, this interview, like the others we have conducted, demonstrated just how complex this issue of immigration, with so many variables that need to be balanced.
We are grateful to Gov. Lamm and everyone else who has trusted us to present their point of view in the documentary.
One of our last stops on the way home was at the Hidden Haven Farms in Tennessee. I could not resist following some of the animals around for awhile. So as promised, here is a short video of all the goings on.
Current Location: Evergreen, Colorado High Temperature since last post: 80F in Pueblo, Colorado Low Temperature since last post: 30F in Evergreen, Colorado Most Striking event since last post: Mountains!
After 9 weeks we are back in Colorado amongst our Beloved Community of Family and Friends in the Rocky Mountains. The end of a long journey is often met with a mix of emotions: relief, satisfaction, sadness, joy, wonder. And this trip is no different. We are tired from traveling over 8000 miles across 20 states and 4 Canadian provinces. And we’re happy to be able to rest in one place for a while.
We’re grateful that the trip was completed safely and with relatively few crises. And we’re pleased with the footage we have so far. But sad that the adventure has come to an end. That being said, we are looking forward to the comparatively short trips needed to finish the interviews for the documentary.
The simple pleasures of cooking for ourselves and our generous hosts is a delight. Plus as we travel around the Denver area, it is nice to not need GPS for every turn.
We missed fall somehow. It seemed like everywhere we were traveling, the trees were just starting to change color, but now that we are in the Mountains the snow is falling!
We have a couple more overview videos from the trip that we will post soon, and will continue providing updates on the progress of the documentary.
Speaking of which, we’d be remiss not to mention a last call to support our funding campaign, which concludes Friday, November 2. We’re pleased to have received the support of 32 backers. By donating now, you will get continuing updates delivered to you by email, get a digital or DVD version of the film, and other perks depending on your donation level.
Current location: Little Rock, Arkansas High Temperature since last post: 75F in NYC Low Temperature since last post: 42F in Montgomery, Alabama Most striking juxtaposition since last post: The Dexter Street Church where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was the Pastor for five years, just a block away from the Alabama state capitol building. Over the years, state government buildings have been built up around the church building. The church’s historical building status protects it from being redeveloped. To us it now stands as a physical representation of the importance of speaking truth to power.
Since our last post, we had a chance to explore Baltimore with Tom & Nettie, have dinner with Susan and Greg, and get in a football game and one last sail with David and Esther in Annapolis and St. Michael’s.
After finishing up some interviews, we headed into the South. We were able to visit Laura and her farm animals outside of Chattanooga TN, and see a bit of the surrounding area. Video compilation of that adventure coming soon!
As mentioned above, we took the opportunity to embark on a civil rights tour of the south focusing on Atlanta, Georgia and Montgomery and Birmingham, Alabama. This leg of the trip was inspirational in multiple ways. We saw evidence of how much progress this country has made on civil rights but also saw examples of how deep the wounds of white supremacy are, and how much work is left to do.
The King Center in Atlanta was very moving, as was having the opportunity to visit both the Ebenezer Baptist Church and Dexter Street King Memorial Church, where Dr. King preached and protestors gathered.
The Equal Justice Initiative’s thought-provoking Legacy Museum and devastating National Memorial to Peace and Justice were to us the most effective at conveying the history of civil rights work, and the legacy of racist structures in the current system of mass incarceration.
We’re thrilled to announce some amazing news. This spring, following the work we did with American Friends Service Committee to create a website, and record and edit interviews with each of the women in Sanctuary in Colorado, we received an invitation to meet with a group of filmmakers all of whom were working on films around the sanctuary movement. Adrian was able to attend the “Sanctuary Media Makers Collaborative.” He had an amazing few days in June meeting with filmmakers in Detroit, Michigan at the Allied Media Conference, sharing experiences, ideas and resources. We are grateful to the AMC for finding space for us to meet, to the Ford Foundation for covering travel expenses, and to Auburn Seminary for connecting all of us.
Deciding to continue collaborating together, the group of filmmakers submitted two proposals to the South By Southwest festival (SXSW) to present panel discussions. And we can now report that one of those panels was selected to be part of SXSW 2019! Adrian will be participating along with Pilar Timpane, Theo Rigby, and Allison Week in a panel discussion titled “Documenting Faith Based Social Movements.” The panel will be part of the Social & Global Impact track. The SXSW festival takes place March 8-13, 2019. If anyone is planning on going to SXSW or will be in Austin, Texas at that time, both of us will be attending and we would love to meet with you then. We are humbled by this opportunity to share and learn, and will be posting more about the panel and event in the coming months.
We have reached an exciting milestone for our documentary project: Five interviews completed with four organizations in three cities over the past two weeks. We filmed interviews in Easton, Maryland; New York City; and Washington DC. Thank you so much to Matthew, Estela, Ravi, John, and Hannah for taking time out of their busy schedules to meet with us.
As hoped, each individual provided unique viewpoints on potential paths forward for immigration policy in the United States. Most of them were recommended to us from supporters like you, we are always open to connections and recommendations for interview subjects. We’d also like to offer a big shout out to everyone who has helped support us along the way in big and small ways: from a random stranger in NYC who showed Adrian that his metro pass was backwards, to friends and family who let us crash with them for a night or two, and everyone who has contributed to our crowdfunding campaign. Projects like this are always a team effort, and we could not be doing this without the help we have received from each and everyone of you. We will now begin to work our way back West, and more interviews are in the works. We will keep you posted right here as things progress. Also stay tuned for an exciting announcement about an upcoming event!
Current location: Baltimore, Maryland High Temperature since last post: 85F in Lancaster, Pennsylvania Low Temperature since last post: 3C in New Brunswick, Canada Craziest sighting since last post: Standing in a parking spot with some friends while waiting for Polly to make a U-turn and park where we were standing. I am told this is a normal activity in NYC. We spent several days in New York City for a few days meeting with clients and friends. Thank you to Sarah at the Auburn Institute for meeting for lunch. And thanks to our hosts, Walker, Sona, Zadie, Aine, and Farai.
New York City was fascinating, loud and crowded as always, and a little overwhelming after the quiet of camping and cottages in Canada.
We recovered with a couple of nights with Quakers: a night in Brenda and Allen’s “tree house,” and another in Martha and Lynn’s new community.
Here in Baltimore, we’re staying with Julie and family today, then tomorrow with Tom and Nettie. Hope to visit a Quaker Meeting tomorrow. We’ve been able to resolve a concerning rattle in the car that we could hear while turning at low speeds. Turns out it was a Canadian rock stuck in the brakes!
Monday we head further south to Saint Michael’s, Maryland and the Washington, DC area, where we have interviews scheduled. We will return briefly to New York for an interview on Thursday.
So the documentary is gaining speed! Thanks again to all who have supported our crowdfunding campaign, and everyone who has spread the word about the project and provided us with contacts.
What does it take to conduct a successful interview for a documentary film or corporate video? Well, many things. For this post, let’s talk about the most impactful things to think about in terms of location and dress. When filming in a location that is not a studio, it is best to find a location that is free of unwanted atmospheric noises, like street noises, unrelated conversations, copiers, coffee makers etc. If at all possible, turn off the HVAC in the room during the interview. As far as lighting goes, fluorescent lights generally provide very poor lighting, and sometimes hum, so are best turned off. North-facing windows provide good soft natural light so if you want to use available light make a great choice. But for the most control of the lighting, turn off all lights and close the blinds and curtains, and bring a good set of lights. Finally, remember to unplug any phones and set mobile phones to silent and activate airplane mode. As for what to sit on, use a chair or stool that doesn’t squeak, creak, roll, or recline. If the interview is short enough, standing is a good option too. The last big thing to think about is what the subject should wear. A shirt of solid color is best, or large patterns (typical flannel patterns are fine). Small stripes or other small repetitive color patterns like a herringbone can create visually distracting effects so they are best avoided. Cloth textures like waffle weaves or denim are most likely ok, it really is the color patterns to worry about. A shirt with a collar is helpful to attach a small microphone. If there is a plan to use a green screen then on-screen subjects must not wear any shade of green (or blue if the screen is blue). One last consideration is avoid any obvious third party logos being visible on the clothing (Nike Swoosh on breast pocket of shirt for example). Most likely, the filming will be from the waist up, so pants, skirts, etc. are not a big consideration, but if they will be in the shot, the same ideas apply. There are lots of other details to pay attention to, but these are the must haves. Good luck on your next shoot!
Below is a video of some of the beautiful sights we saw in three of the four maritime provinces of Canada (Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island) plus Quebec.
Adrian writes: There is a rugged beauty to the maritime provinces, and the lure of the ocean is very strong. But given the number of monuments to fisherman (and women) lost at sea, these waters are clearly not to be taken lightly. The resemblance to the English countryside is very obvious to me and I see where Nova Scotia gets its name (New Scotland). Following the St. Laurence River upstream, we went to Quebec City and Montreal. Both are incredibly European cities and would make great vacations spots without going all the way to Europe. For those of you who don’t know, Quebec is the French-speaking part of Canada. I noticed that everywhere in Canada, almost everything is bilingual English and French. In Quebec everything is in French and occasionally you can find a menu in english. I won’t draw any conclusions or judgements from this but it is just an observation.
The crowdfunder for Immigration: Seeking Solutions just passed the 33% mark toward our goal of raising funds for post-production. We’d love your support at any level.
We will provide another update on our travels and the documentary soon.
Current location: Truro, Nova Scotia Canada (eh) Temperature: 72F, 22C Craziest sighting since last post: A truck coming at us on a narrow one-way cobblestone street in downtown Boston. Adrian had heard stories about how difficult driving in Bean Town is, and they were all gross understatements. Since last post we have driven 1291miles across two states (Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Maine), across an international border, and two Canadian provinces: New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia.
We have experienced so much in the past week. First off, we now know there are two cities for which Google Maps is really terrible: Boston and Halifax. In both cities, directions were given that were absolutely not legal or possible to follow and regularly given just dumb or dangerous suggestions. But good teamwork got us out of both safely!
On the way to Boston, we visited with Shane, then Ravi, Sonia and family in Milton, and Ma’ayan in Somerville.
We also caught a Red Sox game! Adrian has always wanted to see Fenway Park, so it was a happy chance that they were in town. Fun factoid, did you know that if someone manages to hit a home run over the Green Monster and the ball bounces off the lights and lands on the field it is still a home run? We experienced this first hand at the game!
We then headed north and crossed the border, where we had a unexpectedly pleasant conversation with the Canadian Border guard. We camped for several nights along the Bay of Fundy, and the shores of Nova Scotia. This is a place Polly had been before and as always, was overwhelmed by beauty.
We also saw four Bald Eagles from fairly close up, more than either of us has seen in the US in our whole lives. But we did not even have a phone available for any of them — how unprofessional! This trip is not just beautiful sunsets. Last Friday, we launched the crowdfunding campaign for our documentary. Big thank you to those who have supported us so far! We will continue to update progress in upcoming posts. We are also hard at work scheduling interviews for the documentary. One intriguing conversation we’ve confirmed is with an immigration lawyer on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. One thought-provoking conversation we had was with an old film buddy of Polly’s in Halifax. Sadly he said that he was uncomfortable with the idea of traveling to the US due to reports of increased issues with Immigration, especially ICE.
We are heading to Prince Edward Island in the morning, and then on to Quebec. Look for another update next week!