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.
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.
You can learn more and be part of the campaign by going to the Indiegogo page. In the documentary we are asking: “What would a successful immigration system in the United States look like?” We are setting up interviews with people who have a range of points of view and experiences, to get a full spectrum of possible solutions, and to look for common ground among those solutions.
We welcome suggestions for people to talk to. We are paying for pre-production and production out of our own pocket, but we are raising money to make sure we can give this project the time and attention it needs to finish it up once we get back home.
Follow this blog for updates. You can also spread the word on social media with hashtag “#seekingsolutions.”
For the last couple of months, we have been working on creating videos for The People’s Resolution. We traveled to Mancos, Carbondale, Boulder and Denver to interview four women who have been living in sanctuary in four different faith communities. Here is the video encapsulating their effort:
We just finished up a fun project filming the Mile High Community Band’s jazz combo (The Combonians) as they rehearsed a few songs. The videos will be used to help market the band to venues and to attract new band members. I love jazz and am honored to have the opportunity to help spread the word of this uniquely American art form. Please take a few moments to enjoy these three jazz standards.