Jump to content
Sign in to follow this  
finnegan

local PBS doc

Recommended Posts

Here's a wierd question:

How does a filmmaker go about finding prisoners to interview for a documentary?

I'm currently a co-producer on a local PBS show about gang violence in our region. The producer seems to think it would be too difficult/dangerous to try to find actual gang members to interview. I said I'd like to at least try to find a way to interview one gang member or ex-gang member. Masking their identity on screen is no problem. But how am I supposed to find out who they are? Just walk into a prison and post a bulletin: "Hey! are you an ex-gang member? Would you like to be interviewed about it on TV? Then call this number!"

Somehow I just don't think that would work.

I'm thinking of asking the local DA if they know of anyone I could contact.

Suggestions?

Edited by finnegan

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

You could see if there are any Christian or non-profit organizations in your area that works in local prisons. Chances are, there is some church or individual in your area working with prisoners in this capacity. If you were to contact them, they could set you up with a prisoner that would be willing to talk to you. I spent a while working at such a ministry in Missouri and Illinois, and in those states it would not have been a problem to do this.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Here are a couple of websites to check out. They may direct you to a local chapter or organization.

http://www.pfm.org/

http://prisonministry.net/

http://www.kairosprisonministry.org/templa...lt.asp?id=23761

Also, you might want to contact the prison chaplan to see if he/she has the ability to get interviewees for you.

Are you looking in county jails as well?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks, MLeary and asher. I'll look into that.

Also, this particular gang is from El Salvador. Is the Salvadoran dialect so different from Mexican Spanish that we would need a Salvadoran translator?

Edited by finnegan

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Just an update: We interviewed the local Commonwealth's Attorney today, and she said she could find an incarcerated gang member who would be willing to go on record, provided we obscure his face and voice.

The producer and I agreed that it would be best to go the legal route to avoid any possible lawsuits (ie: if we interviewed somebody that CLAIMED to be a gang member but actually was not a member). Going through the prosecutors seems to be the way to go.

Also, we're finding that the Salvadoran gang is small in comparison with the "traditional" American gangs in this area, so the language is no longer an issue for us... Regardless of how much preproduction research you do, actually making a documentary blows your preconcieved notions out of the water.

Edited by finnegan

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks for the update. Sounds like things are moving along, so keep us posted.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

A brief update:

The producer quit a few months back. The project sat in limbo for a while and I picked up the pieces... The executive producer said he wants a "60 minutes/Frontline feel", so that's what I'm giving them. I had to start my research from scratch basically, because the former producers notes were inadequate. I've been interviewing sheriffs, community activists, victim's family members, gang members, etc.

All in all, I guess it's turning out ok. I still feel like I could have gone deeper into the political aspects of how the police tend to exaggerate the problem to get more money for the task forces, etc, but I only have 26 minutes to cover this complex topic, and I simply don't have the time.

So it's turning out to be a basic "report-style" show. I'm not even sure if it qualifies as documentary or extended news report... Either way, I'll be glad to move on to the next project: an in-depth look at the relationship between the Shenandoah Valley and Long Beach, Mississippi after Hurricaine Katrina.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Sign in to follow this  

×
×
  • Create New...