Productions can be challenging.
But what do you do as an indie filmmaker when you want to do something that is extremely challenging? Which, in our case, was acquiring interviews of adulterers and cuckold spouses who come from different parts of the world.
So far for our documentary Discretion and Faith: The Global Cultures of Infidelity we have interviewed forty people from around the world. Half of our interviewees have been adulterers, who I must say are very brave for going on camera and admitting their indiscretions; and the other half of our on camera subjects consist of cuckold spouses and people whose live’s have been affected by infidelity in their unique country. (If you would like to check out more of the film, which is raising funds at the moment via Kickstarter you can view it here.
The rest of this article will be about our path to getting our interviewees. As this is a huge challenge, and unlike budgets, scheduling, screenwriting, casting actors, or hiring crew; there is next to nothing on how a documentary acquires its interviewees. Discretion and Faith will be an excellent example as it was a very challenging and throughout process for a documentary.
So, how does one find challenging interviewee subjects?
The short answer: its a list of a few traditional and non-traditional ingredients.
I feel the best way to explain this list is to show the real practical numbers from Discretion and Faith.
The first and most beneficial action to take, is to hire someone who does this for a living.
The first and most beneficial action to take, is to hire someone who does this for a living. (I have stated this twice because it is that important and twice as valuable as any other thing you can do).
In the case of our documentary, it was my immediate and first action. Also, I hired more than one producer to find interview subjects. (The norm for our other documentaries is usually to just hire one person) On Discretion and Faith, there were four producers searching for people over a period of six months.
Where did I find my producers?
Well, two of them were from reality television. (Such as the case of producer Gina Marks who locates interesting subjects for her shows)
The other two producers came from more traditional roles in the film industry. They were personal references from friends who work in the studio side of the movies; I asked around if anyone knew of producers who were outgoing and seemed to always be able to get people to spill there guts. (This approached paid off as there were more than a few adulterers who were on the fence about interviewing and I needed the producers to convince them into sitting down with us on camera).
So what did the producers do and how did they do it in the case of Discretion and Faith?
They first did outreach by posting on Facebook, blog sites, and emailing webmasters of relevant websites. (Such as sending out Facebook notices asking for people from different countries who just moved here; as well as monitoring relationship/infidelity/marriage message boards and querying potential interviewees… A side note, if you plan to query message boards, it is best if you are an active member of the community for quite a while before you start querying; one of our producers had an active relationship blog herself and it made her a trusted member of these communities).
Our producers would specify in these posts that we were looking for adulterers as well as interviewees who had recently moved to the country or were just visiting.
The outreach campaign accounted for nearly twenty interviews.
In addition to this I asked friends of friends if they knew of any people from different countries; and then subsequently asked those people if they knew of any adulterers from their country. This accounted for five of our interviews. I must mention that this approach is probably a lot easier and successful when one, such as myself, lives in Los Angeles and works in the film industry where there is a plethora of people from many different countries in the world.
Another approach we conducted was to post flyers in ethnic restaurants stating what the documentary was and if they would like to be filmed. This acquired about five people.
In addition, for a few countries that we were not having any luck acquiring interviewees from, the producers posted queries on acting and modeling websites. This equated to four subjects.
Finally I personally acquired interviews from meeting strangers at networking or party events (these events were geared towards new foreigners moving to the country and film premieres which usually harbinger a good share of foreigners) as well as approaching tourists on the street. This garnered the production six people.
That equates to our forty interviews, half of whom are adulterers. The whole process took over six months. I would say we talked to over a hundred potential interviewees and, as stated, less then half eventually decided to interview. It is a long and often times frustrating practice as you go back and forth with potential interviewees who don’t necessarily have a social benefit to be on camera. I do realize that as you read this article there is probably one main question that you are asking: ‘but I am making a documentary, I do not have any money to hire four producers to look for subjects for months on end.’
Well, you can always launch a Kickstarter as we have done to shoot the last of our interviews or you can barter equipment and services. (“come be a producer on my film and I will give you my camera and lighting package to shoot yours”).
Hopefully, this article helps your future documentary acquire interviewees or difficult subjects. It is definitely a ‘think out of the box’ process. You must recognize what would benefit someone to tell you, and consequently the world, their secrets. The telling of secrets was a big reason most of the adulterers went on camera, and once we realized this, it made the process of convincing the interviewees to go on camera much easier. Hopefully, once you have captured all of those secrets and personal information, you have made something that makes people say “oh, I have to see what that world is all about!”
If you have further questions about our process or how it can help you feel free to send me an email.
ABOUT THE DIRECTOR/PRODUCERS:
MICHAEL LAPOINTE (DIRECTOR)
Michael Lapointe is an owner of an innovative production company at the convergence of filmmaking and branding for commercial and non-profit purposes. An uber-nerd, Michael writes scientific based video game journalism, develops AR apps and tackles comprehensive documentary subjects. His media clients have included MTV, ABC, SciFi Channel, Lionsgate, as well as others.
GINA MARKS (PRODUCER)
Gina Marks is a producer for reality television and documentary film. She has produced projects and shows for ABC, Lifetime, TLC as well as others. In her spare time she organizes adoptions of rescued animals and coordinates The Moth storyslams.
PANDORA KAN (PRODUCER OF DIGITAL MARKETING)
Pandora Kan is a producer for independent and documentary films. She has worked on digital projects for “Ghost Whisperer” (Season 5) and webisode “The Other Side (IV).” She also contributed to digital media content for Slam Media Internet, shows included: “Live With Regis and Kelly,” “Legend of the Seeker” and WETV.com. She continues to creatively promote on-line content for independent films and documentaries.
NATALIE SIMPKINS (PRODUCER)
Moving to LA from London to pursue her career in Film Making,
Natalie Simpkins has had the opportunity to work with a number of talented
producers such as Scott Rosenfelt, Rob Minkoff and the late Laura
Ziskin. Her recent Shorts have won “Best Short” Internationally and
her work has just been accepted to be screened at the Grauman Theatre for Hollyshorts.