If you were to ask a complete stranger what they find easier to produce--a movie or a documentary--I'm pretty sure they would go with the documentary. At least that's what I thought, until I went through the process of making one.
After about three weeks of working on our documentary, Andrea and I have made quite some progress; we've finished our outline, are in the process of finishing our script, and filming of our footage. Nonetheless, we still have a long way to go!
One of the biggest CHALLENGES I've faced has been keeping up with all of the necessary planning. By this, I mean planning not only what we are going to do when, but where we are planning to film, how we plan on getting
there, who we are going to interview, when were planning to contact them, what questions we're planning to ask them, etc. Although failure can't be anticipated--and shouldn't-- because one learns from it, by planning carefully you can avoid making unnecessary mistakes.
A second challenge we've experienced has been gathering valuable footage. For the most part, when you don't know the person you're interviewing, it's hard to tell them to speak louder or to move to the left; it's hard to have them genuinely share their story with you because 1) they don't know you 2) they have a camera in front of them. Thus, despite having an image in my mind of what I picture our documentary to look like, after every interview I find myself modifying that picture accordingly.
In a movie, you can hand the actors a script to memorize and write a detailed storyboard to go with it. In a documentary, however, you have no set "script", and both your story and the concept of your documentary can change drastically based on the interviews you've done and the information you've received.
For instance, last Wednesday we went to interview some of our clients. I was expecting these interviews to turn out great, but they turned out to be the complete opposite. The client would barely talk, and he would speak at such a low tone that it was impossible to understand him. That same Wednesday we went to interview the SBS, Superintendencia de Banca, Seguros, y AFP. When we got there, they told us that we wouldn’t be able to film--just record--and that we couldn’t take our laptops with us. Plus, the guy we interviewed was so knowledgeable about micro credit lending that he spoke with terms that were hard for Andrea and I to understand, and that would
definitely be hard for our audience to understand.
When you're in situations like these, it's not as simple as calling to set up another appointment with a different person, or asking your interviewee to speak louder after already having asked him twice. Or maybe it is, but it definitely requires some personality to do so, and to be completely honest, one of the things Andrea and I fear is that we are asking for “too much” from our interviewee’s.
On the other hand, one of our SUCCESSES has been finding several people—and the right people—to interview. So far we’ve had interviews with the CEO of Mibanco, the SBS, Banco Financiero, a professor from UBC and from the Universidad de Piura, and eight clients! We are still hoping to interview a Caja Municipal. By doing so, we would be getting the perspective of all the entities involved in giving micro credit loans.
A second SUCCESS we’ve had, but something we’ve really struggled with at the same time was remaining unbiased. I began this project with the mindset that micro credit lending was very effective, therefore, in the first interviews we conducted I only looked out for the “positive” remarks made by the interviewee and subconsciously blocked out the negative. This came across in our script because we were trying to do every possible thing to create a story where micro credit lending appeared to be “perfect”. But it’s not, and that is equally as important to mention as the advantages it poses. Why? Because it makes your documentary credible and allows your audience to form their own conclusions regarding the effectiveness of micro credit loans in Peru.
At this point, I feel that everything is pretty much coming together, but there were definitely times when I felt they were falling apart. One of these was on Wednesday, when we took the morning off to film one of the parts of our video.
Francisca, my maid, talked about her experience receiving a micro credit loan. But she had never really received a loan before, so we had asked her to pretend like she had, and in a way made her invent her own story. This sounds really wrong, and now that I think about it, it was, especially because a documentary is all about maintaining a realistic point of view, but like I said, Andrea and I were glued to portraying this perfect world of microcredit lending, and we felt that the only way of doing this was by including this “invented” story. When we told Mr. Topf about what we had filmed, he made us realize that inventing this story means that we would most likely lose credibility; he was completely right. This also meant, however, that we had put 3 hours of filming time to waste and that we had to re-do our script. I was definitely frustrated, but together with Andrea we decided to sit down and “re- think” our project. This gave us a “fresh” look on our documentary and it made us realize the importance of remaining UNBIASED.
As I mentioned at the beginning, although we still have a long way to go, our documentary is finally coming together. We’ve filmed a lot of the necessary footage, and we have a strong script to use as a base for the remaining filming and editing of our film. Now, it’s a matter of gathering all of our research and footage to create a story from the multiple stories we’ve heard. It’s like
putting together the pieces of a puzzle. Some pieces will be hard to place, but with all the border pieces--in this case the script--we have the base to fill in the rest of the puzzle.
Through each interview that we conduct I get more of my questions answered, but I also form new ones. Some of the things I’m still wondering are:
Are the banks only incentive to give microcredit loans money? Is the economic growth brought forth by microcredit lending sustainable? What can be done to make microcredit loans available to the poorest people in Peru’s population, not just those who can afford to start a business for 6 months?