Tag Archives: interview

It’s easy to critique a good work; it’s difficult to create one

Have you ever considered yourself to be really good at something? Or can you recite your response to the cookie-cutter interview question, “What are your strongest qualities?” with little hesitation?

Typical answers include: I’m a good listener, I’m a leader, I’m super organized, etc.

For myself, I’ve always thought of myself as a pretty quick learner. However, over the last four days I’ve grown a little less confident in this assertion.

Don’t get me wrong. I have learned more in the last four days than I think I ever have in this  short amount of time. From working with cameras and filming short videos, to setting up interviews and evaluating models in life and the church — Words cannot describe how much I’ve gained so far from this experience.

It’s the kind of learning that challenges you to constantly think critically and creatively. We’re applying everything we’re learning as we learn it and therefore I’m immediately recognizing what I understand and what I need to work on. It has been a challenge, but it has also been one of the most effective ways of learning I’ve ever experienced.

Thorough watching various documentaries, we’ve witnessed what works and what doesn’t work when making a film. I’ve learned so much about the different elements of a camera and now words like aperture, shutter speed and ISO actually hold significance in my vocabulary. I’ve gained an understanding of what a good composition consists of, as well as good practices to remember when filming A and B-roll.

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Aly and Maria take a selfie while gathering footage.

I have a greater appreciation for filmmakers and photographers. It’s easy to critique a good work; it’s very difficult to create one. You need to constantly be alert to your surroundings. Looking for what would be good footage. Listening for a golden-nugget of a quote to use within your piece. Remembering to capture a variety of shots.

We’ve learned about how to lead an effective interview. What questions to ask, when to ask them and how to gather the information needed most efficiently. We’ve discussed the roll theology will play in this trip. The class looked at different paradigm-shifts that have happened in history and what impact these shifts had on society. We’ve worked to try and answer difficult questions like: What does church mean on a global scale? How do you address large issues like poverty and hunger?

Can you tell my thoughts are all over the place?

Over the past four days there has been a constant flow of ideas and information, followed by application and discussion. This has triggered a substantial amount of momentum as we take off for the border.

Channeling Barbara

We started our first day of filming with back-to-back-to-back interviews.

The night before, we sat in the social hall located between the Immaculate Conception Catholic Church and the Sunday school rooms that double as our sleeping quarters deciding people’s roles for the next day. People were volunteering for audio, video, and B roll. When it came time to decide the interviewers, Madeline and Claudia raised their hands to volunteer. Carol then needed a third interviewer for another priest we would meet the next day. My mind flashed back to our last reflection in Omaha about widening comfort zones as my hand shot up. “I can do it,” I told Carol.

What had I done?

I had planned on being an interviewer at some point in the week, but much later after I had a chance to see how these ordeals played out. Instead, I followed my impulse and became nervous immediately after I folded my arm back into my lap.

I fell asleep that night to the rhythm of Claudia’s snores while the guidelines for the interviewee preparation ran through my mind, “ignore the camera, eye contact, no reaction, pause, include the question in the answer.”

Usually, I like to have a good handle on what I’m doing and let’s just say I haven’t been perfecting any well-versed interview skills recently.

But the next day came and we took a short trip to the Lutheran Church to meet with Michelle Dewitt, a person who deals with community outreach in Bethel to talk about the environmental impact and the Native culture. We set up in the corner of the church with only natural light to create the Rembrandt lighting effect for our cameras. Claudia rocked her questions for the hour long interview only interrupted because of a few loud trucks driving by and low camera batteries.

We broke for lunch and then set up for a pair of interviews in the living room of the apartment above the church. Madeline and I had the same set of interview questions for adult faith formation leader, Patrick Tam, and Father Mark. Sitting in on Patrick Tam’s interview I got to know the set of the questions well so I felt more and more excited to have the chance to interview next.

Prepping for Fr. Mark's interview
Prepping for Fr. Mark’s interview

Once Patrick’s interview ended, I took one big calming breath and thought “What Would Barbara Do?” Barbara Walters would know her questions and be confident. I sat in the chair and less than one hour later stood up to shake Father Mark hand to thank him for his great thoughts and stories.

I felt satisfied that I had accomplished the goal of pushing myself out of my comfort zone. I found it rewarding talking with Father Mark about faith and culture and asking questions to further his explanations.  My hope is that I continue to push my journalistic skills on this trip and after I return home.

This was only day one of filming. Keep up with our progress throughout the week here on the blogs and on Twitter @cubackpack.

To be understood as to understand

Hello from the great state of Alaska! After 3 flights, 1 Cinnabon, and 2 hours of sleep later I stepped off the plane, onto the tarmac and faced the cold, Alaskan rain.

Today we woke up refreshed and were ready to tackle the 3 interviews ahead of us. I was lucky enough to give the first interview of the project. I spoke to Michelle DeWitt who is active in the Bethel community after running the Tundra Women’s Coalition. We were able to speak about some of the problems the region, like restrictions on salmon fishing, domestic violence, and institutional racism, as well as the possibility for solutions to these community stressors. While this was not the first interview I’ve ever given (Shoutout to the Creightonian for giving me some experience!) it was for sure my most intense. While interviewing I was reminded of some universal life lessons that can be learned from interviewing another person. Here are some of them:

Practicing my interview with my colleague, Tony.
Practicing my interview with my colleague, Tony.
  1. Listen- So often in our everyday, rushed conversation, speaking has the illusion of being transactional. While two people are often listening to bits of what the other person is saying, usually one is already thinking about what to say before the other is done speaking. In an interview, your next question hinges on the answer the person is giving. It becomes essential for you to quiet yourself and focus totally on the other person and what they are saying, they might bring up an aspect of the story you have not even considred. Sure I am tired and I am missing my friends (HI!), but it is so important to be present to the interview and the other person.
  2. Be vulnerable- Do you know how hard it is to hold eye contact with one person for an entire hour? Well for me, very. Eye contact is one of the most intimate things you can do with a person because it establishes a bond of emotional connectivity. In an interview, eye contact is important because you need to be connected to the person you are talking to and the subject you are talking about. However awkward it is, both parties must become vulnerable so that the person being interviewed feels comfortable and respected enough to delve into something serious.
  3. Be patient- Sometimes the world does not care that you are giving an interview. Dogs bark. Floors creak. Trucks beep. Refrigerators hum. It is up to you to take a deep breath and wait for the noise to stop or think of a way to get rid of the noise. It’s so easy to get frustrated  but instead you must solider  through for the greater goal of the story.

After finishing my hour-long interview I thought of the Peace Prayer of St. Francis in which we are reminded:

I may not so much seek

to be consoled as to console;

to be understood as to understand;

to be loved as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive

In interviewing you are placing yourself in a place of humility as you acknowledge that you want to learn from this other person. I hope that I maintain this sense of humility during my time in Bethel and that I am able to be receptive to the messages this community has for me.