About two weeks ago, I organized the production of Life or Obama?, a film which focused on Notre Dame University’s invitation to have Obama speak at the school’s commencement.
From Friday to Sunday, I was on campus filming anti-abortion protesters, trucks with anti-Obama slogans next to graphic photos of aborted baby fetuses, and what came to be known as “the dead baby plane.” I interviewed individuals for and against the invitation, but my main goal was to get the story of the students, which I thought was not being told. Mitch Wenkus and Marcin Szocinski each were DPs and I directed.
I developed and finessed this idea for the film—that I would be illuminating how the campus had been transformed by a group of outsiders and the media. It was easy to get the outsiders because they were out in the open being led by their leader Randall Terry who was receiving extra help with publicity from Alan Keyes.
It was not surprising that the media did not really begin to interview or feature students who were not against the speech until days before. Students from the ND Response coalition that formed to oppose the invitation appeared on shows, but there were few reporters who ventured on to campus to ask students not involved in any responses what they thought.
I began to track the media a month and a half before the commencement speech was given. The number of stories being conducted dramatically increased a week before the speech. There were many segments on cable news networks that dealt with Obama’s upcoming Notre Dame Commencement speech and the protesters and bishops and priests who were against Obama speaking.
I followed the campaigns for and against the invitation to determine when and where to film, to create a schedule for production. The StopObamaNotreDame.org site and NDResponse.com both had schedules listing demonstrations that the public and the media could attend.
I was very impressed by the students grateful for those who agreed to let me arrange and plan in-depth interviews and thankful that students did not express disdain for my presence on campus.
All the ND students I interviewed who were outside the gates standing among the protesters with signs in support of the class of ’09 and Notre Dame or Obama were very cooperative and could not have been more receptive to the production I was attempting to complete.
I used a blog (Life Or Obama? on WordPress) and postings on Open Salon to promote the film and recount what happened on the day of Obama’s Commencement Speech at Notre Dame. My intent was to become a trusted authority for the Notre Dame story and if you look at how many of my Notre Dame posts were marked as “Editor’s Pick,” you can see how successful I was.
My film blog has an article on the protesters and my shooting experiences on Sunday, the day Obama spoke at Notre Dame's Commencement. For the most part, the crew strategy was to act like we were from a media organization because the campus was swarming with media.
I have not been able to view my footage. I do not have the equipment to watch the DV tapes which I recorded on. Because I have a computer that is not a Mac and that does not have a firewire, this project must be stalled.
From this point, I find out if I got a grant from Critical Encounters (this documentary was developed with the intention of being part of the “Fact & Faith” program next year). Also, I will consider the cost and value of getting anymore interviews to add to my documentary and conduct further research to finesse my story.
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