On-the-Ground Planning from a Visual Law Team Member

After a few weeks of tossing around ideas and debating about what kind of legal questions could be best answered on film, September 21 was the day when we all came together to discuss our final choice. Last week, we debated the top two suggestions via conference call, and we had until Sunday night to make up our minds and vote. It was a difficult decision, because both topics were really compelling. One of the key factors in our decision was for what kind of audience we are making the film. In the end, we ended up choosing to do a series of stories on racial profiling and its detrimental effect on minority communities, which we think will have a broader audience.

Tuesday was the day that we finally got off the ground. We brainstormed questions to ask, familiar news stories to investigate further, court cases to read, and experts to contact. We split up into three groups, one to focus on each topic: criminal justice, immigration, and national security. I signed up for the criminal justice group. I was initially interested in doing something on immigration, but when I was listening to another team member’s suggestions for stories in this area, I felt a bit like I could almost see the end product. So I followed my instincts and signed up for that film.

This weekend is Heavy Duty Research Weekend. I’m writing a memo on the legal aspects of racial profiling, while the other two members of this group pound the pavement looking for sources, both experts on the subject and also those who have been affected by it. This has been a bit difficult from my point of view, because I’ve been on my own doing the research, while trying to produce something that represents the direction of the entire team. I have been in touch with them tonight about some of my concerns regarding the first draft of the research memo, and received some helpful feedback.

Simultaneously, I’ve been trying to absorb all the work that they’re doing through update emails. The short amount of time we had to produce the memo and start on the pre-interviews made it reasonable to split the work up like this. Hopefully, they won’ t feel like they missed anything by not doing the research, and I will be able to keep up with everyone they pre-interviewed and what they found. The challenge will be for all of us to “own” both parts of the process, the research and what we can learn from our interviewees.

From both my research and the emails from my partners, I can see that we are going to have several expert voices. However, I am worried about finding the second type of source, the family who has been directly impacted by racial profiling. I can easily understand someone not wanting to talk to us – a few academics with a camera and a list of questions. But I also think that some people may want their story told. We just have to find them.

Speaking of cameras, we were supposed to get camera training on Tuesday, but we ran out of time, so that will have to wait for next week. As an amateur still photographer (undoubtedly prolific but debatably talented) I’m looking forward to learning about the technical side of filmmaking. In fact, I’m looking forward to the rest of the project in general. I’m terribly curious to see where it takes us, and how the film turns out.

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