Last year, Arturo Perez won the Project Report contest for aspiring journalists. This year, he's back with a short documentary film called "Jerusalem: War in My Land," which is now playing in the Screening Room. Here, he discusses the intersection of citizen reporting and documentary filmmaking, winning contests on YouTube.
As a winner of Project Report, what advice would you give someone who's entering a YouTube contest for the first time?
Read the rules and be strict about following them. There's a reason why they exist. Then, (and most important) be creative and think outside the box. Try to go above and beyond what the contest is asking. You want to make something that will surprise the judges and that will immediately stand out.
With the advent of video, the line between citizen reporting and documentary filmmaking is becoming more blurred than ever. Can you talk a little bit about the differences and where you see this trending?
I agree. Everyone has a voice now. But this comes with responsibility for being balanced, fair and honest. Citizen reporters have to take this seriously. But how exciting is it that anyone with a compelling story can make a film now? Five to 10 years ago this would not be possible. I see citizen journalists playing a very important role in how we get our news and how important and compelling stories will be told.
What are the elements of a great piece of citizen reporting?
I think it’s the same elements that any good narrative or good doc have. A good character(s), a focused narrative and narrative device, and a unique story.
Can you tell us a bit about your process for getting the most from the subjects you interview?
Listen. Listen. Listen. Too many interviewers ask questions and don’t listen because they are worried about asking the next question. If you listen to your subjects and ask questions based on what they are saying, it will be much better, you’ll get good interviews. Also, smile. If you smile, you’ll make them feel at ease. Weird? Maybe. But it works.
What new opportunities do you see for young documentary filmmakers trying to establish their voice? What are the new challenges?
A young person right now doesn’t have to wait to raise money to tell a compelling story. They can just do it, and that’s very exciting. The challenges? It can seem like there are too many people trying to do the same thing and you can get discouraged. But you just have to work harder than anyone else, and trust that people will enjoy and feel moved by your work.