interviews

Q&A with NYFA Alumnus: Adrian Rodriguez

 

Princess2

New York Film Academy alumnus Adrian Rodriguez has been hitting the festival pavement with three new films, “Princess,” “43,” and “New Dawn.” He took some time off from collecting awards to sit down with NYFA correspondent, Joelle Smith, to discuss how he’s building his career, his art, and what’s next on his to-do list.

Joelle: Tell us about your latest projects.

Rodriguez: I have directed three award-winning short films in the last two years:

“New Dawn,” won Best Director at To the Point Short Film Festival and at the Direct Online Film Festival. It won Best Short Film at WorldFest International Film Festival:  “Short Film narrating the mystical time-traveling journey of Ocelot, the Aztec Jaguar Warrior.”

“43” won an award at Feel the Reel Film Festival. It was an Official Selection at Move Me Production Film Festival and London Rolling Film Festival: “Julian and Marcos are part of the 43 students that have gone missing in Ayotzinapa, Mexico. Gonzalez, leader of thepolice, threatens their lives”.

“Princess” won an award at the Hollywood Boulevard Film Festival, Hollywood International Film Festival, Los Angeles Cine Fests, and the Move Me Productions Film Festival. Recently, “Princess” was a strong nominee for the “Best of the Best” at Fest Forums Film Festival in Santa Barbara, CA: “Princess is a young good-looking prostitute who works for a man who cares dearly for her. Princess, however, plans to kill him and leave the street business for good.”

Joelle: What was your process for applying to film festivals? Were you surprised by the outcome?

Rodriguez: The process wasn’t about just applying, it was selecting the most adequate film festivals for each of the short films. Target the right market. Platforms such as FilmFreeway and Without a Box are the best for submitting. I was certainly surprised by the outcome. Never expected for my films to win awards.

Joelle: What have you learned in the process of making these three films?

Rodriguez:  Filmmaking is a beautifully complicated process from concept development to post-production. However, the one thing that I have learned is that a great film can be done with a small budget. All it takes is a great narrative, highly talented filmmakers, and a dedicated cast.

Nuevo Amanecer

Joelle: Where does your inspiration come from?

Rodriguez:  Life experiences. Traveling. Understanding where do you come from and more importantly what do you want to communicate to those who see your films. Cinema is a language, and such language must have an aftermath meaning — a prestige.

Joelle: What are you hoping to achieve in the next five years?

Rodriguez: My aim is to finish my first feature film. Consolidate a financial deal to acquire the necessary resources and finally initiate the pre-production process. Plus, I hope that one of my films, if not all, get recognized internationally winning a strong award in film festivals such as Venice Film Festival, Cannes or Sundance.

We at the New York Film Academy would like to thank Adrian for sitting down to talk with us, and congratulate him on all of his success!

How To Nail An Interview As A News Reporter

Broadcast Journalist Gabriela Naplatanova interviews on camera

As a journalism student, you’ve probably learned a lot of different techniques for interviewing people. Being open and friendly, putting the interviewee at ease, asking the important questions even if they’re difficult—these are all good tips. But not every technique works in every situation. It’s important to learn how to quickly size up a situation—and a person—so you can determine the best way to proceed.

Watch Body Language

Depending on the situation, your subject may be open and friendly, or closed-off and uncommunicative. Sometimes body language is easy to read, but some individuals have great poker faces.

In general, you should watch for abrupt changes in body language. A person who suddenly breaks eye contact or looks away may be hiding something. If possible, you should try to make small talk about things unrelated to the interview’s topic for a few minutes before getting down to business. This lets you see what gestures, facial expressions, and tone and pitch of voice are normal for the interviewee, so you can be aware if there’s a big change.

Breaking the Ice is a Good Idea for Other Reasons, Too

Aside from granting more insight into the individual’s normal body language, chitchat can have other benefits. You may not always have time to talk about the weather or your subject’s favorite sports team, but if you do, it’s usually time well spent. Chatting about something relatively inconsequential can help put the subject at ease. It also allows you to establish rapport, and helps the subject see you as a human being rather than a scary person with a camera.

You don’t have to stick to the weather—in fact, it’s best if you can talk about something the subject finds interesting. Look around the person’s office or home for clues—sports memorabilia, movie posters, etc. People often open up when you ask about subjects that most interest them. Once they feel comfortable with you, it will be much easier to quiz them about other topics.

Again, it’s important to read the situation. If your subject seems impatient, answers all your small-talk questions with one-word answers, or suggests that he or she is in a hurry, it’s probably best to move on to the actual interview.

What If the Subject Doesn’t Want to Open Up?

What do you do when the individual at the center of a big news story won’t talk to you? Continuing to badger the person is generally a bad idea. The more you irritate people, the less they’re going to want to talk to you.

Instead, interview other involved parties. Keep going until you find someone close to the story who’s willing to talk—an employee, a friend, a coworker, etc. However, you should remember that people willing to talk to you about a big scandal may have an ax to grind, so it’s essential to fact-check their answers.

After you’ve spoken to others, another technique is to tell the person you really want to interview that you’d like their comments on X thing that Y said. Be specific enough to concern them, but vague enough that they have to ask you for clarification. For example: “I know you said you didn’t want to talk to the media about this issue, and I respect that, but I’d like to give you the chance to respond to your assistant Bob Jones’ comments about your campaign funding sources. If you’re interested in telling your side of the story, call me at….”

A word of caution: Don’t tell subjects you’re going to help rehab their image or make them look good—that’s a lawsuit waiting to happen, not to mention highly unethical and an example of media bias. As a reporter, your goal is to find and report the truth in the most unbiased way possible.

Do assure the subject that you want to examine both sides of the story. This may discourage people who are hiding something from granting an interview, but it can also get great stories out of people who are simply scared or feel they haven’t been accurately portrayed by the media. You can’t/shouldn’t promise someone good publicity, but you can assure the person you’ll make every effort to quote him or her accurately (which is something you should do anyway).

Asking the Hard Questions

Sometimes it can be intimidating to ask an interview subject, especially a powerful or well-known individual, difficult questions, especially ones that involve allegations of illegal or unethical behavior. Even if you don’t feel intimidated, it’s important to tread carefully—your boss will not be happy if you start making baseless accusations and ticking people off.

Here are some tips:

  • Prepare for the interview by thoroughly checking out the information you’ve received, and considering the source. If at all possible, fact-check the story yourself. If you’ve received allegations about a criminal activity, ask the source if he or she has reported the crime, and if not, why? If the source isn’t available for comment, you may want to check with your station’s legal department or counsel, if it has one, before venturing further.
  • When you interview the subject, be specific and explain the source of your information. If it’s an anonymous source, say just that—it’s better than letting the subject think you’re just pulling ideas from thin air. “Mr. Mayor, we received an anonymous tip from someone claiming to be one of your campaign staffers. This person says you wrote checks out of the campaign fund for personal items, including a $500 barbecue for your backyard. How do you respond to that?”
  • Don’t argue with the subject or accuse him or her of lying. Do reiterate what the person said and ask if you’re understanding the answer. “So you’re saying that you never purchased a $500 barbecue out of your campaign account? Is that right?”
  • If you have evidence the person is lying, follow up with another question asking for clarification. “Then how do you explain this copy of a canceled check on your campaign account for $500 to Joe’s Barbecues? Is that your signature?”
  • Remain calm and professional, even if the subject gets angry and starts yelling. Never get angry and start yelling back. Simply repeat your question in a calm manner.
  • You may hear something along the lines of, “You’re trying to make me look bad!” A good comeback is, “I’m just trying to gather the facts. I asked you a simple yes-or-no question. Did you sign the check or not?”
  • But don’t apologize either. Your job is to ask questions. If the subject really doesn’t want to answer, he or she can simply say, “No comment.” Yelling at a reporter for asking a question makes the interviewee look bad, not you.
  • If someone tries to duck a question, there is nothing wrong with saying, “That’s not what I asked,” or “You didn’t answer my question.” Then repeat the question.g
Learn more about the School of Broadcast Journalism at the New York Film Academy by clicking here.

How To Edit An Interview For A Documentary

Author: Andrea Fumagalli, Documentary Alumnus, New York Film Academy

Learn more about the Documentary Filmmaking School at the New York Film Academy.

An interview with Phil Lamason for a documentary

Editing an interview is not always easy, but it can be a lot of fun.

The way I approach the task is to take it step by step; it might be a bit tedious at first, but it pays back in efficiency and creativity.

In the end, interviews are storytelling tools. One single interview can be used to tell a feature-length story, as well as many interviews to tell a one-minute story. Let’s just say, for simplicity’s sake, that I have to tell a short story based solely on one long interview. Where should I start?

First, I transcribe the interview. Yes, the whole thing.

It can be a time-consuming job, depending on the length of the interview and how fast one can type, but it allows me to rapidly find any sound-bite, at any given time, without having to listen to the entire interview again. I transcribe digitally, so it takes me a second to search the document for a keyword.

As I transcribe, I also take note of the timecode. I usually do it every paragraph, or at the end of each “thought” expressed by the interviewee. This way, once I choose a sound-bite from the transcript, I can quickly find it in the video. To speed up the process, I use this free software that automatically takes a note of the timecode every time I hit the return button on my keyboard.

After finishing the transcript, I usually take a quick coffee break and stretch my tired fingers. Then, I print out the transcript and go through it again, highlighting the paragraphs, sentences, and sound-bites that could help me tell a story. At this stage I purposely select more than I will actually use, creating a sort of foundation on which I can start building my edit.

Now the fun part begins: I get to “re-write” the story!

This doesn’t mean that I am going to tell a different story from the interviewee; I’m going to tell the same story, but differently.

First, I create a bone-structure of the narrative—beginning, middle, and end—rearranging the order of the interview clips that I had previously highlighted in my transcript. I usually do this “on paper” first, before re-creating it in my editing timeline.

Once I have the story lined up on the timeline, I watch it from beginning to end, looking for superfluous sound-bites. Basically, I ask myself: “How many sentences or words can I take out, and still tell the same story?” I am always pleasantly surprised by how much more powerful a story can become, once it is told in fewer words.

Now, if I have any visuals or “b-roll” that can enhance the story, I use them to cover the jump cuts. I always try to approach “b-roll” the same way I approach the interview; I want to tell a story with it and I would much rather keep a jump cut in, than cover it with a random piece of footage that doesn’t really fit.

I then work on the rhythm, extending or reducing pauses in between sentences or words, and adding music or sound effects if needed. Finally, I incorporate titles, graphics, and lower thirds.

Once I’m finished, I take another quick coffee break and rest my tired eyes.

Then I transcribe the next interview. Yes, the whole thing…