Trust (Addendum)

Trust (Addendum)

by added on 28 June 2015, No Comments on Trust (Addendum) , filed under Doc Notes, Sex Worker (research)

Prior to being interviewed, witnesses often ask me why I chose to document the topic.  If my experience doesn’t fit or match their own, they hesitate to participate out of fear that I’ll abuse their trust. This is particularly common with vulnerable witnesses regarding controversial issues where the public is poorly informed of the facts.

To fairly address this issue, I work with an open consent form that allows each witness to vet his or her interview before it’s made public. The probability that dozens of working hours (and dollars) could be trashed after the witness views the edit generates a tension during post production that would, otherwise, not exist in projects that use a closed consent. That is not to say my experiences (or lack thereof) are not present in my work; my point of view is present through my interview questions, and then later through structure, visuals, presentation and editing. 

During the sex work project, I was approached by witnesses who demanded I meet a criteria I could not.


First, several sex workers insisted (by protesting the project on Twitter and posting warnings on industry message boards) that only a sex worker could truthfully examine and document the lives of sex workers. Since I was not a sex worker I was deemed unqualified. Connecting to vulnerable witnesses on controversial issues does not demand I share their experiences because I use the interview process to find the empathetic trigger. If I was already empathetic, I could not effectively communicate with a disconnected viewer because I would not have been triggered, myself. 

Secondly, I was asked to remove research material from my online doc notes where I explored a dissenting view, else lose a resource of interviews from seasoned sex workers who were ready to interview, but only if I complied. Obviously, I refused. Ultimatums are for dictators not documentary filmmakers.

While the finished work has a point of view, it is not one that is either known or stated at the outset.  This process is reflected through an open consent, a vehicle that cedes control to the witness.  Ultimately, it is all I have to give. And not a morsel more.