Documentary is the art of taking a story from real life, and telling it in a manner that is creative yet retains truth.
A documentary can profile a person or group, describe a place or idea, or explore an issue in the community. Essentially, a documentary can be about anything! Everything has a story to it, you just have to search hard for the details. In order for a documentary to succeed, the story is reliant on an extensive research process. A total of 6 interviews were conducted for my own research with the addition of reading several secondary sources. Without the personal anecdotes and statistics I was able to dig up in the research phase, I would have been lost in the process of composing my film and research paper. And after awhile, the research becomes personal. The unique stories you find and the connections you make while researching allow you to take stand on a topic with a fresh, distinct perspective. Coming out of the narrative unit, this unit carried over our story-writing skills by emphasizing narrative-style journalism.
I chose to document youth, nicotine addiction. The idea sparked when we did a brainstorming exercise in English class. The class talked about how peers would smoke during school– and naturally, everyone laughed. I laughed too. Vaping has been turned into a joke by the internet. However, thanks to the internet, it is also given credit to how the vaping trend came to be cool. On the surface of the issue, it seems like half of teenagers are addicted to a device that looks like some USB stick, and the other half laughs at their friends for their inability to part from their “USB stick.” I took on this topic because I was intrigued as to why so many of my friends were addicted, and why if it was truly an addiction that people would take the issue in a light-hearted manner. In anticipation of the film, my peers and teacher expressed fear of our film (co-directed by Kate Ahrens and I) to be not taken seriously. Although I started my research on nicotine addiction with purely curiosity and only my pre-assumptions that nicotine addiction was a joke, the further I dug in my research, the more astounding the facts became. Nicotine addiction was just declared a vaping youth epidemic by the FDA in 2017. The further into the process of research, the more important it became for me to produce a documentary that was not facetious, but real and candid.
Looking back, I valued the real world experiences gained from this unit. Not only did it challenge my creative direction, but it taught me how to be effective in time management and communication skills. I learned that if I wanted to produce a good documentary, it wasn’t so much relying on my own writing or art skills, but rather how bold I’d be in taking steps to get the best interview and research content.
The Documentary Film
Hazy Truth: A Glimpse at Youth Vaping
Hazy Truth: Production
Before the Real One… Mockumentary
Before creating our real documentary, we practiced the art to filming a talking head. Important skills we learned were proper lighting for interviews, camera setup, and using audio recorders. I present you Dylan the bounty hunter and Katherine the vegan, who debate what truly constitutes the value of the wild, Mr. Florendo.
The Research Paper
The research paper speaks for itself. After all, it stands to be 10 pages long. I know the majority of people reading this will not want to read an additional 10 pages of writing. So in sum, here are the most significant takeaways:
1 FDA Commissioner states e-cigarette use is a youth vaping epidemic.
2 Juul has created a product to create new addiction, not to resolve old addiction.
3 The “Harm Reduction” debate in the context of vaping is… muddy. So is the research for how harmful they truly are.
4 Inconclusive research is a result of the FDA being lenient towards vape companies. The year the companies must submit to the FDA for regulation has been delayed multiple times, while the companies continue to operate and profit.
5 Juul has made over a billion dollar of profit. It is estimated employees receive over a million in bonuses.
“A disturbing and accelerating trajectory of [e-cigarette] use”
~FDA Commissioner Gottlieb