Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Access to Information

Access to information is quite commonplace in my world. I have access to libraries, book stores, televisions, smart phones, and the Internet. I’m so spoiled that not finding what I need is a shock.

When I first began research on Abandoned Allies, I naively assumed my usual methodologies would serve me well. Boy was I wrong.

One of my favorite things to do is visit a book store, grab a stack of books, camp out for a few hours, and delve into a new subject. I’m in heaven when surrounded by books. The smell, weight, paper, and the information they contain is delightful. I can read for hours, but perhaps I’m revealing too much of my geekiness. The information I craved for Abandoned Allies, though, was nowhere to be found in any of the places I visited.

One store, for example, had a great section on the Vietnam War but only one of the books had one mention of the word Montagnard. Internet searches were fairly unproductive as well. I found information, but couldn't verify if it was reliable. The overwhelming lack of information from reliable resources has stuck with me.*

Tucked somewhere in the remote parts of my brain was my background in journalism. (Studying design, photography, marketing, and business took priority in more recent years.) My journalism teacher, Susan G. Wellborn, left quite an impression on me.

Wellie taught us about accurate and responsible reporting, research methods, interview techniques, and writing. (Lest I not forget that she also taught us how to have a sense of humor while doing such weighty things.) Working on Opus and Currents (our literary magazine and school newspaper, respectively) has served me well while working on Abandoned Allies.

Access to the information I desperately craved came not through my usual research methods but through the people helping with the project by sharing their experiences, personal photos, and the books they authored. Surry (my executive producer) had many of the books I needed to read, the majority of which were written by our cast members.

We have interviewed more than 20 people in the past three years, including the world’s leading experts on the subject matter at hand. While working on the film, I was granted the access I so desperately craved at the outset.
That purple things is supposed to be a bullhorn.
Because I have finally learned enough about this subject to be dangerous, I now long for the chance to share this information so it’s more easily accessible to those who crave it just as I did.

I want to disseminate what the experts have shared with me—through ways that add to what Abandoned Allies explores on screen. I have been so lucky to hear these stories and experiences firsthand, and have learned so much; I feel a great responsibility to share it.

The next step will be putting together a game plan for disseminating information. The possibilities are endless, but it takes time and resources to make this dream a reality. But first things first—finishing the film.

More thoughts on this will come later, I’m sure.

*Note: This information is incredibly hard for the general public to find quickly and easily. A number of people have dedicated their lives to documenting the Montagnard history and culture, and have done an excellent job at it. What I am describing is a lack of availability and access to this information by the general public--people who don't readily know the term or the subject matter experts. I want to make this available in many different arenas, for those who might have trouble finding it if they didn't know where to look.

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