In our latest, we catch up with 2019 duPont award winning director Alexandria Bombach about her latest film, “On Her Shoulders.” It’s an achingly beautiful 3-month snapshot of the life of activist and Yazidi genocide survivor, Nadia Murad. But it’s also a call to action for journalists and filmmakers, to think about the stories we tell, how we tell them and most importantly, why.
2019 duPont-winning Directors Trish Adlesic and Geeta Gandbhir interviewed 14 eloquent, emotional rape survivors for “I Am Evidence,” but only four women’s stories made it into the film. Tune in to this episode to hear about the painstaking choices they had to make as they navigated finding, selecting and telling these stories with honesty, integrity and care.
Director Bing Liu started making “Minding the Gap,” when he was 23-years-old. Now, six years later, he’s premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and snagged himself an Oscar nomination.
As the countdown to the Academy Awards begins, get a behind the scenes look at how Liu made the film, plus hear about some of his ethical dilemmas while filming. But before you listen, be warned. There will be spoilers.
“I think that fairness means that you are fairly representing the sides. That fair representation may be that one of the side’s arguments is bullshit.”
Roger Ailes founded Fox News, kicked off #MeToo, and helped elect Donald Trump. “It was about using Roger's story to try to make sense of where we were as a country...it gave us a point of entry to a difficult, complicated, national moment,” says Producer Will Cohen. In this episode of On Assignment, Cohen discusses navigating Fox News for access, the challenge of profiling a dead man, and how Ailes influenced the current media and political climate.
“RBG” Directors Julie Cohen and Betsy West plus Executive Producer Amy Entelis talk the power of optimism, the challenging rules for filming in the Supreme Court, and how RBG herself reacted to seeing the film for the first time in front of a sold out audience at Sundance.
When you spend 15 years on a story, you tend to get so close to your sources, they sometimes get jealous: “They felt as if I was in some ways cheating on them by talking with other people.” Lukas Prize winning author Isabel Wilkerson talks about how to navigate source relationships in her immersive book “The Warmth of Other Suns”.
“So a kid did scribble on a sidewalk. Is that technically vandalism? Sure. But is the best way to handle it really for the officer to arrest that kid?
As the new school year begins, a new On Assignment episode explores how schools across the country are disciplining students...by arresting them.
“If we think it's vital to the story we'll probably do whatever it takes to make it happen.” ABC15’s Dave Biscobing on his relentless, 2018 duPont-winning series that showed a self-described “advocacy” group was really “advocating” to put millions in their own pockets.
“Our stories in the end are (less) about sports - they're about power or culture or you know triumph over adversity or human rights. It is almost like a Trojan horse to get inside and then ask the human rights questions.”
“Going into Syria itself at the point where we started shooting was basically a suicide mission. Not so much the risks of combat, but the risk of being kidnapped, sold to ISIS and having your head cut off. So we were making a film about the Syrian civil war and we couldn't shoot in the Syrian civil war.”
Zoe Chace of This American Life and Michael Barbaro of The Daily speak about the rewards and challenges of making stories for audio, the "tyranny of the good talker," and the sense of intimacy that comes from the voice alone.
“The solution to this whole fake news crisis is not being sucked into it, and covering the story. What we don't want to do is do 'he said, she said' journalism. It's not very good for clicks though.”
“When we were in the back of a van crossing Hungary to Vienna, the driver was drunk and all the smugglers had AK-47s... and I remember my cousin looking at me like, I hope you're not filming. But I was secretly holding the camera.”
"Some people are like, 'Oh I love This American Life!' Those are usually the worst talkers because they're performing for their idea of what This American Life is."
Brian Knappenberger, director of the Netflix documentary Nobody Speak, came to the Journalism School for Q&A about press freedom, the tabloid industry, and the Hulk Hogan/Gawker scandal.
"There are a lot of people who now appreciate this kind of journalism in a way they took for granted five years ago. They recognize the need for a vital and active press in a time like this."
"For almost every one of these individuals, they're talking about things that happened yesterday for them, or that they will carry with them for many years to come."
"We always knew he was an absolutely deplorable person who had done horrible things to our nation. That being said, we wanted to really understand him."
NBC Anchor and Correspondent Kate Snow, who won a 2017 duPont-Columbia Award for her Dateline NBC report, “The Cosby Accusers Speak,” talks with On Assignment about her experience reporting on 27 of the women who accused Bill Cosby of sexual harassment and assault.
"When you do [a story] this big, it's really easy to get swept up into things. It's a rollercoaster that you kind of have to ride. There are really good times and there are really difficult times."
We spoke to Daniel Zwerdling, NPR journalist extraordinaire, who has spent years reporting on veterans’ rights. He spoke to us about the parallels between journalism and psychology, his best interview techniques, reporting short news stories versus year-long investigations of the government.
"I realized that I could approach telling the story by not focusing on a murder and a trial—I could talk about the history of Los Angeles, the history of OJ Simpson, who he really was, to help explain why everyone lost their minds."
Professor Betsy West spoke to filmmaker Nanfu Wang about her film "Hooligan Sparrow," which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2016. The film follows Ye Haiyan, more widely known as “Hooligan Sparrow," a Chinese activist protesting the case of six young girls who had been sexually abused by their school principal.
"[They had] no clue that what they were doing looked really bad."
"You have a mission to fulfill: to get your readers, listeners and viewers as close as possible to the verifiable truth. And you have promises to keep to your audiences, to yourself, and to one another.
"It's a puzzle I've honestly been thinking about for months: how do we present fact-based reporting to people who do not trust any of us in this room? Like, what do we need to invent to do that?"
The film tells the story of Saba, a Pakistani woman who survives an attempted honor killing at the hands of her father and uncle. The story takes an unexpected turn when she chooses to forgive the perpetrators.
"For me, it was a coming of age story. And the stakes were higher because Owen lives with Autism."
"One of the things that I heard was, “You want to write about black people too much"... Have you ever told a white journalist they're writing about white people too much?"
We speak to NBC journalist and J-School alum Monica Alba about covering the 2016 Hillary Clinton campaign. Hint: “Stamina” is the word of the episode.
"I think we are in the middle of one of the seismic shifts in the American media landscape."
"We use our power, as filmmakers, in the ways we want to use it. We do it for our own purposes."
"'If we know we could die, why do we keep doing it?' I didn't have an answer for it myself so I looked to other people to try to answer it."
""I needed editors saying, 'Watch yourself, look at what you’re doing...' Really forcing me to question, 'Are you on his side?'"
"The best question often is silence... It can tell you if someone's not telling the truth, it can tell you if they're hiding something."
"When I first went down to South Carolina, I thought I knew what to expect. But I wasn’t prepared for it. Not at all."
“On a story like this, you can’t be objective. I can’t recall a story we’ve ever had where the distinction between good and evil was so apparent.”
“You can't divide the self into good parts and bad parts, good guys and bad guys... That's fiction."
"How is it that smart, discerning people fall into a belief system like this and get lost in it? And how do they get out?"