Turns out, people rarely have “a minute” to be harassed by random college students about their views on the news media. Considering our own reactions in the past when we were stopped by canvassers and their ilk: Sorry, I’m in a rush! Or: Sorry, I’m just a broke college student! Or: *stares at the ground and pretends not to hear* we probably shouldn’t have been so surprised.
Filled with a newfound sense of responsibility during one of our first days in Philly, however, we ended up stopping for two canvassers who looked to be about our age. We explained that even though we didn’t have any money to give, we understood how hard it could be out here. In response, they immediately took off their charity’s vest and asked if they could be interviewed. This simple interaction led to two of our greatest interviews, and even some pointers on the best places to stand.
While canvassers have the added challenge of needing to ask people for money, we have the challenge of asking to stick a video camera in their faces. Considering the fact that it’s summertime and our last stop might as well have been built on a swamp (though, sadly, the saying that D.C. used to be a swamp is in fact a myth) the heat was cited more than a handful of times as people’s reasoning for not stopping.
Faced with this sweaty reality, we had to choose between interviewing in the shade or having a national monument as the interview’s backdrop. Unfortunately for the documentary’s aesthetic, the shade usually won out.
In Philly, we had taken to asking people “do you have a minute?” and following up with “we’re Northwestern students” as quickly as possible. Well, more like, “WE’RENORTHWESTERNSTUDENTS.”
Sammi also intentionally sipped from a Northwestern water bottle the entire time. Maybe people just really like purple or maybe our school’s re-branding efforts have been more successful than previously assumed, but the water bottle often meant the difference between asking to hear more and pretending that they hadn’t heard us.
However, we didn’t get nearly as many “yesses” until we dragged a friend we were staying with out to help us do man-on-the-street interviews.
Her strategy? Instead of, “do you have a minute?” she yelled “do you want to be interviewed for a documentary?!”
Apparently, when phrased as a Cool Exciting Thing You Get to be a Part of and Aren’t You Lucky We Asked, people aren’t so unwilling, after all.