First, I am pleased and honored to announce that I won the first round of Project Report. Yes, I’m one of the ten semi-finalists!
And for the 2nd Round, the Grand Finals, the assignment is to cover something that the mainstream media has not covered yet, or often overlooked. No doubt I know the kids in Oakland are always overlooked. Sure, I would see and hear their stories in the news, but it was never in-depth, especially recently, when three Oakland high schools are being threatened to shut down because of low test scores and high drop out rates. In fact those three schools ranked some of the lowest performing in the state. I thought to myself, no one has really asked what’s behind those poor results.
Finding the right topic came easy, but finding the right people to be in it, is probably the most challenging endeavor I have ever done. Understandably, the topic is complicated and senstive, so parents, educators and social workers would be over protective of their youth. But damn, it was really hard to get somebody, especially a youth, and without a youth, there’s no story because it’s about them. I was almost ready to give up and ready to find another topic, but I decided to stay persistent.
The easiest person to approach was a volunteer teacher in East Oakland, but aside from that, I had to scout and pay my dues. I was at the mercy of my subjects and potential subjects. Some of them would entertain the idea of being interviewed, and the next thing you know, they’ll pull out, the last minute. Then there were those you thought would never call back and would go for it, yes, the last minute. It was like a rollercoaster ride, one day I was beaming with excited, the next heartbroken, then excited again.
And not only I was having the hardest time to find a subject, I scheduled a trip to New York, which would rob me five days off my production schedule. I had planned for the New York trip way before I joined the contest, plus it has always been my dream to go there. But because I might not finish producing my piece on time, I prepared myself to cancel my trip. Then like a miracle, I got a youth to do an interview with me, the day of my flight. In fact, I got everybody I need (and more) right before my flight that evening. It’s funny how things worked out in the end (pre-production and production that is).
Post production of course is a different story. All sorts of technical difficulties as I am still getting to used to editing on HD. The organizers of the competition said the video needs to be on HD and under 5minutes. Good thing, the good people of The Pulitzer Center, and Youtube, helped me out. And once I finally uploaded, I noticed that some parts have audio syncing problems.
Anyway, I am truly proud of what I came up with. No regrets. Violence among Urban Youth needed to be told and I am so glad I stayed persistent to tell it.
In the end, I did not get enough votes to win. The organizers determine the winner based on the popularity of the video and I guess I was not agressive enough with my campaign. But my goal from the start is to not only win a prize, but to tell this undercovered story, and to tell it accurately. I believe I have achieved that goal, and that makes me feel like I won.