A historic night, yours forever on BTV

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Nov. 4, 2008 – a historic night by any standard – is the subject of an in-progress Brown TV documentary being spearheaded by Roman Gonzalez ’11.

Gonzalez, executive producer for the project, said that while watching returns in Salomon 101 on election night, he decided to grab a camera.

The events that unfolded – students celebrating on campus and eventually walking down to the State House – were captured by Gonzalez and Calvin Main ’12. Gonzalez said they intended to somehow use the footage for BTV.

“We have footage from most of the night,” Gonzalez said, adding that he and Main shot about three hours of raw footage during the night.

BTV has effectively been off-air for a couple of years, but the closed-circuit campus television channel is slated to relaunch some time next semester, according to Gonzalez.

Gonzalez said he considered airing the raw footage on BTV, to “historically document it just straight – no cuts or anything.”

But the plan has since evolved, and now Gonzalez and an eight-member production team have set their sights on producing a comprehensive documentary detailing the events of Nov. 4 and broader issues surrounding the election and its aftermath.

The students working on the project envision the documentary combining the raw footage from election night, interviews, and other footage, both from outside news sources like CNN and from postelection lectures and events held on campus.

Gonzalez said the producers intend to conduct interviews with leaders of campus political organizations, local politicians and professors, as well as less formal field interviews with students on the Main Green.

“All signs point to the idea that we’re going to be known as the Obama generation,” Gonzalez said. What the documentary seeks to address, he said, is what exactly that means.

The documentary is not focused specifically on political activism among young people, but rather “how (their) consciousness has shifted” since Nov. 3, Gonzalez said.

The decision to edit and add to the footage to produce a full-fledged documentary, instead of airing it uncut in early 2009, Gonzalez said, was motivated by a desire to approach the events “with a fair, critical eye and disinter something that may not have been noticed on first glance.”

Gonzalez said that though the students working on the documentary are “trying to be very journalistic,” the project is not entirely neutral – all were Obama supporters. The producers also plan to insert themselves in the documentary primarily by taping their brainstorming sessions and including the question-asking portions of their interviews in the final cut.

“We’re going to be characters to follow in the documentary,” Gonzalez said. “We’re definitely taking some risks here.”

Nevertheless, Gonzalez hopes that being upfront about bias will ultimately enhance the project, he said, as his “interest in Obama is from a social and intellectual perspective and not an emotional perspective.”

Though the team has sent out notifications through Morning Mail, Gonzalez said, securing interviews and finding footage has been “harder than we thought it would be.”

Because they also hope to conduct follow-up interviews through the spring semester and because of the time-intensive process of creating the documentary, Gonzalez said the group is trying to secure independent study approval for next semester.

Gonzalez said he plans to show the finished documentary on BTV in May, but added, “we are thinking big” – students involved with production have talked about submitting the finished product to film festivals and possibly sending it to the Obama administration.

“We’re still not entirely joking that we’re trying to get an interview with Al Gore,” Gonzalez said. “We’ll see what happens.”

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