Folks often ask me “how do you find characters for your films?”
It’s a multi-layered process with lots of networking, lots of research, and many hours on Skype. And I’ve found that social media is a really powerful and convenient way to connect with diverse people from all over the world.
Through Twitter I’ve met FGM activists from Gambia and the UK, diplomatic attaches in Somalia, and Yazidi human rights groups in Germany and Iraq. Twitter has been a great tool but it can be limiting… how can I get someone’s attention in 140 characters? How do I know if people are really who they say they are? And like most social media, it can be a black hole, a time warp of sorts where an entire afternoon can disappear in hashtags and tweets!
Then there’s the question of how to name this process, of finding the right people and the right stories for the film. Is it ‘casting’? That word makes me feel uncomfortable. This isn’t a feature film or a pilot for network television. It’s a documentary film and hopefully, the first step in a global movement to call attention to minority persecution.
What to call a ‘character’ in a documentary? Just a few days ago, I found myself stumbling over the terminology. A ‘protagonist’? ‘Talent’? The ‘star’? That last one certainly doesn’t sound right!
The individuals featured in the film will hopefully become more than just characters: they will be our collaborators, our confidantes, and our friends. They will be the advocates of a larger movement, and a those calling on others and inspiring them to take action.
Right now, to me they might just be a Twitter handle and e-mail address, but in months from now, they will be some of my allies and counterparts…