How to Get an Interview With Your Local Criminal... If You're in Venezuela
"I know someone from the BBC who went to an interview with nine bottles of whiskey"
In Venezuela, if you're a journalist covering a protest in plain daylight, you will most likely be teargassed, mazed, shot at or detained. At the very LEAST your equipment will be taken away by "authorities" and you'll go to wherever the hell you came from with nothing but bruises and a shitty story. I'm a fatalist. And, by the way, if you're American, they hate you here (the authorities... not me. I love americans, he he).
So what on earth would make an overly excited recent Columbia graduate (or pick any other ridiculously expensive school) think that in order to get an "awesome" underground story with drug traffickers, kidnappers and thieves it would only take a pretty face and a credential from an internationally accredited network? If you THINK you can interview underground criminals by waving your stupid little foreign press pass, you're an idiot and you will get shot.
"If you think you can interview underground criminals by waving your stupid little foreign press pass, you're an idiot and you will get shot"
So, cut to the chase. How do you interview criminals if you're sent to Venezuela and you want to get that "extra edge" by going up to the slums?
1) You get a damn fine contact. One who knows everyone in the area. One who you hope your years of experience reading peoples' faces would not be someone whom would sell you out and cash in on the ransom. ME? I've been doing this for six years. But if you really want to know what the quickest way to go up to the slums and score a nice little stupid piece about drug trafficking... be friends with a Moto Taxi.
Fuck "generalizing" and all the political correctness. Most moto taxi drivers live up in some slum and up in the slums everyone knows each other (by areas). I'm being pragmatic and it's worked for me. You'll thank me when your shitty news network sends you over here, no clue what to do or where to go.
I was recently commissioned to produce a story on the Venezuelan crisis with an "edge."
How do criminals survive the crisis. Of course, they don't just want me to go BEHIND ENEMY LINES, find drug traffickers, have them talk to me about their entire operations, catch someone buying drugs ALL WHILE making them look HUMAN - Because, you know, it would make the story different -
But they wanted me to do if for $1300.
Hey I don't have any kids, or other outstanding responsibilities, and it's always fun to have beers with these crazy sons of bitches. So I said yes. Talked to my trusted Moto Taxi, Luis, who had been taking me from assignment to assignment in Caracas for the past 4 months. He knew "a couple of guys." The images you see are from this story I produced for the Post.
2) YOU. PAY.
I know someone from the BBC who went to an interview with nine bottles of whiskey. Others, wanting to get deep inside access, pay up thousands of dollars. I just go to every interview looking like I haven't slept for weeks, my camera, cigarettes and always a cheap bottle of gin.
Oh! is it unethical to drink with your subjects!?!?! Shut up Ethics 101, when you're up in a slum, alone with masked kidnappers on drugs, you throw away everything that's on your overpriced J-School text books and you get the story, even if you have to befriend the motherfuckers.
If you think every network or aspiring documentary filmmaker has gotten to interview "The Boss" in this country just because of a need to vent from the criminals at hand, then you know nothing. Everyone with experience shooting stories in conflict areas knows this. The audience may not. The networks will NEVER disclose how much money their correspondents pay directly to criminals. They might, simply, call them "fixers" and that's that.
In summary: Find a Moto Taxi who you think you trust. And you Pay (at least with a bottle of booze).