New Vice series animates journalists’ stories
When Carrie Ching recorded Mimi Chakarova telling the story of how she posed as a prostitute to research her film, The Price of Sex, she turned the lights out. "I wanted it to feel really intimate. Like a confessional," Ching said in an interview with Poynter.
Working in the dark "really helped" convey Chakarova's story, Ching said. "I Posed as a Prostitute in a Turkish Brothel" is the first installment of her "Correspondent Confidential" series, produced in partnership with Vice, the hipster culture conglomerate, and it draws on some of the lessons Ching learned as multimedia producer at the Center for Investigative Reporting, which she left this past spring.
While there, Ching helped produce "In Jennifer's Room," a video that accompanied Ryan Gabrielson's story about the abuse and rape of a mentally disabled former patient at the Sonoma Developmental Center in California. Using animation to tell a difficult story "makes it a little more digestible for viewers,” Ching told me when I interviewed her last November. “It doesn’t overwhelm them as much.”
Ching's new series will highlight a different journalist's story each month. T. Christian Miller will tell a story about "an experience he had while working for the L.A. Times down in Colombia," Ching said, and Canadian filmmaker David Ridgen will talk "about his experience investigating a cold case murder in Mississippi." (View a trailer for some upcoming episodes.)
Ching plans an autobiographical video, too, she said: "I'd had some experiences myself while reporting that were just plain bizarre."
Marina Luz, who illustrated "In Jennifer's Room," illustrated Chakarova's story. Ching has engaged different artists for the series. "I'm working with a mix of animation and stills, but not just because of the budget," she said. "I think full animation is more effective with some stories, while stills work better with others. Some artists are brilliant with humor, some do beautiful work with dark stories. I try to match the artist and style to the story."
She's producing the videos, for the most part, from her home in Oakland, Calif.
Ching said she wanted to do the series because she'd "heard so many stories from colleagues, personal stories that just weren't being told." But no one's supposed to care about journalists! I joked with her. We're never supposed to be part of the story.
"It almost feels like they've been waiting and wanting to tell these stories for a long time, but nobody has really asked them to," she said about her subjects. "Or it's been taboo to talk about these things publicly. And in some traditional journalism environments, it has been taboo. Even more of a reason to tell them, I say."
Related: Ching wrote about multimedia journalism for Poynter this past April. Al Tompkins wrote about "In Jennifer's Room" in March, and Sara Dickenson Quinn interviewed Marina Luz about how she approached the project.