Access

September 19, 2008

This spring semester, I spent three months studying, traveling, and documenting various aspects of life in Cuba. It was an incredible experience, and it helped shape my goals and dreams. 

One of the things that was so amazing about Cuba was its people. Even after spending three months there, I can count on one hand the number of times someone wouldn’t let me take their photograph. They were so curious about an American student that they would happily let me into their homes, or pour me a little bit of rum. Needless to say, access wasn’t an issue.

Fast forward to this week. Ill start from the beginning:

Monday: After scoring a meeting with the Local 40 Ironworkers Union, I show up at 11:30am to find out the head of the union, whom I was supposed to meet with, is not in. No problem, the secretary tells me, meet with the assistant head, Danny Doyle. Danny hears my pitch, and after promising him I would gladly donate some prints to the office at the end of the project, tells me to come back tomorrow at 8am to meet with the head of the union. He also tells me it shouldn’t be a problem to get me on a few sites. The meeting with the head was supposed to be a formality

Tuesday: Show up at 8:00am to meet with the head of the Ironworkers Union, Bob Walsh. I walk in to the office, start my pitch, and Bob cuts me off, “Listen Ben, I need to be honest with you. Do you think you’re the first person to walk in here wanting to get on these sites? You’re probably the sixth person in the last six months, and before you, it was the Discovery Channel, National Geographic…” and he goes on and on. I assure him it would be different because A: I’m not a five-man crew; its just me and a video camera and B: I’m a student, with three months to work on this project, and I know I can do it justice. Bob finally agrees, and makes some phone calls for me. He sets me up with a telephone meeting with the head of PR for Tishman Construction, Richard Kielar.

Wednesday: I make my third phone call in the last 24 hours to Kielar’s office. The secretary, obviously a little annoyed, asked me to send him the same email I sent Kielar (which I sent when I first called him the day before). The secretary reads it, checks out my website, and realizes I am more than just a punk-student who hasn’t done his research. He assures me he will make sure Mr. Kielar reads the email, and will get back to me.

Thursday-Today: After eight phone calls, Mr. Kielar still hasn’t had time to read my email. I’m getting nervous. Right now, the only lead I have besides this PR guy is a friend’s father who lobbies for ANTI-union construction sites. Too bad every site in NYC is unionized.

Being in Cuba made me forget about how getting access is usually a HUGE chunk of getting a story. And the hardest part right now is not being able to get started on my project. I know that I am going to get some incredible, never-before-seen footage and imagery on these sites. I have been working too hard on my craft, given up too many weekends, too many sleepness nights, not to produce an incredible project. 

Tomorrow morning, I am waking up at 7am to go with my friend’s father to a construction site, just to see if we can get on. I’ll let you know how it goes

Ben

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