Rediscovering the Magic of Field Reporting

Before setting out on this trip, I was very nervous. In my day job at the Times, I extensively pre-produce my videos–I’ve interviewed the main subject or subjects multiple times, written a backup script, and have an extremely clear idea of what the final edit will look like before going into the field. The goal is for the field production to be streamlined, simply checking off a list. Without fully realizing it, my day to day has lost a bit of the magic that got me addicted to reporting–the on-the-ground discovery, the spontaneity. Throughout this fellowship, I got to feel that again.

My partner Alex and I prepared as much as we could, but our day job responsibilities limited the time we could spend on pre-production. While we lined up several interviews and contacts with organizations we knew could help set things up for us on the ground, we went in without a schedule. Usually I know the answers to all the questions I’m going to ask the subject; this time, we only went in with questions. At first, I was terrified and full of self-doubt: did we do enough to prepare? How will we possibly get something done? What more could we have done to know ahead of time exactly what we’re going to get out of every day and each source? Speaking with the other fellows was comforting since everyone was also nervous at first about not having worked enough to prepare things beforehand.

I didn’t believe the fixers and the IWMF staff members in the beginning when they assured us everything would work out. But with the help of the incredibly well-connected fixers, those fears did slowly melt away. My anxiety relaxed and I began to embrace the unknown again. I noticed this change in me throughout the last day of reporting. I had done everything to make sure our subject was set long ahead of time, and had tried many times to interview her a second and third time before setting out for Honduras but it never worked. While at the planning meeting the night before, one fixer advised that we just go in the morning to meet her at the protest she was going to and play it by ear. While at the start of the trip I would have been riddled with anxiety, by that point it felt completely like the right thing to do. All this to give a bit of advice to future (videographer) fellows: it will work out, the fixers will help you find your subjects, and you will pursue your story as thoroughly as you can–be flexible, have fun, and lean into the spontaneity!


Leah Varjacques, 2019 Adelante Honduras fellow