Six Arcadia High School students are working on a documentary called “The Border,” a film looking into the complex issue of illegal immigration from different perspectives. Myles Kramer and James Harkins, two of the student filmmakers, and Paul Hoeprich, Arcadia High School media communications teacher, talk about the project.
Jose Cardenas: Thank you for joining us. I'm Jose Cardenas. The subject of illegal immigration stirs up emotion and opinions on both sides of the debate. Six high school students are taking the different perspectives of this complicated issue and making a documentary called "The Border." We'll talk to some of the students and their instructor in a moment, but first here's a clip from the film.
"The Border": We in America are immigrants. Or the children of immigrants. We are one people, but a people welded from many nations and races. Â¶Â¶
"The Border": It's easy for every politician to say we must secure the border first and then we'll talk about comprehensive. You know what that is? That's a cop-out.
"The Border": One out of every 10 across the boarder already have a criminal conviction.
"The Border": Profiling happens every day.
"The Border": It's because they're vulnerable, and they're vulnerable because they're brown.
"The Border": When workers train for a higher skilled job, build a house today, then they won't go back and pick crops.
"The Border": Nobody is going to go pick lieutenantus for 14 hours in the field for $10 a day. Nobody is going to do that. [SPEAKING SPANISH]
Jose Cardenas: With me now are Myles Kramer and James Harkins, two of the Arcadia high school students working on the film. Also here is Paul Hoeprich, media communications teacher at Arcadia high school. Gentlemen, thank you for joining us here on Horizonte. Paul, I'd like to start with you. Maybe you can give us a brief description of the program that you run at Arcadia and how this resulted from that.
Paul Hoeprich: Yeah. I'm really lucky to be a media instructor at Arcadia. It's a great school, great place. Lots of support, and we have a wonderful program there. We focus on news and film production, so kids come into the media class and just learn the basics of editing how a camera works, all the lingo, the jargon. All the basic things, and then they have a chance to go either a route of news, where they do an in-school live newscast every day 14-minute show, or to go to an introto film making, and then from there in their third year they can go to a cable news show, or to an advance film making class, which is basically where they are the producers and directors and more of the managerial and leaders of the teams.
Jose Cardenas: I understand this particular project was not directly within the confines of the class. This was an extracurricular activity.
Paul Hoeprich: Yes, that's absolutely right. The kids compete each year in the student television network, which is a national organization that provides contests and collaboration opportunities for students throughout the country who are involved in media and film production classes. And it alternates from being in Anaheim or Orlando. This year it will be in Orlando, last year it was in Anaheim. It's a weeklong event, they do onsite contests in anchoring, film making, shooting, editing, it's pretty much anything you can think of are that is a discipline within the art of media production. And they have one evening called the film festival, which are film festival entries that have been sent to the group prior to the convention, judge and they have an academy award sort of showing and screening. And I always make the kids go to see what their peers around the country are doing. And they have both narrative storytelling, dramas, comedies, but also documentaries. And we had nothing in it last year. And they felt a little left out.
Jose Cardenas: James, you were one of the they who went to the program. What was it about being at STN that made you and your fellow students decide you wanted to do this particular piece on SB 1070?
James Harkins: Well, to start out with, we saw the documentary from last year and we all thought, that was good, but we could do better than that.
Jose Cardenas: This is a documentary that your fellow students had done?
James Harkins: From other schools across the nation. And so basically we came together to try to think of what a good topic would be to make a documentary in, or on. And we live in Arizona, and we wanted to do something we would have the edge on, plus it just came to us that SB 1070 and the border would be a perfect topic for us. And it affects everyone around us. I know at the beginning of the documentary I knew a little bit about SB 1070. But I really didn't know that deep into it or the factors surrounding it. So that really drove me into wanting to make this documentary. And that's why we chose to do a topic about the boarder.
Jose Cardenas: Myles, why did you get involved?
Myles Kramer: Originally I wasn't an original member of the group who conceived of the idea of doing the documentary. But I heard what they were doing, and I'm like, hey, I want to be part of this. Of course I didn't know it was going to turn into anything big like this, because originally it was just for STN. But I'm sure glad I'm a part of it.
Jose Cardenas: Why is that? What about this experience has made you feel that it's been valuable for you?
Myles Kramer: It's really just been the whole -- a big learning, growing experience. Learning about the world, people's opinions, learning real world skills of being in the school in a classroom can't necessarily teach you.
Jose Cardenas: And James said that before doing this, he didn't know that much about SB 1070, presum Bly now you know a lot about it, but what about you? What was your world of knowledge with respect to that particular piece of legislation and the immigration issue generally?
Myles Kramer: Yeah. I really didn't know a lot about SB 1070 at all. I had sort of acquired kind of an influenced opinion that oh, SB 1070, that's racist, that's bad, I don't like that.
Jose Cardenas: Influenced by whom?
Myles Kramer: Mainly my peers, just really the people in my life. Democrats.
Jose Cardenas: And you feel ditchly now?
Myles Kramer: Yeah. I feel -- I mean, James was saying how he's a little bit -- he's unbiased now after hearing both sides of the argument, and I can say the same goes for me. I also -- I understand the points of 1070 a little more now. I understand their motives.
Jose Cardenas: I want to come back and talk to you about that, but before we do, a little more about the process itself. Your involvement with your students was what?
Paul Hoeprich: Well, all these guys are in their third or fourth year in my program. Some of them started when they were freshmen. They've been taking this class for four years. So as far as their chops go with editing, shooting, all the technical things that go into making a documentary film, I was pretty confident in them. They're some of the shining stars in the program.
Jose Cardenas: Did you play a role in the selection of the topic?
Paul Hoeprich: Not really. We kind of discussed and shot around ideas. I did sit with them, and this idea was brought up, and they wanted to go with it.
Jose Cardenas: Very, very controversial topic.
Paul Hoeprich: Yes.
Jose Cardenas: There were thousands of people in the streets about the time you're making this decision. Any concerns about repercussions?
Paul Hoeprich: The thing is that I wanted to make it 100% clear that I didn't ever tell them this -- to think this way or that way. I really think that part of the way -- part of the learning process really is about discovery, and I think it's more a teacher's job to be in this situation, a facilitator, to basically help them get over hurdles like how do we contact somebody in a government office, things like that. But I didn't tell them how to think, or where -- what they should do, or where they should go. I said, you know, look at ASU, see if there's any experts or professors there that could possibly shed some light on this subject. Look -- I gave them ideas of where to find people, but they really wanted to be journalistic and unbiased through this whole thing. And it was more of a discovery of -- it's more of a story of these kids learning. You see them learn in the film. And I think that's what it's all about.
Jose Cardenas: And it has gotten a fair amount of publicity recently.
Paul Hoeprich: Yes.
Jose Cardenas: Articles in the newspaper, and interviews on TV stations. Has there been any negative feedback?
Paul Hoeprich: There has been a little bit of negative feedback, and I stress to everybody really before you are going to make an opinion, or make a judgment on this film, you need to go see it. Take a look at it. See what the kids do. I've shown it to -- we've shown it to focus groups like parents, teachers, people to get opinions on, do you think this is good, or just before it hits the theater, if anything is wrong, we want to know. And people on both sides of the story, people extremely liberal, extremely conservative, in the middle, they all have had a similar experience of walking away feeling a little different.
Jose Cardenas: So generally positive.
Paul Hoeprich: Generally positive.
Jose Cardenas: James, the process of putting this together, as I understand it, you were principally in charge of visual, and Myles, you're sound, that was your guitar in the background.
Myles Kramer: Yeah.
Jose Cardenas: But tell us the process of putting this together, how long it took, how you decided what you were going to include.
James Harkins: To start out with, we went and we made up a list of how we were going to do the movie. And of course we came down to it that we were going to be of course unbiased and we needed people from the right and the left. So then we tried to organize an equal amount of interviews with people from both the right and left. And actually really once we got an interview with Sheriff Joe as an example, since he is the conservative, a lot of people, a lot of liberals wanted to talk about it because they say, hey, we got Sheriff Joe's opinion, now we want to hear from you. That really provoked a lot of people to come out and talk to us. And how we did it from a production standpoint, I held -- I was running the camera, in charge of the artistic factors and to the shot, and the lighting included, we had to use professional lighting. Myles is in charge of everything with the sound, which includes a boom pole and what not, and we went across Arizona, went all the way out to the ASU's agricultural center -- campus, out all the way to Lukeville, back again, and to Nogales back again, and just all around the city, and so we went to different spots and got --
Jose Cardenas: Had you been to the border before?
James Harkins: I had been there maybe like once, but not -- it was not -- I think I was younger on something, and I didn't pay attention. But this time around it was really -- it was awe-dropping to see the border. It's so tall, I had an idea the border -- it's going to be a wall, the fence, and there is a huge stereo typical fence in my mind there, and that surprised me so much. And in a way it's kind of -- it's almost impressive I would say and it's kind of sad, this giant wall going down a long strip of desert. That was really impressive.
Jose Cardenas: Myles, the interviews that did you, and you did a number of them, which one stood out the most for you?
Myles Kramer: The interviews, it would probably have to be some of the street interviews we did in Nogales. Right -- we crossed the border with the intention to interview people just walking around on the street, see what they had to say. The very first person we interviewed when we got across the border, which by the way we literally just walked across the border, it was no problem at all. Totally different coming back into the United States. The very first person we talked to, he had been on the little border town for about two days I think it was, and he told us he had been waiting for his wife, who had been arrested for crossing the border, and I believe he said something to the effect of that a lot of people don't even know about SB 1070 or the strict law enforcement of crossing the border, but basically he was just waiting there for her to come back. He knew nothing of where she was, if she was OK, when she was coming back.
Paul Hoeprich: They had both been in the United States, and --
Jose Cardenas: The husband and the wife.
Paul Hoeprich: Yeah. And somewhere along the way the wife was apprehended by border patrol agents. And he wasn't. And so he was waiting, you know, maybe 50 feet from the border entry on a bench with his daughter.
Myles Kramer: Yeah.
Paul Hoeprich: With his daughter.
Jose Cardenas: Just hoping she would come.
Paul Hoeprich: Waiting for her to come back. And he had I -- I don't think he had any way of communicating with her. It was interesting. It was a very different scene.
Jose Cardenas: And different I assume James from the interviews that you did with Sheriff Joe, and with senator Pearce. We talked a little off camera about your interview with Sheriff Joe.
James Harkins: I actually was going add on that the two most interviews I thought was most fascinating was contrasting Sheriff Joe to like liberal professor at ASU we talked to, professor Gomez, because they both were extremely passionate about their topic, Sheriff Joe being very conservative, and Professor Gomez being very liberal. I think just whenever I talk to sure Joe -- Sheriff Joe, he conveyed the same facts in such a strict way that he would say basically support SB 1070, but I was a conservative all of a sudden. He just convinced me because he was that persuasive. When I talked to Professor Gomez, I became liberal again. I became liberal. And now I'm just flip flopping back and forth so many time, I'm a little confused --
Jose Cardenas: You're talking about generally on the issue of illegal immigration? Or the merits of the statute itself?
James Harkins: I would say everything from SB 1070, to the border immigration in general. How the economy is affected, everything that goes along those lines.
Jose Cardenas: And what about you, Myles? Have your views changed on the subject?
Myles Kramer: Yeah. I believe -- im -- I'm a little more unbiased.
Jose Cardenas: And before were you biased for, against?
Myles Kramer: Before I was a little bit against 1070. But really just because I didn't really know what it was all about. I didn't know enough about it.
Jose Cardenas: And what is there about the experience that makes you feel more partial to 1070 than did you before?
Myles Kramer: Really just seeing what everybody has to say. Seeing the professors talking -- they know what they're talking about. When they describe, you know, when they tell us about it, and I feel more educated about it.
Paul Hoeprich: I think that the real cool thing about this project, Jose, is that they -- as a high school teacher I'm surrounded by 15-18-year-olds every day, and it's just really interesting to see how they see the world. They still have a little bit of that twinkle in their eye, they still have a little childhood idea -- ideals and idea of what a perfect world should be like, and something I think some times adults tend to lose. And it's cool you really see in this film when you watch it that they really aren't taking a side on either issue, or they're not really falling on either side, but they're seeing more --
Jose Cardenas: there's a lot to think about here.
Paul Hoeprich: Adults, you know, you're running our country, and put down the boxing gloves. Stop collecting party points.
Jose Cardenas: And on that word of wisdom put down the boxing gloves we're going to have to end our interview. I understand that the film has been submitted for a film festival. Someday we'll have to have you back to talk about the reaction. Anyway congratulations and thank you for joining us on "Horizonte." If you want to see the film you going to the Phoenix film festival for from march 31st to April 7th at the Harkins Scottsdale 101. Here again is more of a clip from the film "The Border."
"The Border": You look at SB 1070, it's really just fears made law.
"The Border": Pretty sad in my opinion. That we defend law breakers over law keepers. Unconscionable.
"The Border": It's like we could benefit from these people that we've actually paid to educate.
"The Border": That can it can never be illegal to be a human being.
"The Border": I really honestly feel dehumanized -- they say are you an illegal? I'm not an illegal. I'm a human. I am undocumented, unfortunately.
"The Border": Once the country was made up of immigrants. And almost all our ancestors were immigrants.
"The Border": Immigration is a foreign policy issue.
"The Border": The immigration, they know Arizona has SB 1070, they know they're going to be criminalized here. They know it. And they're still going to risk their lives because everything -- the hope of better tomorrow here is better than anything they could hope in their home country.
"The Border": Where does it start? It starts with y'all doing this documentary, it starts you -- your own change in your life.
Myles Kramer:Student filmmaker, Aradia High School;James Harkins:Student filmmaker, Aradia High School;Paul Hoeprich:Media communications teacher, Arcadia High School;