Invisible Threat Filmmaker Discusses Journalistic Integrity
Invisible Threat is a 40-minute documentary produced by California high school students which explores the science of vaccination and how misperceptions have led some parents to make dangerous decisions. In an effort to draw attention to the national launch of the Invisible Threat movement on May 1st, we are participating in a Blog Relay. Each day a different blogger will be discussing their personal perspective of the film as part of our 10-day countdown to a kick-off event with national legislators at the Capitol Visitors’ Center in Washington, DC. Visit the Vaccinate Your Baby Facebook page for links to each blog post and visit the Every Child By Two website to find out how you can join us in this movement, arrange for a local screening, and continue our fight against infectious diseases.
This guest post was written by Camille Posard, the student filmmaker who wrote Invisible Threat. Camille has since graduated from Carlsbad High School, where she was involved in the making of this film and is currently a student at UCLA.
In all honesty I wasn’t very interested in making a science film about the immune system, until I personally discovered the false information that floods the internet and the subsequent firestorms created when the word “vaccine” is used. Almost three years ago an article in our tiny local newspaper mentioned our broadcast journalism club, Carlsbad High School TV (CHSTV) Films, was going to make a video clip about the immune system including how vaccines work. We hadn’t even started filming, yet the blogs prompted hundreds of ugly comments and calls. Yes, the anti-vaccine bloggers were harshly criticizing high school students doing an after school project sponsored by an unrestricted local Rotary grant.
Not knowing anything about vaccines, I thought there must be something shocking we were about to uncover about children being harmed and possible cover up. Now that was worth researching. However, the adult supervisors at CHSTV Films – the director (our broadcasting teacher) and the volunteer (PTA mom turned producer) – had a different reaction. They pulled the plug on the project, citing a concern for us teens after all the angry comments flooded in. They had no idea that this topic was so explosive. Due to the success of our previous films, we had other projects being pitched to us and the adults felt it best to avoid this headache.
It was outrageous to me that the adults would cave to the intimidation. My passion for not backing down was as a student broadcast journalist and the lessons I’d learned making our first film, We Must Remember. In response to that film, it was white supremacists who were angry and contacting us, but we didn’t drop the project. The documentary was about American teens who discover the horrors of the Holocaust first hand by interviewing survivors, traveling to several concentration camps in Europe, and interviewing German teens with Nazi grandparents. The Academy Award winning producer for Schindler’s List, Branko Lustig, took our team to Croatia for the international premiere. There the filmmakers had the opportunity to speak to Serbian, Muslim, and Croatian teens about the lesson we learned. We Must Remember was made to promote tolerance and alert people to the dangers of bullying, while teaching history from a peer-to-peer approach. How could we back down from a topic because of bullying after what we learned and experienced with We Must Remember? The adults weren’t budging until I asked them to “Remember what happens when good people do nothing!”
My fellow student filmmakers and I came into the Invisible Threat project with very little knowledge about immunizations; a clean slate. That’s the point of our documentaries, we learn as we film for a more interesting peer-to-peer experience.
This unique approach to documentaries makes even dry subjects more compelling than watching a bunch of old guys talking on screen. Our early experience changed the scope of the film from a 15 minute video clip explaining the immune system, to a 40 minute educational documentary that gives a complete overview of immunizations from a balanced journalistic approach. We wanted to understand the concerns of parents who are against vaccines and what was the root cause. For a film I wasn’t originally interested in making, I ended up writing the documentary and selecting the interview clips that made it into the film.
What we uncovered was shocking, but it wasn’t what we originally expected and we learned that bad journalism has been part of the problem. Children are being harmed because when parents choose not to vaccinate, a gaping hole is created in the safety net that protects the vulnerable. Babies too young to be immunized, children with compromised immune systems, and those with waning immunity are then no longer protected. This gives deadly diseases, previously eradicated in the U.S., the opportunity to make a comeback. A safety net needs to be intact, otherwise it doesn’t work at all to catch any of us. Recently a kindergartner who had recovered from cancer became ill from a vaccine preventable disease when an unvaccinated classmate brought the disease to school. The parents of that classmate didn’t just make a choice for their own child. The outbreaks our great grandparents worried about are making a comeback and it’s time the professional journalists tell the in depth story and stop with the sloppy reporting.
For information on how you can join the Invisible Threat movement, visit the Every Child By Two website. There you will find information about the event at Capitol Visitor Center on May 1st and how you can encourage your elected representative to attend, a toolkit that will walk you through the details of how to organize a local screening, and a social media engagement document atht will explain the ways in which you can show your support by changing your Facebook profile picture on April 24th, participating in an Invisible Threat Twitter chat on 4/30 at 7pm ET and commenting on the various blogs that are part of the special Invisible Threat Blog Relay.
Be sure to “like” the Invisible Threat Facebook page and follow them on Twitter @InvisThreat
*All photos courtesy of chstvFILMS.