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Kids for a Documentary on Separation/Divorce

October 9, 2009
Joe Jacobs wrote:

My son and his friends have been talking about learning how to make a movie for a while now. We explored many ideas, from a spy movie to the life of a dentist (honest). Finally we decided to make a movie that kids could relate to in their own lives.

So....we are looking for kids, aged between 5-12 for a documentary about the experience of young children in divorcing/separating families. The film project is intended to provide children with an opportunity to hear about the experiences of their peers in a supportive way and also give participating children an opportunity to be directly involved in the process of making a film, from interviewing other kids, developing story ideas, holding boom microphones and more.

If that sounds interesting and fun to you, let us know.

Also, given the number of film industry people in the community, if you would like to share/volunteer your skills with a group of kids, please let us know. Thanks

A. P. wrote:

Please consider the many potential harms that could result from your proposed "fun" project. The children you propose to interview are too young to provide informed consent and there are ethical issues of potential harm to these child participants and their loved ones.

Were such a sensitive topic tackled by adult university students, its makers would need to convince a human subjects review panel that everyone gave informed consent and no harm would result from participation (to subjects, parents, siblings, grandparents, etc.).

Many professionals are concerned that young people are far too willing to expose potentially embarrassing issues/behavior/stories to the wider world--only to later regret such exposure.

Adults need to to sensitize youth to such ethical issues. An adult dentist would be far more capable of providing informed consent for your project.

M. E. wrote:

I agree. I am not divorced, but if I were, I would not want my children interviewed by other kids on the subject. There are too many risks that it would be seriously upsetting. If you want to interview kids, what about another topic - e.g. the immigrant experience or interviewing kids in different parts of the city to see how their lives are different.

Joe Jacobs wrote:

I agree with you that there are 'potential harms' in discussing sensitive issues with children. There are also potential 'positives' when children hear voices similar to there own when dealing with issues like this. That has been my experience, witnessing it first-hand. Your points are certainly well-taken though and for this to work, it will require the consideration of many issues. But I would rather attempt to deal with those issues and try to create something worthwhile, then not try. If it's not possible, then it's not possible. Perhaps either of you could serve as a resource about the many ethical issues involved.

October 10, 2009
M. W. wrote:

Hi Joe. I'm a documentary filmmaker and Alice and Michael are correct that there are indeed serious ethical issues involved with interviewing kids. But that's not a reason not to do it. It just means you need to be a little more sensitive. Presumably the parents will be giving permission for their children to participate and can decide whether they think their kids can handle it, and an adult such as yourself will be supervising the final edit to ensure there is nothing inaproppriate included in the film which, in any event, is obviously not intended for wide distribution.

If Michael Apted had let ethical queasiness dissuade him, he never would have produced his groundbreaking documentary "7 Up" or any of the brilliant followups.

Good luck with your project. Sounds like fun and I'd be glad to lend any hand with technical or logistical advice.

A. P. wrote:

Joe, it would be helpful to know:

1) What steps are you taking to insure informed consent by the children and their parents?.

2) What steps are you taking to control negative uses of audio and images of children who may be perceived as vulnerable?

3) How old is your son and what grade is he in? (rough indicators of maturity level)

4) How many other youth are participating? What is their age, gender, and grade level?

5) What other adults are involved in providing guidance/advice on this sensitive project?

6) What are the credentials of the adult leaders with respect to a) filmmaking, b) dealing with vulnerable children, c) controlling future audio and video images and film distribution?

G. T. wrote:

I thought I'd pipe in as the child of divorced parents. Overall, I think it's a great idea.

Why not give the kids a forum to discuss the issues? They're more likely to find some resolution if they're upset about anything with other children living a similar experience than with their parents. Generally, adults spent far too much time either 1) not realising how much it sucks to between two homes (and families, step-parents etc), and 2) that kids understand what's going on. Protecting them by avoiding the issues isn't a solution. They can't relate to the immigrant experience unless they're immigrants or have close immigrant friends. Divorce is real, something they have to deal with everyday. I didn't think anything of it growing up, I didn't know any better. It would have been really neat to hear others' experiences.

Today's kids are so wired that I wouldn't worry about the public exposure. They can decide for themselves.

Great initiative Joe!

October 12
Joe Jacobs wrote:

Thanks to everyone for their comments i really just wanted to put the idea out there in my local community and discover the response i've been happy with the many ideas and suggestions we have a lot to think about as we consider moving forward making a film with this subject matter if anyone has anymore suggestions or would like information, i'd ask you to please email me directly

Michael Monastyrskyj

For what it's worth Joe, I found this discussion interesting even though I'm not divorced, don't have children and don't make films. The discussion raised some interesting questions and I'm glad you to decided to post on the list.


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Content last modified on October 19, 2009, at 06:27 PM EST