Analysis of ‘Coffee with Strangers on Colfax’ video

Here is the first piece for my 2012 Think Yacht portfolio. No, not the video. I shot the video two years ago, so that would hardly be acceptable to include it in this portfolio that is supposed to be made up of creative work that I complete in 2012. My analysis of the video is what I’d like to submit to my TY portfolio, because after recently finding and watching this video, I realized its significance in the evolution of my coffee quest; of my video editing skills; and of my approach to interviewing people. Specifically, I’d like to take a closer look at the common reactions of the strangers who I approached and how their responses influenced my understanding of the human experience and made me want to keep dissolving barriers and connect people to people through stories.

I feel like my analysis is portfolio worthy since it helps me understand my own creative process. And since I helped to invent Think Yacht, I can include whatever the hell I want to in my 2012 TY portfolio. I’ve never held steady to convention, why start now?

Much has happened over the past two years; I’ve interviewed many individuals (even had the opportunity to speak with two Oscar winners) and have used coffee as the thread that connects all the stories I collect and share. Coffee Driven Lives is far from fully developed, but it’s fun to watch this precursor to the project that I love so much.

My analysis:

When I was little I was taught, “Don’t talk to strangers—especially if they offer you candy and are driving a nondescript white van.” I heeded that advice, but doubt it’s the reason why I’m still alive and was never kidnapped (thank you, powers that be, for sparing me the trauma of abduction). I actually believe the fear of strangers that’s instilled in us as children can be damaging to us as adults.

I understand boundaries are important, but am not such a fan of barriers that prevent communication and keep people apart. When approaching strangers on Colfax to ask them questions, I found there were three typical reactions:

  1. People ignored me completely.
  2. People curtly responded so that I would know they were not willing to drop their guard.
  3. People were open to allowing the barrier between us to dissolve and engage in conversation.

Obviously, response three was my favorite. It’s the only one that opened the door to a shared experience among strangers. What I really like about this video though, is the improvisational aspect. I get excited just watching the people as they respond (or don’t). There is magic in catching people off guard. I much prefer the feel of authenticity rather than calculated responses during a sit-down interview.

My favortie parts of this video are:

Minute 8:15—When I am standing outside in the cold in the middle of the deserted park near the Capitol and ask a man walking by if he wants some more coffee (I can see he’s already holding a cup), he doesn’t seem suspicious or question how unusual the situation is. He walks right over and sounds very comfortable during our entire conversation.

Minute 10:33—Two groups of people who I approach ignore me and don’t stop, but when I ask one man if he drinks coffee, he takes the time to remove his ear bud and talk to me. He definitely looks more skeptical than the man at the Capitol, but still accepts a cup of coffee when I offer it to him!

Besides being amused by the fact of realizing my custom of asking people about their coffee drinking habits evolved into the Coffee Driven Lives series, re-watching this video from 2010 makes me want to do more flash interviews.

Hmm, it’s beginning to look like a day of flash interviews may make its way into my 2012 Think Yacht portfolio.

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