13 min read

Interview with freelancers from Weather Channel’s Emmy Winning Report, ‘The Source’

The Source: The human cost hidden within a cup of coffee , a report from The Weather Channel Digital, Telemundo and Efran Films, recently…
Interview with freelancers from Weather Channel’s Emmy Winning Report, ‘The Source’

The Source: The human cost hidden within a cup of coffee , a report from The Weather Channel Digital, Telemundo and Efran Films, recently won the Emmy for Outstanding Business, Consumer and Economic Report. This strong team of journalists, researchers, and producers went to Tapachula, Mexico to investigate the exploitative processes behind coffee production, and the disparage from how it is represented in the United States.

Storyhunter CEO and Founder Jaron Gilinsky interviewed freelance video journalists Daniel Guzmán and Jorge O. Patino about their experience working on The Source as cam-ops, and how they became involved through Storyhunter.

Storyhunter CEO/Founder Jaron Gilinsky interviewing freelancers Daniel Guzmán and Jorge O. Patino.

Below is a transcript of the video-interview:

Jaron Gilinsky: Had you been to Chiapas before?
Daniel Guzman: Yeah, I think we both had been to Chiapas before. I have.
Jorge O. Patino: It was my first time in Tapachula actually.
Jaron Gilinsky: Where is Tapachula?
Jorge O. Patino: Right on the border.
Jaron Gilinsky: Okay, yeah, because I remember one of the interviews the woman mentions that she is from Guatemala. And, so I imagined, yeah, I assumed it was right by the border.
Daniel Guzman: These coffee plantations they hire a lot of Guatemalan immigrants because Tapachula is on the border with Guatemala. And this apparently is an issue that’s not just in Chiapas, but also in Guatemala, and in Honduras, and all in these Central American plantations that sell to Starbucks and Nestlé. So, this is just, a lot of Guatemalan people come to Mexico, and they work in the Mexican side in the plantations. They bring their families, and then the parents ask their kids to help with the labor to get more money, and that’s kind of how this child labor issue starts rolling thunder.
Jaron Gilinsky: And, so, were all the interviews set up in advance? Or did you guys have to work, do some work to set up these interviews or find these child laborers? Did they know more or less where to go? Or was it kind of more run and gun, let’s go look for them and that type of thing?
Daniel Guzman: They had one big interview already booked. Which was one of the main interviews in the documentary, you can see it towards the end. This guy who owns a plantation and is accused of having child labor in his grounds. They go and confront him with people from Nestle. Nestle, being the buyer of the plantation. That was the only interview that was booked. And the rest of all, rest of the trip was very improvised and visited some plantations and stuff. But, that one was the one that was booked and a lot of b-roll just driving around shooting Chapas.
Jorge O. Patino: And actually I will say that, that interview was really extremely dangerous, and risky, and super tense because, they started arguing. This guy was saying “Hey you are accusing me of hiring child in my place”. Do you remember by the end how it was, how tense it was? I really, I really thought they were going to shoot us. And then this guy, because, this guy told me do not stop rolling. And then the lady that was behind me saw that I were rolling the whole thing, so yeah, that was really, really tense.
Daniel Guzman: Here’s how it went so we went, we were arriving to this plantation to confront this guy. And once we arrived, he tells us that this, I mean the visit is booked but not the interview. So he doesn’t know, he hasn’t agreed to a recorded interview, but, he was trying to convince him to tell on camera to defend himself because, the accusations are going to be made publicly either way. But our job, as Jorge just said, was to never stop shooting. So even when we got out of the car, before he agrees to being interviewed, we had to be shooting. And all the conversations of him trying to persuade this coffee plantation owner to be interviewed is secretly shot. We shot everything. That was tense, it was exciting, it was pretty cool.
The Source: The human cost hidden within a cup of coffee by The Weather Channel Digital, Telemundo and Efran Films
Jaron Gilinsky: Yeah, so were you guys surprised at the fact that you did find such young kids working in the plantations?
Daniel Guzman: I was surprised, one thing I have to say is, we never actually got to see kids. We didn’t see anything, we were looking for them. We were told about what was happening, we did the interviews and most of the b-roll we shot was landscapes in Chiapas. We didn’t see any kids.
Jorge O. Patino: They were expecting us though. They were waiting for us and then at the same time in many places you used to see, oh yes they sleep here and they were quite fine places. And you could see that everything was set up for us, you know? Because they knew they were going to shoot and they were trying all the time to hide stuff and say things like, everybody is really happy here and stuff like that. So it was really difficult to really realize what was going on. But they in the end you could see a little of it. Was it true? Yeah, probably.
Jaron Gilinsky: So Daniel you’re saying that you did not film any kids, child laborers?
Daniel Guzman: Not child labor, no.
Daniel Guzman: Like Jorge said, we did the interview. Our main job was to film that confrontation.
Jaron Gilinsky: Got it.
Daniel Guzman: We didn’t film child labor because as Jorge said, it was pretty easy to say that everything was staged. We visited three or four coffee plantations, among them was the confrontation with this owner. We shot like three or four and all of these were like, perfect. Unreal, can’t be possible. Everything is in place, everything is clean. I know my country and I’ve been in Chiapas and I know that’s not how these things work.
Jaron Gilinsky: In the documentary there’s a lot of footage of child labor, so they must have gotten it without you guys.
Daniel Guzman: We didn’t shoot the whole documentary. We did one or two days of shooting. From what I’ve seen in the documentary they probably did much more. They had been shooting for months or weeks before we got on board.
Jaron Gilinsky: Got it. So they were probably filming that kind of stuff in advance of you guys coming and they hired you mainly for the interview part.
Daniel Guzman: How I think it worked is that they had been shooting this documentary for a while. They had been trying to get this visit confirmed with this coffee plantation owner for a while and it wasn’t happening. And then he confirmed that he was actually allowing them to have a conversation. He confirmed from one day to the next so they had to get a videographer from one day to the next. They got us, we shot. Maybe they keep shooting afterwards, more stuff. I’ve seen a lot of the stuff from the documentary that’s not ours. What’s from the documentary and is our work is the confrontation, which is a big part of the documentary. I think that’s the main thing.
Jaron Gilinsky: Yeah, that was a very dramatic scene.
Jaron Gilinsky: My question was more, are you surprised that this practice exists in Chiapas. Given that you are Mexican, you know your country, are people in Mexico aware of that fact that child labor is happening with coffee production.
Jorge O. Patino: It isn’t that surprising actually. I think we’re kind of used to that. And, yeah, it wasn’t that surprising. When you say the word probably is slavery, you get to another place. But no slavery, we are all slaves in way. We’re kind of used to that I think. At least, I am.
Jaron Gilinsky: I guess slavery is a strong word, but I would say that it is accurate, because you know, when you don’t have the ability to choose your work and somebody’s forcing you to do your work. I think it is accurate.
Jorge O. Patino: Oh, no. Without any doubt. I’m just saying that it is strong to say that you are used to that.
Jaron Gilinsky: My questions was more, I think, along the lines of did that fact surprise you.
Jorge O. Patino: Not really.
Jaron Gilinsky: Okay.
Daniel Guzman: It was a bit surprising. But, for me at least when you get into the facts, I mean the whole fact of the documentary was like, these are plantations and they have kids, they have minors working and the buyers are Starbucks and Nestle and they know. When you hear about the whole thing you’re just kind of surprised. But then if you just take the fact, as Jorge is saying, just the fact that child labor is happening in Chiapas coffee plantations. I’ve never thought of it before, I’ve never heard of it before. It’s not that surprising.
Jaron Gilinsky: What was it like with these journalists that you hadn’t met before from the Weather Channel? Did you have a good experience working with them?
Jorge O. Patino: It was pretty fun actually, yeah. It was pretty fast and it was really tense actually. It was tense the whole time, they were trying to hide something, the guys were trying to hide something. We were not really welcomed there and it really was very fast this guy was saying keep rolling while we are in the jungle sweating, so it was really hardcore.
Jaron Gilinsky: Do you have any footage or a kind of behind the scenes pictures of you guys at work that we could use for this article?
Jorge O. Patino: I have one selfie, so it’s this.
Jorge O. Patino on location in Tapachula, Mexico.
Daniel Guzman: I don’t have anything. Unless Jorge took a picture of me, which I doubt it.
Jaron Gilinsky: I gotta see that selfie.
Jorge O. Patino: I took the selfie because it was, yeah. I was suffering.
Jaron Gilinsky: Did you leave the footage with them or did you transfer it afterwards? By a Dropbox or something?
Daniel Guzman: I took the footage home. I took Jorge’s and my footage. I got it all in a hard-drive, I think it said…
Jorge O. Patino: No, no, no. Because remember he was saying send the cards, send the cards.
Daniel Guzman: Yeah, I remember because I have the footage. I still have the footage of course. Never delete the footage. I remember that a few months or years ago I was taking a look and I have older footage. I remember that we saved everything in our hard-drive, so I have everything.
Daniel Guzman: It was in the cards right? Yeah, they sent it back. They wanted us to send the cards, the SD cards, and they wanted to send those back. Which was probably the messiest I’ve transferred material to an international client. I remember that.
Jaron Gilinsky: You sent it where?
Daniel Guzman: An office.
Jaron Gilinsky: To their head office. Okay. Which I think is an Atlanta, or?
Daniel Guzman: I think so. I don’t remember, I can pull the information up on my email. I’m pretty sure they sent the information.
Jaron Gilinsky: It doesn’t really matter.
Jaron Gilinsky: Were you surprised when you heard that this production won an Emmy?
Daniel Guzman: Very surprised. First because I hadn’t heard anything about this production in a couple of years. Or more than a couple of years maybe.
Jaron Gilinsky: Did they send you guys any awards? Did you get to touch the Emmy?
Daniel Guzman: We found that we had won the Emmy because of your email two weeks ago.
Jaron Gilinsky: Oh really?
Daniel Guzman: Yeah.
Jaron Gilinsky: That’s funny.
Daniel Guzman: Jorge did you know? Did you know something before?
Jorge O. Patino: No, no, no. Not at all.
Jaron Gilinsky: Yeah, well apparently it won an Emmy. Congratulations.
Jorge O. Patino: Yeah, it was fun. It was really fun actually.
Jaron Gilinsky: What other type of productions do you guys work on typically? Are you doing this documentary video journalism type of stuff on a regular basis?
Jorge O. Patino: Well, yeah. I’ve been working for Storyhunter for the last two years or something. Actually I’ve been in really intense and incredible projects in the north, in the south, and yeah. I’ve been in other countries, like Columbia, Puerto Rico thanks to Storyhunter.
Jaron Gilinsky: That’s awesome, that’s great to hear.
Jorge O. Patino: Yeah, it’s super cool actually.
Daniel Guzman: I kept working for Storyhunter about as much as Jorge, but I did get some projects. Especially more north of Mexico. I do some documentary projects, I work a lot with NGOs, with social projects, social communication. Stuff like that.
Jaron Gilinsky: Cool. Yeah, we used to do stuff in the early days. We were doing a lot of stuff covering the drug war and the trafficking. We got some crazy footage from some freelancers back in the day. Closer to the one today’s area. We definitely have a really strong network of filmmakers in Mexico and you guys are all doing really amazing strong work.
Daniel Guzman: For a while, when we met for filming two and a half years ago we had a theory that we were the only ones.
Jorge O. Patino: Yeah.
Daniel Guzman: Remember that Jorge?
Jorge O. Patino: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Daniel Guzman: When more people in Mexico started coming up and applying for more jobs, but before two and a half years ago I think we were the only ones.
Jorge O. Patino: Now I am sure we are not.
Daniel Guzman: Yeah, pretty sure we are not. I know a lot of people now on Storyhunter, but I remember talking about this in like 2016. It was you and me applying to jobs.
Jorge O. Patino: Yeah, yeah.
Jaron Gilinsky: Well sorry, not it’s more competitive.
Daniel Guzman: That’s good, that’s good.
Jaron Gilinsky: So what are your career ambitions? What are you trying to do? Are you doing any of your own projects? What do you hope to achieve with your careers?
Jorge O. Patino: That’s an interesting question. I’m a filmmaker, I want to tell stories. I’m doing what I want to do. Perhaps on a higher level, making films. Documentary and long films but that’s it. I’m doing what I love.
Jaron Gilinsky: That’s great.
Daniel Guzman: It goes pretty much the same for me. I’ve been shooting interviews, like, I started focusing on film making. My first step into filmmaking was interviews. Interviewing people, and once I got through that door I just kept going. I want to keep telling stories. If I have to choose a general film for filmmaking I would definitely go with documentaries. I love shooting, I love capturing moments, and I hope I can keep doing that for a while.
Jaron Gilinsky: Is Mexico a tough place to work as a documentary filmmaker? Are the police cracking down or do you feel like you have a lot of freedom to work?
Jorge O. Patino: It’s one of the most dangerous countries in the world to be a journalist. For sure, we all know that. But it also has some pretty cool things, you can shoot, anywhere you can do anything you want, almost.
Daniel Guzman: As a cameraman you could do a lot of things here that you couldn’t do in other countries. Just as an example, with drones, there haven’t been drone regulations. Drone regulations are coming to Mexico in December for the first time. While you cannot fly a drone in the states or in Europe unless you have a license and a permit.I could go right now to downtown in Monterrey and fly a drone and its all good. It’s a country where regulations are just coming. So that works the same as the cameraman. There’s a lot of things that are very strictly taken care of in other countries. Here in Mexico it’s easy to shoot and get away with it, to get permits. So yeah, like Jorge said, one thing for another. It’s kind of dangerous but then you can do more and it’s easy to get access to some interesting stuff.
Jaron Gilinsky: Yeah, and that is also very regional. Chiapas is very different from Monterrey.
Jorge O. Patino: Its incredible there’s a little faction everywhere.
Jaron Gilinsky: Are you guys coffee drinkers?
Daniel Guzman: Yeah, we are.
Jaron Gilinsky: Are you still drinking coffee from these companies? These big companies?
Daniel Guzman: I’ve never been a big Starbucks fan, but I’m a big coffee fan. Just kept drinking other coffee.
Jorge O. Patino: You cannot involve these kinds of emotions because if you start with this you won’t be able to leave.
Jaron Gilinsky: I’ve thinking a lot about the whole child labor thing, and I thought the hardest thing to wrap my head around as an American living in San Francisco, one of the most expensive cities in the world where we get coffee from Starbucks and Nestle, from these big corporations. But, who am I to judge a very poor family in Chiapas who can’t afford to live if they don’t ask their twelve year old to help out. Or their ten year old, to help out. So, for me the film felt like it had a strong moral position, but I don’t feel that I can really judge anybody in the film. Who am I to say you know…how else are they with it. That’s the real question. If there’s no coffee, how are the families going to get by? And can they get by if they don’t employ their children? You know? That’s the question that I’m asking.
Jorge O. Patino: I think the solution with that is that whenever these big companies fair trade for the products, the children will be at school instead of helping their parents. Its as simple as that.
Jaron Gilinsky: So, the coffee prices need to be higher. I need to pay more for my coffee and you guys need to pay more and everybody needs to pay more so that they can actually pay the parents enough so that the kids can go to school.
Jorge O. Patino: Maybe it’s not a matter of everybody paying more, but Nestle earning less.
Jaron Gilinsky: Yeah, or that. Right. It’s either cut their profits or increase their revenues. Those are the only…
Jorge O. Patino: One or the other, yeah.
Jaron Gilinsky: Yeah, got it.
Jaron Gilinsky: So, you’re very clear that it is wrong and that It shouldn’t be that way.
Daniel Guzman: Of course it’s wrong.
Jaron Gilinsky: I agree with that.
Jaron Gilinsky: Guys, thanks so much. Do you have any tips for the Storyhunter filmmakers and journalists in Mexico to get great jobs like this one? How to pitch, how to anything? Any advice.
Jorge O. Patino: I don’t know if that would be used against us.
Jaron Gilinsky: Very competitive, I like it.
Daniel Guzman: Keep pitching and multitasking always works. You can do audio and video is better for a client than just a guy who does only video. I know we had to do audio and video and that’s been something I can offer my clients through Storyhunter. I can audio record while I shoot. It’s something I guess.
Jaron Gilinsky: Yeah, yeah.
Jaron Gilinsky: Okay, good tip. I like it.
Jaron Gilinsky: Muchas gracias.
Jaron Gilinsky: Have a great day.

You can hear Greg Gilderman, Global Head of News and Editor-in-Chief at The Weather Channel’s perspective on the report and more in the latest episode The Rough Cut with Storyhunter Co-Founder Alex Ragir.


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By Jordan M. Rapaport, Storyhunter Writer