The Holiday Spending Hangover

For most of us, the holiday season is the most wonderful time of the year. We give and receive gifts and spend quality time with our family and friends. However, after a month, the credit card bills come in the mail and we experience what’s called: “The Holiday Spending Hangover”.

For my latest video journalism piece, I filmed a story that focuses on the people of the Bay Area and their shopping habits during the holiday season.

Finding shopaholics to interview was easy. After all, these people were all over malls and shopping centers from Black Friday Sales until the After Christmas Sales. But based from my training and experience, I learned that I should get both sides of the story-as much as possible. So, I did my research and  found several people that are against holiday shopping. However, only one replied to my inquiry, which I don’t mind at all, better than nothing.

Katherine Mcckay leads a support group called Simplicity Forum, which meets at the Berkeley Public Library every first Thursday of the month. I emailed her and explained my objective. During the interview, she talked about her alternative ways, though some were edited out from the video story for the interest of time. For example, McKay buys holiday presents but only  for those who are under 18 years old, which leaves her to just a nephew and a niece.  Mckay said she gave them books, and that was the extent of her holiday gift giving. She also went on to explain some practices taught from the book, “Unplug the Christmas Machine”. However, she did not write that book so I felt compelled to edit that out from the final piece.

I think what’s most interesting about Mckay is that she doesn’t have a permanent home. She said she has been house sitting continuously for 16 years! Fortunately enough, her church friends and colleagues keep recommending her to homeowners leaving out of town, and ever since, she hasn’t had a problem with her lifestyle, though now it seems like she doesn’t have a choice because she injured herself and can’t afford to get her own place. In any case,  I never had an impression she is homeless. Her demeanor and eloquence don’t give a slightest hint. Her answers were always on point. She said she has been teaching Art classes at community colleges for years, so I guess she developed her communication skills from her years of teaching. Ironically, she used to help feed the homeless every Christmas season, but she said she had to stop because of her injury.

I met her in person at a beautiful house in Richmond, where she house sits. Before the interview, we had a nice little chat over some freshly baked muffins and  green tea she made for both of us.

Aside from Mckay and few “people on the streets” interviews, I also wanted to show a glimpse of how people in the Bay Area do their holiday shopping, from start to finish.  I was lucky enough to get one my friends to be an example, and even luckier because I got the smart shopper who can show some techniques to our viewers.  My friend, Aivy Cordova, agreed to meet after work. We headed to Great Mall in Milpitas where she planned to get most of her holiday shopping done.

Like my interview with Mckay, I also had to edit out some parts with Aivy. For example, she brought not only coupons, but also a list of people she’s going to buy presents for. I also had to edit out comments she made while I shoot and follow her around the mall. Although her comments would have sound funny and clever, my assignment editor said I have to take them out because they were a little too personal (she talked about her family members). But it turns out I didn’t have to follow his advice after all because the story did not get published on their site because of lack of paperwork.  Of course, I wasn’t happy that my story didn’t make it, but then again, I have other ways to promote it, for example through Youtube and this blog so I wasn’t entirely disheartened.

By the way, I was aware cameras are not allowed inside shopping malls so I brought my Kodak vi6 (equivalent to a Flip video) to be more sleek with my filming. One clerk at a Coach store approached me and told me not take pictures so I stopped but I did keep my existing footage. If it sounds like I dabbled through different tasks and approached several people just to make this story possible , yes I did, but I also made sure the process was as equally enjoyable for me as well as my viewers so in the end, it was all worthwhile.

Finally, this is the piece I have been talking about: a short documentary about how the people of the Bay Area faced the pressures and pleasures of the holiday season.

If you notice, I was directing away from the traditional newsy way of storytelling. Stylistically, I was going for a more creative, non-conventional approach. I also did an informal reporter stand up in the end- in my room!  Though I have to admit, I rather not include myself on camera but felt like I have to do it because viewers could hear my voice during the interviews in the beginning and I didn’t want people to wonder who was behind that mysterious voice.


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