I am ashamed to say I had never watched any of Louis Theroux’s documentaries or films, that is until last night! Scientology is not something I wanted to try and get my brain around at the moment because it’s already bursting with crazy information after this inspiration phase so instead I decided to watch his Documentary on The Most Hated Family in America – The Phelps. The Phelps were in charge of running the Westboro Baptist Church in church who had strong beliefs that “God hates America” and “God hates fags” etc.
Throughout this doc Louis immerses himself within the Phelps family to try and understand their way of life and see why they have such strong beliefs against fornication, homosexuality and their own country, America. What struck me as I watched this very controversial doc was that Louis was not afraid to ask any question. He asked questions that everyone wanted to know but wouldn’t dare ask unless they wanted to get a lecture but this didn’t deter Louis. When a member of the church began to shy away from the questions he was asking, he continued with the questions. What was also quiet prevalent was his calmness through silence. Many people didn’t know how to respond to his questions or were afraid to tell their truthful answers and so their would be an awkward silence but Louis didn’t mind silence, in fact, it almost seemed like he enjoyed the silence because he knew he was pushing them to a point of release where they would tell the truth rather than standing silence with Louis staring at them.
Now I am not suggesting throughout my interviews for my project that I leave silences to pressure the interviewee to break and tell me how they really feel – That would be very, very bad! But what I did take from this is not to be afraid to ask questions you really want to know, if they don’t want to answer that is fine but if there is something I think will really add to the story, then why not ask?
The final thing I took from this, apart from the fact that the Westboro Baptist Church are absolutely crazy and brainwashed, is that don’t get awkward when there is a silence. I know from experience I often jump in too quick with the next question when interviewing which doesn’t leave the interviewee much time to think to themselves or add additional information that they may want to share.