I do investigative interviewing for a living.
It sounds exciting, right? It’s really not.
I do take pride in it.
I don’t take the job for granted and I realize its importance, but it’s just a job.
It gets mundane and monotonous at times, especially after eight years. Day after day. Interview after interview. I ask the same questions. I can rephrase the questions, but they’re still the same questions.
Investigative interviewing is more of an art than a science. I’ve gotten a lot better at it over the years. The best way to get information is to set people at ease and make them feel comfortable.
People get put at ease with easy questions they can answer.
“What’s your name?”
“What is your occupation?”
“How long have you lived in the area?”
People like answering easy questions. By answering easy questions, people are more likely to be forthcoming with more complex issues. That’s the blueprint for success. All interviewers do it, not just investigative interviewers.
The best question to set people at ease is to ask them what they do in their free time. What are their hobbies?
People like that.
People like talking about themselves.
You’d be amazed at how many people answer that what they like doing in their free time is going to dinner and watching movies.
Think about that… dinner and movies.
People don’t say that they like vacationing with their family to the ocean shores. They don’t say they like tennis or jogging. People don’t say they like spending money on clothes or jewelry. They don’t like racing sports cars.
What we like to do is relax. We also like to eat. And outside of eating and sleeping, we really like watching movies.
In 2012, Americans spent nearly 11 billion dollars at movie theaters. That’s not counting the amount of money people spent to rent movies or buy movies for viewing in private homes. 11 billion dollars is equivalent to the gross domestic product of Iceland.
Why do we like movies?
Movies take us to places we can only fantasize about. Movies are an escape from reality.
The 2012 movie the Life of Pi is a glorious story of a young man taken on an enchanting journey around the oceans inside a small lifeboat with a Bengal tiger.
The closest the average person gets to a Bengal tiger is at the local zoo.
After watching the Life of Pi, President Barack Obama was so moved that he told reporters that the movie was “elegant proof of God.”
Movies make us feel things we don’t normally feel.
They make us laugh. They make us cry. They make us empathize.
I recently watched the movie Philomena, which is nominated for Best Picture at the 2014 Academy Awards on Sunday night. Philomena is story about a young teen mom that is forced to give up her son for adoption while she was living in a convent and then searches to find him 50 years later.
I cried my eyes out.
I was a mess… in a crowded movie theater… full of other people… who were also a mess… crying their eyes out. We all cried together, because we could empathize.
Movies also are timeless.
The story of The Godfather is still relevant today. The Godfather is a story of a poor Sicilian family coming to the United States and gaining power through mobster activity, cunning intelligence and violence.
We’re not all gangsters.
We can’t relate to the Corleone family, but we can be entertained by their drama.
Movies make us to talk each other.
What’s the first thing you say when you get out of a movie with someone else?
“What’d ya think?”
It begs for conversation.
Movies teach us about who we are and who we want to be. It forces us to discuss the past, present and future.
As much as I appreciate movies and how they make me feel, when I became a dad, I couldn’t wait to share the experience of watching movies with my children.
The problem is that kids don’t have the attention span right away. This was a bit frustrating.
They don’t have it when they’re a year old.
When they were two years old I tried. Nope.
When they were three years old I tried. Nope.
When they were four years old, they were close. They could be bribed heavily to sit through a 90 minute movie with an abundance of candy. This made me happy.
Now they are five and they love it.
They love watching movies AND they love watching how much I love watching movies with them. We now go to the library several times per week to check out movies that are age appropriate for them. We watch movies on Netflix. We rent movies from Redbox. We go to the movie theater to watch movies. They are so excited for the new Captain America movie that is coming out in April.
This had to be how my dad felt when I turned 5, 6 or 7. These things make sense when you’re older.
I remember my dad wanting to show me movies in black and white. His two favorite Christmas movies, A Miracle on 34th Street and It’s A Wonderful Life, were in black and white. I would be so mad. I fought back at first.
“Why would I want to watch a movie in black and white when THERE IS COLOR TELEVISION? ARE YOU NUTS?”
The classics are in black and white, he’d say.
When we would go to the library when I was a kid to rent VHS movies, I would make him rent Back to the Future, over and over and over again. I literally have seen Back to the Future over 100 times. It was what I liked and made me happy, but eventually I gave in.
When I showed some interest, I started listening and trusting his movie selections.
I watched a movie called The Longest Yard with my dad. The movie was remade recently, but the original movie was gritty and unrefined and starred Burt Reynolds. This movie was initially average to me. I couldn’t understand why he laughed at some parts and not others, but we talked about it afterwards and bonded about being a good kid, making mistakes, putting them in the past, moving on and always making the best out of the situation. That’s what Burt Reynolds does in the film. He makes a mistake and ends up in jail and then leads a group of looney prisoners to a win in a football game of prisoners versus guards. He eventually wins his freedom from the prison. (Side note, I now love watching The Longest Yard with Burt Reynolds.)
After The Longest Yard, we watched the three Star Wars movies. Sci Fi wasn’t either one of our favorites, but Star Wars is different. Star Wars is a timeless classic and a story of love, evil, perseverance and family… it’s not just sci fi.
Also the Star Wars featured Ewoks.
As a kid I thought Ewoks were hilarious. I would try to imitate their voices and try to build minature Ewok huts and tree forts out blankets and pillows.
We watched Superman with Christopher Reeve.
We watched Beverly Hills Cop with Eddie Murphy.
We watched Major League.
We watched The Lion King.
We watched Ace Ventura.
We watched Good Morning Vietnam.
We watched Harlem Nights.
We watched The Field of Dreams.
Each movie I watched with my parents was a learning experience.
During Major League, my parents talked about the long and lean years of the Cleveland Indians baseball, especially in the 1970’s, when fans were sparse at the ballpark and the team simply existed and never really competed.
During Harlem Nights, I learned about the Harlem Renaissance movement in the 1920s.
During Good Morning Vietnam, I learned about war. I learned about how trust in the government waned and how dodging the draft wasn’t the worst idea in the world. I was disgusted to learn that some veterans were treated poorly upon their return home. I learned about hippies and Woodstock.
With each movie came a life lesson and/or a history lesson.
It’s so easy for us as parents to just say everything is crap these days. This is crap. That is crap. The music stinks. Our food is homogenized and not as ethnic as our grandparents used to make it. No one eats at the dinner table anymore. New cars are not as cool as older classic cars. Movies stink. Everything stinks.
Depending on your opinion, some of these statements may be in fact true, but simply saying something stinks and not showing interest in the general topic and the history of the topic is lazy and it contributes to the degeneration of the future.
As parents I urge you to find the good and pass it down.
Find the good in music. Enjoy it and pass it on to your children. Talk about why you like it. It doesn’t have to be new music, it could be classic stuff too.
Find the good in sports. Teach through personal stories of dedication. Teach sportsmanship and the value of teamwork. Teach courage under pressure.
Find the good in movies. Don’t just say Paul Blart Mall Cop sucks. Of course it sucks.
Read about new movies, interesting stories, books that were worth reading before the movie came out. Share upcoming hopes about new movies with your children. Introduce them to the classics.
Show your kids Star Wars. Explain why Darth Vader went to the dark side. Talk about why Yoda is so hesitant at first to train Luke and scared he could turn out like his dad. Talk about where Darth Vader goes when he dies.
Pass down the Ewoks. I did. Teddy and Cooper love the Ewoks.
Reliving the Star Wars series with the family together this winter may have been the highlight of our holiday season.
If your kids can learn to dissect and analyze sports, music and movies and find the good in those American forms of entertainment, they are more likely to find the good in and relate to people… including their parents.