Interview: Katy Newton on the Faces behind Craigslist Missed Connections
In the streets of Los Angeles millions of connections are made, be it with a friendly gesture or flirty smile. Yet often times fear gets in the way and connections go unrealized as a person passes up a conversation to continue with their day, only to end up thinking, “What if?” Enter Craigslist Missed Connections, where individuals put up posts detailing random interactions they’ve had with others, ultimately hoping it will catch the person’s eye and a relationship can be made. In her video series I C U, Los Angeles Times videographer Katy Newton, scours Los Angeles Craigslist and documents the faces behind the ever-popular Missed Connections posts. While subjects go over a short play-by-play, Newton reveals an honest, funny and thought provoking display of Angelenos looking for the one that might have gotten away. Recently nominated for a 2009 Webby Award in the Reality category, Katy Newton answered a couple questions posed from the LAist group about the series, from the whole interview process to where the most people are looking for love.
Michele Reverte: Where did you get the idea for this series?
I had a friend that was sort of stalking a guy at Trader Joes. I mean she would try to time her Saturday shopping so she would see him. She had figured that he would be a perfect match by the vegetables he picked out (that cracked me up).
Anyway, a bunch of us were discussing the situation when another friend suggested to her she post on Missed Connections. I hadn't heard of it and I went home that nigh and read them. I immediately fell in love and thought about a video series.
Update on my friend: she is now in a long-term relationship with a guy. It was a guy at her work; they fell in love after a deep discussion about the best way to cook beats. True Story.
Ali Miller: What is the biggest challenge for you when it comes to tracking messages sent through Missed Connections, and what does the follow up process entail?
The biggest challenge is finding a Missed Connection (MC) that describes an event beyond "our eyes met on the 405.” I try to find a post that hints to more of a story. I try and look for descriptive writing, good location and hopefully an unexpected element. A good example of the latter is the girl that was searching for the guy she hit with the car (http://tinyurl.com/6k945e) or the woman that was searching for her cat's brother (http://tinyurl.com/dcwrpx).
I have a basic note I reply with to posts directing them to the project and then telling them why I'm interested in their post. The next step is usually a phone call where I can ask them more questions about their story and they can ask me questions about the series.
An Tran: When you're interviewing these subjects, typically how long does it take? I was surprised how articulate and endearing most people are. Most of them seem very comfortable in front of the camera. Do you have them go through their story a few times?
The process takes about an hour and a half. I don't like them to rehearse the story. I tell them this works best if we just have a normal conversation. I tell them to relax. There are no right answers and this isn't “60 Minutes.” I'm not busting them for espionage. I just want to hear their story.
I ask them questions about the event from multiple camera angles, generally 3-5. The questions overlap and so do their answers. But I keep coming up with questions as I hear the story, so I'm constantly interrupting them. I think it's the responses to the interruptions that keep it fresh.
I love shooting but I'm not technical. I think that helps too. I kind of bumble with the camera. They get to see me with all my faults and feel free to open up, but that's just a theory.
Do you get a lot of interest in people participating for the most part or is it hard to get people on camera that like the anonymity of the Internet?
It was really hard when we were doing the series once a week to find a good subject that met the criteria I spoke about earlier. But as far as getting people to trust me and want to meet me, I think having a URL to direct them to and having a L.A. Times email really helps.
Is there an area of L.A. that is really well represented with Missed Connections?
That's an interesting question. There are a lot in the Burbank and Hollywood area and I notice a lot [of posts] in the Long Beach area. I'm not sure why, but I imagine that there are probably big pockets of 20 -30-somethings in those locations.
Have you ever done a Missed Connection?
I'm married, but did respond to one this year. Don't worry my husband knows about it. Last October, I was shooting on Hollywood Boulevard for another project I was working on. The next day I was looking through Craigslist and noticed a post about a woman with black hair and a camera interviewing people on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Long story short it wasn't me.
It was oddly humiliating. I'm not sure why. It's like one of those times when someone waves on the street and you think they are waving at you so you wave back but really they are waving at the person behind you. You just feel lame. My husband totally laughed when he heard the story.
Julie Wolfson: What video has been your favorite?
I think my favorite is the girl that hit the guy with the car. We had played phone tag a lot and I was starting to feel a little like I should move on. Then we were finally able to nail down a day to meet. I knew she would be good just in the way she spoke on the phone. I was a little concerned that she was a comedian because I'm not interested in someone performing or trying to perform for the camera. I find that boring.
Nikki was telling me the story, it was obvious she understood the humor of the event she was describing but there was still sincerity in the details. I interrupted her a lot so she wouldn't be tempted to give me the same old shtick. I was adjusting the camera when she mentioned that she was truly scared because she had hit a garbage truck guy by accident when she was a teenager and it was a huge legal and financial burden that she had just resolved not that long ago.
Bingo - the unexpected! I knew we had a good story.
Check out the rest of the I C U series here
Vote for Katy Newton in the 2009 Webby Awards Reality category