Q&A with the Producers of ‘Distracted: Eyes off the Road’

June 20, 2014

distracted driving, texting and driving, documentary from University of Montana School of Journalism

Photo courtesy of Conor Ballantyne.

Distracted has the potential to save lives

Distracted: Eyes off the Road, a University of Montana School of Journalism production, is a compelling and educational film about distracted driving.  This isn’t another piece about Montana’s drinking and driving problem.  It focuses on another issue, one that affects everyone who has ever sat in either the driver’s seat or passenger’s seat of a car: being distracted, lost in thought, flipping through your phone at a red light, interacting with your kids … the list goes on.  Being busy is a part of our society and culture, but after watching Distracted, you’ll think twice about multi-tasking in your car.

Over the course of one semester, 12 students (overseen by two professors) came together to make an hour-long film about distracted driving.  It follows three Montanans, including a distracted Missoula mother, a victim of distracted driving from Kalispell and a Sidney family who suffers from losing Janae Moore—daughter, sister, friend and role model—killed because she was texting and driving.

Distracted is informative and heart-wrenching.  This is a film all of us on the road every day need to watch.  Distracted has the stats and stories that have the potential to save lives.

We’ve interviewed field producer Sergio Gonzales (SG) and executive producer Conor Ballantyne (CB) to learn more about them and the making of this film.

Q: Where are you from?

making the documentary distracted driving in montana

Photo courtesy of Sergio Gonzales.

SG: Boise, Idaho.

CB: Plains, Montana.

Q: Where you ever distracted when driving around Montana for the making of the film?

SG: Yes, while working on the go, I ate a lot in the car.  Lots of French fries.

CB: When we were shooting the random traffic scenes, we caught director Max texting and driving.  I’m more conscious of it now.  For example, when I am driving further distances, I put my phone on silence with the vibration also off and when I’m driving around town I’ll keep my cell phone in the pocket.

Q: What is your favorite film?

SG: An American Tail: Fievel Goes West.  Ask Conor about the lamp in the movie.  He mentioned it in the journalism department’s graduation speech this spring.

CB:  Sergio and I were roommates at Craig Hall, freshman year of college.  I was unsure what my new roommate would be like, but when Sergio pulled a stuffed lamp from Fievel Goes West, out of a box, I knew that we would be fine.  Some of my favorite movies are Pulp Fiction and Shawshank Redemption. 94’ was a good year.  I also love the Blues Brothers.

Q: What project are you currently working on?

SG: I’m working on a radio story called Crossed Arrows.  It’s about a tattoo that a group of friends share, which started in the lower Rattlesnake [in Missoula] around 2008-2009.

CB:    I just got hired by the NFL as a production’s assistant and am moving to L.A. in three weeks.

Q:  What is your spirit animal?

SG: A noisy small South American bird called an aracuan.

CB: A jaguar.  A National Geographic article inspired me as a kid. My parents gifted me some Jaguar gear, which turned me into a Jag fan.  It ended up helping me get the NFL job.  I was the only applicant who named the Jaguars as my favorite NFL team.

Q:  I’m from a small town about an hour away from Sidney Montana and know these small communities are very close-knit.  What was your impression of the impact of Janae Moore’s story on the Sidney community?

CB:  The community is very supportive.  When we shot the assembly scene in Sidney, we were watching to see if any of the students was on their phones, to capture it.  No one was.  Jozi had their full commanding attention.

Q: How was it working with the Moore family? How did you hear about them?

CB:  Working with the Moore family added more inspiration to make the film as good as it could be.  We heard about them through Dustin Ashim [segment producer].  He has family in Sidney.  The first full day we were in Sidney we went to church with the Moores and did some filming there.  They thought we might be all business, but they found us great to work with.  It won them over that a lot of us are from small towns in Montana.  The Moores are a tight-knit family.  It’s a process for them every day and their strength is incredible.

Q: How is the film being received?

CB:  The outreach and response has been great.  It was a really rewarding experience.  It’s been picked up by North Dakota Public Televsion now, as well.

To watch the Audience Awards clip of Distracted: Eyes Off the Road, click here.

The full film from Montana PBS is available here.

Vote for your favorite student film in the Griz vs. Cat Student Filmmaker Challenge here.



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