Date: January 2019
Location: Puerto Rico
This year, we were asked to deliver a hard-hitting short-form documentary about the impact of Hurricane Maria on the people of Puerto Rico after it devastated the community and HughesNet satellite internet was the only source of communication available. TalkingTree spent time on the island connecting with locals and collecting their stories about what it meant to finally get cell and internet connection after the hurricane.
In September 2017, Hurricane Maria desecrated Puerto Rico, The US Virgin Islands, and other areas in the Caribbean. Known to be the most devastating natural event to tear through those islands and the deadliest Atlantic hurricane since Jeanne in 2004, the Category 5 hurricane left millions without electricity.
The storm formed on September 16. According to news sources, by September 26, 2017, 95% of the island was without power and 95% of the island had no cell phone service. For months, in fact, nearly half of the island’s population lived without electricity or cell service. This made calling for emergency supplies – or even updating friends and relatives on the mainland – a challenge.
Phone lines were down, the San Juan airport was out of commission, and communication came to a halt. However, HughesNet provides services to dealers and residents on the island, and these were some of the first people with a direct line to the mainland and to first-response teams while the rest of the island was in the dark.
Hughes was instrumental in re-establishing communications on these islands by providing connectivity to the people and emergency groups on the island.
Whenever we’re faced with human-interest storytelling, sensitivity and respect for the subjects and their experiences are always the top priority. In this scenario, we weren’t just asking people to tell a story; we were asking them to relive a trauma.
We sent our team member Sarah, a director with years of experience interviewing people with difficult stories – specifically survivors of sexual abuse, and Devyn, our director of photography with a special interest for in-field interviews. We sent a team that would be able to create a safe environment and encourage candid, authentic interviews.
Our favorite kind of projects are ones that provide a platform for human-interest storytelling. We love this kind of work because it exercises all of our creative faculties – allowing us to be true artists. As a team of creatives who pursue passion projects of this nature, we knew we were fully equipped for this job.