How are documentaries about drugs where they interview drug dealers who wear masks to hide their identity made? How The National Geo or Vice, for example, get in contact with those people and why they agree to get on the camera and risk getting caught?

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How are documentaries about drugs where they interview drug dealers who wear masks to hide their identity made? How The National Geo or Vice, for example, get in contact with those people and why they agree to get on the camera and risk getting caught?

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They put some measure of trust in journalistic integrity — that is, journalists guarding their sources. To be able to get first-hand knowledge and the real scoop is immense for a journalist, they would rather not compromise their chance at getting an exclusive story to turn someone in. That and if they mysteriously were found by police shortly after an interview, if they have connections it’s possible the journalist may be put in danger since it seems they ratted.

They likely hired a “fixer.” The fixer is often a local journalist, maybe just someone that just knows a lot of people and has a lot of connections and can introduce the journalist to the people they want to interview and extend their own reputation to the journalist. Fixers are crucial components of stories for foreign journalist. They’re often a mix between translator, facilitator, driver, bodyguard, etc. Basically you’d have no chance at going and getting this story without first contacting a fixer who can make the right introductions for you and vouch for you.

In other words there’s almost certainly a middle-man between the guys doing the interview, and the guys being interviewed. They didn’t just somehow cold-approach a big time drug dealer they had an introduction.

As to why they do it? People love to tell their story to someone. People like it when people are interested in them.

There is no risk of getting caught. Those camera crews aren’t going to arrest anybody. Journalists don’t coordinate with law enforcement because doing that can get you killed and no story is worth getting killed.

Lots of these projects start out because the filmmaker knows somebody in a publicity-averse position, say, a drug dealer or other kind of criminal, and thinks there’s a movie there. So the contact pre-exists the project.

Why does the person behind the mask need to be anything other than an actor? There is really no way for you to know if that is an actual criminal. No different from any other reality show. In the end it’s all staged to gain ratings.

Some drug dealers like to be admired in their communities and when that wears off, they want to be famous like Pablo Escobar. Some got born into drug business and simply can never get out, but want their story be heard to warn others.

There’s was a interview trending on YT “the man who ruined football” about a guy who was fixing matches for years, made $6M and lost all in gambling. Yes somehow agreed to do a full on interview with his face and voice unedited like he was some kind of celebrity to be admired.

Most of the time they are just actors being used as a visual aid for the audience. I don’t doubt that they have got into contact with an actual drug dealer, I just doubt that they would voluntarily appear in a documentary and potentially compromise their identity.