The glaring issue

Hi there, Mason here. I had a wonderful time talking to the 28 booksellers we interviewed on our road trip, and I'm so grateful for the time they gave us. Still, there's a glaring issue with the interviews I need to address.

Of the 27 booksellers featured in the film, all of them are white. I'm disappointed in myself for not prioritizing a higher degree of diversity in our interview subjects. And I'm sorry.

Below I'll try to explain how I let this oversight happen, how I'm trying to correct it, and how you can help.

How it happened

There are three reasons why I failed to represent a diverse cast of booksellers in the film.

Reason #1: My sample of bookstores was unintentionally biased

Though I didn't realize this at the time, my criteria for selecting stores to visit skewed the sample toward white folks. Please see my Selection Methods for details. 

Reason #2: I didn't prioritize diversity intentionally enough

In preparing for the trip, I didn't take steps to ensure we interviewed a diverse group of booksellers. Because of how progressive the book industry is, I didn't think it would be an issue. That was a lazy assumption

 

Reason #3 (re: Excuse #1): I was in over my head

In 2019 when I began planning this film, I was not a filmmaker. During the few months leading up to the trip, I asked too much of myself. I had to recruit and find a cameraman. I had to learn the basics of DSLRs in order to manage my cameraman. I had to outline the narrative of the film. I had to write interview questions. I had to plan a 17-day trip to 27 bookstores spread across 5,000 miles, correspond with managers, schedule filming times, manage equipment and footage backups on the road, set up and conduct interviews, and try not to fall asleep at the wheel while driving between locations. All of this during the pandemic. So considering the demographic composition of my interview subjects fell to the wayside. I didn't have room for any more responsibility, because I was already in over my head.

 

Maybe I wasn't ready to make this film. I'm not sure. All I know now is that excuses don't fix the problem. So what will?

How I'm trying to correct the problem

I first want to say what I can't do to include more diversity in the film. The natural suggestion is to add in some Zoom interviews with a diverse set of booksellers. That won't work. Every interview, besides my chat with Professor Raffaeli, was conducted in person, because that's the narrative of the film: my road trip and my revelations along the way. Dropping in virtual interviews would pull the viewer out of that narrative and ultimately weaken the film.

 

The alternative solution is to leave the film as it is and call out the issue with a post-conclusion video, using sound bites from a diverse group of booksellers about the issue of diversity in the publishing community. This will turn the film's lack of diversity into an asset, something I can address head on and leverage for further discussion on the topic


I recognize this isn't ideal. The perfect solution would have been not to have had the problem in the first place, but I can't change that. What I can do is ensure the viewer is aware of my mistake and raise awareness around the issue at large.

How you can help

In order to put together the concluding sound bites about diversity in publishing, we'll need as many bookseller videos as possible. If you're white, we would love to hear from you on this topic, but we'll of course be prioritizing underrepresented voices. So please help us reach out. Email me at mason@masonengel.com with suggestions of whom to contact, and I'll take it from there. 

The lack of diversity in The Bookstour is my fault, and now I'm trying, in some small way, to make up for it. And I need your help. Please send me the names of your bookseller friends from underrepresented demographics, and we'll get to work.

Thank you for your support,

Mason