As we near the end of election season, politicians are making their last efforts to get out the vote. In Georgia, Stacey Abrams – who is facing off against Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp in the gubernatorial race – has gotten assistance from Oprah and Will Ferrell. But it’s not just star power giving Abrams, who could become the state’s first Black governor, a boost. Behind the scenes, her team is hard about Abrams’ platform, including eliminating cash bail, raising the minimum wage, and expanding pre-K.
If on November 6, Abrams is elected Georgia’s 83rd governor, she’ll have done it with a diverse, women-led team by her side. This month, sisters Jennifer Macedo-Young, 26, and Jane Macedo-Young, 24 – who work on the campaign’s digital department – traveled to south Georgia to film the team interacting with voters and to provide relief to those affected by Hurricane Michael.
The sisters, who have a Chinese-Cambodian father and a Mexican mother, have merged their passion for storytelling and created two documentaries. The two are dedicated to telling stories about their communities. “There are so many stories we want to tell, especially within the Latinx and Asian communities,” Jen said. They had been working in Malaysia when they learned about Abrams. A few months later, when they returned to the US, they reached out to digital director Mia Arreguin to join the campaign. They never imagined they’d get into politics, but it has given them a chance to do what they love. “Filmmaking is a hard industry to break into, especially as women of color,” Jen added. “But this is what we want to do. And we’re ready for whatever life throws at us because we can’t imagine doing anything else. This is it.”
Read on to learn more about Jen and Jane’s day on the campaign trail for Stacey Abrams.
Editor’s Note: The following diary has been lightly edited for clarity.
Jane: We woke up early so that we could head down to Albany from Atlanta for a film project focused on highlighting all the work people are doing on the ground to reach out to underrepresented communities in South Georgia. At this stage in the campaign, we’re not really getting much sleep and are always traveling, so the early morning was nothing unusual. It’s about a three-hour trip, and I drove while Jen prepped our equipment in the car so that we could hit the ground running when we arrived.
Once you leave Atlanta, the highway winnows to two lanes with trees along either side, and there isn’t much in the way of places to stop besides the occasional (now closed for the season) peach stand or fast food place. We took a quick break at a rest stop to get snacks and lunch, but otherwise we broke up the drive by alternating between listening to hip-hop, chill wave, and a lot of Frank Ocean.
Jen: When we arrived at the Albany field office, we met the field officer Amanda, who introduced us to Elijah, Angela, and Laquacia, members of the A-Team who are doing the hard work of knocking on doors in the community every day to talk to people about Stacey Abrams and why they should vote for her as our next governor. It can be a hard job sometimes – people refuse to talk to you or they aren’t interested in voting – but there is so much opportunity in every conversation you do have.
Our goal was to create a long-form video piece and really recognize everything that our canvassers are doing on the ground. They’re doing some of the most important work in this race, but nobody really gets to see that, especially in rural or South Georgia where communities have been neglected by campaigns.
Jane: At the office we set up our gear, had them sign the consent forms that we have all our subjects sign, and just got to know them so that they would feel comfortable being on camera. We learned that Laquacia is a marine veteran, Angela is a former law enforcement officer, and Elijah is a young man who is currently in the Army Reserve. All our canvassers have really diverse backgrounds, which I think makes a difference when it comes to connecting with voters.
Jen: Part of what we wanted to accomplish was to get really close up and tight shots so that we could create a sense of intimacy between the audience and the work that these canvassers were doing. We like to use a handheld, and to be close to the person so as a viewer you can feel like you’re next to them. It’s important because I think the films that really draw us in are the films where you feel like you’re immersed in the world of the subject.
Jane: I mic’d up Elijah and Laquacia so that we could hear what they were saying. Usually one of us has the camera and one of us has the audio equipment, and then, we switch off. It’s a great way to shoot because one of us is always focusing on the camera, while the other can keep an eye out for opportunities to shoot something in the moment. Also helps us when we’re getting tired!
Jane: We filmed Laquacia, Elijah, and Angela while they were knocking doors. In Albany, they have a lot of damage from Hurricane Michael, and you could see it in the communities where we were shooting.
“I think that people underestimate how important that face-to-face interaction is and canvassing your community matters.”
A group of four older African-American guys were sitting on a picnic table at one house. Elijah and Angela went up to them and gave them flyers with Stacey’s picture and voting information on it. They were super welcoming and talked about Stacey and why they were happy to vote for her.
Jen: But I think the best interaction happened when we walked up to two guys who were only about 20 or 21 years old. They told us that they voted early because someone came to their door and asked them to. That having these people on the ground shows them Stacey cares about them, cares about the community, and is going to do something to change it. They said to the team, “watching you is inspiring, I want to do what you’re doing, how do I do what y’all do?”
I think that people underestimate how important that face-to-face interaction is and canvassing your community matters. It was great to watch these canvassers connect with voters – they are so badass for doing it every day.
Jane: Around 2 p.m., we finished up and then went to Zaxby’s for lunch with Elijah and Laquacia. We went back to the office and needed to quickly charge up our equipment and then start getting b-roll shots of the office itself. They had tons of signs around the office, including a countdown sign that amped people up, but it added some good color to our footage.
Jane: We knew that Stacey was going to be in town to assist with hurricane relief, so we had to drive about 15 minutes to a church to meet her. This wasn’t a media event, it was just a chance for Stacey to walk through a local church and meet with people to learn about what they needed in terms of supply and support, so we just took a few photos.
Jen: We had to drive another 30 minutes to a separate hurricane relief effort in Sylvester. While Jane drove, I was uploading footage through our hotspot from the previous events and trying to figure out what we needed to capture for the next one. When we got there, there were a lot of people who were excited to see Stacey. The entire front yard of the church was full of people waiting to see her.
Jane: We were only supposed to be there for 20 minutes, but she ended up passing out the hurricane relief supplies the campaign provided for about an hour. Then, we filmed a direct-to-camera with Stacey talking about where people can find hurricane relief around the state, and which of our field offices are providing relief. Most importantly, she touched on how relief needs to happen long after the storm passes, and how she would do that as governor.
Jen: We ended up having to run to the car and were FRANTIC trying to upload footage and photos while heading back to the campaign office and prepping equipment. We needed to shoot Stacey as soon as she arrived to greet the canvassers.
When we arrived, she was already there. The front window of the office is glass and the canvassers could see me run out of the car to finish prepping equipment on the sidewalk, while Jen ran inside to make sure the lighting was correct. It was all worth it to get footage of Stacey taking a moment to thank the canvassers for all the work they’re doing.
Jane: We hadn’t eaten all night, so we stopped at a grocery store to pick up some sandwiches and then Jen drove an hour and a half to Valdosta, near the Florida border. That’s where we slept, before waking up and doing it all over again.