A pseudo-documentary is a film or video production that takes the form or style of a documentary film but does not portray real events. How ever, it is scripted and fictional elements are used to tell the story. It may use documentary camera techniques but with fabricated sets, actors, or situations, and it may use digital effects to alter the filmed scene or even create a wholly synthetic scene.
An outlaw land
This is how Outlaw Land began. At the begining it was a series that was created upon real life scenarios. The audience will find moments of intense energy but underlying it all is always a human story.
That is the entire point, the human factor, our soul, what makes us tick, in a manner of speaking. Any how, the shows format changed, it changed for the better.
We had the immense privilege of speaking with Reza Sholeh, the producer of the show. He has become somewhat of a Solkes family member. Anyway, we spoke about the show and this is what we have learned.
When it all began, the series followed Danny Moreno; an investigative crime journalist and a freelance reporter who runs a popular media-blog called; outlawland.tv. The plot focused on various organised crime cases and on the personal lives of the characters.
Solkes: Why have you chosen to make the series a pseudo-documentary?
Reza Sholeh, producer: The series is based on a documentary film I made in Thailand called Passport Control which was about human-smuggling out of East-Asia and how refugees are part of this phenomena. However after doing some focus group sessions and audience survey we decided to make the show as a documentary series.
Solkes: Why did you guys changed the shows format?
Reza Sholeh, producer: Before, when we wanted to develop the show it was going to be a drama, a found footage film. Based on a doc, but we decided to just make a documentary series, and not have any fictional characters, it’s all going to be real.
Outlaw Land starts by introducing the audience into the sex-trafficking problematic in Thailand.
In each season it is possible to dig into the underworld of black markets and illicit trades where drugs, firearms and even people are reduced to mere commodities.
Outlaw Land is an anthology series that embodies the docu – style of Black Market (a VICE documentary show). There are moments of intense energy but underlying it all is always a human story.
One of the most interesting aspects about this series is that each season is inspired by true events. The crew, the team, feeds from real life stories. So, what the audience understands and how it reacts is critical. Obviously, this is a TV show and the audience response is majorly important.
Solkes: What has the audience response been?
Reza Sholeh, producer: The audience response has been better than we anticipated, we use unconventional methods such as spy-cameras, wires and bribery for access, and have been able to catch a glimpse into a world where most people have probably only seen in Hollywood movies.
This is a show where the raw and on the ground format is what’s most appealing. The audience becomes part of the journey as opposed to seeing a narration.
Solkes: If you claim you use real life elements in every episode, what has been the hardest/complicated issue to work with (why)?
Reza Sholeh, producer: Gaining access- establishing trust with some of the criminals and assuring them that we won’t cause any problems for them, I would say that has been the most time consuming and faith-dependent part of the job (and EXTREMELY STRESSFUL).
Behind the camera
They have a pretty young and amazing research team, some who have worked as journalists with notable organizations such as VICE and BBC. For each season they pick a specific subject based on the most controversial trending topics and choose our location accordingly.
Then they focus on establishing contact with the criminals involved in that region, as well as, security coordination with the local police and private security companies (which by the way in most cases are much much better choices; they know more about underworld than the cops and a lot of the times they are ex-criminals themselves so they know many people).
Solkes: What other changes did you make besides the format?
Reza Sholeh, producer: Well, there’s no more Danny Moreno (fictional character who was a journalist), the host of the show will be interviewing criminals.
Solkes: What do you want to achieve with such a production?
Reza Sholeh, producer: Telling unheard stories from a very unique point of view, essentially delving so far into the subject that to an extend we’ll be able to blur the line between observer and participant for the audience.
All in all, this show is a glimpse of some of the many situations that happen all over our planet. Stories that happen, in beautiful destinations but hold terror in their core. This shows permits us, as an audience, to explore our inner fears, nightmares, dreams, secrets and truths. We catch a glimpse into a merciless culture where if you have money you can buy anything and anyone, from illegal weapons to the highly profitable sex slaves.