Notes for Interviewers

Written by: SphynxCatVP
Link to original: http://sphynxcatvp.nocturna.org/faq/most-interviewnotes.html
This article is based on a compilation of conversations I had with one of the producers of the Taboo episode on vampires in 2004. This is presented in the hopes that it will be useful to other potential interviewers in the future, and perhaps prevent repetition of certain types of questions.
~SphynxCatVP

What is the motivation behind vampirism? There appears to be some conflict over whether it's a medical condition, spiritual ritual, metaphysical or simply an expression of oneself. Is there any kind of consensus?

Ask 10 different people and you'll probably get 15 different answers. :)

For the purposes of a documentary style format, the most effective approach (effective meaning what will most likely work when run past upper management) may be viewing it from the point of view of a personal belief system - not as in a particular flavor of religion per se, but more as a "This is what works for me" belief system. Unfortunately, we don't have medical or otherwise verifiable proof for a lot of what we experience - feeling "better than before" is often quite subjective, and will also be affected by factors not taken into account such as getting over being sick, eating better food as opposed to junk food, moving out of an unhealthy environment (such as a house with mold problems or an abusive family situation) into a healthier one, etc. It's really hard to tell online whether people have thought about all the different variables or not, and different people report different effects, which also makes it frustrating to try to analyze it.

Personally, I consider it no more "religious" than other people would consider being gay, diabetic or cancerous to be "religious". However, others can and do utilize a vampire archetype within their religious path. You'll probably run into attitudes that range between a as-scientific-as-possible approach to more religious extremes with temples, religious orders, and so on. Most of us, however, do not subscribe to a "vampire religion" of any sort.

After reading sites like yours, it just seems like something people do because they have to, not as a weekend lifestyle...

It's a very normal, day-to-day thing to us, only not everyone shows it in public - some of us have jobs to maintain, families to provide for, and so on. I've worked in conservative corporations where much more normal "quirks" are frowned on as being "too weird", so blending in with everyone else wherever and whenever possible becomes a career advantage - those of us in these types of situations tend to look, well, just like everyone else.

We recommend doctor visits for checkups to anyone, especially those new to the vampire community who think they might be a vampire, or have vampire-like odd symptoms - this is primarily to rule out anything "mundane" that might be a cause behind, for example, always feeling thirsty (such as diabetes) or increasing photosensitivity (such as Pinkeye/Conjunctivitis, Lupus or other late-onset or chronic ailments.) Sometimes even side effects of medications can explain some vampire-like symptoms - photosensitivity, for example, is a common side effect of a steadily increasing number of medications, along with digestive issues, sleeping problems and many other things.

The majority of the responsible people in the community don't like the idea of someone neglecting a real illness that may be fatal if left unchecked in favor of something that sounds more mysterious and supernatural (and thus more attractive). We do stress that people going to their doctors don't need to use "the v-word", but simply describe the symptoms - a lot of people have a hard enough time getting doctors to take them seriously without saying anything that would be interpreted as signs of becoming mentally unhinged.

Do you think that it's too hard to do a program that would present things in a good light?

In the past, most interviewer folks have been interested only in the things that will get ratings - the person's blooddrinking habits, and any "vampire-like" lifestyle or mode of dress that they have, without going into what the person is like the rest of the time. While this may get ratings on television or radio, it's not at all an accurate presentation, and only the ones who go for shock value will approve of this.

Do I think it would be too hard to present things in a better light? Not at all - however, the production team has to be SERIOUS about it, and willing to present ALL of the actual facts, rather than take things out of context and make people out to be more freaky or bizarre than they actually are. The more interviewers that go for shock value, the less interested we become in taking part in future projects.

You say most people consider blooddrinking too "out there"...why?

Well, I've seen two basic types of reactions from the general public:

First, there's the non-vampiric people that find the idea of vampires and blooddrinking intriguing. These folks range from writers who toy with the idea in their characters or people who read/collect vampire books and find vampire-related trinkets to be cool (such as toys or stuffed animals) all the way up to people who do the "weekend warrior" thing, dressing up in what they consider to be a vampiric style either and going out to clubs on the weekend to have a good time, or playing live role-play vampire games. These folks aren't so bad to talk to, but they're not as common.

Second, there's the type who's main reaction is "Ewwwwwwww!" - whether they think it's disgusting, perverted, or a sin against their deity (or deities) of choice. Thus, by extension, we are considered disgusting, perverted and sinful as well. (However, some of these people - not all, but some - are the same people still don't consider homosexuals to be real people, and homosexuals are a lot more "normal" in comparison - so while the reaction is disappointing and frustrating, it's not terribly surprising, especially considering today's environment.) These folks are a LOT more common, and many of us within the community have one or more family members that fall in this category, and usually one or more coworkers or supervisors as well. This complicates things at home and/or at work if they come to find out that the person has been in an interview/show/documentary on real vampires.

How hard will it be to find legitimate, responsible people who are willing to explore this aspect of themselves in an effort to educate others?

It depends on where you look. Also, since many of us have families to take care of, and jobs to do, privacy is a very important issue. Providing some sort of effective anonymity upon request (any prior examples to show?) will be a very big help.

If you've done any kind of web search, you'll have probably already found the "Vampire: The Masquerade" role-playing game - people that primarily use this terminology or methods of operation - structured hierarchies with "fledglings" (or some other term denoting "initiates") or "clans" - presenting a similar atmosphere (especially with continual references to "kindred") are typically not the legitimate folks you would be looking for if you want to find someone who lives with vampirism on a daily basis.

Er...I'm not familiar with this "Vampire: The Masquerade" thing you mentioned...

V:TM is a role-playing game from White Wolf that's part of what they call the "World of Darkness" setting. (Others in the WoD setting deal with werewolves, faerie, wraiths, mages, etc. - info can be found at the White Wolf main site linked below.) V:TM (currently called "Vampire: The Requiem" I believe) characters are part of clans that are specific to the game, such as Tremere, Ventrue, Brujah, Toreador, Gangrel, and so on. "Playing politics" and ego stroking are common character activities, and it's one of the many reasons I dislike it so much.

For something on real vampires, it is generally a waste of time to look this stuff up. On the other hand, once you're familiar with the terminology, it's easier to know what sites to skip, and who the crazies are. That's why I have included the links here.

I also thought I might post a request for help on a few lists or forums. Is this an okay idea, or am I asking for trouble by opening up the search for interview subjects to a larger public?

Heh. Depends on where you put it - too publicly accessible, and you'll get a lot of flakes mixed with the more serious people - you'll need to filter through the deluge that you'd get. I suspect many of the people who WOULD respond to a random open call would be the ones trying for "shock value" and/or looking for their 15 minutes of fame.

My recommendations are:

  • Automatically rule out anyone who writes in all-caps or doesn't use proper spelling and/or grammar (I don't mean the occasional "oops" out of a longer email, I mean on a level of frequent spelling errors and grammar that makes you cringe). Same with people who write in "sms-speak" - "u" for "you", "r" for "are", "2" for "to/too/two", "b4" for "before", etc. Chances are very high that the ones doing this will be under 18, and generally under 15.
  • Rule out anyone who claims to be a member of a V:TM clan (see links above for clan names).
  • Ego check - if they make a big deal out of being "Lord/Lady so-and-so", "elder of such-and-such", "founder of such-and-such" or writing (in their email itself or in their signature) in such a way as to convey the "I'm more important/knowledgeable/older/spooky than you are" attitude, you're probably better off ruling those out too. (I've seen corporate executives with less ego problems than I've seen on some vampire lists.)
  • Avoid any list or message board that moderates everyone, not just the new posters - in the vamp community, such list owners are usually filtering out messages from anyone that doesn't agree with their views. If they just filter *new* list members, that's more common and is used to prevent drive-by spamming.

I expect that the [article/interview/documentary] may be criticized for not being edgy or sexy enough.

That I can't help with. Most real vampires are pretty boring and live (outside of the obvious) normal, day-to-day "Joe Average" lives. We pay bills, we grocery shop, we buy clothing, cars and so on just like anyone else would. We don't need funny clothing or bar-based events to socialize and meet other people.

If "edgy" and "sexy" are what the producers really want, then perhaps they should be looking at the lifestyler, nightclub and fetish scenes instead of the real vampire community - there's plenty of people in those scenes who are willing to dress up and play the part just to get some air time.