MEET: Jesse Aizenstat, Deviant Journalism is the Game


CATALYST catches up with Jesse Aizenstat...

You are the author of Surfing the Middle East, having surfed from Israel to Lebanon and wrote the first book that combined middle east politics and surfing, how did that lead you to your new just released documentary Baja Smugglers?

It’s all “hard news” really. These are topics we hear about on CNN: the Middle East, and immigration reform. What I’m trying to do is create an adventure that I can go on and further check out the story for myself. In the end I think that picking something seemingly irrelevant (like surfing or panga boat smuggling) sets the tone for getting into the serious news stuff.  I believe in the experience. 

Tell us more about deviant journalism.

It’s emersion. It’s how Millennials want to take in the news. The legitimacy is watching the “here and now” and using logic to put all the pieces together to better understand the story. 

You self-financed Baja Smugglers and released it on YouTube. What's your strategy here and how did you accomplish it?

Well, I just put in the work of planning, knew what I wanted to shoot, and convinced my two friends (videographer and translator) to take a week off work and come down and shoot Baja Smugglers with me. It didn’t cost much. Just paying the editor and putting gas in the Bronco. 

What is your advice to young documentary filmmakers?

Just do it. And do it with the passion that led you to come up with the idea in the first place. And when you do it, don’t release it too early. Test it on people, knowing that no matter what people will both love it and hate it. As a documentary film maker you are ultimately story and mission driven. So as long as you focus on that that’s the highest goal. 

You have been called "self-admitted California wave junky", are there any surfable part of the world you have not explored and would like to?" 

Maybe just something relaxing. Like Pakistan. 

Do you see Baja Smugglers expanding? What is the future for Jesse Aizenstat and Baja Smugglers?

I just want to make more. Think of all the real news topics you see on CNN. Young people are turned off by their “Voice of God” style. I would just like to continue making adventures out of hard news topics that hopefully capture some kind of profundity on the topic. That’s my goal. 

photos on location with Baja Smugglers by Derren O'Hanian